The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group discussion

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Genre Discussions > I don't understand cozy mysteries....

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message 1: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore All,
I stuck with it and read my first cozy. It was a well-written piece of fluff that I'll eventually review, but I don't understand the attraction. There were no earth-shaking themes, the romantic intervals seemed Victorian, and the plot far too predictable. I'll be reviewing this soon, but am I missing something? Do those three characteristics define cozies?
Always willing to learn about new subgenres, please weigh in.
r/Steve


message 2: by Jill (last edited Dec 05, 2015 10:22AM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Steven........try this link to get an idea of the characteristics of the cozy mystery. I must admit that this ia a genre which is not for all mystery readers.

http://www.cozy-mystery.com/definitio...


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy (thenikitagirl) | 587 comments I hadn't heard of the term "cozies" until joining Goodreads and starting to use it this past summer. I had to ask what was meant by a cozy mystery. Then realized I must have read many when I was younger being that I was a Mary Higgins Clark fan when I was a teenager. I also inquired whether or not she would have been considered a cozy author, and of course, she was one. I recently picked up one this summer to reread an old one and by far, yes; it fits every definition of what you just posted in that link. Not something as interesting to me as when I was younger, as I remembered in the first few pages the plot and "whodunnit", but I enjoyed it all the same. After twenty years, I could still remember it so at the time, they must have been good to me. I had read every one of them it seemed.
Now I need something like a Karin Slaughter to keep me engrossed. Kind of scary when I think of the graphic violence now required to keep me page turning. I even found an Anne Rice book I read recently quite boring. Trying to blame that on seeing it before on screen though. And not because I no longer enjoy her writing. Fingers crossed for her next one I'll pick up.


message 4: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Jill, Thanks for the link, but the example I read pretty much told me the same info. My example was even set in Maine, and I indeed thought of Jessica Fletcher...and Miss Marple. I still don't get it. I thought we'd moved beyond Agatha Christie.
Amy, you probably found my problem. I have no problem with librarians, teachers, and other non-pros solving crimes, and certainly approve of MCs who are intelligent, strong women, but I need a serious, uncommon, and possibly horrible crime committed by a devious sociopath to really get my interest. I don't see that happening in cozies if my example is any indication.
Here's a related question: what's the difference between a cozy mystery and a romantic mystery (I'm thinking of Carla Neggers, for example--I've reviewed one or two of her books). Is it just the length?
r/Steve
PS. I have trouble with a lot of modern subgenres and cross-genres. Other examples: all the punks (steampunk, mythpunk, timepunk, splatterpunk, etc), and things like urban fantasy. Maybe I'm just anti-genre and more into an old-fashioned good story?


message 5: by Sylvie (new)

Sylvie Kaye (sylviekaye) | 16 comments Not everyone wants doom and gloom and to be scared. Some readers want a quick, light read, to be entertained and not have to figure out whodunnit. Just saying...


message 6: by Annette (new)

Annette Macintyre | 70 comments Steven, I can't stand "cozies" or "romantic mysteries". I like hard core detective and/or murder mysteries. Karin is one of my favorite authors. Michael Koryta, Val McDermid, Richard Price and David Rosenfelt are what I am currently reading.


message 7: by Nell (last edited Dec 06, 2015 04:19AM) (new)

Nell I'm a fan of cozy mysteries because I read mysteries to solve the puzzle. Cozies are a good choice for mystery readers who are not interested in blood and gore or detailed descriptions of violence. It's about figuring out who done it. The focus is on characters, relationships and motives not serial killers or sociopaths.

Some of these posts have a condescending tone. As with any sub-genre, there is a range of quality. The three characteristics in the initial post DO NOT define cozies. One book doesn't represent the genre.

ftr - Mary Higgins Clark does not write cozy mysteries.


message 8: by C. (new)

C. Mary wrote: "I love cozies. No hard core violence, no raw sex scenes, very little cussing if any, and no nightmares. They're relaxing and the characters are charming. The mysteries have nice resolutions and tha..."

Yes, you stated the exact reasons that I enjoy cozies!


message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare Walker | 9 comments Good morning, everyone! This is an interesting discussion! Thanks, Steven, for your conversation starter.

There are two very broad categories of detective fiction: classical detective and hard-boiled detective. Each has its own conventions and formulae, and, more importantly, its own target audience. The world-view, prejudices, and preferences of the target audience shape the conventions of the genre.

