While my focus here at Cozy Up With Kathy is cozy mysteries, I read and feature several different genres including mystery subgenres. After cozies, traditional mysteries are probably the most prevalent here. "Wait a minute!" you may say. "Aren't they the same thing?" While some may say they are, I find a distinct difference.
At one point, traditional and cozy mysteries were one in the same subgenre. These mysteries featured amateur sleuths (for the most part) in bucolic settings with no graphic sex, violence, or language, although plenty of murders. And that remains true for both types to this day. While Lilian Jackson Braun may have written one of the first modern day cozies in 1966 with THE CAT WHO COULD READ BACKWARDS, the modern cozy really started to gain prominence in 1990 with CATERING TO NOBODY by Diane Mott Davidson. So, what's the difference?
Many of today's cozies are geared toward a certain hobby or interest. The protagonist may own a textile shop and readers find tips and even patterns amidst the murder. Shopkeepers abound, after all, owning a shop means the boss can make her own hours and chase down murderers when necessary! No matter your interest, there's almost always a matching cozy. With one
exception, making my claim valid; I don't know of a mystery featuring
There are some cozies out there that are slightly edgier, but still
definitely fit in the cozy category. Often the protagonists are in their
40s or 50s and the themes are more mature. They are not all fun and
giggles and often are more thematic. People are more apt to curse. I
consider them a more "grown up" mystery.
The primary difference between cozies and traditional mysteries is the tone of the novel. Traditional mysteries
tend to be a bit darker. It's possible that an animal or child may be
harmed or even killed. Such an occurrence is taboo in cozy mysteries,
even if the action happens off stage and there is no graphic
description. There may also be some cursing, albeit generally mild.
Cozy mysteries have a sense of community. The story may be set in a large city, but the book focuses on a small community inside of it. Or the setting could be that small town, bucolic setting. The same goes for traditional mysteries. The difference is the location of a cozy mystery feels like home. You want to hang out with its characters. It's a place you always want to visit, despite all of the murders.