No Stress, No Mess, or How About a Cozy?

As the need for social distancing continues four months in, I think it’s safe to say that we all need a little bit of escape from the world we’re living in. Books, of course, are a great means of escape. But I found that my go-to mysteries (World War II, police procedurals, etc.) are sometimes a bit TOO real for me right now. 

Enter the cozy mystery! Often dismissed as lightweight and banal, this genre gives the reader the chance to solve crimes without wading through blood, sweat, and tears. And when done right, the author creates delightful characters you eagerly return to for the next installment in the series. 

Agatha Christie is perhaps the best known writer of the classic cozy mystery. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are the sleuths she created—beloved for their common sense, intelligence, and knack for solving crimes. But she is far from alone. 

Most often cozy mysteries include a pair of protagonists—one is often in law enforcement—who are brought together by a murder. While that might seem like a tired trope, the best authors know how to turn it into something new: the undercover agent and distant royal (Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series); the Cape Cod bookstore owner and her pal (Vicki Delany’s Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries); and the upper-class lady with the working-class detective (Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series). 

The setting for a cozy mystery is often what makes it engaging, and when an author steps back in time, this is particularly important. Victoria Thompson, for example, has done remarkable research on turn-of-the-20th-century New York City, and her Gaslight Mystery series offers a glimpse of a world that seems both far away and very near at hand. 

This book talk highlights one of my favorite cozy writers, Carola Dunn, and the first in the Daisy Dalrymple series that I mentioned above. I have also created a book list of suggested titles that you might enjoy. And of course, they are all available from the Saint Paul Public Library. 

Stay safe, stay cozy (even in summer), and happy reading! 

(Post by Emily G.)

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