Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cozy Mysteries - new and old

We just received a selection of newly-published and old-favorite "cozy mysteries" and one of my regulars asked, "Just what IS a 'cozy mystery'?" There seems to be no OFFICIAL definition but many know a cozy when they read one - so I'll give you my personal definition:

1) Amateur detective - may or may not be partnered with a pro. For example, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple often consulted with the police on her cases but Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity doesn't.

2) Very little gory detail - either in crime scenes or sex.

3) Often has a theme such as catering (Diane Mott Davidson), crafting (Mary Ellen Hughes), and bookstores (Carolyn Hart and lately Lorna Barrett).

Make sense to you? Who are YOUR favorites?

Meanwhile - allow me to point out an old friend and a soon-to-be-new-friend.

Old: Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton is the start of a delightful, British-themed mystery series. We meet Lori Shepherd who is going through a tough time - divorced, temporarily-employed, and almost broke. She is contacted by a very traditional law firm who confirms her identity with a long list questions - then, out of the blue, asks her about a childhood story about 'Aunt Dimity.' Lori was under the impression that Aunt Dimity was a made-up character in her mother's stories. Now Lori finds out that Dimity was an old chum of her mother's from her days in London during World War II. Dimity's estate has a request/task for Lori - and amongst the papers, Lori uncovers a mystery. The writing is smooth, the plot is charming, and a wee bit sad...this is an altogether delightful mystery.

New: Lorna Barrett sets her Murder is Binding in a New Hampshire town that boasts a whole block of used bookstores. Tricia Miles is getting her used-and-collectible mystery bookstore up and running and trying to settle in with the local and fellow booksellers when two events rock her world. Her city-slicker-shopaholic sister drops in for a surprise visit and she finds the cookbook store owner dead of a knife in the back, literally. Now Tricia is the prime suspect and no one except her staff and her sister are willing to help. This story has a decent number of twists and turns and is quite satisfying.


Mary Ellen Hughes said...

Hi Lauretta,

I agree with your thoughts on what makes a book a cozy - and thanks for mentioning me as the author of a cozy series, along with the wonderful Carolyn Hart. Carolyn and I happened to participate in a panel discussion on that very subject at Malice Domestic, the convention specifically for cozy and traditional mysteries. Carolyn much preferred "traditional" to describe her books. I was okay with either term, though "cozy" can sometimes be used in a deprecating way. I like to think of "cozy" as the kind of mystery whose characters you become fond of, whose lives you want to keep up with and which is set in a place you enjoy revisiting.

I wonder if others agree with that?

Mary Ellen Hughes
author of Paper-Thin Alibi, the third in the Craft Corner mystery series

Lorna Barrett said...

Thanks for mentioning the first book in my new Booktown series for Berkley--Murder Is Binding!