By Dean (aka Miranda) James
For my inaugural blog I thought I would introduce myself to the readers by talking about the kind of mysteries I write and why I write them.
I write mysteries with almost no explicit violence or sex, and the murders occur offstage before the corpse is discovered. My sleuths are amateurs who sometimes get in the way of the official invesitgators of the crimes but who try not to interfere too much. The term often used for this kind of book is "cozy."
Someone once described the cozy as a "nice little mystery where nobody gets hurt." That's perhaps an apt description in some ways, but characters do get hurt -- especially the murder victims! A better way to express the sentiment, I think, is to say that, while the order of things is disturbed by the violence, by the end of the book that order is restored and life can go on, though not precisely as before.
Cozy mysteries are generally set in the everyday world in which most of the readers live -- small towns, urban neighborhoods, the countryside, and the occasional estate isolated by geography or bad weather. I have always loved this kind of mystery, ever since I discovered Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and other classic English detective story writers.
I cut my mystery teeth, however, on Nancy Drew, one of the classic amateur detectives. Through Nancy I enjoyed vicariously many thrilling adventures, and through the eyes of the modern amateur sleuth I get to do that again. I also like to think that my readers can do that by following the adventures of my hero, Charlie Harris, and his sidekick, Diesel, a Maine Coon Cat.
I like the settings and the atmosphere of the cozy mystery. They are reminiscent of my mundane world, but more exciting than my daily life. I like it that I don't have to wade through the blood, gore, and sex one finds in the harder-edged mysteries these days. I can always watch the evening news for that.
I do read other types of mysteries -- like the spy thrillers of Alan Furst, the psychological suspense of Ruth Rendell, and historical mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear, Anne Perry, and Laurie King, just to mention a few. But when I create my own mystery world, I like it to be cozier and more intimate than those broad -- and sometimes terrifying -- canvases.