I’m looking for The Perfect Town. It can’t be too hot or too cold, too rich or too poor, too big or too small, and preferably there will be an adorable cat or dog and a plate of cookies at every house and shop. Oh, and this town must have at least one charming bookstore, multiple gourmet restaurants, a sleepy police department, and very few troublesome children. I’d like to visit the place in person, you see, but even the combined power of Google Maps, Siri and Waze can’t seem to locate it. Can you tell me how to get to Cozy Street?
Sadly, you probably can’t (but thanks anyway for your kind efforts). Flawless towns do not exist, of course, except on the beautifully-detailed covers and within the pages of a cozy mystery novel. (And maybe on the Hallmark Channel, too, but we’re talking books here.) On the other hand, you do remember Neverland in Peter Pan, right? That whimsical place did exist, but you had to truly believe in it or you couldn’t ever go there. So that got me thinking…could I find Cozyland in my very own New England town?
One beautiful day a couple of months ago, I decided to do a little investigating with Cozy-tinted glasses. Fly (okay, drive) with me to check out a few of the highlights…
First off, you should know that Hillsborough, NH was the boyhood home of Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States (1853-1857). No one here talks about him much, and although he was apparently very charming, he is often ranked as one of the worst and least memorable U.S. Presidents. (Luckily, politics rarely, if ever, come up in Cozyland). Anyway, Franklin’s wife hated the town, so they eventually moved. But his home remains and his portrait hangs above the bar at Tooky Mills Pub (note the Cozy-worthy purple plants):
Hillsborough was once a thriving mill town, but when the mills closed many of the townspeople lost their jobs. The main east-west road used to run straight through the center of town, until the construction of an ill-advised by-pass choked off the local businesses and restaurants from tourist and commuter traffic. Well, at least there are no highways in Cozyland. And we do have—quite literally—a Bridge to Nowhere. (That’s what everyone calls it.) No one is sure of its exact historical significance, but it was repaired and rebuilt a few years ago to the tune of considerable tax dollars.
This is St. Mary’s Church. The congregation shares a priest with another parish about 20 minutes away, so he does a LOT of driving. Isn’t it charming? Definitely cozy-worthy. (People in town rise early, so we get the 8 am Mass.)
A distance from St. Mary’s is the old mill, now converted to apartments. And across from the mill is a building that looks like it came straight out of the Wild West. It used to have a laundromat on the bottom floor, but now it, too, boasts updated apartments. Someone recently told me it was once a brothel and…the building itself has several years remaining on a 100-year permission to serve as brothel. (Oh no! Not what we’re looking for at all. But that’s okay, no one expects that kind of thing in Cozyland. And rumors play a special role in cozy mysteries, so bonus points, right? Prostitution itself is illegal here anyway, so the building deal is moot.)
This is Butler Park in the very center of town. Right now there is controversy brewing as to whether the Boy Scouts should be allowed to build a town bulletin board somewhere in it as an Eagle Scout project. Well, heated town debates, particularly related to development projects, often swirl beneath the surface in Cozyland—SCORE for Hillsborough!!
And here is the Fuller Library. It was once someone’s gorgeous mansion and I wish you could see the inside with its beautiful wood paneling and Tiffany windows. I have been known to write there in the summer, in tiny part because it also boasts air conditioning (not that common here in New Hampshire). I think our library qualifies as cozy, don’t you?
You’re probably getting tired of all this flying—er, driving, so I’ll wrap up the Cozy Tour. There’s one important factor we haven’t mentioned about Cozyland, though. Do not be fooled by all those cute cats and enticing baskets of yarn and pitchers of homemade lemonade. These perfect towns host an inordinate number of murders. In fact, in some of the most popular places, there are suspicious deaths at every holiday, major town event, and in every season. (You have heard of Cabot Cove Syndrome, I’m sure.) Well, we may not have an unusually high murder rate here in Hillsborough. But we do have a funeral home. And several very lovely area cemeteries:
You know what? I may not need those directions after all. Cozyland does exist–and it may be located right in your very own town. Clap your hands and BELIEVE!
Readers, would your town be the perfect setting for a cozy mystery series? Let us know in the comments below!