Follow TV Tropes


Cozy Mystery

Go To

Cozy mysteries, or "cozies" for short, are a type of Mystery Fiction in which there are few to none of the elements that make a "hard-boiled" mystery (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 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 likable 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 that are years, or even generations, old. They are typically neither psychopaths nor serial killers, and are often rational and 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.

The crime(s) that trigger a cozy aren't Always Murder — sometimes the crime might actually be something different, but still something that will warrant explanation and detective work, or a mundane thing like a family mystery or a Frame-Up — especially true in works targeted at younger audiences.

Cozy mystery tropes:

  • Amateur Sleuth: The protagonist tends to be a member of the public who investigates mysteries for fun (occasionally taking on cases the authorities aren't interested in) or gets drawn into solving a mystery by circumstance.
  • Close-Knit Community: Many cozies are set in small towns or villages where pretty much everyone knows everyone, with the protagonist taking it upon themselves to solve mysteries in their community, or being called upon by their neighbours to save the day.
  • Detective Animal: The protagonist may be accompanied by a loyal and intelligent animal who helps to find clues or apprehend suspects.
  • Friendly Ghost: Benevolent ghosts may show up in less grounded works to offer advice or point the way to clues, especially in the form of ghosts helping to solve their own murder.
  • Lighter and Softer: Even in stories involving murder mysteries, the plots tend to be more light-hearted in tone and much less graphic or sordid compared to other examples of crime fiction (sometimes, the central mystery doesn't involve a crime at all). Some cozy mysteries do touch upon darker themes but tend not to dwell on them (as that would negate the "cozy" part).
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: It's not uncommon for the protagonist to be an older woman who hides her keen intellect and nerves of steel behind a sweet, doddery old lady facade.
  • Magical Realism: Some cozy mysteries include implicitly or explicitly supernatural occurrences, though they don't tend to be treated as especially extraordinary, and the plot and setting is otherwise grounded in reality.
  • Psychic Powers: Psychics and mediums may be employed to help solve the mystery; sometimes the protagonist themselves has psychic abilities of some kind.
  • Pun-Based Title: It's common for the story's title to feature a pun related to the plot and/or characters, which adds to the more whimsical tone typical of the genre and in some cases offers hints as to the solution.
  • Red Herring: A staple of the genre (and most mystery stories for that matter); the audience will be presented with loads of suspects, clues and differing scenarios, but the true solution won't be revealed until the climax.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: It's common for murder victims in these stories to be depicted as jerks or scoundrels so that the audience (and the cast too) doesn't have to feel too bad for them; that way we can focus more on trying to solve the mystery than dwelling on the tragedy, and it provides plenty of suspects if almost every cast member had a possible motive.


    open/close all folders 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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".
    • The sequel, Glass Onion, follows a similar formula of parodying the genre, this time following Blanc as he attends a murder mystery party on an eccentric billionaire's island, where the party game turns deadly and the guests - mostly consisting of morally bankrupt rich people - all have motive for murder.

