Friday, June 12, 2020

Cozy and Traditional Mysteries: Is There a Difference?

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 curling!

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.


12 comments:

  1. Great description of the difference. Thanks for including the evolution of the subgenres

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  2. I like this explanation, thank you for addressing it. I tend to separate into cozies and amateur sleuth. Cozies seem to be more gentle and amateur sleuth are edgier. All I know is that I like them. Add in the paranormal ones and I am super happy.

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  3. I’m a fan of Agatha Christie. Which, if any, of her novels could be considered cosy

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    1. Technically all of hers are still considered cosy (or cozy in the US). Off hand, I'm not sure which, if any, would fit the modern cozy. They may all seem more traditional to the modern reader.

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  4. Just found your blog and it is wonderful. Would concur with your differentiation of the genres.

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    1. Thanks and I'm so glad you found me!

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    2. I have a corresponding Facebook page as well: https://www.facebook.com/CozyUpWithKathy/

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