Linda Henderson, Adult Services, Manhattan Public Library
Mysteries are a very popular literary genre. People think of mysteries as dark, scary thrillers full of graphic violence, sexuality, and strong language. “Cozy” mysteriesare gentle reads, containing little violence, coarse language, or sexual themes. Death and criminal activity happen mostly off-stage.
For a fun, intriguing read that engages the mind and provides fast-paced entertainment with unexpected twists and turns, try a cozy. Cozies come in many flavors: they are set in tea shops, bed-and-breakfast inns, and renovated homes; they deal with cats, dogs, and horses; they involve cooks, nuns and gardeners. There are paranormal cozies, Victorian cozies, religious cozies, and many other varieties. Many grow into extended series, letting readers follow likable characters through new adventures.
Cozies often take place in small towns. The hero might be an amateur sleuth, or just a bright, educated, or witty person, such as a teacher, store owner, librarian, or homemaker. These characters may happen to know people with access to information, such as detectives, police officers, or medical professionals.
Cozies are often family stories. In “Little Black Book of Murder,” Nora finds wealthy Swain Starr brutally murdered in his barn. Her harassing boss wants her to scoop the police, but family ties make things complicated in the ninth book in Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters series.
“Father Knows Death“ by Jeffrey Allen is a “stay-at-home-dad” mystery. Deuce may not be an expert on running a concession stand at a small town fair, but he knows that dead bodies don’t belong in the freezer.
In “Murder in the White House” by Margaret Truman, the well-known author of many mysteries set in Washington, D.C., the White House staff and the President are stunned when they find the Secretary of State strangled in the Lincoln Bedroom.
“Sweet Tea Revenge” by Laura Childs, follows the owner of a tea shop, Theodosia Browning. Always a bridesmaid but never a bride, she is asked to be in her best friend’s wedding. But, the groom will never make it to the altar. He doesn’t just have cold feet – his whole body is cold.
Many cozies have quilting, scrapbooking, and knitting themes. In Terri Thayer’s “Monkey Wrench,” shop owner Dewey Pellicano prepares to launch a quilter’s crawl when her assistant’s boyfriend and a quilter turns up dead. Laura Child’s “Postcards from the Dead” opens as French Quarter scrapbook shop owner, Carmela, is getting ready for a busy Mardi Gras when she finds TV reporter Kimber Breeze dead, hanging from a balcony.
Animal lovers can find cozies featuring many creatures. Cynthia Baxter writes animal cozies, her latest entry is “Monkey See, Monkey Die.” When Jess Popper’s vet-school friend Erin doesn’t show up after asking to meet, Jessie begins to suspect that her old pal was making a monkey out of her – until she learns that Erin has been murdered.
Carol Lea Benjamin specializes in dog mysteries with her Rachel Alexander & Dash series. In the latest arrival, “The Hard Way,” New York becomes even darker and more unpredictable when Rachel, accompanied by her faithful pit bull, Dashiell, goes undercover to track down a killer. On the lighter side, “Chihuahua Confidential,” by Curtis Waverly, is a Barking Detective Mystery. When novice P.I. Geri Sullivan first heard her adopted Chihuahua talk, she thought she’d gone barking mad. It turns out that Pepe is a savvy sleuth, and if he has his way, he’ll soon be a bone-a-fide celebrity, too.
Susan Conant’s Cat Lovers’ mysteries, Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series, and Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who mysteries feature cats as companions and sleuths. Rita Mae Brown’s “The Big Cat Nap” celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the beloved Mrs. Murphy mystery series with a charming, claw-biting tale.
Culinary mysteries are wildly popular. Culinaries feature mysteries related to food and they include the recipes! Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear Catering mystery series is set in Colorado. Goldy, the caterer, serves the best food in town with a side order of murder. In Joanne Fluke’s latest Hannah Swensen series, “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder,” Hannah’s cupcakes come under suspicion when a rival is murdered.
For a Scottish-flavored Halloween cozy, try “Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones” by Kaitlyn Dunnett. As owner of Moosetookalook, Maine’s Scottish Emporium, newlywed Lisa MacCrimmon is about to discover that setting up a haunted house may bring her closer to a killer than she can possibly imagine.
Manhattan Public Library keeps lists of gentle cozy reads, both in hard-copy and audiobook formats. Two excellent websites for fans of cozy mysteries are www.goodreads.com and www.cozy-mystery.com, which features a listing by theme. Curl up with a cozy mystery this fall!