  • 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.
  • Barkery And Biscuits: Carrie Kennersly lives in a small town where she works two jobs: as a veterinary technician, and as the owner and manager of Barkery and Biscuits, a bakery that makes both pastries for humans and dog treats. She solves various offscreen murders and other crimes that all relate to dogs in some way. There is also a heavy focus on Carrie's personal life, especially her romantic life.
  • 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.
  • Bewitching Mysteries: Maggie O'Neill lives in Stony Creek, Indiana, but undergoes a sudden change of jobs one day and starts working for antique shop owner Felicity "Liss" Dow. Early on, she learns her new boss is a real, practicing witch who supplies to the local magic community, and that she herself has magical potential, which helps her solve crimes when dead bodies start turning up.
  • Bibliophile Mysteries: Brooklyn Wainwright is a San Francisco-based book restoration expert, who begins solving murders on a part-time basis after her mentor is murdered and she meets British security officer Derek Stone, who considers her the top suspect for discovering the body.
  • Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries: Darla Pettistone returns to New York after inheriting her Great-Aunt Dee's Brooklyn bookstore, and its mascot — Hamlet, a large black cat. She also ends up having to solve mysteries that crop up in the process.
  • 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: A 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.
  • Cat Rescue Mysteries: Sydney McCall has just left an advertising job in New York and returns to Deer Park, North Carolina to help her sister Kat run the local animal shelter. There, with the aid of an orange tabby cat named Toby, she finds herself solving mysteries.
  • Cats And Curios Mysteries: Rebecca Hale is an accountant who unexpectedly inherits her uncle's antique shop in San Francisco when he dies. Along with her cats Rupert and Isabella, she stumbles across mysteries as she explores her uncle's past and the investigations he and his own friends had been conducting.
  • 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.
  • Chief Inspector Armand Gamache: Being the head of homicide and all, the title character is anything but an amateur, but the series still retains a lot of the trappings of the cozies genre; the tone is light hearted overall and- while it doesn't shy away from the darker side of humanity- it also doesn't revel in it either. Instead, it places more of an emphasis on the emotions and feelings of the murder victims, their murderers, and just people in general than the violence they can and do commit. The series' events are also predominately set in the rural, hidden community of Three Pines and several of its residences get their own story arcs.
  • 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.
  • Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries: Olivia Greyson is shown as the owner of a cookie shop named The Gingerbread House. She and her best friend Maddie bake scrumptious treats and get involved in solving the mysteries that keep happening in and around the cookie house every now and then.
  • Country Store Mysteries: Roberta "Robbie" Jordan runs a restaurant and country store (later made into a B&B as well) called Pans and Pancakes in the fictional South Lick, Indiana. But she keeps coming across murder mysteries while she's at it.
  • 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.
  • Dead End Job Mysteries: Living off the grid after a disastrous divorce and trying to avoid her deadbeat ex-husband and the courts that sided in his favor, Helen Hawthorne finds herself working a string of dead-end jobs in order to make ends meet, all while stumbling upon murders and trying to stay out of the spotlight. After book 9, her life takes a turn for the better, with a new husband and a full-time career as a private detective, but she still winds up having to go undercover at other jobs to solve her cases.
  • Dixie Hemingway Mysteries: Chronicles the adventures of a cop-turned-pet-sitter living in Siesta Key, Florida.
  • Dream Club Mysteries: Business consultant Taylor Blake returns to Georgia to help her sister with her new candy shop, and unwittingly becomes involved in both mystery and her sister’s Dream Interpretation Club.
  • 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.
  • Fixer Upper Mysteries: Shannon Hammer is a home renovation and repair contractor in Lighthouse Cove, Northern California, who begins solving murders when they start cropping up.
  • Hannah Swensen: A Minnesota baker participates in solving local murder cases.
  • Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries: Melanie "Mel" Turner specializes in remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But one day, her life takes a turn for the unexpected when a coworker dies on the site of one of her remodeling projects and his ghost asks her to solve his murder.
  • Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mysteries: Hayley Powell, a single mom and food writer for a Bar Harbor, Maine newspaper, begins solving murders after she becomes the main suspect in one case.
  • Her Majesty The Queen Investigates series, in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties.
  • Her Royal Spyness: Narrator Lady Victoria Georgiana "Georgie" Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless, trying to survive on her own in London in 1932, and has been asked to spy and solve mysteries for Her Majesty the Queen.
  • Irish Village Mysteries: Siobhán O'Sullivan runs her parent's bistro with her five other siblings in the small village of Kilbane, Ireland. She gets involved in a murder investigation (and eventually becomes a garda) when a man is found stabbed to death in the bistro.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: Jaine Austen is a writer-for-hire in Los Angeles who becomes embroiled in murder mysteries after one of her clients becomes a suspect.
  • Key West Food Critic Mysteries: Stuck in Key West after a disastrous relationship with a two-timing boyfriend, Hayley Snow begins a new career as a food critic for a local magazine, with a sideline in solving murders.
  • Knit And Nibble Mysteries: With her daughter off at college, widowed mother Pamela Paterson keeps busy as associate editor of a craft magazine and founder of the Knit and Nibble knitting club in Arborville, New Jersey. But soon, she and her club members must begin a new type of project — solving murders.
  • 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.
  • Lucy Stone Mysteries: Lucy Stone, a newspaper reporter in Tinker's Cove, Maine, gets embroiled in murder mysteries after she begins discovering dead bodies.
  • 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.
