Cozy Mysteries, Defined

Cozy Mystery Genre

What IS a cozy mystery?

My favorite definition of the cozy mystery genre is “Someone dies, but no one gets hurt.” 

Most mystery fans cut their teeth on Agatha Christie, for good reason. 

Parents, teachers, and librarians are confident recommending them to young teen readers because they aren’t gory, contain no overt violence, sex, or bad language, and tend to steer away from adult themes. And Dame Agatha is the queen of cozy mysteries. In fact, the sub-genre’s most distinctive awards are named after her. The Agathas are bestowed on authors at the annual Malice Domestic conference. 

Cozies frequently feature a small town atmosphere.

A close-knit cast of recurring characters (some of whom are quirky) and an amateur detective with a day job that introduces her to newcomers who may or may not end up dead. The amateur detective is often, but not always, a woman. Chances are, her best friend, neighbor, or a family member is in law enforcement, allowing her easy access to the details of a case.  

Does the lack of violence and sex make them fluffy and light?

Nope. In fact, the icons of the genre, including Christie’s mysteries and Wilkie Collins The Moonstone (the first amateur detective novel and the first country house mystery), have touched on topics as timely and timeless as religious intolerance, racial stereotypes, the plight of the poor and underemployed, and social issues. Nevil Shute, who was not strictly a mystery writer but whose works are mysterious and adhere to the strictures of the cozy genre, looked at Depression-Era problems in the Industrial regions of England in Ruined City.

In my own series, I steer away from preachiness, but touch on local issues that impact my characters. Especially in today’s social climate, it’s those frustrating problems that conceivably drive the desperate to homicide. But, because the books are cozies, they’re also lightly humorous, feature dogs and cats, and provide a glimpse at life in a Northern California community. I hope readers feel transported on a visit with friends every time they crack open one of my books.

Thank you for visiting my blog. When I'm not blogging, I'm writing the Maggie McDonald Mystery series about a Professional Organizer and her Golden Retriever. Learn more about me and my cozy mystery series, including upcoming sales, appearances, and books here.