There’s a kind of guilt authors have when they look at their recently read books and to their horror, find that only a small percentage of them are in the genre they write in.
I mean, I think that’s a thing.
Romance is the main genre of the fiction I write. And yet for some reason, I’ve been obsessed with murder mysteries lately. It’s not just that I’ve almost read through the Agatha Raisin book series last year, but I’ve also binge watched the tv adaptation, I got BritBox to watch every Agatha Christie adaptation I’ve missed, and I’m watching episode 3 of season 2 of Only Murders in the Building as I write this. (If you have BritBox, the Sister Boniface murder mystery series is also delightful.)
Everything is terrible IRL, but somehow a murder mystery is comforting. Because the rules of the murder mystery say that the crime must always come to light, justice should always be served, one way or another. I wish we could have some of that in the real world.
Now while the murder mystery has rules, I have a soft spot for the cozy mystery.
I think part of it is they’re almost always set in a small town. While I enjoy living in the big city, and metropolitan settings in books and films are fun, I do like a small town setting in fiction too. I wish someone would write a cozy mystery set in a sleepy town down south (I don’t mean Las Piñas, I mean the real south, like Pagadian and Sulu). I like having McDonald’s delivery available 24 hours a day and being a five-minute walk away from three pharmacies and two supermarkets, so I’m not planning to move outside Metro Manila anytime soon. But I get why people like living in small towns, and I love reading cozy mysteries set there.
So these are not official cozy mystery genre rules, but this is what I’ve observed from having read a sh*t ton of them.
- The sleuth is an amateur. They’re not professional investigators, neither do they work in law enforcement.
- The story is set in a small town.
- There is no on-page graphic violence.
- There’s barely a hint of sex. If the main character (MC) has a boyfriend or husband, sex is rarely even mentioned or implied. If they’re an unmarried couple, the reader is free to assume that both parties are saving themselves for marriage.
- The love interest is usually in law enforcement. Which is gross because ACAB.
- A trope I love is the MC running a fun business like a cafe, bakeshop, or candle store.
- The MC usually has an adorable pet— usually a cat or a dog.
Honestly, 90% of the cozies I’ve found aren’t that well-written— I DNF more than half of the books I’ve read (thank goodness for Scribd which lets me pay a flat fee each month so I’m free to try out as many books as I like). In fact, in a lot of them, the “sleuth” doesn’t really solve the mystery through deduction and cunning — they mostly go around asking people questions until the murderer gets annoyed and tries to kill them. It’s cheating, yeah, but I’m guessing there’s a large audience of readers who just want to read about small towns and quaint cafes and crimes that get resolved at the end of the story, so people are still buying these books.
One of these days, I’ll blog about my favorite sub-subgenre of the cozy mystery — the paranormal cozy. It’s delightful, and I really do hope I get to write one someday. Yes, it will be set in a tiny sleepy town. And no, the MC will not be dating any cops.