Guest Post - Cozy Mystery? Huh?

This week we've got a treat for you. Agatha award winner and agency sister Amanda Flower has a new book out tomorrow - 'Murder in a Basket', the second installment in her India Hayes series. As the cozy mysteries Amanda writes are so different from our forensic thrillers, I asked her to explain what a cozy mystery is. Take it away, Amanda...


Invariably when people find out I’m an author they ask the question, “What do you write.”

“Cozy mysteries,” I reply.

Outside of the world of mystery fiction this response is rewarded with a frown, a confused expression, or blank stare because “cozy mystery” is one heck of an oxymoron.

“Don’t characters die in your books?” They may ask.

“Yes, they do. Sometimes more than one person per book.”

“Then how is that cozy?” The confused person asks. “Death doesn’t remind me of a cuddly blanket, which is what I think of when I picture cozy.”

That’s a great point, which is why I’m sharing the characteristics of cozy mysteries, using illustrations from my new mystery Murder in a Basket, the second in the India Hayes series.

The Characteristics of a cozy mystery

1) The death takes place off page. The novels include little violence. The heroes or heroines may be in jeopardy during the climax, but for the most part, they are not in any real danger.

In Murder in a Basket, India discovered the dead body of basket weaver Tess Ross. Tess has been dead for a short time when India finds her. The description of Tess’s body is minimal. India is in danger during the climax, but that’s all I’ll tell you about that. I can’t give the ending away!

2) The protagonist has an occupation other than police officer or private detective. The protagonist may be anything from a chef to an actor to a student.

India is a college librarian and aspiring painter. Her occupations couldn’t be farther from law enforcement.

3) The protagonist is pulled into the mystery because of his/her relationship with the victim or the accused. The protagonist is generally reluctant to solve the crime.

India becomes involved in the murder investigation because Tess is the mother of one of the student workers in the library. He asks for India’s help. India agrees, but she’s not particularly enthusiastic about it.

4) Minor characters (friends, family, coworkers) from the protagonist’s own life play significant roles in the plot.

Ahh well, I have many minor characters who like to take over my India Hayes stories from India’s hippy parents to her Irish-centric landlady to her super-mom older sister. They all help and hinder India’s investigation in their own special way.

Of course, these are just guidelines and not hard and fast rules. That’s what makes writing fiction fun. Guidelines are meant to be bent if not broken all the way through.

Jen, thanks for letting me stop by Skelton Keys!


Amanda Flower writes the India Hayes Mystery Series. The first novel in the series, MAID OF MURDER, was nominated for an Agatha Award. The sequel, MURDER IN A BASKET, releases February 8, 2012. A PLAIN DEATH, first in a new Amish mystery series, releases July 2012. To learn more visit Amanda online at You can also follow Amanda at and