05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Saturday, September 26, 2015

CozyMysteries, Then and Now by Kathleen Delaney

 When I was growing up I read everything I could get my hands on. They knew me on a first name basis at the Glendale, Ca library, and didn’t blink an eye when I graduated from the children’s section to the adult section way too early.

Most of the books I chose were mysteries, as it turns out, cozy mysteries. Only, back then, I had no idea that’s what they were called and if someone had told me, I wouldn’t have cared. I only knew I loved the puzzles, the rich story lines, the well-drawn characters, the lack of graphic gore and anything faintly resembling sex went on behind closed bedroom doors.

The very definition of a cozy mystery.

My particular favorites turned out to be those who featured an older protagonist, usually a spinster, who through her keen perception and logical turn of mind, figured out the mystery and set the police on the right track time after time. Miss Marple of course leaps to mind, but she wasn’t alone. Patricia Highsmith gave us Miss Silver, Mary Roberts Rinehart Hilda Adams, nurse extraordinaire. There were a number of them, and I loved them all. However, as I got older, my taste changed. So did the elderly ladies. I guess they went out of style, but the cozy mystery didn’t.

Gradually, this type of mystery settled into another pattern entirely. Now the protagonist was much younger, had a profession of some type but not a bloody one. Something like running a bakery or being a caterer, or keeping a shop that featured knitting, second hand clothes or herbs, or perhaps she ran a small hotel or bed and breakfast, or…you get the picture. She was usually unmarried but she wasn’t about to stay that way, so a little romance enlivened the pages along with a couple of murders.  While many of these stories were excellent, some of them didn’t seem as sharp, the puzzle as puzzling, the characters as interesting and I branched out into other types of books.  Maybe I was getting older. Police procedurals seemed challenging and thrillers were…thrilling.

However, when I finally gathered up enough courage to try my own hand at crafting a novel, I chose as my genre cozy mysteries and I wanted to return to the older protagonists.

In the first series I wrote, Ellen McKenzie, a recently divorced woman in her forties returns to her home town to start a new life and a new career as a real estate agent. Only in Hollywood does forty seemed old any more, but starting over is never easy and Ellen has her challenges. When there is the body of a man in the closet in the very first house you try to show, it gets your career off to a rocky start and things go downhill from there.

But in my new series, the Mary McGill Canine Mysteries, I have brought back a true senior citizen. It seems most of the books written with older people as protagonists today feature them in care facilities of some type and center on their walkers and wheelchairs. Mary McGill is in her seventies but she still organizes most of the town’s activities. If Mary is your chairperson, your event will run flawlessly. Or did until the Christmas Extravaganza. There is a dead man in the manger, a  black and white puppy beside him and two children witness a shadowy figure run out of the creche’. In the grand old tradition of the original cozy mystery Mary needs to keep the children safe, figure out why a black and white puppy was doing there  and solve the murder. A tall order. Is Mary up to the job? 
Read Purebred Dead and find out.

Mary McGill Canine Mysteries:
Purebred Dead
Curtains for Miss Plym


Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed learning about the evolutiono of cozy mysteries. I like both types: the ones with a younger protagonist and a bit of romance, and the ones with older protagonaists and trickier puzzles. Your new series sounds especially intriguing, as I believe animals add fun to the stories.

Thank you for guesting with us, Kathleen!

Paty Jager said...

As a cozy mystery reader and writer myself, your book sounds intriguing. I also read Mrs. Polifax and the Cat who books who had older protagonists. My protagonist is in her early thirties, but single, though with a relationship starting up.

It is interesting to see the evolution of not only the cozy mystery but of all genres.

Courtney Pierce said...

Love cozies, especially when an animal solves the crime. With us baby boomers retiring, walkers and nursing homes are a pariah. We just do something different than what we did before. . . like solve crimes and cause trouble!

Judith Ashley said...

Kathleen, Thank You for a clear definition of cozy mysteries. I've read many and really adored the Cat Who books. Totally agree about 40 and Hollywood although that is beginning to change a bit. Love that you have started the Mary McGill Canine Mysteries. Adding a puppy or dog only enhances a story.

Kathleen Delaney said...

I think animals add an extra something for many of us. I, too, love the cat who mysteries, but if we started to name all the great ones who shared their pages with their human companions, we'd run out of room. I loved being able to write a canine series, and especially like the way Mary found Millie. Didn't plan that. It just happened. But glad it did. Let me know what you think.