Welcome Lisa Preston, here to talk about an interesting sub-genre of mystery–Cozy plus.
“Do you think this is a cozy?” an editor asked regarding The Clincher, which debuted a mystery series featuring a young woman working as a horseshoer in small town Oregon.
Cozy series tend to feature an amateur sleuth, and that person often lives in a small community of colorful characters. Cozies tend to have little to no sex and violence, and those naughty bits frequently occur off screen. Swearing is minimal, if it occurs at all.
If possible, the heroine (more often than not, the protagonist is a female) solves the mystery through her special skill set. The veterinarian knows that intramuscular penicillin would likely be lethal if given intravenously. The gardener knows that decomposition takes longer in cold weather. The dog trainer recognizes the victim’s dog is indicating an important clue. The photographer sees a red herring in a Photoshopped image, and then is ready with a long lens camera to capture a crucially needed license plate.
We all love learning about places, people, professions, and pastimes. Want to experience the Maine seacoast, the Alaskan bush, or a southwestern Indian reservation? Cozies have us covered, letting us inhabit interesting worlds we might otherwise never experience. They draw us in with their characters’ jobs and hobbies, their fun friends, and whacky families.
But sometimes, in some series, the interesting worlds push the cozy question, thus, the Cozy Plus. Like most classifications of subgenres, the division between cozies and other mysteries can be a gray line, a spectrum rather than a sharp distinction. The Cozy+ is found somewhere past cozy, perhaps on the way to traditional, perhaps something more contemporary, and that’s where I write. It turns out, a lot of us write there.
In an extreme situation—maybe once per novel—the F-bomb might get dropped in a Cozy Plus. Having seen an extraordinary amount of violence and its immediate aftermath (I was a cop and a paramedic), I eschew violence, but in the final showdown, the bad guy may be actively trying to kill a good guy. Other writers might show a bit more than is usually found in a true cozy. Still, there’s one satisfaction cozy and cozy plus readers won’t be denied: the good gals and guys always win in the end.
Lisa Preston began writing after careers as a fire department paramedic and a city police officer. She was first published in nonfiction, with titles on animal care, such as The Ultimate Guide to Horse Feed, Supplements and Nutrition.
Her debut novel,Orchids and Stone, (Thomas & Mercer, 2016), has been described as a book club thriller, or domestic noir. Her psychological suspense novel, The Measure of the Moon, (Thomas & Mercer, 2017) was also a book club pick. The Clincher (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) debuted her mystery series featuring a young woman horseshoer. She lives with her husband in western Washington.