Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What’s So Cozy About Murder?

Sharon Wildwind

My closest personal connection to murder is that a friend’s step-brother—whom I’d never met and who lived half-way across the country—was killed in a convenience store robbery. As far as I know, the killers were never caught. Even that distant half-relative-of-a-friend connection sent shock waves through me. It was incomprehensible that a human being could take a life for a few dollars and six cartons of cigarettes.

Many of the mysteries I read are in the cozy part of the spectrum. A few years ago, “the cozy” was renamed the traditional mystery by no less an august body than Malice Domestic, the uber-traditional-mystery convention. Murder may be traditional—check out the Bible, Beowulf, and Greek mythology—but what’s cozy about it?

I worry that murder has become a sales platform. If an author has a story involving quirky characters, talking animals, or a passionate interest, the way to sell it seems to be to wrap it around a murder and create yet another amateur detective. I recently read a mystery that a reviewer referred to as “adorable and charming.” I don’t want murder to be adorable and charming.

Having said this, let me also say that the myseries I write are in the cozy range. Granted, there is what the movie rating system refers to as “strong language,” but come on. My guys and gals are soldiers and ex-soldiers. They’re not the kind of people who will use “Pashaw,” when something untoward happens. Other than that, what I write falls solidly into at least one definition of the traditional mystery: a closed set of suspects, all of whom know one another, a minimal amount of on-stage gore and violence and, in the end, justice triumphs.

Justice triumphs is the strongest argument in favor of cozy mysteries. In the end, unlike in the case of my friend’s brother’s death, the killers are caught and punished. Sanity reasserts itself. At least, I tell myself that a good argument, but you know, using murder as a sales platform sometimes still bothers me.

Does it bother you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, it doesn't bother me because the cozy murders end with justice for the victim, something that doesn't always happen in our society. I don't read (or write) graphic. Too unsettling, but I enjoy cozy. Reading it and writing it. Creating a fictional world where I control what happens, OR reading how another writer does it. I've read your work. Great stuff!