All Things Mysterious Volume Eight
The term ‘cozy’ as it applies to mystery fiction is of relatively recent vintage, having been coined in the twentieth century as a way of describing mysteries that went light on the sex and gore and heavy on poisoned cups of tea and little old ladies in tennis shoes with crime-solving cats. Nearly always involving amateur sleuths, usually but not always women, cozys have a wide and loyal following. Two of the most popular characters in cozydom are Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote note. One of the endearing (or possibly annoying) traits of the genre is the tendency towards truly awful puns in the titles:
Foreign Eclairs, Paw and Order, For Cheddar Or Worse, Out Of the Dying Pan...need I go on?
Cozy authors tend to avoid the psychopaths, the ultra violence, explicit bedtime fun, the serial killers, and the psychological excavations prevalent in other genres. Thus they are popular amongst younger readers or those who wish to avoid R-rated material. Often times the perpetrator is a member of the community, generally unsuspected, that has a hidden motive of revenge or jealousy or the like. Small towns, hobbies, pets, amusing or eccentric sidekicks/supporting characters are common elements in cozy mysteries.
‘Would you like another cup of tea, dear?,’ asked the little old lady. From the top of her hair net to the soles of her tennis shoes, this was a nice old thing that reminded Brand of his own sainted mother, at least after he’d sprung her from the Big House. ‘No thank you,’ he muttered. The last cup he’d downed was still sitting in his gut like liquid lead.
Bing-bong! rang the doorbell. It was the postman with a package. At a gesture from the little old lady, Brand opened the door to admit the man.
‘Roscoe, how are you, dear? Won’t you have a slice of cake?’ she asked.
‘Don’t mind if I do, ma’am.’ No sooner had he devoured the huge piece she’d cut than he dropped to the ground as if struck. Brand, stunned, circled warily around the civil servant and gingerly poked him with a toe. ‘OMYGOD he’s dead!’ cried Brand. ‘Tsk tsk tsk--such a pity,’ said the little old lady.
Thinking of the tea that he’d drunk that was still festering within him, Brand fled, running blindly through the old lady’s house. Not house--mansion. There must be a hundred rooms in this shack, but only one front door, he thought, as he dashed through a kaleidoscope of antique furniture, damask drapes, bone china, and stern visages looking down from painted portraits.
He passed another postman was lying on the floor in a puddle of blood, twelve knives protruding from his person. This house sure was hard on post office personnel!
Brand looked uneasily around as he ran, and his eye caught sight of a dangling sneaker and he recognized Jeremy the paper boy hanging from a light fixture. With a shudder, he tore his gaze away, only to see Smiley, the town drunk, stuffed and mounted on the far wall. A nice job of taxidermy, mused Brand---WHAT AM I THINKING? I’ve got to get out of this house of horrors! He ran at a right angle to the way he had come. He didn’t think the little old lady could catch up to him, but you never know, she might be spryer than she looks. So on he ran, until halted in his tracks at the entrance to the parlor, where Brand gaped in amazement at the tableau thus revealed. A card table was in the center of the room with a foursome for bridge but North had a hatchet buried in his skull, East had an arrow in one side of his head and out the other like one of those gag gifts, South had been melted like half a candle, one side of his head oozing down to the floor, and West was sitting slumped over, white as a sheet, having been drained of his blood by a vampyr. Screaming, Brand again ran out of the room, but evidently he had been running in circles, for he found himself again in the drawing room, where the little old lady was calmly sitting and sipping tea. Presumably unadulterated by potions or poisons. What had she put in his own tea?
As the pain in his gut grew worse, Brand felt himself sinking into unconsciousness. Just before the black curtain fell, he thought he heard the little old lady cackling over and over, ‘Isn’t he CRISP?’
Be sure and read All Things Mysterious next week for the exciting conclusion to ‘Cozy is as Cozy Does.’
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