Thursday, November 12, 2015


by Jackie King

“Should cozy mysteries deal with serious themes?”

This question recently appeared on a LISTSERV for writers and readers. The answers received were of great interest to me, because my character Grace Cassidy, often finds herself dealing with this sort of dilemma.

Most of those who responded to this query advocated that with the rapid changes happening in our world, problems faced by cozy characters will naturally turn grittier. 

For years we've dealt with murder, and that's pretty darned serious. The trick is to keep graphic blood, gore and blatant sex off the page. Everything else, even dark subjects, is now happening to our readers and need to be discussed.

The writing style, however, must still stay upbeat. Accomplishing this challenges a writer's skill. I think cozy writers are up to this task. I certainly intend to try. 

One technique to keep our books cozy, is to include humor. I'm not talking about slapstick or gallows humor. At least not usually. I'm talking about the kind of humor that gets the ordinary person through life with some kind of sanity intact.  Myself, I prefer the tongue-in-cheek kind.

My Bed and Breakfast cozy mystery series features Grace Cassidy, an inn-sitter, and is written with a touch. My character has been involved in divorce, neglected children,   teen pregnancy and more. Learning to live through life-changing experiences in the cyber age, and still keep a positive attitude, describes my heroine's life.
Book 3
THE CORPSE AND THE GEEZER BRIGADE, book three, introduces Slick Webster, a handsome biracial man approaching his 21st birthday. His past memories involve seeing his mother die from a drug overdose and his early struggles in foster care.

My main character Grace continues standing strong while learning hurtful things about her parent's past without blinking. She vows to never again turn a blind eye to the elephant in the living room. No more sweeping family secrets under the rug.

Through all of these problems,  Grace and her quirky sidekick Theodora Westmacott, take joy in decorating a new Bed and Breakfast using someone else's money, driving around in a Rolls Royce, and witty conversation.


Bill Kirton said...

As usual, Jackie, I couldn't agree more. The idea that we're conditioned by the label others put on the genre is crazy. I know readers seek comfort in the familiar but there's not just one 'familiar', and humour (and the occasional challenging incident, remark, plot development, whatever) adds spice, reality and, let's face it, humanity, to their experience.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your opinion. I remember reading one of Agatha Christie's book where a child ended up being the murderer. Can't remember the name, but I remember the story vividly.

Loulou Harrington said...

Very good topic, Jackie, and well done. I think all writers wonder about this, and with cozies it can be a dilemma. How much is enough and when is it too much? I take this into consideration with every book I write, and it's nice to see another writer sharing the same concerns and how you handle it. Thanks.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Loulou. It's really nice to hear that from another cozy writer!

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree, Jackie. Cozies do have limitations. I'm currently reading The Geezer Brigade and enjoying your characters as well as the intriguing plot.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Jean. I appreciate that, especially from you.

ABDeb said...

Very interesting. My detective and her sidekick are black, so there is an implicit expectation that my mystery address race issues in Britain. However, I intend for the finished product to be based on the genius (hopefully!) of my detective and I really despise being presented in books as always crushed and downtrodden- hence why I wanted to create this detective in the first place. As I have several other themes I want to explore (greed, bureaucracy and corruption being key to the fictional city and the mysteries), I have decided the drip drip approach is best. Most of the attention is to the crimes, and then real life weaves in. For example, one of my characters becomes a suspect after vengefully doing something because his racial discrimination lawsuit was dismissed. Another becomes a suspect because he knows too much about the deceased- although this is because he is just nosy. However, he is given a rough time by the authorities, who are keen to get a suspect. And if I focus on other themes, that works too. One of my suspects is a recent convert to Islam and hence suspected of wrongdoing. The possibilities are endless.

Jackie King said...

Deborah, thanks for telling us about your protagonist and her sidekick. I love reading mysteries set in Britain.