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Thursday, 2 August 2012

What is a Cozy Crime?

Recently in conversation I referred to my new  novel, Granny Smith Investigates  as a cozy crime and I received more than one blank expression. Someone asked me to define a cozy crime - well my understanding of what makes a cozy is that the crime is usually without explicit sex of violence, where the emphasis is often  on whodunnit - the quintessential cozy crime writer, I stated, is Agatha Christie.

The cozy mystery, also called the traditional mystery, is a specific genre light on sex and gore whose focus is on "whodunnit"

The Cozy lends itself well to light comedy as the novels of Simon Brett and M C Beaton display to such good use. And across the pond writers like Janet Evanovich seem to owe much to the cozies.

I suppose the biggest influence on my Granny Smith character is of course Agatha Christie who invented the blueprint for the elderly crime-fighter with Miss Marple, but also M C Beaton who produces the excellent Agatha Raisin novels. Someone likened my Granny Smith character to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum and yet I'd never read any of Janet Evanovich's books. I have now though, thanks to the comment made about my character. I'm glad I did and the  Stephanie Plum books are great fun.

So is Granny Smith a cozy crime? Well in a sense yes, but the emphasis is more on character than whodunit. I enjoyed creating those characters and felt them live and breath as I wrote their story. Mind you the second Granny Smith novel, due late 2012 which I'm currently working on will have more of a densely plotted whodunit, but it is the characters that interest me rather than the puzzle. I hope that by drawing the characters in rich detail and allowing them to develop in a fluid way across the narrative, then readers will feel closer to them. Granny's son Gerald is a perfect example and as I wrote Granny Smith Investigates he grew in a way I hadn't originally intended. Still I like him more this way.

 I guess Granny doesn't fit easily into the cozy subgenre, because I'm not that well read in the genre, and that it is broad humour that drives the book. Mind you, I'm reading more and more cozies now and so I'm starting to understand the genre boundaries - all the better to hop over them.

There is a great article, written by Vickey Britton, that defines the genre HERE. It's well worth a look, not only does it look at many of the key titles in the genre but also supplies curious readers with a list of writers who typify the very best of the genre.

"A cozy mystery is one written in the tradition of Agatha Christie. It usually takes place in a closely-knit setting with a limited group of suspects. A small town or English village where people are well-acquainted is a common setting for the cozy. An amateur detective is usually responsible for solving the crime. The cozy is light-hearted in tone rather than heavy. The murder often takes place offstage, as opposed to the hard-boiled mystery which contains a professional police officer, graphic violence and a sense of gritty reality. "

Vickie Britton

Another article worth checking out is the Goodreads guide to cozy mysteries.


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