Writing a Cozy Mystery by Carlene O’Connor

Words are powerful. Seductive, charming, gut-punching.

Cozy is a nice little word, isn’t it? Conjures up images of a crackling fire, a nice mug of hot cocoa or tea, curled up in an over-sized chair in your jammies, reading a good book. I don’t know about you, but it certainly doesn’t go with murder. Does it?

I do know one thing. We love opposites. Contradictions. There’s something delicious about the tough football player who secretly loves painting watercolors in his spare time. The femme fatal who graduates top of her class. The Clark Kent who turns in Superman. And, yes. A cozy mystery. What are the people in that sweet little town up to?

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and before that Encyclopedia Brown. We like to trust our sleuths. We want them to be good people so we can root for them. We want to bring justice to death. We want a puzzle that delights us and characters who draw us into their colorful world.

I also love gritty mysteries. I’m an eclectic reader, who devours almost every genre.  I came into the world of cozies when I was asked to write one. I had to adjust to the rules, and learn the parameters of the word, see how I could play with them, and make them fit the story I wanted to tell. Some writers think cozies are a no-go because murder isn’t cozy. I’ve heard writers say it’s impossible to make them believable. It is true that there is a tacit agreement between reader and writer that everyone is going to pretend it’s normal to have so many murders occur in this quaint little village or seaside town. Because cozies are well… cozy, which means the location is often small. It was one of the reasons I was thrilled to set The Irish Village Mysteries inside a walled town in Ireland. They’re protected in one sense from the outside world, but trapped amongst themselves on the other hand. Another contradiction, one I find fascinating.

Writing cozy mysteries is a challenge I am happy to rise to– making it as believable as possible, while focusing on the puzzle, and the people, instead of the violence and the gore. And most of all, I like the readers, who faithfully show up to indulge in the story, wrap themselves in a blanket by the fire, and settle down for a delicious little bite of murder. Just one. Maybe two. Okay, but you’ll definitely stop at three, won’t you?

The village of Kilbane in County Cork, Ireland, has a new garda—and her first case is a grave matter indeed. . .

The O’Sullivan clan couldn’t be prouder of Siobhán, but there’s no time to celebrate as she’s already on a case, summoned by the local priest to examine the appearance of a dead man in the church graveyard—aboveground. He’s a stranger, but the priest has heard talk of an American tourist in town, searching for his Irish ancestor. As Siobhán begins to dig for a motive among the gnarled roots of the victim’s family tree, she will need to stay two steps ahead of the killer or end up with more than one foot in the grave. . .

“Captivating . . . Fans of mysteries with an Irish flavor will look forward to Siobhán and Macdara’s further adventures.” —Publishers Weekly