On my occasional visits to the few bookstores that remain, I have become conscious that some dealers have split mysteries into two categories:
- The traditional hard police procedurals and noir works
- “Cozy mysteries”
What? If they find a cadaver in a “cozy mystery,” does it not smell? Does it look nice rather than ghastly? One thing for sure, it tends to be either British or it imitates British mysteries. I am not implying that all British mysteries are “cozy,” because they aren’t. Take the works of Ian Rankin and P. D. James—which are anything but “cozy.”
I suspect that the sub-genre is meant to appeal mostly to women readers who like tales emphasizing ratiocination (as Poe called it) rather than being exposed to any form of unpleasantness. (Curiously, Dorothy Sayers’s excellent The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club verges on “cozy” at times.)
Unpleasantness doesn’t bother me. I just finished reading Charles Willeford’s The Way We Die Now with its bloody murder of two Floridian backwoods baddies, and I found it rather soothing in a strange way.
Avoiding all unpleasantness, however, would bother me. I have always felt that whatever we most studiously avoid winds up biting us in the ass.