A hot cup of tea, a crackling fire, and the wind tap-tap-tapping a winter-bare branch against the parlour window; that’s the right atmosphere for curling up with a cozy mystery novel.

Once the sole domain of British writers, the original cozy’s usually featured kindly old ladies with a knack for stumbling into and solving nasty little murders in otherwise quiet villages.

Using her ability to tap into local gossip and leveraging her life-long friendship with the slightly clueless village constable, the crime got wrapped up, and the murderer locked up, by the time you turned the last page.

Even today, the true cozy mystery is rich in dialogue and short on grizzly details of the corpus delicti. The stories are much more of a “who dunnit” than a crime scene tour.

The recent trend in the cozy is to focus on the character having a specific interest or job: Cat sitting, needlepoint, pizza maker, hairdresser, and so on.

Traditional cozy mysteries are very suspenseful and feature a strong and disarmingly clever central character who has a long history of righting wrongs and solving murders. In fact, cozy’s are almost always written as a series so you have an opportunity to solve each new murder right along with whatever amature sleuth strikes your fancy.

The Grand Dame of all cozy’s was Agatha Christie with her “Miss Marple” series, followed closely by Dorothy L. Sayers’ “Lord Peter Whimsey”, a notable exception to the “kindly old lady” tradition. Time has passed the baton of cozy writing to current sleuth-masters such as Lilian Jackson Braun, known for both her “Cat” and “Brother Cadfael” series, and Nancy Atherton, who pens the “Aunt Dimity” series.

From “Murder, She Wrote”, to murders yet to be written; if you’ve got a cup of tea and a stormy night ahead, grab yourself a cozy mystery and spend some time in the slow lane.

Here are links to a few cozy mystery novels we have reviewed:

Gayle Trent – Murder Takes the Cake

Chris Cavender – A Slice of Murder: A Pizza Lover’s Mystery

Blaise Clement – Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof

Laura Bradley – Sprayed Stiff

Jessica Beck – Glazed Murder: A Donut Shop Mystery

Diana Dempsey – Ms. America and the Offing on Oahu

Gourmet Detective – Death Al Dente – Hallmark Mysteries

M.C. Beaton – Hamish MacBeth Death of a Nurse

David Casarett – Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness

Alexander McCall Smith – The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency DVD

Denise Mina – The Dead Hour

Karen Olson – Sacred Cows

Mystery Woman – Sing Me a Murder – Hallmark Mystery DVD