  • Magpie Murders is a pastiche and deconstruction of Agatha Christie-style cozy mysteries. The plot revolves around an editor named Susan investigating the supposed suicide of one of her authors, who wrote a best-selling series of novels in the cozy mystery genre about a detective named Atticus Pünd; she's also trying to locate the final chapter of his last manuscript. The story-within-a-story about Atticus Pünd is a straight example, while Susan's own investigation is a subversion.
  • Most of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories follow a little old spinster lady from England with an occasional tendency to stumble into murder mysteries.
  • Maine Clambake Mysteries: Julia Snowden returns to her hometown of Busman's Harbor, Maine, to rescue her family's struggling clambake business. Soon though, she must also begin solving 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 hometown 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.
  • Novel Idea Mysteries: After losing her job at the local newspaper, journalist Lila Wilkins becomes an intern at the Novel Idea Literary Agency, reading queries and solving mysteries along the way.
  • 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.
  • Psychic Eye Mysteries: Abby Cooper is a professional psychic intuitive who has everyone else figured out far better than she has her own life managed. She knows all too well that being psychic doesn't let her sidestep murder and mayhem - it just lets her know that it's coming. Luckily, she has plenty of help from her best friend and business partner, Candice Fusco - one badass P.I., along with the love of Abby's life - the gorgeous Dutch Rivers. Together, Candice and Dutch help keep Abby focused on finding the bad guys while often dodging the odd stray bullet or two.
  • Regan Reilly Mysteries: Follows private investigator Regan Reilly as she travels around solving various mysteries; the stories are usually fairly light-hearted with quirky scenarios, lots of humour and a romantic subplot. There are also some Christmas-themed crossover novels.
  • 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 is looking for three new witches to take over and inherit their ancestral spellbook, 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 spellbook 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.
  • Scottish Bookshop Mysteries: Delaney Nichols, an archivist from Kansas, has just lost her museum job and subsequently moves to Edinburgh, Scotland, to work at a bookstore called "The Cracked Spine", which specializes in hard-to-find books and other items. There, she develops new friendships with her coworkers and others but also begins stumbling onto murder mysteries.
  • 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.
  • Shady Hollow: Set in a small town in a World of Funny Animals, Vera Vixen is a reporter for the local paper with a habit of poking her nose into murders.
  • Sunny And Shadow Mysteries: Sonata "Sunny" Coolidge, formerly a reporter in New York, has returned to her hometown of Kittery Harbor, Maine, to care for her ailing father after his heart attack. When she stumbles onto a dead body one day, it marks the first mystery she must solve.
  • Tarot 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.
  • The Thursday Murder Club: Four pensioners in a high-end retirement community investigate murders in their golden years.
  • Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mysteries: Lila Macapagal moves back to her hometown after a broken engagement and begins working at her aunt's restaurant, where she finds herself investigating various crimes and mysteries involving the locals and her own family.
  • Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers
  • Where Are They Now Mysteries: Matilda "Tilda" Harper is a celebrity reporter who has made a name for herself tracking down stars who've left the spotlight, and finds herself solving mysteries when some of them turn up either dead or targeted by killers.
  • Witchcraft Mysteries: Lily Ivory attempts to conceal her "witchiness" in San Francisco, running a vintage clothing shop that outfits customers both spiritually and stylistically. But when dead bodies turn up, she must put her magical talents to use in solving the murders.
  • Witchs Cat Mysteries: Annabelle Britton makes a living as an artist before going on vacation to the seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she makes a startling discovery about her witchy heritage with the help of Alistair, a cat and familiar whose first owner has recently turned up dead. With his help, Annabelle accepts her role as a witch and begins solving mysteries involving magic, while working with other witches who've dedicated themselves to keeping Portsmouth and its people safe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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).
  • Several series have been produced for the Hallmark Mystery channel, including Aurora Teagarden, Murder, She Baked and Garage Sale Mysteries.
  • Magpie Murders is the TV adaptation of the novel and likewise serves as deconstruction of the genre; the in-universe Detective Atticus Pünd plotline is a Troperiffic straight example, while the 'real life' mystery about the death of the Atticus Pünd author is a subversion.
  • Miss Scarlet & The Duke: Victorian Costume Drama in which eponymous daughter of a retired Scotland Yard inspector-turned-Private Detective takes over his business after his sudden death, often alongside her childhood friend Inspector William "Duke" Wellington.
  • 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.
  • My Life Is Murder: Baker and retired police detective Alexa investigates cold cases that the police can't be bothered with in Australia (season 1) and New Zealand (season 2). And she has a cat.
  • 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.
  • Sister Boniface Mysteries: Set in England during the early 1960s, Sister Boniface is a Catholic nun at St. Vincent's Convent in the of Great Slaughter in the Cotswolds. In addition to her religious duties at the convent, she makes wine and has a PhD in forensic science, allowing her to serve as a scientific adviser to the local police on investigations. A Spin-Off of Father Brown.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Jenny LeClue is a Genre Deconstruction of this — the in-universe author has been writing nothing but these featuring the titular Kid Detective for thirty years, and they're getting terribly stale both for the readers and for Jenny herself. Under pressure from his editor, the author has to learn to move on and write something new and interesting, getting out of his cozy comfort zone and shaking up the formula.
  • Many of the Nancy Drew titles take place in small communities where most of the suspects know each other. 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.
  • This Bed We Made begins with a maid merely cleaning up the rooms in a hotel, learning things about their occupants in the process, but shifts towards the end into her having to help the police solve a crime with the evidence that she uncovered in the process.