What Makes a Cozy Mystery?

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What’s So Cozy About Murder?

Recently reading a mystery I found in the reviews it was considered a “Cozy” mystery. I’ve read quite a few cozies. Often they are easy to spot. You’ll find a quilter’s club, bookstore owners, library cozies. They cover all types of topics that way.

But the one I was reading didn’t seem to necessarily belong in that category. It roused my curiosity, so I decided to look into what constitutes a cozy.

First, of course, they are mysteries. Someone is usually found murdered in unusual fashion. That fashion depends whether the cozy is about the gardening club or the bookstore owner. Poison for a food based plot perhaps.

Besides being mysteries, they are usually a series of books featuring the same characters. That makes it more fun since you grow attached to the characters as you read each book. If you like to read them in order, you do get to know them well over time.

One thing you nearly always find, they are not explicit. Not in the crimes, in language, or in sex. Everything is quite tasteful, which is a large part of the appeal to many. When you have a well written, good story it isn’t necessary. You will find innuendos and milder descriptions of the deaths, without the gore you often read.

Think of a Hobby…There is Probably A Cozy

Hobbies or clubs are often part of a cozy. Cupcake mysteries, caterers and other cooking type stories, a bakery….They will often be based on a small town or area, such as Murder She Wrote, which took place in Cabot Cove. Some revolve around coffee houses, knitting, gardening, any hobby or activity you can think of. Pet sitters, designers, hair dressers..You get the idea.

The one investigating the crime is not with the police. It’s an every day soul, knitting, gardening, or working at whatever he or she does. Active in her close community for work and play, she knows most everyone so she can question anyone. Somehow the individual manages to get entangled in the mystery.

I use the feminine because they so often women are featured, but you will find men in cozy situations too. Just like I did in the book I was reading.

You won’t find the FBI, profilers, or government officials around, though you will probably see the local sheriff pop in and out. Generally there aren’t private detectives about either, though a few cozy series area based on PI’s.

Gentler, Kinder Mysteries

The one word that comes to mind when I think how to explain a cozy is gentle. Somehow they manage to stay that way through whatever is happening around them. You can have plenty of crime and murder, but they are still easy to read, and fairly light. The good guys are likable and I bet most will have satisfying, if expected, conclusions. All in all a cozy is a sweet way to spend some time when you feel like relaxing. They serve as an excellent break too, between thrillers and heavy suspense. I’m pleased I get to enjoy both.

According to those rules, the book I mentioned does qualify as a cozy mystery. It takes place in a small town, was the first in a series featuring Mac Faraday and Archie Monday, and is not graphic. It’s a solid mystery with characters you like. You can read my full review of the book, It’s Murder, My Son, by Lauren Carr.



Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Alzheimers HQ and Simple Living Ideas

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