Classical detective stories (Sherlock Holmes, Marple/Poirot/Etc, Wimsey, Fr. Brown, the work of P.D. James, and many many others) appeal to an audience who appreciates the fact that murder is an anomaly in an otherwise ordered, moral, self-contained world. Usually the world is charming and homey: a quaint English village, a country estate, a small town. The detective is definitely not a physical hero, but is a keen observer and a shrewd thinker. The intellectual puzzle is what delights the reader, and the climax of the story is when the detective solves the mystery. There are levels of vividness of description (gore, sex) etc, but I agree with the link Jill provided: most of that stuff, including the murders, occur off-screen. Cozy mysteries are in the classical category.

The hard-boiled detective appeals to a different audience: one that is more cynical perhaps, because the setting of a hard-boiled story is gritty, sprawling, usually urban, full of corrupt officials, shady people, in a universe where the few good guys are fighting an uphill battle against what they see as a morally bankrupt world. Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler are examples of this. The descriptions of sex and violence can be graphic and lurid, and the climax of the story is not the solution of the crime, but the final physical confrontation b/t the detective hero and the villain. Usually the villain ends up being violently killed by the hero.

Steven, it's not that we haven't moved beyond Miss Marple. It's that in each case -- classical detective and hard-boiled -- what the audience wants and enjoys is completely different. This is the explanation for why some people who love mysteries also have certain types of mysteries that they just don't enjoy.

John G. Cawelti wrote a great book on this topic: Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture (University of Chicago Press, 1976) Yes, it's a pretty old book, but, for anyone interested in genres studies, a fascinating read.

Personally, I enjoy both genres, if well-written: A.C. Doyle, the better Christie's, P.D. James on the classical side, and Hammett, Chandler, and Connelly on the hard-boiled side. I do not like Mickey Spillane at all, nor do I care for the really fluffy cozy mysteries.


message 10: by Annette (new)

Annette Macintyre | 70 comments Clare, I appreciate your cogent comment, I think you sum it all up. Different strokes for different folks.


message 11: by Nell (last edited Dec 06, 2015 01:31PM) (new)

Nell Mary wrote: "For as many authors and cozy books that there are, it's unfair to call it a sub genre. I bet the publishers are raking in a lot of money from that "sub-genre" It's funny to see book snobbery."

Genres are broad categories, e.g., mystery, romance, literary fiction. Sub-genres are groups within those categories. For romance that may be urban, paranormal, suspense, historical, et al. For mystery, it may be hard-boiled, soft-boiled, cozy, thriller, et al. When you apply it consistently and without judgment, it's not snobbery. It's a way to classify and identify books. There may be other ways to express it, but that's how I understand and use the terms.


message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy (thenikitagirl) | 587 comments After reading something harsh or scary or violent, I always read something light afterwards; and a cozy fits perfectly some of the time. :)


message 13: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Nell wrote: "Mary wrote: "For as many authors and cozy books that there are, it's unfair to call it a sub genre. I bet the publishers are raking in a lot of money from that "sub-genre" It's funny to see book sn..."

I would agree, Nell. All classifications (genres) of books have sub-genres in order to identify for the reader what they might be interested in. For example, if you like Sherlock Holmes, the sub-genre would be "golden age" or "classic", Phillip Marlowe would be "hard-boiled". etc. I don't consider that book snobbery, only a form of identification that is helpful in the determination of a form of mystery.


message 14: by Bill (new)

Bill | 5461 comments Interesting discussion. I don't know if I have a preference in the mystery / thriller genre, although I like some authors better than others. I think I lean toward the grittier mysteries, but I'm starting to develop a fondness for the cozy mysteries as well. I'm starting to read Lilian Jackson Braun, MC Beaton, the classics, like Dorothy L. Sayers. They are a pleasure sometimes after something very gritty and nice to relax with. Some I haven't warmed to at all, but that also applies to the grittier mysteries. It's all about the author, not necessarily the genre or sub-genre.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (tom471) | 1500 comments I read cozy and hard boiled mysteries and agree with others that both have a place. Kudos to Clare for her comments.


message 16: by Amy (new)

Amy (thenikitagirl) | 587 comments I agree, great comments from Clare! :)


message 17: by Clare (new)

Clare Walker | 9 comments Amy, Thomas, Annette -- and others -- I'm glad you found my comment helpful! I taught a class on Popular Fiction last year (i.e. genre fiction). I binge-read a ton of books in various genres and read a lot of genre studies books. I really learned a lot by preparing to teach others about something that interested me anyway! :) It helped me appreciate the difference b/t popular fiction and literary fiction.


