Sadie and I met several years ago at a writer’s group at our local library when we were both working on our first novels and looking for good critique partners. (Yes, we also met Casey Wyatt and Katy Lee there!) That friendship blossomed and she has not only been an awesome critique partner, but a fabulous editor! She edited several of my books, including my Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy and some of my earlier novellas. Unfortunately, she became so popular as an editor, she’s made it a full-time job and is now working for a publishing house, which keeps her VERY busy. When she’s not in editing mode, she continues to write engaging and adventurous cozy mysteries. I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome!
Thanks for hosting me today, PJ!
I write cozy mysteries under two different pen names, the Greek to Me Mysteries written as Susannah Hardy, and the Tangled Web Mysteries written as Sadie Hartwell. My most recent book is A Knit Before Dying, in which my sleuth, yarn store owner Josie Blair, solves the murder of the owner of an antique store, and in the process also solves a decades-old cold case.
What’s a cozy mystery? The classic examples are Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, Nancy Drew, and the television show Murder, She Wrote, and they are a lot of fun to write. (I didn’t say they were easy, by the way, but they are fun!)
In general, you will find the following elements in a cozy mystery:
- A crime is committed in a well-defined community (St. Mary Mead, River Heights, Cabot Cove), most often a small town with a cast of lovable, cranky, or quirky characters as residents.
- Usually the crime is murder—but the murder happens off-stage. The reader doesn’t see the attack happen or see the victim suffer. The violence itself is elegant: one bullet, a single knife wound, one poisoned cup of tea are enough to do the trick.
- Someone in town—our sleuth!—has a good reason to get involved in solving the mystery. Perhaps she has a close relationship with the victim, or she has information that the police refuse to believe, or she’s even a suspect herself, but she has a deep need/desire to see justice done.
- There are at least three suspects, all of whom had good reason to want the victim dead. This creates the puzzle that the sleuth must solve.
- All the clues necessary for solving the mystery are included in the story. Readers expect authors to play fair!
- The killer/criminal is always caught—and always faces consequences for what s/he has done. With very, very few exceptions, nobody gets away with committing a crime.
- By the end of the story, order and justice are restored—until the next book, when crime returns to our little town.
Why are these stories so popular? A few reasons.
First, readers love to solve puzzles, and that’s just what a good mystery is. When I construct a mystery, I start with the town and the sleuth (which in a series are already established). Then I create a victim, who is usually someone from out of town, or who has just moved to town, or is an expendable character who has lived there a long time. Now the fun begins, as I think about who that victim is, what his life story is, and what kind of trouble he might have gotten himself into. Then I think of 3 or 4 reasons someone might want him dead, and I create a suspect for each of those reasons. When the sleuth starts investigating, she’ll have to meet up with all the suspects in one way or another, and she’ll have to eliminate them—or think she’s eliminated them—until she’s evaluated and reevaluated all the clues she’s amassed. Then, surprise! A final twist, or a new way of looking at a previously eliminated clue, and the suspect is identified and confronted—then swept off to jail.
Second, the sleuth and the people in her little town become familiar to readers over the course of a series, like old friends. When I hear from readers, it’s almost never about the mystery itself, but almost always about how much they love the characters. That carefully constructed puzzle? Enjoyable, but that’s not what readers remember.
And third, remember what I said about order being restored? That’s the biggie. In a world that is pretty darn scary right now for a lot of reasons, a cozy mystery always delivers a heaping helping of justice. The sleuth figures it out. Criminals get caught. Always. That certainty is a comfort to readers when so much else in their real lives is out of control.
And that, dear readers, is why I love the cozies, and why I write them. I hope you’ll give my books a try! If you read cozies, what is your favorite series? (You can name as many favorites as you want. Cozies are like potato chips—you can’t read just one).
About the Author…
Sadie Hartwell writes the Tangled Web Mysteries. As Susannah Hardy, she writes the Greek to Me Mysteries. At her home in Connecticut, which she shares with her family and a mischievous tuxedo cat named Ellie, she gets to play with yarn, experiment with recipes, and make up stories all day, and wishes everyone had a job as fun as hers.
Sadie Hartwell’s Amazon Page
Susannah Hardy’s Amazon Page
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