Amateur Sleuths

The main character and crime-solver in cozy mysteries is usually a woman who is an amateur sleuth. Her life’s experiences have provided her with certain skills that she will utilize in order to solve crimes.

These characters are typically well educated, intuitive, and hold jobs that bring them into constant contact with other residents of their community (i.e., caterer, innkeeper, librarian, teacher, dog trainer, shop owner, reporter). They also typically have a contact on the police force who can give them access to important information about the case at hand, but the contact is typically a spouse, friend, or family member rather than a former colleague.

Dismissed by the authorities in general as nosy busybodies, particularly if they are middle-aged or elderly women, the sleuths in cozy mysteries are thus left free to eavesdrop, gather clues, and use their native intelligence and intuitive “feel” for the social dynamics of the community to solve the crime.

The main characters should be likeable, flawed, or quirky in a way that inspires affection for them. The supporting cast should be entertaining and memorable. The supporting cast are often very broadly drawn and used as comic relief.

No profanity. No graphic violence. No gratuitous sex.

There are several tenets of cozy mysteries and one is that they are “clean.” No profanity, no violence, and no sex.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen 1-star reviews on Amazon with the main complaint being the language. I’ve always tried to limit my use of profanity in my books, even in suspense novels or thrillers. I simply believe that dropping F-bombs all over the place is lazy writing. I also believe that if used sparingly, profanity has more of an impact when it is used. But none of that is a concern with cozies. Only the mildest of expletives are used, if at all.

Graphic violence is also a no-no in cozies. Although there may be a murder, it usually happens “off screen” and is not explained in detail. Gory descriptions aren’t included. Details of the murder are not explicit or used as clues. The killer is also typically a member of the community, able to blend in or “hide in plain sight.” Psychopaths and serial killers may be primary characters in crime novels or thrillers or horror novels, but not in cozy mysteries.

And when it comes to sex, the bedroom door remains firmly closed. Sex, even among married couples or consenting adults, is only implied. In many cozies, sexual activities are avoided altogether. Whereas so many movies today push the limit of the R rating, cozies are rated a solid PG. Your young daughter and your grandmother both should be able to read a cozy mystery without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.

With cozies, the emphasis is on problem solving, quirky characters in an appealing setting, and often hobbies or pets rather than sex and violence and language that would make a sailor blush.

What is a “cozy” mystery?

If you look up Cozy Mystery on Wikipedia, you will see the following:

Cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies,” are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozies thus stand in contrast to hardboiled fiction, in which more violence and explicit sexuality are central to the plot. The term “cozy” was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Cozy mysteries do not employ any but the mildest profanity. The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. The wounds inflicted on the victim are never dwelt on and are seldom used as clues. Sexual activity, even between married characters, is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed, and the subject is frequently avoided altogether.

The cozy mystery usually takes place in a town, village, or community small enough to make it believable that all the principal characters know, and may well have long-standing social relationships with each other. The amateur detective is usually a gregarious, well-liked individual who is able to get the community members to talk freely about each other. There is usually at least one very knowledgeable, nosy, yet reliable character in the book who is intimately familiar with the personal history and interrelationships of everyone in the town, and whose ability to fill in the blanks of the puzzle enables the amateur detective to solve the case.

Cozy mystery series frequently have a prominent thematic element introduced by the detective’s job, pet, or hobby. Diane Mott Davidson’s cozies, for example, revolve around cooking, Parnell Hall’s around crossword puzzles, and Charlotte MacLeod’s “Sarah Kelling” series around art. Cat-lovers are well represented among the ranks of cozy-mystery detectives, notably in the work of Lilian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown. There are also cozy mystery series with themes of Christmas, Easter, and other holidays.

As I approach the launch of the first book in my cozy mystery series, the Clearwater Lake Mysteries, I will go into more detail regarding the tropes listed above as to how they pertain to my series. I’ll introduce you to the characters, tell you all about the small community of Clearwater Lake, and hint at some of the overarching plots that will be carried through the series.

And, of course, I’ll provide information regarding the publication of the books and any special offers associated with releases. I hope you’ll bookmark this blog site and check back often for updates. You can also follow me on my Amazon author page. If you find these blog posts interesting, or know someone who is a fan of “cozies,” please share the link so they can follow along as I launch my new series.

A New Beginning

It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time to start something new…a new series…in a new genre…for me, at least. I’m writing a series of cozy mysteries. In fact, I’m almost done with the first draft of the first book of the series, which is titled “New Beginnings.”

I’ll post more about the new book, and the new series, in the coming weeks. But for now, just know that this is something I think will be a lot of fun and, hopefully, will produce a series of books that will entertain you and provide escape from your daily routines.

Now Available – Panacea

What would you do if your daughter had terminal cancer? This after losing your spouse to cancer 26 years ago? That’s the dilemma Jack Wells faces. But there’s a kicker…he may have found a cure for cancer.

He recently discovered an unknown, untested, medicine that cures cancer in dogs. He knows it works because he used it to cure cancer in his own dog, Rex. In fact, it not only cured Rex’s cancer, but after a brief period of treatment, the dog was the picture of health. What could go wrong? Would it be worth the risk?

Panacea is a suspense thriller that explores how a single decision, made with the best of intentions, sets in motion a string of events that goes horribly wrong.

For more info and to read an excerpt, click here.