Let’s face it, cozy mysteries are just fun to read. The very nature of this type of mystery allows the person off the street to put him or herself in the shoes of an amateur detective and try to solve the case.
You don’t need intensive police procedural training, in-depth medical knowledge, a PI’s license or anything else. All you need is an inquisitive mind ready to ask lots of questions and a keen eye for detail – this helps in spotting the clues.
Here are some essentials that make a mystery a cozy:
- The protagonist = amateur sleuth
- Usually female
- Smart – often has a college degree
- Good problem solver
- Often has a sidekick
- Hobby/job brings the sleuth in constant contact with the townspeople
- Usually small town – therefore, it is believable that main characters know each other
- Interesting set of local characters
- Usually a local busybody whose nose is in everyone else’s business
- Usually a murder – and it usually appears near the beginning of the story
- Graphic violence, sex, profanity is minimal or non existent – thus no gory murder scenes, no graphic details. (The victim’s wounds are not described and seldom used as clues.)
- The crime takes place off stage
- Frequently the victims die via bloodless methods
- Falls from great heights
- Red herrings – false leads
- Genuine clues
- The clues are spread throughout the story to allow the reader and the sleuth to solve the crime
The Victim – is often somebody that everybody wants dead
- The characters develop throughout the story and play an essential role in holding reader interest
- While the amateur sleuth is usually not a police detective or medical examiner, there is usually a relative or friend or spouse who is. (Convenient access to insider knowledge available via this link.)
- Local law enforcement does not take the amateur sleuth seriously, and the protagonist is often labeled as a busybody – especially if she is middle-aged or elderly. (Convenient to be able to casually overhear vital clues at a crime scene, etc.)
- Frequently, cozy mysteries are parts of series. This allows the reader to ‘get to know’ the recurring characters in the series and become emotionally involved with them.
- Characters need to be likeable. Humor is often an essential element in cozy mysteries, and some of the recurring characters are prized for their quirky eccentricities.
- The cozy mystery tends to be a face-paced story with lots of twists, emphasizing character development as the plot move forward.
- The murderer in a cozy mystery is not a serial killer. Once the crime is solved and the killer unmasked, the murderer often confesses his motives for the crime.
- The emphasis is on solving the puzzle.
- The amateur detective has a hobby or job such as cooking, needlework, fishing, or golfing.