Monday, March 06, 2006

Time to get cosies out of the closet (one in an occasional series of bookrants) I don’t know where the label ‘cosies’ came from, but is it all part of a conspiracy to say if you like crime fiction you want another serial killer (probably preying on women and children), can’t get enough of forensics, adore police procedurals in all their authentic, often dull, grisly detail and murders that teeter into territory that used to be the province of horror stories? I think it’s high time for cosies to sneak out of the closet and murmur discreetly that (ahem) a genteel murder mystery is sometimes just the ticket. Disparagers of cosies (and there are many) sniff at the fact that the murders take place mostly among the middle classes, present little authentic detail, with elderly amateur sleuths careering over the Cotswold and seaside villages in between drinking cups of tea and knitting tea cosies for their china teapots. All right, most cosies do involve female amateur sleuths who have a preference for bracing country or sea walks and find the concept of a cappuccino a trifle louche. But just occasionally, on a cold winter evening, with just the hint of a sniffle allowing you to put your slippers on and curl up with a hot toddy, am I the only one who secretly uncurls their favourite Simon Brett or MC Beaton? Cosies are the PG Wodehouse of the crime fiction world, a place of fantasy where mistaken identities, aunts who have long outlived their usefulness, sinister vicars lurk and afternoon tea parties abound where the gossip is more malicious than the House of Commons. Is this really so awful? Why is it so difficult to stand up and admit that reading these can be jolly good fun? And why is it that no good, central website exists where anonymous whodunit fans can swap notes on whether Amelia Peabody outranks Sheila Malory? I always thought lovers of historical romance had to get together under the guise of doing ballroom dancing classes to discuss whether Rochester was more romantic than Darcy. But they have a brilliant website http://historicalromanceuk.blogspot.com/ where people post quite openly and, apparently, under their own names. Considering Rosemary and Thyme was given a Christmas special and Midsomer Murders’ plots are unashamedly barking mad, can cosy crime really be consigned to Sunday night television? Does no-one actually read them any more? Or am I missing something? Next: There are worse crimes than liking Agatha Christie category tags: mbwhodunnits

7 comments:

  1. I love cosies, particularly when I'm curled up by the fire in the winter, or sitting in the garden / on the beach in summer. I've read everything by Agatha Christie, most of them two or three times - if I leave them long enough between readings, I manage to forget whodunnit - but I've never tried any Simon Brett, so thanks for the tip.

    Good luck with the bookshop.

    Amanda Grange, one of the writers on historicalromanceuk.blogspot who isn't ashamed to talk about whether Darcy or Rochester have the edge :-)
    PS Some of my Regency romances have cosy crime elements, too - Lord Deverill's Secret has someone trying to kill the heroine, and The Silverton Scandal has a murder. You can find them in the library or an amazon.

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  2. Amanda9:41 AM

    Oops, that should have read 'on amazon' not 'an amazon'.

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  3. Thanks for your good wishes about the bookshop. I'm hoping things might start moving next week.

    I have just finished a Simon Brett, the Witness at the Wedding, which I thought was fantastic, so if you've not read any of his why not start there?

    He's written a few series detectives, but the latest - the Fethering Mysteries - I like the best. He has a nice line in humour.

    I shall certainly look out for The Silverton Scandal. I think there must be plenty of mileage in a regency whodunit. Georgette Heyer certainly managed to write romances and a few murder mysteries that I think are about to be re-released.

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  4. I love cosies too and am hoping that my agent will be able to sell the cosy victorian murder of mine that she's currently hawking around.
    Have often wondered why nobody's tried putting Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver on TV - better than Miss Marple any day, but same period detail and lots of knitting too.
    Anyone else love Charlotte MacLeod's completely barking mad (but charming) mysteries?

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  5. Congratulations on finding an agent for your novel, and the very best for finding a publisher. How exciting. It must be very good. Are we allowed to know what it's all about? I'm glad to hear agents are still taking cosies, although there appears to be some argument about what makes a cosy. In the US, apparently everything that isn't 'hard-boiled' is a cosy, including police procedurals of the more gentle type (what Reginald Hill calls ‘the Jane Austen end of the crime writing spectrum’). But in this country it seems to be strictly for genteel sleuths. I must confess I have not come across Charlotte MacLeod before, but went to fantastic fiction and she looks worth a go. Do you have a favourite? I shall try to get hold of a couple because I do love the barking mad genre, MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin being a bit of a favourite, and you can't beat Ruth Dudley Edwards (in my opinion). Best of luck, I'd be interested to know how you get on, so let us know.

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  6. Thanks for kind words, Nicki. History mystery is set in 1858, has a shady heroine on the make and is very funny - or so say all the publishers who have nonetheless turned it down! (they love it but not sure how to make money with it!)
    Re Charlotte MacLeod, start with Rest You Merrry, or The Family Vault - she has two series and those are the initial titles. She also wrote as Alisa Craig, funniest and maddest books I've ever read are her Grub & Stakers books - genteel Canadian gardening and archery club combined with murder investigation - they read like Anne of Green Gables on something illegal! Try them, they're a hoot.

    Agree about Ruth Dudley Edwards and happy to say her agent is my agent, hurrah! Also, my first novel, Scuba Dancing, is published by Transita Ltd, and is a romantic comedy, but alaso barking mad!

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  7. It's a bit of a choker when you're told by publishers they love your writing, but cosies are not commercial. What does that mean anyway? Have they never heard of Alexander McCall Smith. And Jacqueline Winspear seems to be doing well with her Maisie Dobbs series of war-time historical crime with an amateur sleuth. Admittedly neither are funny, which I think is very difficult to do well, so brilliant that you have pulled it off. I am sure there is a publisher out there who will see sense and I look forward to seeing your book out soon.

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