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So, just what are cozy mysteries?

By From page B1 | February 08, 2013

It’s a mystery to some as to what books fall within the “cozy” realm. No pun intended, just an efficient use of words.

So, just what is a cozy mystery? It lacks blood, guts, gore and profanity for the most part. And, if there is such a thing, it would be considered a wholesome who-done-it murder mystery. Most are series with cutesy names and follow a uniform theme in each book, such as cooking, scrapbooking, dogs or cats. All the protagonists are amateur sleuths with other professions and interests, usually women, and they just happen to stumble on a body in every new book. OK, in order to fully enjoy a good cozy you have to allow some fictional liberties – some real fictional liberties.

I think Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple series is the foundation for the cozy of today. For those who haven’t read Miss Marple, think about Angela Lansbury, who starred as Jessica Fletcher in the TV show “Murder She Wrote.” She found a body and solved a murder every week. Same idea just translated to print form. Literally, in the case of Jessica Fletcher. The fictional Fletcher has a series of “Murder She Wrote” cozies that she pens with Donald Bain. I’m not much of a collector. These I collect – for some reason.

If you couldn’t tell, it’s complete mindless reading. If you’re looking for heady, thought-provoking verbage, move along. ’Tisn’t going to happen with cozies. What you will get, with the right cozy, is a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of reading.

Today’s cozy mystery market seems to have exploded in a most exponential way. There is a cozy for every hobby or interest imaginable; usually denoted by the series name – not to be confused by the book title. Organic foods: “Going Organic Can Kill You,” by Staci McLaughlin is the first in the new “Blossom Valley” series. “Fresh Food: Farm Fresh Murder,” by Paige Shelton is the first in the “Farmers Market” series. “A Killer Maize” is the fourth in the series and the most current. Shelton also has another “foodie” series out called “Country Cooking School.”

If you want to bond with glee club aficionados, then this new cozy might interest you: “Murder for Choir,” by Joelle Charbonneau. The first in the “Glee Club” series.

One of the latest is lingerie. Really. “Murder Unmentionable,” by Meg London is the first book in her “Sweet Nothings” series about a young woman who moves in with her aunt to help overhaul a vintage lingerie store. There is a big ick factor for me with that and maybe that’s why I was not impressed by the book. It’s too bad, because I just loved the cover. It’s pretty. I wanted to like the book. But it just didn’t hold my interest.

That’s the problem with cozies. There is such a glut on the market now that someone has to catch a pretty good gimmick or it becomes much like the last one. Different theme, same murder.

A few series that I’d like to recommend:

First is the “Orchard Mystery” series by Sheila Connolly that begins with “One Bad Apple.” It’s about a young woman who heads out of Boston after being laid off in the banking industry. Her plan is to flip an ancient house that her mother inherited. Of course she stays. She solves a mystery in every book – the latest, “Sour Apples,” is no exception. I love the historical aspects of the book. It brings more to the table than a simply mystery.

Second is Kate Collins and her “Flower Shop” mysteries. I’ve been reading this series since the first book, “Mum’s the Word,” came out in 2004. She’s on her 13th book now, “Nightshade on Elm Street,” and it’s still going strong. Strong female lead, great dialogue and a fresh story in each book.

Another favorite is the “Bibliophile” series by Kate Carlisle. It’s a Bay Area-based series and the protagonist is a female lead who is a rare book expert and book restorer in San Francisco. The series begins with “Homicide in Hardcover.” It has its moments of silliness but it’s a good, quick, fun read.

There are a lot of great cozies out there these days but, unfortunately, you will have to wade through the duds to find the good ones.

A website that is great for mystery lovers, and not just cozies, is www.stopyourekillingme.com.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.

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Discussion | 2 comments

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  • maureen bairdFebruary 08, 2013 - 9:06 am

    thank you so much for your series analysis and great recomendations! Made my morning! maureen

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  • FDCFebruary 08, 2013 - 10:06 am

    How about M.C. Beaton (Marion Chesney) and her Hamish Macbeth or Agatha Raisin "cozies" or Rhys Bowen. These writers provide wonderful use of the language and believable characters and stories, all done with humor and without blood and guts or profanity.

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