Cozy Mysteries and Serious themes
by Lesley A. Diehl
I’m aware that readers like cozy mysteries because they usually provide a lighter read than thrillers, suspense or more traditional mysteries. But does that mean cozies cannot entertain more serious concerns even national and international ones such as environmental, social and political issues or even matters of regional and community importance? I think cozies can deal with serious stuff and not simply “fluff” without making the read dark or depressing.
One of my earlier mysteries was clearly a cozy, set in a small community with an amateur sleuth who owned a microbrewery. Of course, it was about murder, but the second book of the series also dealt with hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling for gas, and its impact on the small community of microbrewers in a river valley in Upstate New York. Would the process of forcing water and chemicals into shale to extract gas pollute groundwater and destroy the environment the community had come to love and rely on? The book was Poisoned Pairings.
Recently I began to write a series that is a humorous cozy mystery series. I determined I would not sacrifice my determination that cozy mysteries could take on serious themes just because this series was funny, or meant to be funny assuming the reader shared my sense of humor.
I shouted, “Hurrah. She got it,” when I read a review of the newest book in my Eve Appel mysteries, A Sporting Murder. The reviewer got that my protagonist was not only solving a murder, that the book featured numerous humorous scenes, that it was a cozy, but that the book also dealt with land use issues important to the community as well as issues of racism.
Here’s what the reviewer said:
Cozy mysteries aren’t just fluffy whodunits anymore. There’s a noticeable trend emerging in those written by women for women. They’re no longer shying away from the ugliness of everyday life in order to provide an escape from reality. There may be feel good tidbits thrown in like a fashion conscious wardrobe or a simmering romance, but now they’re also venturing into new territory, using what’s in the news and transferring it to the page.
–from Tribute Books Reviews
I agree with her. There is nothing fluffy about Eve Appel although she may like to shop a lot and dresses with a flair. She is a strong female protagonist, one with whom the reader can identify. Eve tackles not only murder but also overdevelopment of land, destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitat, racism with respect to Native Americans, greed, child abuse and domestic violence. That’s a lot to place on a cozy mystery protagonist’s plate, but we have come to know that she can handle all this with a little help from her friends who all know enough to either line up beside her in support or get out of her way when she takes on the bad guys. And Eve does all this with good humor and the love and respect of her friends and family. Eve may need to tone down her sass a bit when she plunges headlong into a caper, but she soon comes to appreciate the support of others even if she believes they are “too much thinking, not enough action.”
I’m inviting other writers who use serious themes in their cozies to contact me through this blog to schedule a date to discuss their cozies and the issues found in them on my blog.
What do you think? Can cozies go beyond “fluff” to important “stuff”?