Written by Naomi

The days are getting shorter and darker, which means it’s the perfect time to light some candles, get comfortable under a blanket and pick up a cozy crime novel!

The world can be bleak enough, so sometimes you want to read a book, knowing that in the end it’ll all be okay. This is where the cozy crime novel comes in! Even though it’s still a crime novel, there are some aspects to the genre that make it a comfortable read.

First, the main feature of cozy crime is that there are no graphic depictions of violence, and the murder usually happens off-page. Whereas crime fiction (thrillers, suspense, psychological or procedural) focuses on the crime in all its dark and gory details, cozy crime books are about the investigation itself and the people involved.

The police have no leads, so our protagonist must step in to make sure justice is served. The protagonist is always an amateur and they are either deeply entrenched in the community or new to town.

This brings me to the genre’s second feature: setting. The setting of a cozy crime novel is essential. The story usually takes place in a small town, where everyone knows everything about everyone and yet there are still plenty of secrets.

The protagonist has a job that constantly puts them in contact with other members of the community: they own a bakery, a bookstore, a café. Or, they recently inherited a bakery/bookstore/café from their great-aunt and must move to the small town to run the business. Soon after, a victim is found dead in their store or after an argument with the protagonist. There has to be a reason for the protagonist to investigate, after all.

The third feature is the nature of the investigation itself. Whereas other subgenres of crime fiction focus heavily on forensics and police procedure, the cozy crime protagonist has no access to these resources. Although they usually have a contact in the police department (and in the romantic cozy crime genre, this contact is a handsome detective), the protagonist investigates by talking to the people of the town to gather clues.

They can also rely on the assistance of their friends and family, which is the fourth feature of the genre: found family.

If the protagonist is new to town, they might not yet be around people they trust. During the course of the investigation, however, they will find themselves becoming part of a family of their own making. They are surrounded by supporting characters who they come to trust, who help with the investigation and who provide some comic relief. The supporting cast is made up of the protagonists’ family, employees, colleagues, neighbors, childhood friends or new friends.

This aspect is a big reason why cozy crime is so comforting: you are surrounded by friends. While the protagonist may face challenges during the investigation or might even be in some actual danger, you as a reader know that they are never truly alone and that their community cares about them and will make sure nothing happens.

At its essence, cozy crime is a celebration of the best in people, as well as the worst. After all, someone did get murdered. But you know that by the end of the book, the murderer will be brought to justice and all will be well again in our small town.

If you want to remain with these characters a little while longer, you usually can, since the stage is set for the series to continue. After all, our protagonist has established themself as an excellent amateur detective, so when the next person turns up dead in their neighbors’ small brewery, all eyes turn to them to save a fellow small business owner.

In all seriousness, since cozy crime relies so heavily on interpersonal relationships, both as a source for the murder and for the investigation, there is no limit to how many installments can be in a series. Essentially, people’s stories never end.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the popularity of cozy crime. There is much more diversity in settings and characters within the genre, making it appealing to both younger and older readers. Even though there is much variety within cozy crime, the main characteristics remain the same. There is comfort in knowing what you can expect while reading, even though the actual content is not predictable.

Lastly, cozy crime books (especially those recently published) often have punny titles, which is a big draw in itself. Below you will find some recommendations to get you started this cozy season. So, grab your blanket, get settled, and happy reading!

Feel the Bern by Andrew Shaffer, where Bernie Sanders (and his Gen Z intern) must investigate a murder in a small Vermont town to clear his friend’s name.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, a culinary cozy mystery where Lila Macapagal moves back home and has to investigate the murder of a food critic to clear her own name.

Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chen sees Lana Lee investigate the murder of a hated food critic in order to save her family’s restaurant.

Board to Death by CJ Connor has Ben Rosencrantz, owner of a board game shop and café, trying to solve the murder of a suspicious game collector or risk going to jail.

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire features sisters Ellie and Meg Christie (and their cat, Agatha) investigate the mysterious murder of a visitor to protect their bookshop.

In Body and Soul Food by Abby Collette, fraternal twins Koby and Keaton try to solve the murder of a friend while preparing for the opening of their bookstore/cozy soul-food café.