Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Curl Up With a Cozy! (Mystery, That Is.) by Cathy Elliott | Guest Post


Next to romance, mystery is the most popular form of fiction today. To the millions who enjoy reading them, it’s no mystery. Why? Because there’s something for everybody among the numerous sub-genres of mystery. Consider these:
  • The Hard-Boiled mystery - tough and gritty, a bit more violent with graphic descriptions of crime scenes. 
  • The Soft-Boiled category - the gentler mystery, although it still has a bit of bite. There may be some violence and a hint of blood, but the description of it will never be explicit.  
  • Police Procedurals - a step-by-step, in-depth look at the personnel and methods used in the investigation of a crime. The protagonist is usually a police officer, or sometimes a private detective.
I enjoy many types of mystery, but as one raised on Nancy Drew and Cherry Aames, I am most at home with the cozy.

So what’s a cozy mystery, anyway?

Cozy mysteries are considered gentle books…no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex. Often referred to as sweet tea cozies, others with more snark might be called the sweet tea with a lemon twist. My favorite definition is:

“Cats, or quilts, and not a lot of blood.”

Since my novel, A Vase of Mistaken Identity, was my first cozy, I took no chances. My protagonist/heroine, Thea James, makes a quilt for her cat. All the bad stuff happens off stage. (Covering the bases.)

In a cozy, the protagonist is usually an educated woman with life skills she utilizes to solve the puzzle. Her occupation could be anything, except for a medical examiner, detective, or police officer. But she might have a friend, husband, or significant other who gives her a needed “in.” Not many dog groomers or caterers can access police records or autopsy reports.

An amateur sleuth will have faults that are socially acceptable. She may bite her nails (as Thea does) but she shouldn't be a heroin addict. In my cozy, antique dealer Thea James always runs late, procrastinates like a professional, and often exhibits the clumsy gene. Those faults actually work to her favor as she stumbles into clues. And solves the mystery.

A characteristic of cozies is the assurance of whacky characters surrounding the amateur sleuth as she investigates the crime. I had great fun creating crazy characters for my book. a favorite is Thea’s mother, Norah, who loves all things English and often lapses into a British accent. And Gram, Thea’s grandmother, the real Brit in the family, an English war bride during the big war, who wears silly hats in solidarity with the queen and does her best to assist Thea in her romantic life. Cozy readers can look forward to a diversity of quirky characters in this genre.

The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village, a university or an apartment building. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other. Cozies today can occur anywhere from Maine to California and their sleuths are not just from upper class society either. They are common folk with varied lifestyles, like single mothers and active seniors. If readers like gardening, dogs, cats, quilting, or archaeology, there is a cozy mystery featuring a sleuth with those interests. Such as:
  • China Bales, Herb Shop Owner, Texas;
  • Aunt Dimity, English Ghost, who makes her presence known through invisible or visible ink, depending on who is reading it;
  • The Goldy Bear Caterer Mysteries, containing yummy recipes;
  • Agatha Raisin, Advertising Executive Retiree, detective agency owner in the Cotswold’s, England;
  • Reporter Jim Qwilleran & Cats, in Moose County USA;
  • Holly Winter, Massachusetts Dog Trainer;
  • Mrs. Pollifax, Connecticut CIA Operative & Senior Citizen;
  • Amelia Peabody, Archaeologist in England & Egypt;
  • Daisy Dalrymple, English Aristocrat;
  • And Queen of the Cozy, Dame Agatha Christie, whose spinster, Miss Marple, solved crimes in St. Mary’s Mead, England.
Obviously, cozies are my favorite – which is probably why I write them. But I enjoy the works of many mystery authors and eagerly await the next books by: Michael Connelly, C.J. Box, Dick/Felix Francis, Alexander McCall Smith, Lisa Scottolini, M.C. Beaton, Earlene Fowler, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Jacquelynn Winspear. Also love classics by non-mystery authors Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Georgette Heyer, and the matchless Jane Austen.

In fact, a modern-day author, Stephanie Barron, writes the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series. Written in flawless Austenian style, it seems our Jane was not only an author, but also an amateur sleuth. Hmm…so Jane is involved in a cozy. Nice.

A Vase of Mistaken Identity
by Cathy Elliott

Thea James, proprietress of James & Company Antique Emporium, never thought murder would come to her small, surviving Gold Rush town of Larkindale. But when the Larkindale Lamplight reports the discovery of a body during the renovation of Larkin Lake Resort, Thea is caught up in the mystery.
Her world is further frenzied when she acquires a vintage vase from the town’s only homeless person. Thea finds a puzzling list tucked inside with four names written in a faded scrawl: two childhood friends from a summer camp, her sister Rosie, and . . . her own name!

When the first woman on the list ends up in a coma and another mysteriously disappears, Thea knows she must save herself and her sister from harm. Her attempt to eliminate the vicious threat on their lives propels Thea to places she never wanted to visit.

Will she discover the connection before tragedy strikes?

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Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose cozy mysteries reflect her personal interests from quilting and antique collecting to playing her fiddle with friends. She also leads music at church and cherishes time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s other plot-twisting works include Medals in the Attic and A Stitch in Crime.

For more information about Cathy: 
Website & Occasional Blog - www.cathyelliottbooks.com