It’s interesting, the roundabout way one can become interested in a new author or type of book. Several weeks ago, I was looking for an audiobook on CD at the local library, and my 11-year-old son, impatient to leave, decided to help me. He suggested one book, but I pointed out that it way pretty long, and I have trouble finishing an audiobook much longer than 6 CD’s before it’s due back at the library.
After a few more tries, he picked up Knitting Bones by Monica Ferris. It was exactly 6 CD’s, so I agreed to take it, although I had never heard of Monica Ferris and wasn’t sure I was interested in a book in which knitting featured prominently. It was in fact fairly interesting, although my car’s CD player decided to malfunction before I could finish the book. (It probably just needs cleaning but I haven’t gotten around to that.) I looked to see if the library had the same book in traditional book format, but they didn’t.
Having started the book, however, I was in a mood for reading something similar. So I browsed through the cart of paperback novels. I had gone through nearly all of them when I found A Murderous Yarn by Monica Ferris. This one is earlier in the series, which was just as well, I decided. (I’ll get to know the main characters better, and don’t have to worry that I’ll find out who the murderer was in the later book.)
The series belongs to a subgenre called the cozy mystery. As wikipedia explains,
Cozy mysteries are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humourously. … The heroes of such stories are usually amateur detectives who often have a college degree and use their life experiences as a tool for solving crimes. … There is usually an array of eccentric supporting characters, who provide light relief and are generally very likeable.
Murder, She Wrote, one of my favorite TV shows during the 1980’s, was an example of this genre. According to wikipedia, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories are also, so I’ll have to read some of those. Wikipedia also notes that these days there are a lot of books that combine a cozy mystery with a focus on some hobby, pets, or cooking. So that explains the amount of time devoted to needlecraft in A Murderous Yarn – though more than one reader review at amazon.com notes that this book has less needlecraft in it than previous titles in the series.
I did some cross stitching as a girl, and learned to knit (but preferred cross stitch). So the parts of the story that focus on this hobby don’t bore me as they might some readers. But they don’t greatly interest me either. I can’t imagine buying the book in part because of the free counted cross stitch pattern that is included in the back. Someday, perhaps, I will have time to finish the patterns I started over twenty years ago, before my first son was born. Until then, they sit downstairs with my craft supplies.
Of course, the other hobby that plays a major role in this book interests me even less. Betsy Devonshire, the amateur sleuth at the center of this series, has a friend who develops a passion for an antique car – a Stanley Steamer, which has a steam engine rather than an internal combustion engine. I found that part interesting enough, as I had never heard of such an automobile. The part where the driver of the Stanley attempts to catch someone fleeing in a modern SUV is particularly interesting – and based on information the author got from drivers of such cars.
On the whole, however, neither needlecraft nor antique cars would normally attract me to a book. I tried to think what hobbies might. Definitely not cooking – I learned to cook well enough to make meals my family and I like, but I have little ambition to expand my culinary repertoire. Probably not pets either – though a narrative told from the point of view of a pet can be fascinating if done well.
Crossword puzzles, perhaps? I see at amazon.com there is a cozy called A Crossword Mystery by Nero Blanc. The book includes six crossword puzzles, which would appeal to me more than a cross stitch pattern of a part of an antique car. Apparently it sold successfully, because Blanc followed it with several more crossword-themed mysteries.
At browsersbookstore.com I discovered a whole list of cozies by theme, and I see it includes the Brother Cadfael mysteries I enjoyed so much under both medieval and religion. Other subjects that sound promising are music, museums, chemistry, and possibly computers.
These hobby-related themes in cozies are primarily directed to female interests, according to wikipedia, and certainly this list bears that out. Cooking/food is probably the biggest category (I just met a co-worker last week who used to be a chef and now does welding, so it’s hardly a females-only interest, but I suspect the books in this category are aimed at women). Other topics include decorating, fashion, gardening, quilting, and scrapbooking.
Some deal with traditional male interests, however. There are two fishing series, three on golf, one on guns, two on home repair, and one on mechanics. Some topics which just plain strike me as odd are license plates and tattoos. Even candlemaking seems unusual – just how many books can you write in which candlemaking plays a central role?
I’m surprised holidays isn’t on the list – I’m sure I’ve seen some cozy mysteries that revolve around the Christmas season. (I considered checking one out of the library, and decided to wait until December.) Maybe holiday-related mysteries are considered a subgenre of their own?
For now, I’ll be waiting for the library to notify me when A Crossword Mystery is waiting for me to check it out.