Cozy mysteries are considered "gentle" books, with no graphic violence, profanity or explicit sex. Most often, the crime takes place off stage and death is usually very quick (usually by poisoning or being pushed out of a window). The victim is usually an Asshole Victim, and if there's more than one victim, they are usually connected, though the reader is not aware of the obvious connections until the amateur sleuth solves the crimes.
The crime-solver in a cozy mystery is usually a very intuitive, bright woman with a down-to-earth hobby or occupation, e.g. cooking, scrapbooking, knitting, painting, quilting, working in a teashop, etc. She may or may not be accompanied by a friendly dog or cat. Male crime-solvers in Cozy Mysteries aren't unheard of, but they are less common.
Cozy mystery series frequently have a prominent thematic element or Pun-Based Title introduced by the detective's job, pet or hobby. There are also cozy mystery series with themes of Christmas, Easter, and other holidays.
The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village, to make it believable that all the suspects know each other. The amateur sleuth is usually a very likeable person who is able to get the community members to gossip about each other, and there is usually at least one very knowledgeable and nosy character who is able to fill in all of the blanks, thus enabling the amateur sleuth to solve the case.
Although the cozy mystery sleuth is usually not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer, a lot of times her best friend, husband, or significant other is, which enables her to find out things that she would otherwise not have access to. At the same time, the local police force doesn't take the amateur sleuth very seriously - which, of course, makes it convenient for her to "casually overhear" things at the scene of a crime.
The murderers in cozies are generally members of the community where the murder occurs and able to hide in plain sight, and their motives are often rooted in events years, or even generations, old. They are typically neither psychopaths nor serial killers, and are often rational and often highly articulate, enabling them to explain their motives after their unmasking.
While cozy mysteries are usually set in a realistic setting, several cozy mystery series include paranormal elements, usually in the form of friendly ghosts who are willing to provide clues or otherwise help out the protagonists. In addition, some heroines are witches or psychics, who use their powers to help other people.
On occasion, the crime won't be Always Murder - sometimes the crime might actually be something different, but still something that will warrant explanation and detective work. Sometimes they may even be mundane things like family mysteries or framing. This is especially true in works targeted at younger audiences.
Cozy mystery tropes:
- Amateur Sleuth
- Detective Animal
- Lighter and Softer
- Magical Realism
- Pun-Based Title
- Red Herring
- Who Murdered the Asshole?
- Agatha Raisin
- Aunt Dimity: Lori Shepherd solves mysteries with the help of her deceased Aunt Dimity, who communicates with her via a blue leather-bound writing journal.
- Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation
- Bookmobile Cat Mysteries: Librarian Minnie Hamilton, having recently moved to Michigan and become the owner of a stray cat named Eddie, is drawn into mysteries as she drives her library's new bookmobile around.
- The Cat In The Stacks Mysteries: A widowed library archivist solves mysteries with the help of his pet cat.
- The Cat Who... Series follows crime journalist Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats, who solve mysteries in the fictional rural Moose County. The series was more gritty in the earliest few books, when Qwilleran lived in a large town and hadn't yet moved to Moose County, but only marginally so.
- Cam Jansen is a series about a girl with a photographic memory and her friend Eric, who both solve mysteries that happen in their town.
- Encyclopedia Brown has the title character solving mysteries in the small town of Idaville.
- Family Skeleton Mysteries: A college professor and an ambulatory human skeleton solve mysteries.
- Hannah Swensen: A Minnesota baker participates in solving local murder cases.
- Lighthouse Library Mysteries: Librarian Lucy Richardson has recently moved to the outer banks of North Carolina, and works in a library built into a lighthouse, where she stumbles across mysteries.
- Most of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories.
- The Mrs. Murphy Mysteries follow postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, and her pets, including the titular Mrs. Murphy the cat.
- Second Chance Cat Mysteries: Sarah Grayson runs a second-hand shop in Maine and is raising a rescue cat named Elvis. She also finds herself stumbling across mysteries, to the dismay of her detective boyfriend who would prefer that she and four elderly friends of hers, who are also involved in her business, leave such things to the police.
- Murder, She Wrote
- Rosemary And Thyme is about a pair of older ladies who work as gardeners and solve crimes in quaint English towns full of Scenery Porn.
- The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo for the first three seasons are about the titular Shelby Woo solving mysteries around her hometown of Cocoa Beach Florida. The final season however moves the action to Boston, Massachusetts.
- Pretty much anything that appears on The Hallmark Channel.
- Many of the Nancy Drew titles take place in small communities. Most of the suspects either know one another, or are even coworkers. However, only a few titles (Deadly Device and Secrets can Kill) actually involve murder - usually, the crimes are conspiracies, extortion, or a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
- Persona 4 has a few aspects of this - the main character Narukami is an outsider who moves to a small town in Japan where a murder happens... at the same time portals to a supernatural world in the TV appear.
- The first act of Divinity: Original Sin is a whodunit in which two Source Hunters go to the coastal town of Cyseal to solve the murder of Counselor Jake. This is only the first act, however.
- Eagle Eye Mysteries: The Original takes place in the fictional town of Richview where the two characters Jake and Jennifer Eagle must solve mysteries where they have to find missing items or track down a guilty culprit.