Cozy Mysteries and Why You Should Love Them

You know that feeling when you’re the only one on Tumblr in a fandom?

Well as far as I can tell, I’m the only Tumblr user who’s into reading and writing cozies.

Which makes sense.  I mean, cozies are basically exclusively marketed to women forty and up.

But the thing is, I really love the genre, and it kind of sucks that more people don’t know about it.

So, as with all people who find themselves alone in a fandom, my new goal for 2018 is to start shouting about it as loudly as I can until someone caves and joins me.

Lazy history of cozies

Cozy mysteries are the babies of traditional mysteries. There, all cleared up.

Kidding.

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with starting the genre with his Rue Morgue mystery and Dupin (has anyone else seen the Wishbone?), but as I was researching this, it turns out that there was an earlier one: The Notting Hill Mystery, in which an insurance investigator looks into a baron’s wife’s mysterious death. (Side note: A literary gossip column sounds amazing.)

The mystery novel really took off in the 1920s and ’30s.  Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and a bunch of other authors  got together and formed the Detection Club.  Basically it was a club of people who wrote detective stories and wanted to hang out, being cool and commiserating over how hard writing is. (I wrote another blog post about my favorite book on this time period, The Golden Age of Murder.)  The members put together lists of rules for how mystery authors could play fair with their readers, and what could and could not go into mysteries.

While the Golden Age of Mystery ended decades ago, the light-hearted mystery is experiencing something of a resurgence.

What is a cozy?

These days the original style of mystery is called “traditional” and there are a gazillion offshoots.  From noir to cozy, thriller to procedural, there’s basically a mystery for every taste.

Traditional mysteries focus on the puzzle aspect, rather than the gore.  Agatha Christie is a classic (pun!) example.  Arthur Conan Doyle is another.  The puzzle is the important part.

Cozies are similar, except they’re even fluffier.  They tend to be themed around a hobby and focus on the relationships of the protagonist.  They are, as the genre name suggests, cozy.  There’s a quote I can’t find that says something about how cozies are about how the world is fundamentally good, and when something disrupts that, the protagonist has to set it right.

Cozies also tend to have amateur sleuths as their protagonist, rather than a CIA agent police detective, or someone else who’d have connections and know what they’re doing.  They’re more relatable because they’re muddling through uncovering the truth the same was you, the reader, would like to think that you would.

Why I Like Them

The world is stressful.  Cozies are not. Someone (usually a (admittedly cisgender, heterosexual, white) woman) is going about her daily routine of creating stained glass windows, running a shop, or baking, when someone turns up dead.  The murder investigation is intertwined with a discussion of the relevant hobby (or pet.  Pets are A Thing.) so you learn a little bit, or get sucked into the surprisingly fascinating world of interior design.  It’s low stress; the world isn’t going to blow up if the protagonist fails.

The very best ones (I’m starting to curate a collection of Favorite Authors, now that I’ve been reading cozies for a few years) absolutely suck you in.  The same as with any book, you fall in love with the characters, or the setting, or the writing, and you want more, more more.

My Very Important Final Thoughts

Publishing houses market cozies exclusively to older women because, well, because change is scary and possibly expensive.  As a result, the rest of the world has never heard of cozies, which is a real shame.  Sure, a lot of them are cheesy, but that’s like saying “a lot of romance is cheesy” or “a lot of YA is cheesy.”  That doesn’t make the genre any less awesome.

We already read the most stigmatized genres with pride, so why not give this one a chance?

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