Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Getting Cozy

Here at Inkwell, we’re taking the week to celebrate DeAnna’s latest release, The Key in the Attic, a cozy mystery that’s part of the Annie’s Attic series. Since that might leave some readers wondering what a cozy mystery is, here goes…

What makes a cozy a cozy?

See the resemblance?

First, a cozy is usually a whodunnit. There’s a mystery or puzzle to solve, and the reader is invited to solve it along with the detective, generally an amateur and often a woman. (There are exceptions, like Father Dowling, for instance.) Probably the most relatable examples are Miss Marple, hiding behind her knitting while her keen eyes take in everything. Or Jessica Fletcher, from the 1980s staple Murder She Wrote.

Often the detective has a quirky personality, occupation and/or hobby, making her unlikely to be the one to solve the crime. Cozy detectives have run shops selling cheese, pickles, antiques, craft and scrapbooking supplies, and quilts. They’re caterers, bakers, housewives, iron workers, reporters, clergy members, interior decorators, bed and breakfast operators, house flippers, real estate agents, retirees, and sometimes even writers And often there’s a cat.

Since the typical reader of cozies is a woman with a little more…experience?...cozy readers are often open to older characters, although cozy detectives abound in all ages, from the Bobbsey Twins to Nancy Drew to chick-litty characters to retirees.

Because this amateur underdog solves the mystery, there must be a reason why the police aren’t doing it. Maybe they’re too busy or misdirected. Sometimes they don’t believe a crime has been committed, like a murder with no body. Perhaps they believe they already arrested the perpetrator. Or maybe they’re just nincompoops, although that instance tends to aggravate the law enforcement community.

The setting is almost always an idyllic small town or community where everybody knows everybody else. Think Cabot Cove, Maine. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a place and see Jessica Fletcher pedaling past on her bicycle? At least they’re idyllic BEFORE the crime spree. Old main streets abound, with thriving specialty shops, a coffee shop or diner where people meet and mingle, and that overall Rockwellian feeling pervades it all. In established series, the detective may need to travel to other locations sometimes--if only to avoid depleting the entire population of the town in the rising body count.

A crime is committed--usually a murder, but not always. (The Annie’s Attic series is one of those “not always” examples.) Even when there is a murder, cozies have little “on-screen” violence, blood or gore. They’re gentle reads. Serial killers need not apply, and children and animals may safely walk the street.

Little suspense is developed in a cozy. Rather enjoyment is derived from interesting characters, sometimes a long-running potential romance, often a splash of humor, and the challenge of solving the puzzle. But there is generally a final confrontation--often ill-advised--between the detective and the criminal near the end.

In the end, good prevails, peace is restored to the idyllic community, everybody gets to see how smart the detective is, and all the questions are explained. The criminal will be brought to some kind of justice. If there’s a romance, there’s usually a tiny step forward, letting the reader know for certain that there might be a possible romance sometime in the future. Maybe. And you have to read the next book to find out.

Up in her grandmother’s attic, Annie Dawson finds an antique key that is the first clue in a 150-year-old mystery. As she and the ladies of the Hook and Needle Club try to make sense of the clues, they must also figure out how to help Mary Beth when she fears she will lose her beloved needlework shop. Perhaps the key to both problems is in Annie’s hands.

 Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic are available exclusively from Annie’s Attic Mysteries. Their website is set up for a subscription to the series, but if you'd like to buy just Letters in the Atticor The Key in the Attic, you can contact Customer Service at (800)282-6643 (8 a.m. - 7 p.m. [CST] Mon. - Fri.) or e-mail them at customer_service@anniesmysteries.com.


  1. I like Jessica Fletcher watched her since I was little- often in th endless TV repeats. I am also a big Poirot fan although sadly I do not like the American versions thereof with Peter Ustinov because they tend to present Hastings as a stereotyped Nincompoop.

