What does cozy mystery mean to you?

One of the groups I belong to on Facebook put the question out there recently – any recommendations for “cozy” gay mystery? The best suggestion was Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons series, which I enjoy very much – but I never thought of as cozy.

I’ve also had reviewers refer to the Jamie Brodie books as cozy – but I never thought of them as cozy either.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”

Okay – I do downplay the sex in the Jamie books. But there is violence, especially at the end of Psyched to Death. And I’d hardly call Los Angeles or UCLA a small, socially intimate community.

“The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs” (yes) “and frequently women” (obviously not). 

They do list “librarian” as one of the often-held jobs of the amateur detective in the cozy mystery, and the protagonist has a contact on the police force. Jamie has Kevin, so that fits.

“The murderers in cozies are neither psychopaths nor serial killers.” Um – not to give too much away, but Stacked to Death does not meet that criterion.

“The supporting characters are broadly drawn and used as comic relief.” Not usually.

“Cat-lovers are well represented among the ranks of cozy-mystery detectives.” Jamie’s allergic. You will never see a cat in his books.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn't.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn’t.

“Avoidance of explicit sex and violence, emphasis on puzzle-solving over suspense, a small-town setting, and a focus on a hobby or occupation are all frequent elements of cozy mysteries.” 

Okay – I can see the reviewers’ points. And, no less an expert than Josh Lanyon himself says that the Jamie stories are cozies – so cozies they are!

I guess I had an instinctive objection to Jamie’s stories being referred to as “cozy” because, as a rule, I don’t like cozies. There are exceptions – but a little small-town eccentricity goes a very long way with me.

What do you think? 

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1 Comment

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One response to “What does cozy mystery mean to you?

  1. Just came across this post as I was looking for information on the history of the ‘Cozy’ sub-genre, particularly on when it came about (still don’t know). I’m not clear on exactly what constitutes a ‘Cozy’. I wasn’t familiar with the term before a couple of years ago. It seems like so much of the stuff I read growing up is now considered a Cozy (Agatha Christie, really?), whereas I just considered them ‘Mysteries’. And then there are things that I would think are probably a Cozy, but don’t seem to fit the definition in one way or another. Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy novels seem a little too violent and full of sexual tension to fit well, and Aaron Elkin’s Gideon Oliver stories seem a might gruesome. And I guess Charlotte MacLeod’s Madoc Rhys and M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth are the exceptions that prove the rule about Cozy protagonists being amateurs.

    At times the definition seems overly broad, but at others overly narrow. I think I might just continue calling them ‘Mysteries’ and give a good description of the characters and plot. I find it a might frustrating sometimes.

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