Cozy crime: An entertaining antidote to the pandemic lockdown
Published Thursday, May 7, 2020 1:02PM EDT
Author Lynn McPherson participates in Word on the Street in Toronto, Ont. in Sept. 2018. (@cozymysternlynn / Instagram)
LONDON, ONT. -- During this unprecedented pandemic, while people find themselves stuck at home, many are turning back to books for distraction or entertainment.
But the noir trend of dark thrillers with haunted protagonists which has dominated popular fiction for years may seem a little too intense, now that truth has become stranger than fiction.
That’s where Ontario author Lynn McPherson has you covered. The Toronto-area writer has produced a series of “cozy” crime novels intended to amuse and entertain.
Within the crime fiction genre, “cozy” refers to stories that involve crime or murder, but they are based on solving the mystery more than uncovering the twisted psychology of an antagonist. Think “Murder, She Wrote” not “Criminal Minds.”
McPherson’s series is centred on character Izzy Walsh and her adventures in the fictional New England town of Twin Oaks during the 1950s. Her series has three adventures so far: “The Girls’ Weekend Murder,” “The Girls’ Whispered Murder” and “The Girls Dressed for Murder.”
McPherson says she likes the cozy mystery format because, “I don't get nightmares or terrible images pervading my mind. I like books that make me feel good - and not just at the ending after crying my eyes out.”
And that may be the right recipe for the current moment in social history.
According to Western University Professor Michael Arntfield, true crime writing tends to prosper during eras of stability and prosperity but in hard times “people, it seems, become distracted by real problems, and true crime as a voyeuristic indulgence is no longer marketable.”
We are clearly in a dark time with an international lock down, closed borders and massive, hopefully temporary unemployment. McPherson’s books are, at least in part, an antidote to this depressing reality.
“There are so many things in real life that evoke negative feelings. When I reach for an escape, I don't want more of the same. I want something that makes me smile or laugh,” says McPherson.
Cozy crime novels may involve murder, but the real task for the reader is trying to solve the puzzle and decide which character is guilty. It’s a challenge readers take seriously, with Book Net Canada reporting that mysteries accounted for $26 million in sales in 2018.
McPherson is by no means the only cozy crime writer in Canada.
Louise Penny is the acknowledged dean of the genre with her character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache working the Eastern Townships of Quebec. But that makes her novels both cozies and police procedurals.
McPherson’s distinction is that her novels are squarely and unerringly in the realm of the cozy, though she is working on a new novel right now that might have a harder edge.
“I've always loved the whodunit factor in a mystery so I'm drawn to crime fiction,” says McPherson. “Cozies bring these elements together and make for a fun and entertaining read.”