I eagerly, yet with great trepidation, awaited the recent release of my first novel, A Class on Murder. As the wait time of months became weeks, the reviews started coming. When Publisher’s Weekly said, “cozy fans will appreciate the charm and humor,” I was so thrilled to be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly that my eyes just bounced around the words. But when Kirkus Reviews called my book, “an academic cozy about murder,” I took notice.
A cozy? I wrote a cozy? My protagonist was edgy. On occasion, she drifted into other realities, and Little People from the Cherokee Hills of Eastern Oklahoma may have saved her life in the nick of time. What’s cozy about that, I ask? A cozy is Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple, brilliant detectives (and writing), but hardly anything that will keep a reader up past bedtime.
The name ‘mystery’ once said it all. It was the daring stepchild to the perfectly irritating child known as literary fiction. Somewhere along the way, the mystery genre began to get a little respect, and as technology and digital connections increased, so did the subgenres. Suddenly, there was crime fiction, medical thrillers, techno thrillers, paranormal, police procedurals, true crime, suspense, romantic suspense, detective fiction, noir, the whodunit, chick lit mystery, legal thriller, psychological thriller, political thriller, historical, mixed genre, capers, and the previously mentioned cozies.
I probably missed some labels that haven’t hit my radar yet or that have been invented since I started writing this blog post. It’s mind boggling until you realize how many mysteries are published each year. I tried to get my hands on numbers, but between traditional publishing, digital publishing, and self publishing, well, you can understand. A safe bet is that we’re looking in the tens of thousands…at least. Even the most avid reader couldn’t read that many books in a year. So subgenres make sense by allowing readers to more easily select those mysteries they find most appealing.
To confuse matters even more, everyone seems to have their own definition of what each label means.
Many of the blockbusters are probably some type of thriller, but the paranormal market seems to be gaining. Most of the labels give some indication of what they contain, except perhaps mixed genre and cozies. Mixed genre mysteries do exactly that, mix the genres. A common example is the futuristic thriller that contains elements of both science fiction and mystery.
I researched the term “cozy” and came away with common elements to put to the test:
· A cozy protagonist is usually female.
OK, Ronnie (Veronica) Raven is female.
· The sleuth is an amateur, i.e., she doesn’t make a living solving crimes or mysteries.
· A cozy contains little graphic violence or sex.
Well, violence may be in the eye of the reader, but my gore level is pretty low. I come from the “use your imagination” school of violence, which explains why I found the movie Psycho so frightening and my children didn’t.
· Cozies may be humorous.
Guilty as charged.
All right, I’m a cozy writer. Yet the more I’ve looked at the label from every angle, the more it’s starting to grow on me. A cozy calls to mind a stormy day. Under a blanket with a cup of tea or hot chocolate by my side. And a mystery book to enjoy.