Delightful Cozy Mysteries of England and Scotland
Cozy Mysteries: Suspenseful Stories Without All the Blood and Guts!
Cozy mysteries are a hot genre these days. Publishers are putting out new cozies at a dizzying rate, which is great news for fans of this special type of mystery! Susan Wittig Albert, Elizabeth Spann Craig, and Lillian Jackson Braun are examples of extremely prolific cozy mystery authors.
What are cozy mysteries, anyway? "Cozies" are a sub-genre of regular old crime fiction, in which the crime (usually murder) is neither gruesome nor graphic. The murder victim is almost always someone that the reader doesn't care for; after all, nobody wants to read a book in which the most beloved character gets bumped off! Above all, cozy mysteries are fun, light, yet still suspenseful reads. Reading a cozy is like watching a favorite TV show in book form... but better, because it's a book!
Common Characteristics of Cozy Mysteries
- Cozies contain little violence (or, if there is violence, it appears off-set... for example, a victim might get bonked on the head with a golf club, but the author doesn't describe the blood and guts of the murder). The same goes for sex. Kissing and hand-holding is allowed, but anything heavier than that is left to the imagination. Cozies are mysteries that you could give to your daughter, mother, and grandmother for Christmas and not feel embarrassed.
- Another important part of a cozy is the setting. Cozies take place in small areas where the action can be contained. The intimacy of the setting also allows the author to develop characters fully, and re-use them in other books in the series. Cozies almost always take place in quaint, picture-postcard perfect villages.
- The other key aspect of a cozy is the amateur sleuth. In cozies, the protagonist is usually not a member of law enforcement or a professional detective, though some cozies do feature policemen (for example, the Hamish Macbeth series described below). The sleuth in a cozy is intuitive, clever, and also too nosy for his or her own good.
The Queen of the Cozy Mystery
Mystery writer Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is indisputably the "Queen of Crime." Christie penned characters such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and her books continue to be read to this day. In fact, Christie is still the best-selling mystery writer ever!
Three Delightful Cozy Mysteries Set in England and Scotland
Hamish Macbeth, Scottish Village Copper
M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series is my all-time favorite cozy mystery series. Hamish is a tall, lanky, red-haired village policeman who lives in the far north of Scotland in a little town called Lochdubh (pronounced Lock-doo). Hamish is a rather lazy policeman who avoids promotion at all costs, lest he be required to do more paperwork and live in the dirty city of Strathbane! Hamish thoroughly enjoys village life, visiting villagers, drinking tea and eating homemade scones. Despite being unambitious, he is also very clever. Hamish always outsmarts his superior officers who work in Strathbane; his intimate understanding of village life make give him special insight into cases that take place in the rural countryside of Scotland.
Since M.C. Beaton has written 30 Hamish Macbeth novels, a cozy reader can look forward to spending many months in the heather-covered hills of Lochdubh!
Aunt Dimity, the Supernatural Cozy
Aunt Dimity is the creation of Nancy Atherton. Atherton lives in Colorado, but her mysteries are set in the tiny English village of Finch. The series begins with Lori Shepard, an intelligent and talented young lady who is, unfortunately, completely broke! Through a series of extraordinary events (including a supernatural one!), Lori ends up surprisingly and comfortably well-off and living in the British Cotswolds region.
If you are opposed to ghostly, rather "woo-woo" events in books, don't let that put you off. Nancy Atherton manages to make her unusual plot twist seem completely natural and normal, an amazing feat. I highly recommend the Aunt DImity series.
Agatha Raisin, Private Eye
M.C. Beaton writes another series in addition to Hamish Macbeth. Agatha Raisin is a former publicity executive who has moved from buy London to the idyllic English Cotswolds. Agatha is quite a character; she is in her mid-fifties, has great legs, and a gruff personality. Beneath her tough exterior, however, is a shy Agatha who wants to have friends and fit in with the locals in the quaint village of Carsely. In addition to Agatha, other supporting characters make this series a delight: Mrs. Bloxby, the gentle vicar's wife, Bill Wong, policeman friend, and Sir Charles, Agatha's handsome and extremely rich partner in sleuthing - but not romance.
Who is your all-time favorite sleuth?
Where to Find Cozy Mysteries
Once you start reading cozies, you will undoubtedly become hooked. This is great news for you because cozy writers are extremely prolific, and you will never run out of cozies to read!
Because cozies are such quick, light reads, you can also read them extremely fast. Buying a new book once or twice a week is not feasible (even if you have the money, where would you keep 'em?), so your best bets for reading cozies are: the local library and a digital reader like a Kindle or a Nook.
The library is always my first choice for reading material. It's free, completely free, which is miraculous to me. Where else can you take home something as precious as a book and not pay for it? Libraries, even small ones, are usually well-stocked with cozies. Interlibrary loans are also available in most areas, so if you can't find the book you want in your town, you can request it be sent to you. It's like shopping for free!
I own a Kindle, but I don't really read on it. I like the feel and smell of physical books. I'm also frugal, so I always go to the library unless there is no way to get a book without paying for it. Kindles and Nooks are great for their amazing ability to store many, many books in a small space.
In the comments section, I would love to hear about your favorite cozy authors and series!
© 2014 hazelbrown