There is a large intersection between “country crime” and “cozy” crime (even if the books are Golden Age mysteries, when serial killer/detailed forensic crime didn’t exist). In the US, this is a large enough group to support an entire convention, Malice Domestic, which recently announced the result of the 2013 Agatha Awards.
The convention looked a lot of fun, with plenty of pictures and anecdotes here and here. In the UK, there’s nothing quite so specific – on the contrary, people go out of the way to stress how realistic, gruesome and bloody the whole conference experience is likely to be. The long list for Harrogate is out, which is notably short on cosies (with country crime represented by Peters May and Robinson), and Bristol is only a little better, in part because it has an award for comic crime. It’s beginning to look like an affection for the sub-genre is the love that dare not speak its name.
I think the reason for this is in part a serious fear of being bored. IThe non-aficionados must assume that in a cozy, the characters just sit round drinking tea until someone miraculously guesses who the murderer was. No narrative drive, no idiosyncratic voice, no more tension than the average knitting pattern. Until this week, I would have rebutted this view with force. Then I read an author who shall remain nameless, mainly because I’ve read their website and suspect I’d like them in person, who has written a number of books, often with “Murder” in the title. The one I read, no.8 in a series, had no dramatic chapter endings, no drive, and I had to force myself to keep reading – given my general voracious reading habit, this was quite something. It lived up to every fear anyone might ever have had about the cozy. It made me want to go away and read something with detailed autopsy descriptions. Suddenly I too have “The Fear”, that Fear of Being Bored. I’m going to search the Agatha listings for my next read, in the hope that The Fear can be vanquished.
On a separate note, it was interesting to see that mystery fiction is far less likely to be self-published than sci-fi, fantasy or romance fiction. Presumably because conventional publishers still think they can make a profit? I’ll be interested to see how the percentages shift over time.