The following "operational" definition of a "cozy" mystery is provided by Polly Whitney . Polly is the author of the Ike and Abby mystery series, Until Death and Until the End of Time. "Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man) on rollerblades."
- A cozy must include at least one cat.
- The murder is usually a domestic crime. Example: bashing in your rich uncle's skull is a much cozier activity than taking out 7-11 clerks with your Uzi.
- The sleuth is almost always an amateur. It's much cozier for a pink-haired elderly lady to point her knitting needle at the murderer than to have the villain collared by the cops and read his Miranda rights.
- Tea is served in cozies (double entendre intended).
- Graphic violence is eschewed in cozies. Example: the murder is discovered, the ghastly deed having been done offstage. Some ill-mannered person MIGHT mention blood, but if so, characters overhearing the remark must either turn white as sheets or shudder deliciously. Nobody in cozies has ever seen blood before.
- The murder weapon in cozies is usually a blunt instrument, i.e., a candlestick, a lapis lazuli paperweight, a fireplace poker, or Larry King.
- Poison is allowable as the agent of death in cozies but only if death is instantaneous. Prolonged suffering (much less nausea and vomiting) is not permitted. The ban on vomiting, I think, is in deference to the cat.
- The language of cozies does not permit the use of four-letter words. You can leave a cozy open on your kitchen table without fear that your ten-year-old will adopt linguistic behaviors that will embarrass you before your bridge club.
- Cozies usually take place in country houses or small towns. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people are far more likely to hate each other if confined in a small area together. The same is true of rats. This phenomenon is called "the behavioral sink," or "St. Mary Meade Syndrome."
- You can read a cozy in front of your mother. However, you can read anything in front of a cat.
Read Polly's cyberbook by returning to the Mysterious Women page and linking to Mystfield House!
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