I thought that today I would muse about what a cozy mystery is, since this is the genre that am writing in, and hope to make a living from! The mystery part is a given – mystery stories are made up of puzzles that need to be solved. So … what sets a cozy mystery apart from other mysteries? No blood and guts. No violent scenes. No explicit sexual scenes. No cursing. The character solving the crime is an amateur sleuth, not a professional. They often stumble across the crime, or become involved for personal reasons – to help a friend, family member, or even a mentor.
The main character is almost always a likeable person, someone the reader can identify with in some way. They are often part of a community, with secondary characters coming in as friends or professional acquaintances. It is easy to build tension, or refer to issues or events from a long time ago, because generally the characters have known each other “forever”.
The victim in a cozy mystery can be anybody – from someone who is highly respected to someone that has a list of enemies a yard long. The reason behind the death (or incident, if there is no death) can be quite simple, or quite complicated, and often involves the surrounding community.
The setting can be anywhere – from a small town to the biggest city. Remember – big cities are made up of individual sections that often act like “small towns” on their own. The murder (or incident) can be placed before the story starts, or a couple of chapters into the story. What matters is that the murder (or incident) is meaningful to the characters. If not, then why write the story!
The plot can be anything, but it usually revolves around the human condition – the issues that we face, and the frailties and insecurities we reveal when dealing with them.
My favorite part of a cozy is that in the end, justice is done. Peace is restored, and while not everyone lives happily ever after, there is generally speaking no big cliff hanger, and the community returns to its normal state.