First of all, I love reading cozy mysteries. I started out like a lot of others, reading Agatha Christie. One of my bookshelves is still taken up with lots of her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels. I even read my share of Tommy and Tuppence.
After I ran out of her novels, I discovered Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, Nancy Pickard and Carolyn Hart. I fell in love with M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth. I finally ventured into reading a few grittier mysteries—Barbara Hambly’s historical FEVER SEASON and Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST, among others, but when I’m in the mood to read just for pleasure, I turn to a cozy.
I like the feeling of a small world that they create—a small town, a village, a hamlet—a place where people know one another. I also like tripping over dead bodies instead of vividly watching the murder as it happens. I appreciate shock value occasionally. I just finished reading J.D. Robb’s first gritty futuristic mystery, NAKED IN DEATH, and being a voyeur can be fun sometimes. But again, when I want to curl on the couch and relax, I’d rather have all the gory details off-stage.
For me, cozy mysteries establish likeable characters that I want to get to know. In Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series, I enjoy watching Jill and Greg’s relationship deepen and grow. And I like keeping tabs on all of the minor characters who are their friends and co-workers. The place and the people who inhabit it weigh almost as much in my enjoyment as solving the mystery.
Another factor is that amateurs can solve the crime. They don’t have the benefit of a badge to interrogate suspects, so they’re at a disadvantage. But they still manage to find out enough by talking to different people to discover the clues they need to uncover the killer.
I guess the most important part of a cozy, for me, is the feeling that most people are good, that crime disrupts the normalcy of life, and that’s unusual. I’ve read PIs where the investigator walks mean streets, meets mean people, and usually gets beat up. That might be realistic in that line of work, even more so in a police procedural. But a cozy follows a nice group of people, living nice lives, until something ugly happens. And then the puzzle starts, adding up clues and discarding red herrings, to solve the crime. And that’s what I find fun.
High summer in River Bluffs, Indiana, is always sweltering and sweet. But the heat is really on when a decidedly dead body turns up in the neighborhood.
When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .
When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .