Robert with his westie, Harvey

Moi? A cosy mystery author?

From the moment No Accident was released by a US publisher in 2016, I’ve refuted any claim that my novels are cosy mysteries.

Why would I do this, you might ask?

The cosy mystery genre offers a huge market within crime fiction. A simple search on Amazon will confirm this.

Yet under this extensive umbrella, there are a significant number of single, elderly ladies solving murders in quaint villages, or on cruise ships, or in stately homes. Many of them bake cakes, arrange flowers or run bookshops. Many have cute dogs or cats.

It’s all sweet, friendly and safe – even though people are being bumped off at an alarming rate in many cases. You get the feeling there can’t be many people left in places like Midsomer.

At first, I blamed Agatha Christie’s brilliant sleuth, Miss Jane Marple.

Miss Marple

Don’t get me wrong, I love Agatha Christie’s books, but cosy isn’t a word I associate with Miss Marple. She’s acerbic, single-minded and ruthless, a critical social commentator and brilliant at solving complex puzzles and murders.

Yet, my research on Google suggested Miss Marple’s adventures fit within the definition of a cosy mystery.

‘Cosies are crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in small, socially intimate communities. The person solving the crime is an amateur, usually but not exclusively a woman, with contacts in the police or other law enforcement agencies.’

Despite my misgivings, Miss Marple fitted into this definition.

Though shaken, I soon rallied.

Sue Grafton

I turned to the other main inspiration for the Kent Fisher murder mysteries – Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet series. They feature feisty, irreverent and determined private eye, Kinsey Millhone, who was hardly cosy. People shot at her. She shot back. She wasn’t cute, baking in her spare time. (She left that to her landlord and neighbour, Henry.)

She didn’t have a dog or a cat either.

No, she was tough, relentless, and cool. Not twee.

Kent Fisher’s no different. He tackles killers wielding shotguns. He deals with serious, contemporary issues that don’t feel at all cosy.

But Google had set a worm of doubts into my mind, nibbling away at my self-confidence, challenging me to accept there were elements of the cosy mystery in my series … and Sue Grafton’s.

Neither of us wrote graphic sex scenes. I’m not sure either of us had any sex at all in the novels.

Sexual tension, sure. Attraction, fantasies, certainly.

But no sex. These are crime stories.

Did our stories take place in small, socially intimate communities? Though not socially intimate, our stories didn’t usually involve big towns or cities. Mine are set in the South Downs, featuring many of its lovely villages.

Another point to the cosy corner, I guess.

Ah, but Kinsey isn’t an amateur. She’s an ex-police officer and trained private investigator. Kent’s an environmental health officer. Okay, he’s not police, but he enforces the law, investigates offences, interviews witnesses and suspects and often solves complex problems.

But in terms of investigating murder, he’s still an amateur sleuth.

He also has contacts with the police and other law enforcement agencies. His best friend, Mike Turner, is a former Scenes of Crime officer. Various detectives from Sussex Police cross his path and become friends or allies, sometimes helping him.

Though it’s not a knockout blow, the cosy corner’s well ahead on points.

A lot of the bloggers who review my novels refer to them as cosy. It’s not a criticism, more a call to readers who like this kind of crime fiction.

After a hefty sigh, up go my hands – I write cosy mysteries.

Saying it aloud doesn’t make me feel any better.

Why do I have a problem with this?

Inspector Morse and Miss Marple are cosy in their own ways. On TV, they occupy the family viewing slots, which is where I always envisaged seeing Kent Fisher. Kinsey Millhone isn’t cute or twee, but she’s comfortable within the cosy mystery definition.

I should be thrilled to be in such distinguished company. I should be shouting it from the rooftops, beckoning the legions of readers who enjoy cosy mysteries to pick up my novels.

In the end, Goodreads clinched it for me. Its annual review of the novels I’ve read featured many authors and books that fit within the cosy mystery genre. Elly Griffiths, Faith Martin, LJ Ross, Janet Dawson, Pippa McCathie, Sarah Yarwood-Lovett and Clare Chase, to name a few.

Many of them feature in the cosy mystery category on Amazon. Some feature in the Cosy Mystery Animal category because their heroes have cute dogs or cats.

Robert with his westie, Harvey

Kent Fisher has a cute West Highland white terrier called Columbo. Kent talks to his dog, referring to him as his ‘little mate’.

Moi, a cosy mystery author and proud of it!

To celebrate this revised outlook, I’ve updated my website. Please follow this link to find out more about the Kent Fisher murder mysteries. There’s also a chance to get a free short story from the days when Kent fought to protect the local environment.

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