“The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs 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. Dismissed by the authorities in general as nosy busybodies (particularly if they are middle-aged or elderly women), the detectives in cozy mysteries are thus left free to eavesdrop, gather clues, and use their native intelligence and intuitive “feel” for the social dynamics of the community to solve the crime…
Cozy mysteries do not employ any but the mildest profanity. The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. The wounds inflicted on the victim are never dwelt on, and seldom used as clues. Sexual activity, even between married characters, is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed, and the subject is frequently avoided altogether.
The cozy mystery usually takes place in a town, village, or other community small (or otherwise insular) enough to make it believable that all the principal characters know, and may well have long-standing social relationships with, each other. The amateur detective is usually a gregarious, well-liked individual who is able to get the community members to talk freely about each other.”
Please join me in making sure the “cozy” modifier is added to every other literary genre as quickly as possible. Before the year is out, I wish to be the possessor of several handsome titles in the cozy gothic, cozy bildungsroman, cozy speculative fantasy, and cozy memoir traditions. Make it so.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.