There’s a lot to love about cozy mysteries. Almost always, they begin in a picturesque small town filled with quirky characters we can easily imagine as our neighbors and friends.
While a thriller might keep us on the edge of our seats, a cozy mystery pulls us into our favorite reading chair with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Even the covers of cozies are warm and fuzzy, with bright colors and pun-filled titles.
Once we have selected our book, we can settle in for a fun read, where the language is clean and the murder takes place off-screen. Within the first chapters, we get acquainted with the village, find our way to the local library, and pick up a little gossip along the way.
The conclusion of a cozy must be as satisfying as playing an old-fashioned game of Clue, where the crime fits nicely into a logical outcome. “Naturally, Col. Mustard committed the murder with a candlestick in the kitchen,” we will announce to ourselves when the book ends. “That is exactly what I predicted!”
All of these aspects of a cozy mystery make us feel as comfortable as when we’re padding around in our pajamas at home. But the undisputed star of the cozy mystery is the amateur sleuth. She (because most are women) stumbles into a murder scene and quickly realizes she must solve the crime. No one else is as capable as she, for this dangerous task. This could be because the murder occurred on her property, or because she knew the victim, or because she finds herself on the suspect list.
Whatever the reason, she throws herself wholeheartedly into the search for the killer.
For many reasons, we abandon all logic to support her zeal: First, because the amateur sleuth is generally an ordinary person placed into an extraordinary situation. She’s an everyday woman, taking on the world to get the job done in her own community. Before we know it, we have pledged our allegiance to her cause and are determined to help her identify the murderer and bring him to justice.
Never mind that the professionals want her to quit meddling in their case, the amateur sleuth cannot be stopped. Whether she is a bookstore owner, a nosy senior citizen, or an inquisitive news reporter, our main character is always a few steps ahead of the real detectives. We love to root for the underdog, and the amateur sleuth gives us plenty of opportunity. She is generally likeable and well intentioned, even when she puts herself in harm’s way. She has no real training for the task, though she’s pretty good at solving puzzles, or dabbling in research on the Internet. Whatever her background, she is confident of her ability to be of assistance.
In some cases, the amateur sleuth has “super powers” that contribute to her success—ESP, or a connection to a well-informed ghost, perhaps. While cozy mysteries with a hint of the supernatural are fun to read, my favorites are still the ones that feature a smart, loveable, imperfect woman who solves the case with nothing but her wits, hard work, and a little help from her friends. As a writer, I admire the spunky sleuths who stand up to the officials and speak their mind. I am drawn to the older women who are often underestimated and pooh-poohed by those in authority. But, I also like the main character to be flawed, just like the rest of us.
This is why I decided to build my cozy mystery series around a character everyone could love. I wanted Josie Posey to be an intelligent, mature woman struggling to find her place in a new town where people were not impressed by her previous life as a crime reporter. I gave her a posse of quirky friends, who bonded over a weekly game of mahjong (also a little quirky). I put her into a conflict with the local police chief, who battles with himself over whether to rely on her assistance, or keep her at a distance. And then, I watched the action unfold.
Josie, herself, often wavers between fear and bravery as she pursues the killer in English Village. There’s something about living in a small town that magnifies the dangers, she believes. A prank call she might have easily brushed off when she worked in the big city suddenly feels more threatening in the little village. Still, she overcomes her fears and digs into the case.
Inevitably, the cozy mystery plot is filled with twists and turns that keep our amateur sleuth guessing until the end of the story. She surprises us with her resourcefulness, driving around all the obstacles until she finds her way to the end. And we, her loyal companions, are happy to be along for the ride.
Anna St. John writes cozy mysteries featuring a mature yet feisty former crime reporter, Josie Posey, as the amateur sleuth. Her debut novel, DOOMED BY BLOOMS, was released by Level Best Books in February 2023. CLOCKED OUT is the second book in her Josie Posey Mystery Series. Anna is a former journalist, award-winning advertising copywriter, and ad agency owner. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (Border Crimes Chapter), and the Kansas Authors Club. Anna is represented by Cindy Bullard of Birch Literary Agency.
When a clockmaker’s daughter returns home for a visit, reporter Josie is assigned the task of interviewing the talented watch designer. That very afternoon, the young woman falls from a ladder while inventorying antique clocks. At first, Josie is certain the fall was an accident. Everyone loved Ella McGregor Benjamin. But Ella’s deathbed statement is a mysterious riddle that can’t be ignored. With her Old English Sheepdog Moe by her side and an ever-growing list of suspects, Josie scrambles to identify the killer before anyone else gets hurt. The local police chief wants Josie to help solve the puzzle but stay out of his murder case. The editor of The Village Gazette wants an in-depth story for the next edition. And somebody wants Josie to stop asking questions. Deadlines loom. In this fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a mystery, the clock is ticking as Josie vows to find the killer before time runs out.
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