Cosy Crime for Every Taste

In the beginning Cosy Crime was the province of British writers. Agatha Christie, Marjorie Allingham et al, but it has come to my notice that American writers are now getting in on the act and I do wonder if they are taking it seriously. There are many series of so called ‘ cosy murders,’ set in bookshops, libraries, coffee shops, and cake shops, mostly with punning titles. 

Lauren Elliott, for example, writes Beyond the Page Bookshop Mysteries, like Prologue to Murder…a novel way to die, or A Page Marked for Murder…lost in a secret plot. So far, she has only published eight books but I’m sure she will keep going. Cleo Coyle (a pseudonym for Alicia Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini) are up to #18 in the Coffeehouse Murders. Their latest book is Brewed Awakening and they have 1 million books in print.

Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries, Royall Spyness Mysteries, Quilting Mysteries, Magical Bakery Mysteries, something for every taste, but Donna Andrews would have to be leading the pack with her 31 Meg Langslow Mysteries, which all have bird-related titles; The Hen of the Baskervilles, Owl be Home for Christmas and Murder Most Fowl.

It goes without saying these books have cosy covers with cakes, piles of books or Scottie dogs and Persian cats. It is a ‘Thing’ and a highly lucrative ‘Thing.’

Kingsley Amis was obviously onto something when in one of his early books, That Uncertain Feeling, his narrator who is a librarian, is constantly  asked by customers, ‘Have you got a nice book, just like the book I read before?’

Is that what’s at work here? A desire for something predictable and comforting?

I guess we all read for different reasons. (And I did see that Lynne Truss who has written a classic book about punctuation has a series of Constable Twitten Mysteries which are listed as both cosy crime and literary fiction. I might tempted.)

13 thoughts on “Cosy Crime for Every Taste

  1. I have read bits of a few of the American cosies and they are fun for poorly or otherwise run-down reading; the best have good characters holding them together, like the Bennie Harper quilting series or the Anne George Southern Sisters series.

  2. I’ve always found the classification ‘cosy’ hard to understand. I remember Marion Halligan once saying during a panel discussion, ‘if you want to make me really angry, tell me I’ve written a cosy mystery’.

  3. There are three main characteristics; the murder takes place to one side, the detective is an amateur, and it takes place in a closed community. I think there is very little chance of Marion Halligan being accused of writing one. Not her thing at all. Or yourself for that matter. I would never describe your books as ‘cosy’.

  4. Thanks for that explanation. I was thinking of Marion Halligan’s ‘The Apricot Colonel’ which ticks a couple of the requirements you describe. And that novel was referred to as a ‘cosy’ which Marion hated. The term always seems to me to be at least in part ironic, if not downright pejorative.

    1. P S My researches reveal that her second book in this series Murder on the Apricot Coast was described as ‘cosy’ by Allen and Unwin in their promotional material (Although the subject matter sounds far from cosy.)

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