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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cozy Mysteries and Quarantine

During the pandemic and days of quarantine at home, away from crowds or super spreader events, book sales took off.  People who hadn't read for years picked up books again and that translated into about a six percent increase in sales.  

The statistics show that police procedurals and gritty crime fiction didn't do as well in book sales.  But the kinder, gentler murder mystery - the cozy, seemed to do very well and gained recognition as a great escapist read.

The Associated Press had an article on March 7, 2021 about cozy mysteries being a salve during the quarantine.

"The Associated Press had an article on March 7, 2021 about cozy mysteries being a salve during the quarantine.

For those who find their dreams in books, there’s a group of readers who are hungrily consuming a particular style of narrative to escape from the past year’s reality: “cozy” mysteries.  In an unfathomably complex year, a gently told tale of murder and mayhem whittles the sharp edges of reality to a manageable, smooth surface.

“Murder is definitely dark, but in a cozy the reader is with the protagonist every step of the way as each clue is revealed,” says Michelle Vega, executive editor of Berkley, who works with several cozy authors. “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.

... The genre’s parameters are few: no swearing, no sex, and little to no gore. Just what the pandemic-era doctor ordered.

“The cozy mystery is a familiar way to encounter the two seemingly unreconcilable realities of death and country peace at the same time,” says Sarah Allison, an associate professor of English at Loyola New Orleans who is working on a book about “escape reading.”

“The restoration of order at the end of the novel might be less significant than the way this genre makes beautiful scenery and grisly details feel like they go together naturally,” she said in an email. Such mysteries, she says, promise a messy murder and a tidy resolution, “a welcome contrast to the way we’ve all been suspended between life as it was before COVID and life as it will be after.”  Murder but gentler: 'Cozy mysteries, a pandemic-era balm by Tamara Lush 
           Read the full article here 

I know cozies are like mystery comfort food.  Besides their lighter and humorous tendencies, cozies usually reveal the killer, thus justice is served and balance is restored.  Also, the main character is instrumental in the killer being brought to justice, reinforcing that one person can make a difference.  Both of which are spirit-raising during a global pandemic.  But I suspect that the element that is the real salve during troubled times is the mainstay of cozy mystery series, the quirky family and friends that populate the tight community in the books.  

These characters, from the spunky sidekick to the wacky neighbors or laugh-out-loud family, become friends to the reader.  Sometimes the featured pets are just as important.  These are friends you want to spend time with and can't wait to get back together.  The beauty is, they are only a book away.  That has to be incredibly soothing, to return to people that make you laugh and feel good in a series.  

Consider the "Cat Who" book series by Lillian Jackson Braun with thirty whopping books.  The main character and his two Siamese cats became near family to fans, along with the residents of Pickax and Moose County (400 miles north of everywhere!)  It was so popular that there is a companion book, quiz book, cookbook, reunion cookbook, and a parody book.  Even though the author is dead, the Facebook page continues.  

All this to say, the characters become friends and during quarantine, that is some of the best medicine, friends to help your through!  There might even be the book boyfriend in the cozy that gets your through as well. What do you think makes the cozy mystery such a comforting read during troubled times?  Share in the comments.  Also share what cozy helped you through a tough time.  Let's be real.

For me, during financial difficulties I find cozies help me get my mind off the worries.  I definitely find my favorite series' characters are like friends who I enjoy spending time with that helped me though the sense of isolation during quarantine. BTW, I have been quarantining for a year since I have a health condition that puts me at high risk.  So this was a significant help.

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sherry fundin said...

great post. i do use cozies as a comfort read. not as intense as the suspense/thrillers i love some much but need a break from sometimes
sherry @ fundinmental

Avery Daniels said...

Thank you Sherry! Yes, cozies are like comfort food, but we still need variety. I'm glad that cozies got discovered during quarantine, they often get overlooked.

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