Cosy Or Not Cosy – That Is The Question…

A cosy mystery. Ugh, what a meaningless term, but it’s used everywhere these days to describe certain mystery novels, but without ever being defined itself. Well, as I’ve been endeavouring to return the phrase “locked room mystery” to it’s original meaning, I thought, as the self-appointed taxonomer of mystery novel genres, I thought I’d have a stab at defining this one too.

But first of all, a little research, which is where you come in, dear reader. Below are a selection of titles, both classic and modern, which hopefully you’ll have read some of. All you have to do is first, consider what aspects of a mystery make it “cosy” – once you’ve done that, take a look at the list and decide if you would consider the book a cosy mystery or not a cosy mystery?

Note, I’ve included a couple of authors more than once, as the books in question are, I think, quite different in styles.

These will close on Monday 20th June at 4:00 pm. Be back then for my thoughts on the responses.

14 comments

  1. I can see what you’re going for chum. Cozy / Cosy is clearly over used. But in my head it’s a real thing. As Justice Potter Stewart said about porn, it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. In my head, it covers books by Wentworth, Marsh, Daly, the Lockridges and maybe Carr’s SNUFFBOX or Christie’s MURDER AY THE VICARAGE. Right? In the case of your list, I would be tempted to say no to all of them. But I know a Cosy mystery when I read it … 😁

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  2. I hesitate to call anything a “cosy” that doesn’t include talking cats or fudge recipes. But I voted a couple (and only a couple) of these in that vein because there is little overt violence or psychological edge and possibly more humor (humour, but hey-ho, as an American, I’m not supposed to use that spelling). I would agree with cavershamragu that The Lockridges would all fit that larger definition but not the modern definition which clearly leans toward the cat/fudge thing. One of my WIP is very clearly more of a cosy just because it’s more about the characters and the humor than a clued mystery (but I promise no cats or fudge); the other still falls into the lack of overt violence but is more about some underlying darker themes (still with some humor–can’t help myself). If it’s ever published and is called “cosy,” I’ll “crawl back into my shell.”

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  3. I think knowing a book is a cozy is important to some. The problem is the definition. Some now rated cozy are very infantile while others are exceptionally terrific mysteries. Maybe we need an interim term.

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  4. The comments about cats or fudge made me laugh (in an agreeing and good way). “Cosy” often seems to mean a series with a recurring theme (book shop, needlework, cake shop etc) and a little bit twee. Definitely sex and usually violence will be off-page. Possibly ongoing and unresolved love-interest. Suitable for great-aunts to read. Now greatly overused as a term and more likely to put me off than encourage me to read the book.

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  5. I think Agatha Christie would have been pretty bewildered to learn that these days people consider her books “cosy”, honestly. Her fiction is rarely *harrowing* or violent but she was very clear-eyed about human evil.

    I agree with Barry upthread that some books marketed as “cozy” are excellent and some are twee nonsense. I would prefer if the term was limited to the talking cats and fudge recipes and other non-violent/non-misanthropic but non-idiotic mysteries were afforded something with a little more dignity. Even, say, the Agatha Raisin books, which are deeply silly, have far more substance than the cucpake-y mysteries.

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  6. For me Cosy means all those fluffy mysteries set in tea shops where everyone is cute or quirky and some feisty woman (usually) solves the crime with the help of a handsome sheriff/cop/werewolf and her great aunt’s recipe for gumbo. Or words to that effect. They are perfectly entertaining if you are in the right mood, will never be reread, but lack a great deal of intellectual challenge…
    I did flag one of the above as cosy, but I’ve only read about half of them as I find a lot of fairly recent books too blood drenched and psychological for me and I’m terribly slow to convert.

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  7. I hate the term, and as far as I am concerned it refers to an American invented form which seems to rely on groups of middle aged women who solve their simple murders around the local cake shop or similar. There are a few more recent English imitators.. yuck.

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  8. I would love to know “Literary cozies”. I think of authors like Sarah Caudwell, Alan Bradley, some Agatha Christie. Certain works by PD James fit into that category.

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