Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reading Cozy Mysteries in 2012

In 2012, I participated in this challenge, hosted by Socrates Book Reviews.

At first I thought it would be easy, but I found that my definition of a cozy was different from the generally accepted one. My definition (prior to doing this challenge) was loosely this:

The death and/or crimes are not graphically described. The characters are either likable or humorous. No explicit sex. Not necessarily tame. A book can be entertaining and a good mystery without containing a lots of violence or sex.

However, most definitions you find on the web are more like this one at Wikipedia:
The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs (village policeman Hamish Macbeth, featured in a series of novels by M. C. Beaton, is a notable exception) and frequently women. They are typically well educated, intuitive, and often hold jobs (caterer, innkeeper, librarian, teacher, dog trainer, shop owner, reporter) that bring them into constant contact with other residents of their town and the surrounding region. Like other amateur detectives, they typically have a contact on the police force who can give them access to important information about the case at hand, but the contact is typically a spouse, lover, friend or family member rather than a former colleague.
This page at also is along the same lines, although the author of the Cozy Mystery site is careful to say that many cozy authors bend the rules and many have added non-cozy elements in recent years. There, the setting as a small town or village is emphasized. Both Wikipedia and Cozy Mystery also cite the characteristics that I listed:
Cozy mysteries are considered “gentle” books… no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex. Most often, the crime takes place “off stage” and death is usually very quick. Prolonged torture is not a staple in cozy mysteries!
Regardless of how my definition and the accepted definition differed, I did manage over the year to read 17 mysteries that I think fit the definition. I had originally set a goal of reading between 7-12 books, so I surpassed my goal. And here is my list:

The books that I read ... with links to reviews.

1.   Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand
2.   Green for Danger by Christianna Brand
3.   A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
4.   A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard
5.   Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
6.   With a Bare Bodkin by Cyril Hare
7.   An English Murder by Cyril Hare 
8.   Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
9.   Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
10. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
11. Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb
12. Zombies of the Gene Pool by Sharyn McCrumb
13. The Affair of the Mutilated Mink by James Anderson
14. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
15. The Property of a Lady by Anthony Oliver
16. Lament for the Bride by Helen Reilly
17. The Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

Other wrap up posts for this challenge are HERE.

Will I join the 2013 Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge? Out of all the mysteries I read next year, I suspect at least six of them will be in the cozy genre, so the answer is yes.

And, I want to mention that the Cozy Mystery site is a great source. There are bibliographies for many, many authors there, not all cozy authors. And a great page on themes, which includes cozy mysteries set in various locations.


Anonymous said...

Tracy - I'm duly impressed! Thanks for sharing your list too. You raise a really interesting question about what, exactly, 'counts' as a cosy mystery. People do have very different definitions. I like your concise but thoughtful way of defining the concept.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the comments, Margo. What I love about blogging is thinking more about what I read, and about reading in general.