Why Are Cosy Mysteries So Popular?

A stack of Agatha Christie novels
Hannah Walton-Hughes

Cosy mysteries are preferred, by many, to grisly crime books. Novels by the likes of Agatha Christie, Janice Hallett and Richard Osman remain incredibly popular to wide numbers of people. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes explores why this is, and looks at what is so appealing about these cosy mysteries.

Whenever I say to people that my preferred genre of novel is crime, they invariably list off a countless number of grisly crime authors that I have only vaguely heard of. I blink and say quietly that those books are “too gory” for me.

I can proudly say that my all-time favourite author is the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Her work manages to achieve a level of intrigue, shock and fear, with characters perfectly developed and plots masterfully crafted. And she managed to do this without frankly unnecessary amounts of blood, guts and gore.

Some of Agatha Christie’s TV adaptations have stepped away from the ‘cosy’ nature of her books, particularly the long-running Poirot series. More serious issues such as abortion, sexual assault and drug taking were introduced. Whilst these are of course extremely important topics to explore, they were not in Christie’s original work, and I fundamentally disagree with changing the feel of her stories, particularly as she is not around to give her permission.

The absence of extensive scenes of murder and torture gives more word space for character development

Richard Osman’s recent detective-fiction series The Thursday Murder Club has also captured my heart. To read about four highly intelligent elderly people solving crimes that baffle the police is both humorous and fascinating. Again, there is very little explicit violence, and the story does not lose anything from its absence.

Perhaps the most unusual form of light detective fiction that I have recently read was The Appeal by Janice Hallett. The way in which she used, exclusively, letters, to tell the story, was a wonderfully fresh concept. We had no narrative, so this led to a great deal of required brain power!

From my point of view, there are several reasons why people turn to cosy mysteries instead of grisly crime fiction. Firstly, in my case and many others, they simply cannot and do not want to stomach the blood! It is very important that those of us who enjoy a good mystery continue to have access to gentler options.

Secondly, the absence of extensive scenes of murder and torture gives more word space for character development and dialogue, in addition to plot progression. There is nothing worse than a murder mystery that drags on unnecessarily, therefore surely the most important aspect of the book should be the investigation/experiences of the characters involved?

I think it is important that we continue to make both types of crime fiction available to readers

Furthermore, reading a gruesome and drawn-out death scene does not require much brain power on the reader’s part. As a reader, part of the reason I am drawn to the crime genre is because I want the chance to try to work out the solution to the crime presented. That concentration is broken up by long and grisly descriptions; I spend too much time trying to get an image out of my head, rather than trying to work out what detectives such as Poirot and Miss. Marple are thinking!

In conclusion, I think it is important that we continue to make both types of crime fiction available to readers. Some people see the horror as part of the fun, and although I cannot personally wrap my head around that, I fully respect their preference. But if you are simply looking for a more pleasant read instead of a vomit-inducing thriller, I would turn to Christie instead.

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Featured image courtesy of Rhamely via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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