Cozy Up

I grew up reading Agatha Christie. My grandmother loved mysteries from the Golden Age. We would read them together, she'd have the large print version and I'd have the paperback or whatever the public library had. I preferred Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot but I loved them all. Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh were favorites too, still, who can top Agatha Christie at her best?

Once I'd read all the Christies and Sayers and Marshes, I moved on to modern mysteries. The problem is that I'm a wimp. I don't like bloody murder scenes, serial killers, coroners going about their work or even plain old CSI stuff. I tell myself I'm more interested in the motive than the crime itself and that's part of it. Also, though, it's that I'm a wimp.

Cozies are meant for me. They hark back to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and give me murder without the mess. Some practitioners get a little too fey with the proceedings. Witness M. C. Beaton. Admittedly I've only read one of her books, Death of a Charming Man, but that was enough. I read it in audiobook form and I remember all too well that I was on disk 7 of 9 before anyone was murdered. Believe me, by that time I was longing for half the cast to be offed, not just the aforementioned "charming man" who went around with "murder victim in training" pretty much tattooed on his forehead. Never has the word "wee" inspired so much terror in me.

Martha Grimes usually does the trick. Smart detective, engaging (for the most part) recurring characters and straightforward crimes. I have issues with some of her later books, which I'll address in a last post, but her first The Man With a Load of Mischief exhibits all that's right with the genre. A murder in a northern village populated by mild eccentrics with skeletons overflowing their closets. The main characters don't ruminate on their respective pasts or thoughts until you wonder how they manage to get dressed in the morning, they just go about their business. The mystery isn't all that hard to figure out but it's not dead obvious either. It's just an enjoyable diversion from beginning to end.

The literary equivalent of warm rice pudding on a cold day. Perfect for what ails you.

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