message 18: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore All,
I didn't mean to be condescending. I enjoyed the sample I read. I agree that many samples are needed to form an opinion. My first mystery was also YA--believe me, I spent a lot of time learning about YA and mysteries in that context.
In some ancient blog post, I spoke of how we use genre to categorize books. Whether we call cozies a genre or subgenre seems to be irrelevant semantics--cozy mystery is a descriptor and it obviously means different things to different people, just as "good mystery" can many different things too. Bookstores often lump mysteries and thrillers together because each one often shares characteristics with the other. Genres, in general, are only indications (maybe why they're so confusing?).
Clare, I'm not sure hard-boiled can't be considered "classical"--consider Chandler and Parker. Maybe only Conan Doyle is classical? And hard-boiled has to have some overlap with police procedural. Rebus is as hard-boiled as they come, but Rankin's books are more police procedurals, although the stories are set in Edinburgh.


message 19: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Mystery genres do overlap. Are the Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayres, Mary Roberts Rhinehart books considered "classics: or "golden age" or both. I think, however, that creating some identifier helps a reader find a new author/genre. As Steven said, it is just semantics since I would call the Rex Stout books featuring Nero Wolfe, "classics" while another reader would dislike them. But it makes for good discussion!!!


message 20: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Jill,
As a reader, the genres and subgenres AKA labels help me decide my choices for reading. As a writer, I'm not sure they help me understand the market. I can read and enjoy a book by Mary Higgins Clark, for example, but I doubt I'm her typical reader. Nero Wolfe might be considered hard-boiled and Harry Bosch certainly would be, yet many of the same readers read Stout (past tense) and read Connelly (present tense).
Bottom line, for writers, it's hard to determine demographics. Maybe the best bet is just to write a good story and let the chips (and genres) fall where they may! ;-)
r/Steve


message 21: by Sylvie (new)

Sylvie Kaye (sylviekaye) | 16 comments Re: Maybe the best bet is just to write a good story and let the chips (and genres) fall where they may! ;-)

I think that's sound advice.


message 22: by Bill (new)

Bill | 5461 comments As you said, Steven. There is always an audience for a well-crafted mystery, no matter what genre. I liked this discussion very much, thoughtful and expressing different thoughts and ideas.


message 23: by Clare (new)

Clare Walker | 9 comments Steven,
The terms "hard-boiled detective" and "classical detective" are the names given by John Cawelti to the two major sub-genres of detective mystery.* Not sure if he coined the two terms or got them from someone else.

The term "classical" as a genre designation is not to be confused with "classic" in the sense of literary excellence or enduring quality. All the genres and subgenres of detective fiction have the potential to become "classic" in that sense, including the hard-boiled. The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are examples. A.C. Doyle, naturally, is considered "classic" in this sense too, as are many of Christie's books.

The term "Hard-boiled detective" refers to the Chandler/Hammett/Spillane/Connelly type of detective and setting: gritty, urban, corrupt, cynical, a detective is usually a law enforcement or detection professional, a physical being whose life philosophy is "the world is all going to you-know-where but I'll do my best to staunch the flow of blood, even though I know it's futile in this dirty, fallen world."

The term "classical detective" refers to the Doyle/Sayers/Christie type of novel: pretty English village, country estate, seaside vacation spot, drawing room (or, in the case of Doyle, the cloistered environs of his "rooms" at 221B Baker Street). The amateur detective solves mysteries not by physical prowess but by intellectual excellence, and his/her job is to restore order to the idyllic world so recently disrupted by this nasty and distasteful murder.

The two genres appeal to different kinds of readers. Or, perhaps, the same reader in two very different moods!

*Adventure, Mystery, and Romance by John Cawelti.


message 24: by Jill (last edited Dec 07, 2015 07:14PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Great points, Steven and Clare. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that the Haycroft-Queen lists/books also use genres to identify books. Regardless, write a good book and they will come!!!


message 25: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Clare, I guess I'd have to call my Detective Castilblanco's stories, especially the mysteries, hard-boiled then--I just call it "minimalist writing" because I use it in other genres (the idea is to give only enough info so readers can develop their own images and perceptions and thus participate in the creative process). I wouldn't give Cawelti the credit for the two terms, btw, because I've heard the terms many times elsewhere, but there are many more associated with mysteries, including "cozy."
Jill, as an author, let me say that writing a good book is no guarantee nowadays because there are so many good books and good authors. That's wonderful for readers who have many more choices for their reading entertainment. For authors competing for readers, it's not so great. "Readers rule" sums up the current state of affairs.
r/Steve


message 26: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 571 comments I enjoy all sorts of mysteries, suspense, thrillers etc. There are times I want a cozy and times something more. I really would rather NOT read "War" stories and squirm a bit with over the top gore. I am no prude, but unnecessary over the top sex turns ). I believe WHAT you like also depends on your life experiences... Faye Kellerman is one of my favorites, but her husband's works Jonathon kellemanare too much


message 27: by Walt (new)

