The term “cozy” was first used to describe a particular type of mystery fiction in 1958, when it appeared in a review in the Observer, Great Britain’s oldest Sunday newspaper. Since then, the word has proven to be useful to both readers and critics. However, it has acquired several slightly different meanings, so care must be taken in its use and interpretation. For example, some critics equate “cozy” works with those that are considered “traditional” within the genre, thereby emphasizing the fact that this kind of fiction developed during the early days of mystery fiction and flourished in what has come to be known as the Golden Age. Other critics quite appropriately describe such fiction as “cozy/domestic,” for usually much of the action takes place within homes, whether they be great country houses, modest vicarages, or temporary abodes, such as the train in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (1934). Moreover, although there may be serious consequences at the national or even the international level when persons of high standing in society are accused of criminal behavior, at their core novels about such cases typically involve personal sins and private enmities.
Like comedies of manners, which in many ways they resemble, cozy mysteries are traditional in that they are light in tone. Their appeal is intellectual rather than emotional. They are filled with the kind of wit and humor, even satire, that one...
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