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?
- Knives Out is an Affectionate Parody of the genre. Bestselling mystery author Harlan Thrombey has just apparently committed suicide, but Benoit Blanc has just been hired to investigate by an anonymous person who suspects it was murder. As it turns out, no less than four of Harlan's family members had motive to kill him, and nothing adds up about his "suicide".
- Agatha Raisin: A middle-aged public-relations agent who originally owned a public-relations firm in Mayfair, London until she sold it and took early retirement, moving to the fictional village of Carsely in the Cotswolds. After fourteen books of solving mysteries she stumbled upon, she gave in and opened her own detective agency. It was also adapted into a TV series.
- 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: Shōtarō Tatewaki is a high school student who meets and begins accompanying a young woman named Sakurako Kujō, an osteologist who has a fascination with skeletal remains and uses her skills to help the Hokkaido Prefectural Police in solving crimes.
- Blanche White series: A housekeeper has a habit of getting entangled in murder mysteries.
- 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.
- Brother Cadfael series: An herbalist monk solves mysteries in 12th-century Shrewsbury.
- Cam Jansen: A girl with a photographic memory and her friend Eric both solve mysteries that happen in their town.
- The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries: A widowed library archivist solves mysteries with the help of his pet cat. The spinoff series, Southern Ladies Mysteries, has the Ducote sisters (whom he knows from the Friends of the Library board) also stumbling on mysteries, both in their hometown and in towns they're visiting.
- The Cat Who... Series: Crime journalist Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats solve mysteries in the fictional rural Moose County. The series was more gritty in the earliest few books, when Qwilleran lived in a large city and hadn't yet moved to Moose County, but only marginally so.
- Chocoholic Mysteries: After a divorce from a real estate developer who only saw her as a trophy wife, Lee McKinney moves to Warner Pier, Michigan, to work as a business manager for her aunt's luxury chocolate shop, TenHuis (pronounced Ten-hice) Chocolade. Solving murder mysteries was not part of the plan, but she ends up doing it anyway.
- Coffeehouse Mysteries: Coffeeshop owner Clare Cosi solves mysteries with help from her coffee-hunting ex-husband and her staff of quirky baristas.
- The Daisy Dalrymple Series: The Honorable Daisy Dalrymple and her "copper" husband CID Alec Fletcher solve murders that occur in the aristocratic country houses Daisy is visiting to write articles about in her career as a journalist.
- Death From A Shell: Anna is a grumpy teenage wannabe lounge-singer who stumbles into a creepy mystery in a small, isolated coastal town.
- Dixie Hemingway Mysteries: Chronicles the adventures of a cop turned pet-sitter living in Siesta Key, Florida.
- Encyclopedia Brown: The title character solves 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.
- League Of Literary Ladies: Three Fire-Forged Friends who have a book club together investigate a series of crimes in the Ohio resort town they live in.
- Lighthouse Library Mysteries: Librarian Lucy Richardson has recently moved to the outer banks of North Carolina, where she now works in a library built into a lighthouse and stumbles across mysteries.
- Magical Cats Mysteries: Librarian Kathleen Paulson moves from Boston to small-town Minnesota to take over running the town's public library. She also adopts (and is adopted by) two young feral cats, Owen and Hercules, who have unusual and possibly supernatural talents that prove to come in handy when Kathleen stumbles onto mysteries.
- Most of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories, which follow a little old spinster lady from England with an occasional tendency to stumble into murder mysteries.
- Mrs. Murphy Mysteries: Follow postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, and her pets, including the titular Mrs. Murphy the cat.
- Nick And Nora Mysteries: Nora Charles, an investigative journalist in Chicago, moves back to her small home town in California to run her late mother's sandwich shop, but finds herself again involved in mysteries after meeting Nick, a cat who belonged to a now-missing and possibly dead private investigator.
- Out On A Limb concerns a desperate search for a young woman who mysteriously vanished from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by a female home health care nurse and a male park ranger.
- Retired Witches Mysteries: A coven of three older witches - Molly Addison Renard, Elsie Clarrett Langston, and Olivia Dunst - run a shop in Wilmington, North Carolina, hiding their witchy nature in plain sight. With their powers fading from age, the trio are looking for three new witches to take over and inherit their ancestral spell book, so they can retire. But when Olivia is suddenly murdered (and returns as a ghost, to the disapproval of the Grand Council of Witches) and their spell book stolen, the three must work with new coven member Dorothy Dunst Lane (Olivia's long-hidden daughter) and initially reluctant ally Brian Fuller to solve the crime... and then some others that pop up involving witches. It was the last series created by Creator Couple Joyce and Jim Lavene, with the third book being published posthumously.
- 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 prospective boyfriend (a death examiner for the local medical office) who would prefer that she and four elderly friends of hers, who are also involved in her business, leave such things to the police.
- Taroy Mysteries: Alanis, the narrator investigates multiple murders in the small Arizona town where she inherits a shop from her Phony Psychic mother.
- Tea Shop Mysteries (by Laura Childs): Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina, solves murders in between creating interesting blends and participating in various charity events. She has a small dog she rescued from the streets and named Earl Grey. Each book has a tea-related title, The Teaberry Strangler, Chamomile Mourning, etc. Plenty of local color and lush descriptions of historic buildings.
- Father Brown: The TV adaptation takes the oft-travelling priest of Chesterton's stories and roots him cozily in a tight-knit small town in the West Country with a very large proportion of Catholic residents (and therefore the good father's parishioners).
- Murder, She Wrote: Jessica Fletcher, a famed murder mystery writer, stumbles across murders in both her small Maine hometown of Cabot Cove, and just about anywhere else she goes.
- The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: The first three seasons are about the titular Shelby Woo solving mysteries around her small hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida. The final season, however, moves the action to the big city; Boston, Massachusetts.
- Queens of Mystery: Mathilda and Inspector Thorne are real detectives, but despite their best efforts, Mathilda's aunts are always in the thick of it, picking locks and listening at doors. They know absolutely everybody, going so far as to get someone's mother on the phone for leverage.
- Rosemary & Thyme is about a pair of older ladies who work as gardeners and solve crimes in quaint English towns full of Scenery Porn.
- Mystery Show features podcaster Starlee Kine solving everyday mysteries that her friends bring her and often getting distracted by fascinating people she meets along the way.
- Many of the Nancy Drew titles take place in small communities where most of the suspects know each another. Only a few titles (Deadly Device and Secrets can Kill) actually involve murder - usually, the crimes are conspiracies, extortion, or a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax. However, the Game Over sequences are quite graphic.
- 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.