While in the process of writing my fifth Maggie and Odessa mystery, I began to wonder? Are the Maggie and Odessa mysteries truly cozy? I only bring this up because one of my reader’s didn’t think Maggie and Odessa quite fit. Would it meet all the requirements people come to associate with what a cozy mystery is? Does the characters inhabit a small quaint little town? No. Are the protagonists sweet, lovable and congenial? Not Odessa on her best day. What most people might come to believe as a cozy mystery is the character Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote investigating the deaths of several of her neighbors. Considering the body count why doesn’t anybody suspect Jessica? No one believes the old lady. And if they did how cozy would that be, more creepy than cozy. In most cozies everyone knows everybody’s name and business. There’s always a cat or a dog or a gerbil. Pretty much everyone sounds the same and looks the same and the only exotic element is the boysenberry ice cream at the Ye Ole Ice Shoppe. Really!
I fell in love with the cozy mystery style when I read my first Stephanie Plumb book by Evanovich. Her small town was her neighborhood in New Jersey where she knew everyone’s name and business. I loved the humor. The violence was minimal, and the sex wasn’t graphic. A nice easy read laced with outrageous situations and humor. The color came from the diverity of characters. What made me want to write a similar book was I wanted something to reflect the familiar landscape of my life? As a native New Yorker, it’s hard to believe a cozy type setting could be put in such an urban place. I think it can. The typical cozy environment in a big city seems ridiculous and out of place. But if you’ve grown up in a large city such as New York or Chicago, you come to realize, it’s really a bunch of small towns, we call neighborhoods. If you walk the twenty seven miles from north to south of the borough of Manhattan, you’d hit a cluster of diverse neighborhoods. Long-time residents may not know every name, but faces are familiar and a daily greeting of hello and goodbye connect them as neighbors, New York Style. In that world, the mysteries of Maggie and Odessa exist.
The coffee shop might be Starbucks, but Mrs. Willis’s grandson works there after school and he knows that you like your Vanilla latte a certain way. Or the Korean run dry cleaning that use to alter your father’s suits, now dry clean your jeans. Or the third generation pizza shop that makes the best thin crust pizza. In a city where people can tell which borough you were born by your accent, those neighborhoods feel like a small town. I’ll admit the characters are pretty snarky, and as an inpatient as water on a skillet, but they grow on you.
In a cozy it helps to and sweet and nice. In New York, you can be nice to a point, until someone steps on your very last nerve and you want to bury the body down the sewers. Sorry, I digress. The truth is, even a New Yorker would suspect Jessica Fletcher of something fishy when the third body turned up. In a city where most people expect a hard boil thriller, uncaring city dwellers and cynicism that would make you wonder why people live there. Though bad things do happen to nice people, they don’t happen as much as you
think. I checked out the statistic once for the high crime rate in America and New York City didn’t make the top 100, go figure. The way bodies piled up Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove had to be in the top ten.
So I still don’t know how cozy the Maggie and Odessa mysteries are, considering their setting. Maybe I should call the comfy mystery, or not so graphically violent mystery, set in a not so violent urban city, where everyone doesn’t look the same, or sound the same and maybe they don’t even know your name. It best not to label it at all. If it doesn’t quite fit anywhere, I’m okay with it and as long as some wants to read the next book.