Lately, I’ve been obsessing about a genre that is new to me (at least in name). That genre is cozy mysteries. When I discovered there were an entire series of books in this genre, I felt like I was stumbling on a treasure chest I hadn’t even known I’d been looking for.
It started with Murder is Binding, A Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett. The book follows the sleuthing of Tricia Miles, the owner of a vintage mystery bookstore nestled in a small town in New Hampshire famous for its antique booksellers. As I read the book, I suddenly found myself wanting to drink coffee all the time. The characters in A Booktown Mystery series are always trading town gossip and clues over cups of coffee.
These books have a similar feeling to that of being safe inside during bad weather or warm from the winter’s cold. When you’re inside, you almost want the weather to run on as cold or long as it wants, because it makes you feel all the cozier inside, covered in blankets, curled up in bed with a good book. A cozy mystery presents suspenseful and stressful situations in a way that makes you feel like a sleuth with none of the danger and all of the small-town situations, friendships, and characters that feel like home.
When I was younger, I really loved The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They were so exciting and a key element was that they were so familiar. Once I got acquainted with Frank and Joe Hardy in The Tower Treasure, I could follow them again and again, knowing that they’d pull through and save the day, because they always did. I trusted them, and so, while I fretted if they were caught by their enemies, I knew they’d find a way to turn the tables on the enemy. The world was safer with Frank and Joe Hardy. The good guys always won, and I never doubted they would for a second. As I grew up, I lost that sense of comfort and that confidence in my heroes and heroines. As I recognized the world as a more complex place, the stories I read became darker and more convoluted too.
Some of my favorite reading experiences have come from series. I like them because they allow room for character development and deep exploration of the world of the book. I like them because sometimes I get to grow up with the character as the author write (Rowling’s Harry Potter). I like them because of the anticipation, waiting for the release of the next book (Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle). I love/hate the wonder and mystery of if the author will ever finish the story (Coville’s The Unicorn Chronicles, the second volume was published in 1999, the third wasn’t released until 2008). I like the hungry reading of discovering a series after all its volumes have been released and sitting down and just devouring it whole (Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain). I love discovering an author has unexpectedly revisited a series and given it a new volume, more than a decade later (Garth Nix’s Abhorsen). Heck, I even remember being excited about Scholastic series like Animal Ark and Heartland.
So, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that I still love series, all these years later. In the month since discovering the Booktown Mystery series, I’ve read eight of the ten books currently available. I soon realized that cozy mysteries (and what Barnes&Noble sometimes tags as “whimsical women sleuth” novels) are a substantial force. At the Mid-Manhattan library, I found shelves and shelves of them. Recently, I’ve also begun reading Nancy Artherton’s Aunt Dimity series and Krista Davis’s Paw & Claws series. I’ve been excited to find there’s quite a spectrum of bad puns and cozy covers (many of the books feature detailed illustrations of a setting in the book, usually near the scene of crime, with a pet or animal). It’s fun to pick out the recurring elements that unite cozies, and the differences that allow each work to stand alone.
Similar elements: (a small, but not exhaustive list)
1. Series has a logo or illustrative icon of some kind
2. Recipes are included
3. Title is usually a pun related to death, but categorically related to the series title
I love that these authors seem to be so highly away of formula and convention, but really have fun with their books. These just make me smile.
And what’s not to love about curling up with a book, eating some cookies baked from a recipe you know the very same characters you’re enjoying adventuring with have eaten? And knowing there’s more. Knowing that after you finish this book, there will be one more, and hopefully one more, and always another series to take over after that.
Not that I’m only going to subsist on cozy mysteries or anything, I love too many genres to stick with just one, but right now, I’m really enjoying have them in my life. Here’s my reading list this month:
Aunt Dimity and the Duke
A Fatal Chapter (A Booktown Mystery)
The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer (A Paws & Claws Mystery)
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (A Magical Cats Mystery)
If Walls Could Talk (Haunted Home Renovation)
Let me know if you have any suggestions for next month!