Then there are what the industry has named “cozy” mysteries. On the surface, they sound like they will be fun. The protagonist is usually a female, of varying ages, who lives in a small town and stumbles upon a mystery. There is frequently a love interest as well, and most of the time the relationship is a conflicted one.
Now I have not written a book myself, so I am reluctant to be critical of someone who has done something I haven’t had the gumption or discipline to do myself. But I have to say, I have found that “cozy” mysteries usually mean awful, terribly written, preposterously plotted non-mysteries. The dialogue is stilted and the narrative is full of clichés. The characters are flat, one dimensional cardboard cut outs, straight out of central casting.
From Million Dollar Baby:
The door creaked open ominously…
Marjorie slid him a snotty look.
A fiendish glint leapt into her eyes.
From A Killer Read:
Mark turned beet red.
(speaking of a tenacious individual) “She reminds me of a Jack Daniel’s terrier…” Umm, do you mean a Jack RUSSELL terrier?!?
From Hearse and Buggy:
The front door of the shop opened, its telltale door-mounted bell announcing the presence of a shopper.
She followed the finely graveled road as it wound to the left and headed down into a valley of farmland, the peace and tranquility of her rapidly approaching surroundings allowing a sense of true contentment to seep in past the worry she’d felt lapping at her heart all day long. Now that is a mouthful!
The winner for the most enormous hole in the plot: The Orchid House
The gist of it is this, starting in the 1930’s, a manor house with landed gentry has one Son and Heir. Possessive mother marries him off to Eligible Girl. Eligible Girl cannot understand why he is not as, er, affectionate as she would like. Eligible Girl, now Neglected Wife, discovers Son and Heir in passionate embrace with – gasp – his best male friend. Consequences ensue. Son and Heir goes off to war, is imprisoned by the Japanese. He survives and while waiting to be shipped home he meets The Love of His Life (female, that male stuff was just a phase). She gets pregnant. He goes back to England promising to send for her. But he never does. Instead, he sends his estate manager to Thailand to find her, which he does, at death’s door, so he brings her baby back to England and he and his barren wife raise it as their own. AND NO ONE EVER SUSPECTS A THING!! A Eurasian child born to a thoroughly English couple?!?! No one ever notices?!? It is a big shock to everyone when the “truth” comes out?!
But there have been a few good ones as well.
As far as cozies go, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank was a cute, fun read. Nicely written and funny it also is moving in places as the main character comes out of the shell her narcissistic mother kept her trapped in, solves a mystery and maybe finds love as well.
I loved Darkside by Belinda Bauer. In a small town in England, someone is killing elderly people and taunting Jonas Holly, the local policeman, who is already stressed from caring for his wife who has multiple sclerosis. This story and its ending haunted me for weeks, it was stunning.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty was truly unusual. The premise is 15 year-old Louise Brooks (a real life character who was soon to be a major silent picture star) needs to be chaperoned on a trip to New York City from hometown Wichita, Kansas. Local matron Cora Carlisle volunteers for the job, having her own personal reasons to want to visit New York. The twists and turns of the story are both implausible and believable at the same time, with likeable, complicated characters. I loved the twenties atmosphere and the follow up to the story.
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