Cozy Mysteries and Turkeys

Kathleen Delaney Top Panel

Kathleen is back today musing about one of the best parts of cozy mysteries.

I’ve been thinking about cozy mysteries, which isn’t much of a mystery as that’s what I write. Lots of them seem to center around food. Many have more recipes in them than some recipe books. Don’t get me wrong. I love recipes and am always looking for new ones. It’s the connection with food that got me to thinking.

Cozies, by their definition, are about ordinary people, often a woman, who ends up in extraordinary circumstances. They are usually set in a small town or community and the murder is tidy, without violence. Sex takes place behind bedroom doors. Or at least, doors. Which means, if the people in our story are ordinary people, they are going to do ordinary things, like sit down to the dinner table together. The events in the story, as in our real lives, will center around food.

We have just finished one of the most food intense holidays of the year and are about to embark on another. Thanksgiving, with all its largess, has come and gone, Christmas is high on the horizon. These are holidays when we traditionally bake pies and cake, roast turkeys or beef and think up Murder Half Bakedways to cook cranberries never dreamed of by the participants at the first Thanksgiving table. However, we have one important similarity with the pilgrims. We also gather around the table. Family comes from near and far, so do friends, sometimes people we barely know are invited to share the feast of food and conversation. We eat well, and if we’re lucky and the TV is silent, we talk. About all kinds of things. The implications of the recent election, how work is going, that Johnny’s soccer team made the state finals, that Beth is the first girl in her grade to graduate to chapter books, all kinds of things. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes there is sad news to deliver, at times we may even get profound, but there is nothing we don’t talk about. Over food, we learn things about each other we may not have realized before; catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives, and we strengthen the ties of family and friendship. Games are played with the children, mashed potatoes are passed, so is wine, and the conversation seems never to find a pause.

So it is in books, especially cozies. They are about relationships as well as murder. What better place to meet the people in our stories, to find out where they’ve been or what they are doing, or how they feel about the other people at the table, and maybe about some people who aren’t there. Those conversations, always over food and drink, play an important part in our stories as well as in our lives. I love writing those scenes, watching my characters interact, let slip a few clues and have a nice, relaxing time. They’re going to need it. In the next chapter I’m going to pull the rug out from under our oh so relaxed, complacent and quite full protagonist.