Cozy Mysteries: Happy Little Murder Stories

Someone sitting outside and reading a novel

Hello! I’m so happy to be the newest member in the Ladies of Mystery crew. I’ve been consuming mystery stories for as long as I can remember, but I’m pretty new to writing them.

I decided to start writing novels in 2005 when I accidentally read a romance novel. I thought I was getting a vampire fiction book and I wasn’t prepared for the laughs and the love, but it was such a great accident. I immediately realized that’s what I wanted to write. Swoons, strong women, laughs, and happily ever afters. I wanted to write something that would make me smile.

But there’s always been this other side of me obsessed with crime and mysteries. Don’t worry, not committing crime. I’ve been reading about serial killers since I was young enough for it to be a bit concerning. When no one was looking in the bookstore, I’d read serial killer encyclopedias while being careful not to crack the spines. I’ve taken forensic anthropology classes, watched a gazillion hours of crime dramas, and toured prisons and creepy places on vacations.

On paper, I look like a textbook mystery writer, but it took me nearly 15 years of writing novels to get to a point where I wanted to write a mystery.

I learned what cozy mysteries were and it changed everything.

I’d been consuming them as TV shows without realizing it was a subgenre of mystery. I’d never noticed certain elements among shows I liked. I’d picked up books here and there without realizing they were cozies.

In case you, like me a few months ago, aren’t well-versed on the cozy front, let me help! Widely accepted commonalities among (most) cozies are an amateur sleuth as the main character; they often set in a small town or small part of a big city with wacky characters; many involve food, crafts or animals in their theme; and they don’t include graphic descriptions (of the violent or sexy kinds) or profanity. The hook/theme of the book often has almost as much real estate on the pages as the mystery itself. Plus, the crime gets wrapped up by the end. Lots of them even include an ongoing romance. There are always exceptions to a genre definition, but this covers what I usually see in the genre expectations.

Basically, they’re happy little murder stories.

They combine what I love about romance with my lifetime interest in crime and mystery.

I love that you can get to know some zany characters that come back each book, while also being able to mix up a sub-setting in each book. For example, the cozy series might be set in a small town in western Oregon. The town is there in each book, but one book might be set at a rodeo and another involving a theater production. There are endless possibilities of where to take the characters!

I’ve now got a cozy mystery manuscript draft completed. It was so much fun to write quirky characters, a slow burn romance, lots of laughs, and get to think about murder motivations, while getting to have a light-hearted ending.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you read cozies? Have you come across a corner of the book world that has everything you want in a story?

4 thoughts on “Cozy Mysteries: Happy Little Murder Stories

  1. Though my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries feature someone in law enforcement, I stick to small towns, no on scene sex, or gruesome details and some have called the series cozies–but they don’t follow the usual description as you so well put into words. I do like a well-written cozy as long as it doesn’t border on silly. Great post, by the way.

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  2. Welcome to Ladies of Mystery. I enjoy some cozies if they’re not too cozy, like Linda said above.. The setting and characters have to grab me. That’s what matters for me in any genre of mystery, and I read them all.

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  3. I love the small communities in cozy mysteries and the sparking romance. I agree they have everything to make them a fun genre to write and read. Welcome to the blog!

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  4. I read cozy mysteries, but I try to find those that aren’t too cozy – ones that border on traditional mystery with an amateur sleuth. My favorite cozies are the Sarah Booth Delaney Bones series written by Carolyn Haines. I enjoyed your post. I also started writing in 2005.

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