Genre-hopping for Cozy Mystery Fans
This blog post initially appeared July 17 on the Chicks on the Case mystery blog.
Fans of the traditional or cozy mystery are as dedicated as they come. Hundreds flock to the Malice Domestic conference every spring to honor the grand dame of the mystery subgenre, Agatha Christie.
But a constant diet of anything can be enlivened by branching out. Personally, I’m a promiscuous reader, but my favorites outside the cozy genre all have elements likely to appeal to Christie fans.
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Science Fiction/Historical)
Willis’s work straddles the line between science fiction and historical, following the career of a time-traveling historian who, due to miscalculations, lands in Medieval England at the height of the Black Death. Fans of World War II fiction might also enjoy her Blackout and All Clear which focus on the home front in war-torn Britain. Contains some violence due to an accurate depiction of historical elements, but characters working together to restore the status quo while clinging to an overall sense of hope and love are what drive the stories. And those are key elements of any cozy.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (Traditional Mystery)
The reason that today’s mystery shelves are divided into so many sub-genres may be the fault of the father of them all, Wilkie Collins, who wrote the first detective novel. At heart a British country-house mystery, The Moonstone is also a detective thriller, a study of Victorian manners, and and contains the seeds of every suspense movie or book popular today.
Riverside Drive by Laura Van Wormer (Romantic suspense)
Published by romance giant Harlequin in their Mira line, Van Wormer’s books fit firmly within the parameters of page-turning urban romantic suspense. But what a treat it is to discover that within the confines of the upscale Riverside Drive apartment building and the Manhattan news studio of anchorwoman Alexandra Waring are the close relationships, support, and intrigue of an English village mystery.
The Dead Zone by Stephen King (Horror)
No die-hard cozy fan is going to become a horror aficionado after reading one Stephen King book. But all of his novels are set in small towns with close-knit groups of friends banding together to restore order…with masses and masses of page-turning suspense. The Dead Zone plot is similar to the Manchurian Candidate with a hero to root for and few traditional horror elements. It combines chilling and hopeful as only Stephen King can.
The Jackdaws by Ken Follett (Spy Thriller)
The story follows a small band of amateur spies recruited in the darkest days of the Nazi occupation of Europe to disguise themselves as cleaning women and take down the heart of the German communications network. At times grim, gruesome, and funny, the book combines camaraderie and hope in true cozy fashion.
That’s just a sampling of some of the treasures I’ve found outside the boundaries of what is customarily considered a cozy. Are there books among your favorites that would be shelved outside the mystery section but contain some of the warmth, wit, and wisdom you look for in a good read?