Have you ever wondered, really wondered, what the difference is between regular mysteries and those well-loved cozies? For years, I read as many mystery novels as I could get my greedy little hands on, but my favorite ones were cozy mysteries.
A mystery is like a puzzle. The pieces are scattered here and there, until bit by bit, they slowly come together to take shape and form, and whammo, you have the complete picture.
Take Jessica Fletcher for instance. She lives in the small seaside village of Cabot Cove on the coast of Maine and is an amateur sleuth. She becomes embroiled in the least likely situations and never takes the sheriff’s word for anything. She knows his idea of the guilty party is far from accurate and sets out to prove it by linking pieces of the puzzle together as they present themselves.
Most cozies take place in a small town where people are friendly, except the killer, of course. Many of the residents also have something to hide, which is a perfect ingredient when whipping up a cozy mystery because we need more than one suspect, right?
The cozy mystery usually has a well-educated, female, amateur sleuth, unless he’s Hercule Poirot, Inspector Barnaby, or Inspector Lynley, that is. The town is generally small, and the story has a theme. (I have a cupcake theme in one of my own series, an Italian family and their histrionics in another, and then there’s the artist with visions theme in the third series. Humor runs throughout each of these series, since it’s important to find humor in life, no matter how dastardly it becomes.) Often times there are cat, dogs, or some pet or other that is crucial to the plot. Animal lovers enjoy it when their favorite type of pet is included in the story.
In the Vinnie Esposito cozy mystery series, my heroine lives in a small Rhode Island village. She’s nosier than any person should ever be, which in turn leads her to discover someone has been murdered and she needs to find culprit. Her Italian father insists she mind her own business, find a husband, have a slew of kids, and settle down, which results in an ongoing clash of wills. There’s a stray cat that wanders in from time to time, who manages to help out when need be. I also write the Faerie Cake cozy that includes faeries and cupcakes. (People love food themed stories.)
I digress . . . Let’s get back to the differences between regular mysteries and cozies. Besides the small town and an amateur sleuth, there is little to no sex in a cozy, or it takes place behind closed doors. That alone gives the reader something special to imagine. Cozies don’t tend to be gory, other than a stabbing or conk on the head with a blunt instrument, the description of the death is brief. For those who don’t like blood and guts, that really counts.
Many cozies are in series form. Why? Because the audience enjoys following their favorite character through the ins and outs of finding who committed the crime. At the end of every cozy mystery, the killer is found, explanations are made and all is again well in the quiet, peace loving, town where people greet each other in the local diner, neighbors talk over fences to each other, and the story’s pacing has moved quickly. I enjoy a fast read, a page turner, a story where I can relate to the characters, with an ending that will surprise the daylights out of me. Don’t you?