I’m Feeling Frustrated with Cozy Mysteries

Cozies have a special place in my heart. They were my first introduction to adult fiction and the first books I reviewed when I started this blog. Shoutout to Betty Hechtman who wrote the first cozy I ever read! I loved reading about the mysteries, I loved trying to solve them, I loved getting to know the characters, and I loved the coziness.

But lately, I’ve been feeling very frustrated with the genre. I’ve been finding myself reaching more and more for a romance novel instead. And the more I read romance, the more I reflect on my frustrations with cozies. There’s one reason that sticks out to me:

Cozies are starting to feel stale to me

I haven’t seen one commonly accepted definition of a cozy mystery but to me, I’d define it as having no explicit sexual content or violence, little to no swearing, and a ‘cozy’ feeling that invites the reader into the book. The main mystery should be solved by the end of the book and the ending should be happy.

Technically, this is a pretty loose definition and there are a lot of stories that can be told within this framework. However, I’m getting to the point where cozies are starting to feel somewhat repetitive. A lot of cozies stick to the same formula, down to the details.

Almost every single cozy I’ve read is set in the contemporary time in small town USA, featuring a white woman in her 30s or older. She is almost always financially comfortable. She likely owns her own small business, often in the areas of food, arts & crafts, or books. If she doesn’t own a business, there’s a good chance she’ll work in one of those three fields. She often has a pet (usually a dog or cat, maybe both).

She will have a close group of friends and/or family that aren’t too different than herself. If she’s in a romantic relationship, it will be with a man who also works a fairly conventional profession (eg. police officer, chef). She will use some tech but it probably won’t be used to solve the mystery.

As for the mystery itself, it’s almost always a murder. Often the victim is someone the town didn’t like or an outsider, or it’s an insider who the town loved. The suspects are often disliked by the town in some way, perhaps due to their moral dubiousness, while the protagonist is morally good and pretty squeaky clean.

There is always an understandable (but not justified) motive for the crime. The protagonist might make the police mad at first with their involvement but by the end, the police will be at least a little grateful that they solved the case.

I want to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with cozies that are written this way! It’s just that lately, I’ve been hoping for cozies that are a little different than this mold, that tell a cozy story but from a slightly different angle. I’ve been finding more success in millennial cozy mysteries and self-published cozy mysteries but it can be tiring to try and search for the right book that won’t feel stale.

It’s probably because I’m still pretty new to romance, but I’m not feeling burnt out or bored by it (yet). I’m at the point where I’m still reading at least something new in every book I read. I think it helps that romance is a pretty big genre, so there is relatively more to choose from than cozies. I still haven’t hit a wall with that genre yet.

Genres have their formulas for a reason. They’re there to help a book in that genre fit into that genre and they make sure that the reader’s expectations are met. But is it too much to ask for a cozy that plays around with this formula, even just a little bit?


I’m not going to stop reading cozies or reviewing them for this blog, but I do think it’s important to take a step back. I read for fun and it doesn’t make sense to be forcing cozies right now if that’s not what I’m finding fun. Focusing on the cozies that look the most interesting to me instead of reading it just because it’s a cozy is probably a better way to go.

Have you ever read a cozy and if so, how do you feel about the genre? Is there a genre that you’re feeling burnt out on and what are your tips for getting out of that slump?

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26 thoughts on “I’m Feeling Frustrated with Cozy Mysteries

  1. Ange August 22, 2022 / 11:32 am

    I don’t read cozies often these days, but I agree that it is a subgenre that gets old quickly. I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t gravitate towards them that much – not that other genres don’t have some kind of formula. But for some reason cozies stand out the most in adopting the most basic/common tropes. At least in my experience 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint August 22, 2022 / 7:11 pm

      That’s my experience too! It tends to stay so, so close to the basic tropes without much variation. At least you’ll know approximately what you’re getting before you start reading. Sometimes it’s nice to have a comfort read like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Siena August 24, 2022 / 1:01 am

    I don’t read cozy mysteries (or mysteries at all really), but I understand why you’re frustrated. I had a similar issue with historical fiction taking place during WWII, I became so bored of the genre because all of the stories were all starting to feel virtually identical, and having the same basic formula. I think the best thing to do is to take a break from that kind of book and read something else!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint August 25, 2022 / 1:03 pm

      Absolutely! I’ve moved more towards romance and I’m really enjoying it. Maybe I’ll feel the urge to go back to cozies one day and feel more refreshed?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Davida Chazan August 24, 2022 / 3:36 am

    Hm… yes, cozy mysteries seem to be a bit formulaic, but there are some that don’t have pets and pun titles that take place in your typical, cute, small towns, with mostly white characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint August 25, 2022 / 1:04 pm

      Yes, the fantastic news is that there are more and more diverse cozies every year! I think a lot of publishers know that the genre is formulaic and they need to attract new readers, so they have to pick up cozies that are a bit different.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Becca August 25, 2022 / 4:00 am

    Totally agree! I’ve been trying to find cosy mysteries that don’t fall into the same tropes because they get so repetitive. I really liked Bingo Hall Detectives by Jonathan Whitelaw which I read earlier this year. It’s set in the UK and doesn’t have a lot of the tropes you mentioned above.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint August 25, 2022 / 1:04 pm

      Ooh, that might be one to check out, thanks for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Becca August 28, 2022 / 4:05 am

        You’re welcome 🙂

        Like

  5. trishafaye August 26, 2022 / 12:11 pm

    Interesting thoughts! And you know, I don’t think I can argue that you’re wrong. I loved the assessment you gave of the general plot/structure. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maren August 27, 2022 / 6:09 am

    Very insightful. And helpful to me since, new to fiction, I’ve written two of my contact for three cozies but there is violence, sexuality, victims much beloved, broken protagonists and ambiguous endings — but the publisher likes the cozy label because traditional sounds old. I read more traditional and new speculative fiction than cozies. You’ve helped me sort that out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint September 2, 2022 / 11:13 pm

      I’m sorry for the late response Maren, I’ve just started law school and life has been crazy lately! But I’m very glad that this post was insightful and useful for you. I absolutely think that most of the things you’ve written about can fit a cozy, depending on how much of it is there.

      There are cozies and cozy-adjacent books which are more violent or sexual. Some of my favourite cozies have broken protagonists. But ambiguous endings I feel is the big one that would be tough to sell for a cozy if it’s not a happy ending with limited ambiguity. At the same time though, they’re the publisher and I’m the reviewer so maybe there’s a secret that I haven’t learnt to cozies yet?

      I’ve seen cozy-adjacent as a label that kind of fits between cozy, traditional, and something else. I’d personally use it to describe D.B. Borton’s Cat Caliban series, which definitely has all of the things that you’ve mentioned about your own cozies.

      Like

    • Mint September 5, 2022 / 9:14 pm

      Thank you so much Erin! ❤

      Like

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