What’s a Cozy Mystery?

The cozy mystery is a specific subset of the mystery genre, and it is known for being the gentlest and character driven.  Cozy lovers are drawn to stories set in small villages, or country houses perhaps where the detective is a caterer or owns a bed and breakfast.  While I love the country and spend a fair amount of time in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, I wanted this story to be a New York tale.  But even in a city of 8 million there is still an opportunity to create the “cozy” atmosphere.  The Museum of Vegetable Culture represents one such small village.  It features its share of quirky characters both funny and intimidating and a compelling atmosphere.  Of course, I would love to work in a museum that had its own roof garden and test kitchen, who wouldn’t?   Lovers of the cozy genre will appreciate the food references embedded in the book and the recipes in the index.  I’ve been cooking since childhood when my mother insisted on a small set of cookware in lieu of the ubiquitous Easy-Bake Oven. In college, I convinced a producer at my local public television station to let me have a cooking show and overnight became Jacksonville, Florida’s “Any Day Gourmet.” While time often limits my cooking escapades, I do enjoy cooking for friends and family and setting an attractive table.

Some of my favorite mystery writers include Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels set in 1920’s Melbourne, Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry stories which are an homage to my husband’s Parsee heritage, Carola Dunn, and M.C. Beaton’s hysterical Agatha Raisin. I find these stories atmospheric and engaging – just what I need after a day raising money!

Of course, I love rereading the grand dames, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and P.D. James among others. Even now, when I know whodunit, it is fascinating to see the construction and organization of the complex misdirection these masters construct.