Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Do Cozies Take Murder Seriously?

 by Sybil Johnson

At a holiday party last month, someone said they didn’t read cozies because they don’t take murder seriously. I wholeheartedly disagree. They do take death and murder seriously. There might be some humor in there, but it generally doesn’t revolve around the body, but the situations the sleuth(s) find themselves in during the investigation.

Here’s the definition of a cozy, which I think contains all of the important points: 

  • Contains an amateur sleuth, usually a woman, but that’s not set in stone 
  • No sex on the page 
  • No excessive violence on the page 
  • The bad guy always is discovered and punished in some way in the end 
  • The emphasis is on the investigation, i.e. figuring out whodunit 

Nowhere in there does it mention humor. The idea that cozies must be humorous might come from the award categories they fit into: Lefty (LCC): Best Humorous, Anthony (Bouchercon): Best Humorous. I’m happy there is a category where they can compete against each other (the Anthony one is new), but I’ve always found the term confusing. I don’t consider my books particularly humorous, they just concentrate on the whodunit aspect of a mystery. (The Edgar Award category for cozies is the Lillian Jackson Braun Memorial Award, which seems very appropriate.)

The Agatha Awards are a different beast, since they are all for traditional and/or cozy mysteries. (My take on the difference is that a cozy must have an amateur sleuth while traditional can have someone who gets paid for sleuthing. So, Miss Marple is a cozy, but Poirot is traditional. That’s my take, anyway.)

As far as I can tell, the term cozy didn’t even come into being until the 1990s or so. I’m not sure what they were called before that, but whodunit seems the best fit to me. I’d rather the awards be termed something like ‘Best Whodunit', but that’s not up to me. Maybe cozies would get more respect then.

Those are my thoughts on cozies. What are yours?

No comments: