Why a romance writer has turned to mystery
Murder is not entertainment. It is awful, tragic, and affects not just the victims but all those left behind to grieve.
Why, then, are murder mysteries so popular? Why are we so riveted by tales of violent death? We consume these stories with insatiable appetite. In the form of books and articles, on the small screen and in theaters, on the nightly news and in podcasts, both fiction and true crime, contemporary and historical, solved and unsolved.
The answer lies in human nature. We don’t wish to experience terrible things ourselves. But vicariously? Absolutely, bring it on! Few things can beat the thrill of brushing up against death and escaping unscathed to the safety of our own familiar world. The adrenaline rush! The sense of relief afterwards!
The ancient Greeks called it catharsis. It’s what great playwrights hope to inspire in their audience. And what continues to motivate generation after generation of writers and artists in creating new tales of murder or exploring old mysteries with fresh eyes.
In fiction, many sub-genres of murder mysteries have emerged over the years. Noir, historical, police procedural, supernatural, cozy. I’ve enjoyed reading, listening to, and watching them all.
But when it comes to writing, I’m inevitably drawn to cozies. I like the lighter tone of cozy mysteries, infused with humor and romance and quirky characters. Sure, there’s violence and gore—but it happens off-stage, and isn’t the focus of the story. Instead, the action revolves around an amateur sleuth who gets sucked into investigating the crime and helping to bring the murderer to justice.
Who is this archetypal amateur sleuth? Someone who lives in a small town, runs a coffee shop or catering business or craft store, and has a knack for stumbling over dead bodies. There’s often a connection to local law enforcement in the form of a romantic interest, which helps (or sometimes hinders) the investigation.
That’s what I tried to write.
What came out was…a little bit different. Still light and cozy, but the heroine doesn’t cook or crochet, and when confronted with death, her diagnosis is anything but murder.
Look for Manner of Death, the first book in my new cozy mystery series, due out in 2024.