Walt Cody | 12 comments I think the appeal of cozies (to those they appeal to) has to do with the fact that they're not of this (real) world -- are, in fact, a vacation from reality, a place where ostensible logic (no matter how contrived) prevails. As though life (and death) were a rationally solvable problem. They're also, in another sense, animate puzzles. Something like a board game. Not so much populated by actual dimensional people (and in fairness, that's not their point) but by pieces to be moved around a board till they land on The End. I guess they can be as enjoyable as, say, a game of Monopoly on a rainy afternoon. Chandler, in an essay called (I think) "The Simple Art of Murder" was pretty hard on them and, in general, I agree with him, at least on a literary level. But if you think of them as board games or jigsaw puzzles...


message 28: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore All,
In a recent posting of my online newsletter, "News and Notices from the Writing Trenches," I mentioned cat mysteries. I'll confuse the genre issue here even more by stating that cat mysteries are a subgenre of cozy mysteries, which in turn are a subgenre of mysteries.
I've never read cat mysteries (save my own--see below) so I was happy to learn about them on the front page of the WSJ (of all places)--happy because I like cats. The storm in the tea cup was about whether the cats that solve crimes should talk.
The reading world always has something new to consider.
r/Steve
PS. (self-promo alert) My cat mystery is a classical cozy (see how I ruined those genre specs?): it takes place in a small town (a futuristic version of the International Space Station), and the sleuths are just ordinary people (kids and a mutant cat who can talk with the help of technology). I wrote it as a YA mystery before I understood anything about cozies or cat mysteries!


message 29: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Addendum: Considering the discussion of punk genres here and elsewhere, I suggested in my newsletter that cat mysteries should be called "fur punk." Do you agree?
r/Steve


message 30: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Cozies can be broken down to cats, cuisine (with recipes,) witches and other paranormals....it goes on and on...knitting, shops, bakeries, catering, second hand shops, beauty shops, shops of everything! Some even do theater themes. I'm just at the tip of the cozy iceberg.
I like fur punk!


message 31: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Sherry,
I was being politically correct with "fur punk"! That way, we can have mystery-solving cats, dogs, rabbits, and other mammals. I suppose there would still be a storm in a tea cup about whether they could talk. ;-)
r/Steve


message 32: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Steven wrote: "Sherry,
I was being politically correct with "fur punk"! That way, we can have mystery-solving cats, dogs, rabbits, and other mammals. I suppose there would still be a storm in a tea cup about whet..."


Well, they don't usually talk but they're smarter than people! They solve crimes lol It's nice of you to be politically correct for all pets! Haha

I ran into this page while looking for something.

www.cozy-mystery.com/cozy-mysteries-b...

There are cozy category lists.


message 33: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments I have to confess that I love a cozy. They're light and fun. I like to read them in between heavier books. It's like enjoying a light dessert.


message 34: by Ken (new)

Ken Pelham (kenpelham) | 88 comments Sherry wrote: "I have to confess that I love a cozy. They're light and fun. I like to read them in between heavier books. It's like enjoying a light dessert."

Mystery writer Nancy J. Cohen talks about cozies in an interview on my website. You might be interested...
www.kenpelham.com


message 35: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Thank you Ken! She was able to explain every reason why I love cozies. I'm sure other cozy lovers would feel the same way. It's about the characters and their friends. You get to know them. Your not put off by gore and porn and you have the pleasure of solving the puzzle with the star of the book. I will also add that when you finish a cozy you always feel good. You won't have nightmares when you read a cozy mystery.

Your website is excellent!


message 36: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Btw...I'm reading a cozy right now.


message 37: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 182 comments Annette wrote: "Steven, I can't stand "cozies" or "romantic mysteries". I like hard core detective and/or murder mysteries. Karin is one of my favorite authors. Michael Koryta, Val McDermid, Richard Price and Davi..."