  2. Great run down of a cozy, Barb.

    Anna, I've always enjoyed Murder She Wrote too. I've got it in my Netflix queue and watch them frequently.

    DeAnna, what is Annie's job? Does she own a shop? I know she's got a whiff of romance going on with the mayor. Tell us more about this leading lady!

  3. Anna--I can relate to that. I like my Agatha Christie in print. I'm afraid I've never identified with any of the film or TV versions--although I tried a number of times. Same for Sherlock. Although I've liked some films, they never rang true as Sherlock to me.

  4. Lisa--thanks.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more of DeAnna's answers too.

  5. It's always been a joke for me how our cozy detectives tend to be death magnets. I for one WOULE NOT want to live in Cabot Cove, much as I love the New England coast... I imagine if you did a body count, Jessica Fletcher would be known as the Bermuda Triangle of Sweet Little old Ladies.

    Nice job, Barb.

    As for Poirot, Marple and Sherlock, I love them all. I am not all that fussy I guess, but I have my doubts about Jonnie Lee Miller's upcoming series. Now that Benedict Cumberbatch owns the tole, I wonder if my dear JLM can pull off his own version--it will have to be very different indeed!

    Anna, I saw your question about DeAnna's medieval series and I will let her answer - I think they were recently re-released but I can't recall the details.

  6. This line cracked me up. "And often there’s a cat." I think we should psychoanalyze the reasoning there. LOL.

  7. Dina, I know the reason for the cats. They're uber smart - they often know what's going on before the protagonists. They even try to give them clues.

    I don't care as much for the chick-lit type of mysteries, although there's been an exception or two along the way.

    I've probably seen ever episode of Murder She Wrote at least six times. Like Barb, I prefer Agatha Christie in print.

  8. Deb--I wish they had started Murder She Wrote each week showing the sign for Cabot Cove, with the population lower every week. I think it was one of the reasons Jessica Fletcher traveled so much. I remember at one point they moved her to NYC, where an extra corpse or two wouldn't change the demographics too much.

  9. Oh yes, that would be a good skit on SNL - the shrinking population sign for Cabot Cove...

    Poor Jessica had a terrible time making and keeping friends...

    Thankfully Annie (of Attic fame) is more about solving mysteries of occurrence not just mysteries of death. Though I know I'm not alone in enjoying a mortality count here and there.

  10. Dina and Suzie--

    Yes, sometimes the cat is the detective, and the human is just along for the ride. Perhaps the most famous furry investigators were Koko and YumYum, the Siamese pair made famous by Lillian Jackson Braun.

  11. Ah, yes, Koko an Yum Yum. I loved them so much (RIP Lillian Jackson Braun). I'm deathly allergic to Siamese cats, but I do believe they are smart enough to solve mysteries.

  12. Suzie, here is a mystery for you. Siamese are the cats I am NOT allergic to.

    I like my cozies set in the UK or at the seashore (preferably both) . hmmmm, maybe I'll do some research this weekend. No, that doesn't mean I'll be killing anyone.

    Hey, where's DeAnna today? All partied out?

  13. To Barbara Early- I confess I have only actually read one Christie that was 'The ABC murders' a Poirot mystery and a think possibly a couple of other short ones. I like the ITV series with David Suchet in the leading role and I think Hugh Fraser as Hastings (though he is absent from most recent episodes).

    To Debra E Marvin- I know Deanna's Chastelayne Trilogy were released on Kindle last year (or was it the year before), I am just greedy and would like to see them re-released in paperback.

    To Lisa Karon Richardson- Is it true you can get almost everything on Netflix?

    Thanks for the replies guys:)

  14. I is looking forward to the release of Deanna's mystery series. Up till then Agatha Christie and an assortment of other UK series and US TV movies will have to do- the former including possible new favourite 'Vera' which is set in the Northern English county of Northumberland (it shares a border with Scotland) and features the tatty, scruffy and slightly eccentric Detective Chief Inspector (very high rank) Vera Stanhope in the title role. Its not exactly cosy but has that certain something.

