So many people have asked me this question the last few years. I’ve been asked by everyone from a bookstore employee to a friendly lady on a recent flight I took to Texas.
My friend Leah Dobrinska has answered this question on social media recently. I asked her to share here, and she graciously agreed. So, here’s Leah.
Hi everyone! I’m Leah Dobrinska, and I was thrilled when Jackie asked me if I’d be willing to write a guest blog and talk about cozy mysteries. Thanks, Jackie!
As someone who is relatively new to the genre (although I must say, I’ve wanted to be Nancy Drew for as long as I can remember!), I understand how the term “cozy mystery” can trip people up.
For context, I cut my teeth writing small town romance novels (think the Hallmark Channel, but with a little less cringe), but I recently announced that I got a book deal for a cozy mystery series. When I shared the happy news with my family, friends, and followers, I was met with a lot of excitement in response, but also a lot of confusion. Everyone wanted to know: what exactly is a cozy mystery?
Those of us who read and write within this genre understand that “cozy” is not merely an adjective describing the mystery, though in many cases cozy mysteries are, in fact, cozy-feeling books. But, what I’ve had to explain to my people is that cozy mysteries are actually an entire subgenre within the category of mystery, suspense, and thriller books. They are so much fun!
So, what will you find if you grab a cozy mystery off the shelf? First, what you won’t find is graphic details. Cozy authors stick to the tenet that the murder happens off the page. That means cozies are free of explicit descriptions. Yes, the murder is acknowledged and is the catalyst for the entire book, but it becomes almost a jumping off point for the intricacies of the investigation.
And who completes that investigation, you ask? An amateur sleuth, of course! This is one of my favorite aspects of cozy mysteries (again, Nancy Drew forever!). I love the thought of an every-day person bringing a bad guy to justice. An added bonus is that the majority of amateur sleuths in cozy mysteries are women, and I’m all for a strong female protagonist.
Our sleuth is usually in a position within the community to investigate. She’s plugged in in some way that allows her to glean information pertinent to the case. After all, she’s not a professional…the key word in her description is amateur. But she must have a good reason for investigating. Maybe she becomes a suspect and wants to clear her name. Or maybe she’s trying to help out a friend or save her business from going under.
She’s not in this alone, though. Cozy mysteries are also known for their great casts of characters. Fans of cozies have come to expect amazing sidekicks and recurring characters throughout cozy mystery series. In a similar vein, many cozies are set in small towns or close-knit communities. These well-rounded casts and delicious settings make it feel like every time you pick up a book in a particular series, you’re returning to visit a group of friends.
Another thing cozy mysteries are known for is having a hook. The term “hook” can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the genre, but all it means is that a cozy series is typically centered around a particular theme. In most cases, this hook, or theme, is associated with the amateur sleuth’s day job or hobby. There are so many hooks to choose from (truly something for everyone!). Here are a few common ones you’ll see if you’re browsing the cozy mystery shelves:
- culinary cozies
- bakery cozies
- bookshop cozies
- library cozies
- crafting cozies
- holiday-themed cozies
- wedding-themed cozies
- real estate or home improvement cozies
The list goes on. And the cool thing about cozy mystery hooks is that readers can find something that’s in line with their interests or they can pick up a book with a hook they know nothing about and learn something new in the process of reading.
This is getting to be a longer post than I expected. Clearly, I could talk about cozy mysteries for days! To wrap things up, here are a few other cozy mystery staples you’ll likely run across if you spend any amount of time exploring this genre.
- Puns. The title will often be a play on words of the book’s hook or theme. You’ll see clever plays on words within the book’s text, as well.
- Furry creatures. There is almost always a dog, cat, or some sort of pet within the pages of a cozy mystery.
- A romance subplot. Sometimes, though not always, a love interest for the amateur sleuth gets introduced. Cozies are also known for their love triangles.
Whew! That’s all she wrote for today, folks. If you want to learn more about cozy mysteries, I just finished a series of videos on my Instagram account (@whatleahwrote) and Facebook page (Leah Dobrinska, Author) diving into this question, as well. Take a look if you’re interested.
I’d also love to have you join my newsletter community. You can sign up at leahdobrinska.com/newsletter. Newsletter subscribers get first dibs on all my bookish news, so they’ll see the cover and blurb for my forthcoming cozy mystery, Death Checked Out before anyone else!
Right now, newsletter subscribers will receive a FREE small town romance novella from me, just for signing up to be part of my favorite community of readers. And if you’re into small town romances, you can find my books, Love at On Deck Café and Good To Be Home, available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel’s website. Happy reading!
Massive thank you to Jackie for inviting me to be featured on her blog! I adore cozy mysteries, and I hope you’ll find one that piques your interest, and give it a try.
Leah, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s fun to visit with a friend who’s also passionate about cozy mysteries.
Friends, here are some ways to connect with Leah.