What Defines a Cozy Mystery?

What Defines a Cozy Mystery?

If you’ve read every book by Agatha Christie or seen every episode of Murder, She Wrote, then you’re familiar with the cozy mystery genre. Cozy mysteries are a sub-genre of crime fiction that are becoming increasingly popular … again. While cozies were very popular in the days of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, more action-packed, violence-filled mysteries gained popularity for many years. But since the early 90’s, cozies have been making a strong comeback.

But what makes a cozy mystery different than other mysteries? There are a few characteristics that you’ll find more prevalent in cozies than other mysteries. And there are characteristics you’ll never find when reading one of your favorite cozy mystery series.

A Look at The Cozy Mystery

Amateur Sleuth

Cozies almost always feature an amateur sleuth, although this isn’t a rule. Occasionally you’ll find a private eye or a small-town cop as the sleuth. In most cozies though, the sleuth will be a small business owner, a nosy retiree, a local priest, or even an animal. They find themselves curiously drawn into solving crimes that somehow impact their work. Professional investigators usually play a supporting role as the sleuth’s friend or family member.

Cozy Mystery Cat

Distinctive Setting

Again, there is no rule about where a cozy mystery is set, but often times it takes place in a fictional town or city. This allows the author to be more creative about where events take place and certain aspects of the story such as street layouts and historical landmarks. Small towns and villages where everyone knows their neighbors and all the town gossip allows the author to build a better connection between her characters. They are often places you can escape to in your mind while you’re reading, thinking that you could live in a place like that.

Limited Suspect List

One very important aspect of the cozy mystery is the limited list of suspects. With fewer characters, the author is able to better develop their relationship with each other and make them feel like people you’re friends with. Cozies revolve around the relationships of the characters instead of large, unseen groups of people like terrorists, drug cartels, or mafia.

Absolutely No Sex, Profanity, or Violence

One rule that is absolute in the cozy mystery genre is that there is no sex, no hard-core profanity, and no on-screen violence. In most cases, a dead body is discovered or happened upon. There will never be any gun violence or explosions where dozens of people are murdered in a cozy mystery.

In a cozy, the story is presented as a puzzle for the reader to solve, focusing on the ultimate solution rather than forensic details of the murder. The focus is on the plot and the character development. Cozies offer readers a way to escape to a place they love spending time with people they’ve come to adore. When you’ve finished the book, you’ll feel disappointed that your time with your fictional friends has come to an end until the next book becomes available.



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