I’m halfway through writing my third cozy mystery. I read two chapters of it to my writers’ group and got great feedback. Another member of our group is writing a mystery, too–more of a thriller, a gritty page-turner. My story feels slow compared to his mix of drug dealers, political powerhouses, and the people caught up with them. I love his book and plan to buy it when it’s available, but my story would be too slow for him. Cozies aren’t for everyone. Yet I’ve been drawn to them since I first discovered Agatha Christie.
It made me wonder why I love them so much. I read and enjoy a variety of genres, but cozies are my favorite. Why? I think cozies, Agatha Christie’s in particular, can be great character studies. They dig around in peoples’ psyches, trying to find what drives them. They’re more subtle. What secrets do ordinary people hide? What would drive them to commit murder? And is Agatha Christie right, that any man, if the circumstances are right, would kill someone?
Here’s a quote by Poirot from THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD: “Let us take a man – a very ordinary man. A man with no idea of murder in his heart. There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness – deep down. It has so far never been called into play. Perhaps it never will be – and if so he will go to his grave honored and respected by everyone. But let us suppose that something occurs.” Interesting, isn’t it, the question of what a person would kill for? To protect his reputation? His wealth? Jealousy? What is his weakness? What would it take for him to commit murder? The question of WHY is just as important as the question of WhoDunnIt.
In a cozy, every suspect has a secret. As the story progresses, that secret’s exposed, and we understand that character better. Good people might lie for reasons they feel worthy. Poirot says,
“Every one of you in this room is concealing something from me. Yes, yes, I know what I am saying. It may be something unimportant – trivial – which is supposed to have no bearing on the case, but there it is. Each one of you has something to hide. Come now, am I right?” That digging a little deeper chapter by chapter moves the story forward. When a cozy’s characters walk on stage, they make a first impression. That first impression might be all wrong. But scene by scene, page by page, we learn more and the impression deepens. That’s what I like about cozies. I get to add things up to decide who the killer is. And if the author tricks me–as long as it’s fair–all the better.
(I found Poirot’s quotes at https://www.gradesaver.com/the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd/study-guide/quotes)