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:
Curtains for Miss Plym