  15. Anna-It's absolutely true. Netflix has an amazing library! I can only think of one thing I looked for that wasn't available, and that was because it's an old TV show that hasn't been released on DVD. I think there was a movie too that hasn't been released. Does anyone remember the show Rags to Riches about a rich guy who adopted several orphaned girls. That is total nostalgia for me.

    David Suchet is the perfect Poirot. I don't actually mind most of the screen adaptations, but then I like pastiches and different takes on stories.

    Deb, I've been wondering about JLM's interpretation of Sherlock too. But since it's him, I'm totally willing to give it a shot!

  16. oh... netflix. They have only failed me in one way. The movie Paperback Hero with Hugh Jackman. It has never been made into an American release. Believe me, I've looked!

    But otherwise I am very happy with them. I go from DVDS by mail to Streaming (back and forth depending on what I want to watch.)

    Anna, I guess I didn't realize the new books were Kindle only. I know they re did the covers which made me think paperback!

    That new mystery series sounds wonderful. Thanks for mentioning it!

  17. Thanks for the insight, Barb! I never really watched much of Murder She Wrote. I think I was too young to "get" it.
    BUT... would my pre-adolescent obsession with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden fit the cozy mystery format?

    Yes, Dina, also chuckling about the cat.

  18. Wow! You guys are having quite the rave without me!

    Sorry -- had to be the designated driver to my dad's doctor's appointment and then we had a rather fine Mexican food lunch. Woot!

    Anyway --

    I think for really fine, classic interpretations of cozies, you really can't go wrong with:

    David Suchet as Poirot
    Joan Hickson as Miss Marple
    Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes
    Peter Davison as Campion (with a really sublime Lugg!)
    Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey

    I think they're all BBC productions, mostly extremely faithful to the books. Delicious!

    Lisa: Annie's job is to poke around in other people's business and crochet things! :D She's a young widow whose late husband left her well off enough so she doesn't have to work (he owned a car dealership). She and the Mayor are slowly becoming an item. Though he was interested from the very start, she was still grieving the loss of her husband and wasn't interested in romance. Now she's warming up to the idea, but we're not to any kind of official stage yet. Annie has a married daughter in Dallas and twin grandkids.

    Barb: Try some of the actors I listed above. I don't think you can go wrong. (Okay, a couple of the later Poirots with Suchet went woefully away from the books, but the early ones are fabulous. Steer clear of Ustinov -- very 80s and Americanized and dreadful.)

    Deb and all: Yes, the new versions of the Chastelayne (medieval) trilogy are Nook and Kindle only. I guess nobody knows the future, but I don't know if there's enough interest in the books for them to be reprinted. They still make me happy though.

    Dina: Of course there are cats in cozies! All right-thinking people have cats! Besides, they're sneaky. :D

  19. Oh, and I forgot to say I certainly wouldn't have minded looking like Angela Lansbury in "The Picture of Dorian Gray"!


  20. Joan Hickson is my favourite Marple too the latest incarnantion (Julia MacKensie?) just doesnt do it for me and ITV have taken way too many liberties with the story in the laest version- I mean Nuns in 'Nemesis' and set in a convent?

    David Suchet is ITV though also I think and far superior.

  21. DeAnna--

    I have to agree with you on Ustinov--ick.

    I might need to check out the others. I remember getting a box set of Hercule DVDs, and not being able to make it through one. It just moved a little slow for me. I don't remember who the actor was.

    For some reason, I like reading cozy mystery and watching romantic comedy--or comedic mystery. Better yet, all three.

    And my remark about looking like Jessica Fletcher? I meant the pose! Very authorly. Although AL was a very attractive woman back in the day. And a wonderful actress. She could be both glamorous and down-home. Remarkable range.

  22. I knew what you meant, Barb. (Wouldn't dream of comparing myself to AL!)

    But wasn't she lovely?


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