Maybe you’ve seen the term, but it didn’t know what it meant. Not very long ago I didn’t know, and now I’ve written one. You may also be confused with some other mystery labels. What is the difference between a mystery, a suspense novel, and a thriller?
Technically, a straight mystery is mainly a puzzle about whodunit. A thriller puts the protagonist in danger and involves a lot of action like chase scenes and violence. In a thriller the reader often knows who the killer is in the beginning and watches the protagonist hunt him down. Suspense sometimes has action but shows more of the tension between characters as something is about to happen. In suspense the reader may know that a bomb has been planted, but the protagonist may not. Of course, sometimes these labels are used quite carelessly or in combinations with each other. These labels sometimes confuse the reader more than help them. It’s safe to say, however, that a straight mystery is more about figuring out the puzzle of who did the crime, while a suspense-thriller is more about action and danger.
A cozy mystery, then, is a puzzle about whodunit, but the mystery is often treated light-heartedly or humorously. A cozy generally has no profanity and only the most minimal references to sex. Violence is often performed only “off camera” and is not depicted graphically. Gore is kept to a minimum. The Agatha Christie books and the TV series “Murder She Wrote” are often used as examples of cozies, even though they came before the cozy mystery was used much. The TV series “Monk” is a more recent example of this kind of mystery. I love Monk for the character development. The mystery is always interesting too, but the emphasis is definitely on the characters rather than the technical aspects of the crime.
Cozies most often have amateur sleuths and are often set in small towns or confined quarters. They usually put a strong emphasis on characterization and often have a light romance in them. The light-hearted nature of them makes them more fun than depressing, and they aren’t likely to keep you awake at night.
Cozies can be formulaic, predictable, and as much about crafts as they are mysteries, but they don’t have to be. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading these Christian cozy mysteries: Good, Clean Murder by Traci Tyne Hilton, Miss Aggie’s Gone Missing by Frances Devine, and Murder on the Ol’ Bunions by S. Dionne Moore.
When I watch TV I often fall asleep during chase scenes. I love quirky characters, fun dialog, and a little romance never hurts. The same is true for books, except books offer a much broader choice of Christian themes. I also love Christian fiction that has some meat to it. That’s hard to find today.
A few years ago I had the egg of an idea for a contemporary Christian fiction series in my mind. For about a year the idea crawled around in my mind, taking concrete shape. I finished the book, but felt it needed revision so it entered the chrysalis stage while I spent two years on Edges of Truth. Now, after months of revision, the chrysalis has split and a cozy mystery is emerging.
Today I am giving you the first sneak peek at Broken Windows, Book One in the Keyhole Mysteries. I’m also looking for a few key readers who will give me feedback prior to publication.
Running away to Boise makes sense until a shadow from the past commits weird crimes to destroy Jordan’s credibility in the art community.
A Christian Cozy Mystery
Jordan Axtell, an aspiring artist searching for a new beginning, escapes to Idaho. He hopes to put failure behind him and carve a respectable career out of the rock hard art community. But a black shadow girl with a red balloon warns him that his past refuses to stay where it belongs.
Strange things disappear and peculiar crimes point to Jordan’s guilt. Meanwhile, Alison distracts him from his goals. Zophie drives him crazy with her expectations and questions. A Bible Zone boy pulls at his heartstrings, and his roommate forces him to enter a new world of wheelchairs.
Has the most annoying graffiti artist on the planet followed Jordan to Idaho? Or is a copycat intentionally committing weird misdemeanors just to ruin his reputation? Jordan must find the identity of the perpetrator or lose his integrity as an artist. His new friends try to help, but with friends like his, his enemies can go on coffee break.
Broken Windows will make you laugh, cry, and redefine success. Warning: This deeply Christian novel may cause you to examine the broken windows in your own faith.
I’m looking for some readers who will read this book prior to publication and give me feedback. You don’t have to be a writer to help with this, but it will help if you are an avid reader of Christian fiction who likes to read this basic kind of book. I’m not asking you to proofread for errors and find grammar mistakes. I’d rather have you read the book as a reader and tell me what is working.
This book is about 100,000 words long which is about 350 pages in a normal book. I am looking for honest (though kind) input. I always work to learn from what others say about my writing and strive not to take comments personally.
If you are interested in reading my book pre-publication and giving me feedback, this is what you need to do:
1. Send me your address and tell me what format you’d like the document in. I can send it in Word or I can send a PDF file that you can read with Adobe. With Adobe you may be able to read it on your tablet or other device. I will email the manuscript to you.
2. Read the manuscript well enough to give feedback on what you liked and what you didn’t.
3. Answer the feedback questions and make any other comments you care to. I may or may not make changes based on your feedback, but I won’t dismiss your comments without a hearing.
4. If you are willing to give an honest review on Amazon, I would greatly appreciate it. It’s best to write your review just after reading the book so it’s still fresh in your mind. I’ll send you a reminder when the book is released and you can post your review on Amazon. If you think you may lose the review, you can send it to me and I will send it back to you when the book becomes live on Amazon.
In appreciation for your work I will be glad to send you a free copy upon release. In the unlikely event that we decide to only release the book as an e-book, I would send you the e-book.
Here are the feedback questions. This will give you an idea of my expectations.
1. What did you like most about the book? What parts did you not like?
2. Do you feel the book fits into a cozy mystery genre? Would a mystery genre be a more accurate classification? Do you think mystery writers will feel this book doesn’t have enough mystery to be classified as a mystery?
3. Do you feel the book was too preachy? Would you enjoy the book more if had less about the faith struggles of the characters?
4. After you had finished the book, were you disappointed with the outcome of Leon, the Bible Zone boy?
5. Do you have any other comments you would like to make?
Thanks to each one of you who agree to help me in this way! You may send your offer to become a feedback reader to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow me a few days to get back to you.
[images courtesy of Jason Ross, Andy Heyward, and Rafael Ben-Ari/Deposit Photos.]