I read both hard core and cozy. I tend to read more cozies because I want to leave a read comforted. I like Nesbo for hard mystery but I can only handle so much brutality. I read more problem solving type reads


message 38: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Me too Renee. I read quite a few DCI Banks books which were very good. I used to read Patterson but the Alex Cross books gave me nightmares. I like Tana French and a few others but cozies are aptly named. They make you feel good.


message 39: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Renee,
I guess I liked cozies before they were called cozies. Except for length, the Miss Marple stories are, after all, cozies. Murder She Wrote was a nice family show that stretched both my kids' and my minds as we guessed who did the deed (I was a single parent at the time and paid attention to what they watched). I don't read them much, though, and I don't write them, except for that YA sci-fi mystery I've already mentioned (fur punk).
(self-promo alert) My mysteries combine problem solving with thrills. They're not cozies and treat many themes a lot of people prefer to avoid (terrorism, the abuse of women and children, the porn and sex trade, the illegal gun trade, drug addiction, and so on). They're dark and brutal at times but often offer that glimmer of hope. I'll not go into details here.
r/Steve


message 40: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments As a member of this group I just can't read The Boy in the Suitcase. The other group read sounds good but it's not at my library. I rarely buy books.


message 41: by Ken (new)

Ken Pelham (kenpelham) | 88 comments Sherry wrote: "Thank you Ken! She was able to explain every reason why I love cozies. I'm sure other cozy lovers would feel the same way. It's about the characters and their friends. You get to know them. Your no..."

Thanks! Send Nancy a note; she's extremely gracious and I'm sure she'd love to hear from you. There's a contact button on her website.


message 42: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Ken wrote: "Sherry wrote: "Thank you Ken! She was able to explain every reason why I love cozies. I'm sure other cozy lovers would feel the same way. It's about the characters and their friends. You get to kno..."

Ken wrote: "Sherry wrote: "Thank you Ken! She was able to explain every reason why I love cozies. I'm sure other cozy lovers would feel the same way. It's about the characters and their friends.
You get to kno..."




Done!


message 43: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 61 comments Some cozies annoy me and others are great. I get tired of certain repeat features, such an amateur sleuth female protagonist who gets into a relationship with a police officer. It's been done too often. I also marvel at the number of these protagonists who have dreadful eating habits and somehow look great although they're at an age where it seems all that junk food would catch up with them. But when I find a good cozy series with a likeable lead character, I'll follow it. I read all kinds of mysteries, and my favorites within the cozy realm are the ones that are a little less cozy.


message 44: by SherryRose (last edited Mar 18, 2016 03:40PM) (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments I really like Juliet Blackwell Secondhand Spirits Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery, #1) by Juliet Blackwell and Sofie Kelley Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (A Magical Cats Mystery, # 1) by Sofie Kelly Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. I am anxiously waiting for both of their next books. Some may say their too fluffy but I love them!


message 45: by Bill (new)

Bill | 5461 comments I'm about to start a cozy as well, Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers.


message 46: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 35550 comments Bill wrote: "I'm about to start a cozy as well, Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers."

I don't think Dorothy L. Sayers is considered a cozy. Her murders are generally a bit more gruesome and her books are a bit more thoughtful than most cozies. This is an anthology of short stories though.

She is of the Golden Age and, as I understand it, cozies are more of an homage to the Golden Age. We have been discussing this issue in the group "Reading the Detectives" - https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/.... We are working our way through Sayers' books and are now up to Unnatural Death.


message 47: by Bill (new)

Bill | 5461 comments Jan C wrote: "Bill wrote: "I'm about to start a cozy as well, Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers."

I don't think Dorothy L. Sayers is considered a cozy. He..."


I think you're right. I stand corrected. :)


message 48: by Walt (new)

Walt Cody | 12 comments Not all cat mysteries are cozy. I'll plug a friend's 4-book Sam The Cat mystery series as hard-boiled cat, Reviewers likened Sam (the cat) to Chandler's Marlowe and the prose style to Chandler's. www.samthecat.com


message 49: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 926 comments Walt wrote: "Not all cat mysteries are cozy. I'll plug a friend's 4-book Sam The Cat mystery series as hard-boiled cat, Reviewers likened Sam (the cat) to Chandler's Marlowe and the prose style to Chandler's. w..."

Love it!


message 50: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore Walt and Sherry,
Because I wrote my "cat mystery" before this subgenre of cozy mysteries existed, I probably should just eat crow and enter confessional with the a PETA priest who will assign my penance to call it a YA sci-fi mystery forever after. Or, maybe I'll register "fur punk" as my trademark to please Gibson? Nah. I can't afford to register anything--lawyers are too expensive, especially the ones who write legal thrillers and mysteries. (self-promo alert) That's a segue to quoting the price of my YA sci-fi mystery, $2.99, available in all ebook formats (all my ebooks save one are $2.99 or $3.99, and they're never free--I value my writing too much).
r/Steve


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