Mystery Author: Strong Women, Great Stories

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I write three series: The Loser Mysteries, The Dead Detective Mysteries & the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries as well as stand-alones that offer readers "Strong Women, Great Stories."
These days I also answer to Maggie Pill, who writes a cozy sleuth series. Maggie is a lot like Peg, just younger, cooler, and funnier.

Monday, July 25, 2016

In Defense of Cozies



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Upcoming Release of a Series I Enjoy
When authors get together, there's a tendency to disparage cozy mysteries, and many of my friends think of themselves as "just" cozy writers. To be honest, cozies can get pretty silly, with amateur sleuths bumbling through situations that no sane person would put herself into. Often they have only the faintest of reasons to do so, and most of us would have called the police, told them our suspicions, and gone back to canning green beans.

So why do zillions of people read zillions of cozies each year?

Possibly because we trust them.

We trust cozies to provide a few hours of entertainment that won't depress us, scare us, or force us to ponder the darker side of humanity. Cozy villains might be a little papery, but we don't imagine them showing up in our bedrooms with a butcher knife or shadowing us in a dark parking garage as we hurry to our cars.

It might be my age, or it might be TV's predilection for long-running segments on cop series where a single crazy-but-oh-so-clever killer menaces the hero and his/her family and friends for months, even years (think Red John), but I'm tired of psychopaths. It seems dishonest to me for an author to create a character whose psychosis allows him/her to do just about anything with only his own delusional thoughts for a road map. Traditional mysteries, including cozies, rely on logic: the killer has to have a reason for what he does, and the reader should be able to believe he was pushed to the point of murder by his situation, whether by greed or hate or whichever deadly sin it turns out to be.

I also hate blood, torture, and mental anguish in books (well, actually, anywhere). When a character is helpless and the killer is standing over him with a knife, things better get more positive pretty quickly, or I'm closing that book. Many times I've stopped reading when it felt to me like the author was just seeing how sick things could get (see last week's blog), and my tendency is to not return to that author again once she's done that.

Finally, cozies restore justice in the end. The killer is caught, life in the small town returns to normal (until Book 2 or Book 22!). With 24-hour news telling us about every abnormality they can dig up, it's nice to have that Shakespearean return to order in our fiction.

Do I read cozies all the time? No. I prefer straight traditional mystery, but I'm pretty careful about who I trust to write it for the reasons listed above. I completely understand why people stick to cozies, because if you like a little murder and a good puzzle, they're comforting and comfortable. 




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