by Olivia Blacke
When you think of the main character of a cozy mystery, what springs to mind? Baking cookies? Knitting sweaters? Organizing book shelves? Sweet, sometimes older, civilians that always follow the speed limit?
And that’s exactly why it’s so impressive that these amateur sleuths are tough as nails.
Let me backtrack for a minute here. Not all cozy leads are the same. Many of them can’t tell the difference between a knit and a purl. (Can I let you in on a secret? Neither can I!) Some can’t find their way around a kitchen or garden to save their lives. There are cozy leads that curse or speed and some even (gasp!) fold down page corners of library books.
Many series begin with the soon-to-be sleuth leaving a well-paying career in the big city for a new start in a small, idyllic town where they grow their own vegetables or make homemade goodies to sell at a roadside stand. You know what? That takes fortitude. Starting over in a new place is scary. Opening your own business takes guts and resiliency. Sacrificing your career and your fancy downtown apartment to come home and rescue the family takes more strength than most people possess. And if there is one thing that 2020/2021 has taught us, it’s that baking and gardening are no cake walk.
Cozy characters usually don’t curse. They don’t drink. They have chaste relationships with the local hottie that may eventually end in love, marriage, and children—all behind firmly closed doors, of course. They have strong family ties and adorable pets (usually rescues. Adopt, don’t shop!). They are highly moral characters, in stark contrast to the rough-around-the-edges main character in a hard-boiled mystery or an action thriller.
For the most part, cozy main characters are rule followers, which makes it so much more interesting when they’re not. There’s a pivotal moment in most cozies where an authority figure, usually a police officer, warns the meddling sleuth to walk away from the investigation for their own good, but they can’t do that. The lead can be nosy, or curious, or addicted to true crime podcasts, but they aren’t born troublemakers. Maybe the welfare of a friend or family member is on the line—either because they’re wrongfully accused of murder, or they’re in the killer’s crosshairs. Sometimes they’re trying to save a single business or even the whole town, but no matter what their motivation is, they’re willing to put it all on the line for justice. And sometimes cookies.
This amateur sleuth is smart and resourceful. But they are also fearless and cool under pressure. I don’t know about you, but if someone threw a rock through my window with a nasty note attached, I’d seriously consider heeding the warning—especially since I don’t live on the first floor. But when a cozy lead finds themself in danger, either directly or indirectly, they never back down. Our intrepid investigators don’t give up when everything looks grim, and isn’t about to walk away just because a shadowy figure is sending vague threats.
I don’t know about y’all, but I read cozies because I love the quaint settings and the quirky friends. I enjoy pitting myself against the sleuth to see which of us can solve the mystery first. But I admit that one of the things I love the most is being brave vicariously through the eyes of the—say it with me—tough as nails cozy mystery lead, who can knit and solve crimes.
About Killer Content
Louisiana transplant Odessa Dean is starting to get the hang of life in Brooklyn when her fellow waitress at Untapped Books & Café falls to her death in the background of a couple’s flash-mob proposal video gone viral. As an up-and-coming YouTube star, Bethany had more than one viewer waiting for her to fall from grace, but the cops are quick to dismiss her death as an accident. Can the amateur sleuth prove that Bethany was murdered before the killer takes Odessa offline for good?
About No Memes of Escape
When amateur sleuth Odessa Dean is invited to join a girl’s day out, the last thing she expected was that one of the players would be murdered in a locked escape room. Now Odessa Dean and her bestie are included in the five possible suspects. With time running out to save her friend before Odessa has to leave Williamsburg for good if she can’t find an affordable apartment ASAP, Odessa must navigate the demands of waiting tables at a popular bookstore-slash-café and the perils of internet dating, all while hunting a murderer.
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