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Cozy Mysteries from Rutgers Libraries

PoppiesIf you’re appalled by violence and graphic details in a book or movie but––pun intended––you’d kill for a good mystery, cozy mysteries are for you. Rest assured, you are not alone. Cozy mysteries became one of the most popular escapist genres during the pandemic.

What the heck is a cozy mystery anyway? Sounds like an oxymoron.

Think “Agatha Christie” and her Miss Marple stories placed in a small town just like any other small town. An everyday location with characters featuring seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. A story focusing on how to solve a puzzle rather than sharing the gory details of a horrible crime.

In terms of TV-series, think Murder She Wrote or Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries rather than Criminal Minds.

However, any “crime” our elderly lady detective faces to solve seems to resemble something that had happened before in the small town. The concept of “crime” is  used rather broadly in these stories.

Motive, opportunity, and means. This triad of any wrongdoing, from mischief to mayhem, is supported by the plot, characters, and language, the triad of good storytelling––along with theme, setting, and point of view, which are more or less set by the terms of the genre.

Murder only off-stage, amateur sleuth, no profanity, no sexual innuendos––it sounds boring for a detective story, one would think. But good writing is still good writing.

Although most of these titles do not strictly fit into the collection development at Rutgers University Libraries, there are several cozy mysteries and other books perfect for pleasure reading in the collection. Continue to read, if you are interested in some tricks how to find them (a skill that also directly translates for research and studies), or ask a librarian.

You may just want to walk into the Carr Library on the Livingstone campus and browse its over 1,000 titles dedicated to recreational reading, placed prominently on the low shelves on your left at the entrance. The Library of Science and Medicine has over 200 books by the conference room. The Alexander Library collection, although moved up to the stacks, is also available to browse by author and call number. Hint: PR is the call number for British fiction and PS is used for American titles.

If you prefer checking out the catalog before you go, one can try searching by author or even keywords, such as “mystery” or “crime” and select “books” under the “Resource Types” in the left panel in QuickSearch. For example, a simple author search will return two of the Medlar mysteries by Jude Deveraux in Carr Library.

For current titles, you may want to try “fiction” and the name of the library, as suggested by librarian Jill Nathanson in this search. The term “held by library” will exclude temporary, online access. Date ranges can be adjusted to your interests.

Another search strategy can use the subject term “detective and mystery stories” and activate a few filters, such as time period and subject in the left panel, as in this search.

We have also located random titles in the collection, such as one of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries written by M.C. Beaton, the author of the popular Agatha Raisin series, a type of cozies that also recruits supernatural elements such as a character from the past manifested as a ghost.

New Jersey seems to have its share of cozy mysteries. Other than the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, a Douglass alumna, there is the charming detective with his dog in the Andy Carpenter Mysteries by David Rosenfelt (non-circulating, unfortunately, as part of the Jerseyana collection at the Special Collections and University Archives, but available from most public libraries and as audiobooks).