Today I was asked if I thought there we substantive differences between cozy, traditional and amateur sleuth mysteries. An interesting question and certainly one to ponder. I think that definitions of sub genres evolve over time. Anyway, here is my answer - what do you think, dear reader?
I think that the differences are rather slight. The vast majority of cozy mysteries are amateur sleuth. No professional sleuth cozy comes to mind at all. But you do have professionals, usually privates eyes, in traditional cozies.
But I think the real difference lies in their definitions. A traditional mystery, which cozy has its roots, has certain hallmarks:
- No violence, bad language, or sex on the page
- The cast of characters is limited and include the bad guy from the beginning
- Generally set in a small town or something confining, like a boat or train
- The emphasis of the plot is solving the murder and fair play – the reader has all the clues, plus a few red herrings, to solve the case as well
At one time, the words cozies and traditional mysteries were interchangeable. But at some point along the way, cozies began to evolve. Now cozies general have:
- Little or no violence (the protag might be in some peril, but nothing too dark or scary), no bad language, and there is romance on the page. Usually between the female amateur sleuth and professional investigator/cop
- Generally set in a small town or setting
- There is some hook to the story – the protag is a jewelry maker, coffeehouse owner, scrap booker, auctioneer, pie shop owner, pet daycare owner, quilter, etc. Quite often these books are filled with recipes or designs.
- The emphasis is slightly less on the plot and more on the character relationships
Agree? Disagree? Let's hear how you define cozy and traditional! If I remember, maybe next week I will talk about the other end of the spectrum. Or the entire spectrum!
Stay safe and warm out there.