Guest Chick: Olivia Blacke

Jennifer here, and it’s always a pleasure to welcome Olivia Blacke to the blog. Has she got a treat for you today! Olivia shares about all the fun tropes that can be found in cozy mysteries!

Cozy Mystery Tropes

By Olivia Blacke

Cozies, like every genre, have their tropes and conventions – situations and plot devices that are so synonymous with cozy mysteries that they are part of the very fabric of the story.

One of these tropes is the murder board. I love this one because it’s an ongoing visual representation of all the clues and suspects in one convenient place. Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series makes use of murder boards to solve cold cases as well as current murders.

Another favorite is when the sleuth gathers all the suspects in one place to do the big reveal at the end. Kate Lansing does a spectacular job of this in MULLED TO DEATH. In my own KILLER CONTENT, I lured my suspects together for the pool party-slash-wake before the investigation took another twist before the reveal.

Many cozy mysteries include a hot cop, who may become a love interest over the course of the series. This hot cop makes a great book boyfriend for the reader, and provides valuable access for the amateur sleuth. In my Brooklyn Murder Mysteries, the hot cop only has eyes for the main character’s bestie. Amidst calls for police reform, this trope is sometimes replaced with the strong, sensible female cop or the stubborn, crooked cop. In FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT by Elle Cosimano, there are several cops – including a cute cop and Finlay’s own sister. Both are more of a hinderance than a help, but still give the amateur sleuth unprecedented access behind the blue curtain.

The gossipy best friend is another plot device that comes in handy in a cozy mystery. The sleuth needs a reliable source of information – enter the best friend who knows everyone and everything in town. Often, they’re the local busybody that hears everything on the grapevine and is single-handedly responsible for half of the juicy gossip on the rumor mill. In Dorothy St. James’s Beloved Bookroom Mysteries, Trudell Beckett’s friend Tori runs the local coffee shop, and has all the hot gossip (and hot coffee).The gossipy best friend is a throwback to a long history of nosy cozy characters from Agatha Christie to Scooby Doo where the sleuth themself is accused of being a busybody (often by the guilty party).

Cozies with pets always warm my heart, but cozies with super-smart pets? Yes, please! Lilian Jackson Braun’s THE CAT WHO… books are a classic example of a brilliant pets. In Jennifer J. Chow’s Sassy Cat Mysteries, Mimi Lee’s cat Marshmallow can talk to the sleuth and expose valuable clues. In Jennifer Hawkins’s TO FETCH A FELON, Oliver, the chatty corgi, helps Emma Reed solve murders. I make sure to include at least one pet in every book I write because I love my pets, like Baileycakes the spoiled rotten rescue puggle.

One of the hardest tropes to set up (and solve!) is the locked room mystery. Either the victim is found alone in a locked room, or the victim is locked in with a limited number of suspects that can all prove their innocence. The classic locked room inspired my NO MEMES OF ESCAPE, where the victim is trapped in an escape room with five possible suspects—including main character and amateur sleuth Odessa Dean.

Last is my absolute favorite murder mystery trope: the victim/killer. I’m not going to put any spoilers here that might ruin a twist, but every single time the perpetrator believably rises from the grave and is revealed to have faked their own victimhood to throw the investigators off their scent, I cheer. If this is overused, or done poorly, it loses its punch but on the rare occasion that it’s done right, it’s *chef’s kiss.* Maybe it’s so impactful because I love to be deceived by a good story.

What about you? What are the tropes you love in cozies? What are the tropes you hate? The ones you can’t get enough of and the ones you never want to read again? What cozies have you read that have great examples of the common tropes?

Brooklyn Murder Mysteries and Record Shop Mysteries author Olivia Blacke (she/her) finally found a way to put her Criminology and Criminal Justice degree to good use by writing quirky, unconventional, character-driven cozy mysteries. Olivia is a little nerdy, a lot awkward, and just the right amount of weird. She resides with her husband Potassium and Baileycakes, their roly-poly rescue puggle. When not writing, reading, or spending way too much time on social media, Olivia enjoys Amigurumi crochet, SCUBA diving, collecting tattoos, watching hockey, and baking dog cookies. She wants to be a unicorn when/if she grows up. 

No Memes of Escape
By Olivia Blacke

When amateur sleuth Odessa Dean is invited to join a girl’s day out, the last thing she expected was that one of the players would be murdered in a locked escape room. Now Odessa Dean and her bestie are included in the five possible suspects. With time running out to save her friend before Odessa has to leave Williamsburg for good if she can’t find an affordable apartment ASAP, Odessa must navigate the demands of waiting tables at a popular bookstore-slash-café and the perils of internet dating, all while hunting a murderer.

28 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Olivia Blacke

  1. Thanks for guesting, Olivia! Really fun post. My favorite trope is the creation of neighborhoods and communities that I would love to live in, which is part of the genre’s appeal. My least favorite is when any law enforcement official says, “Don’t leave town.” That’s not true! If you’re not out on bail or facing some charge, you can absolutely leave town. Challenge to myself: write a mystery where EVERY suspect does leave town and then figure out a way to track them all down. And get them BACK.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Love these! I especially love pets in cozies, because pets make everything better. My most hated trope is probably the love triangle. I don’t mind if one is part of the mystery or lasts for a short while, but when the main character is involved in one that drags on over multiple books, I will usually give up on the series.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Funny, I haven’t run across that many murder boards. Of course, now that I say that, I am thinking about a couple times characters have used something similar in books I’ve read recently. I guess I just view that more as a cop thing. Shows all I know.

    I’m blanking on a favorite. But I can tell you my least favorite. Please, no more love triangles. Please!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Fantastic post, Olivia! You’ve inspired me to update my blueprint of Cozy Mystery Genre. And you’ve added to my TBR list with your many examples. Thank you and I look forward to reading No Memes of Escape. Our overly round rescue is a CHUG (a Chihuahua and Pug mix)—all snuggles.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m sending your Chug a virtual snuggle! We used to have a neighbor with a DUG (Dachshund + Pug) and he was the cutest thing ever (next to your chug and my puggle of course!)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Welcome, Olivia! Like others, I’m not a fan of the on-going, never-ending love triangle. I’m also not a huge fan of the divorced, rogue, alcoholic cop. I understand if you don’t want to portray the cop in a good light, but please. There are other options!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks for being on the Chicks, Olivia! What a great post! I love locked rooms and impossible crimes (hurrah for No Memes of Escape!). I’m also a huge fan of food in cozies, even if it’s not supposed to be a pure culinary cozy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jenn, I haven’t read it yet because SWAMPED but rumor has it you have a locked-room short story in Midnight Hour and that book is burning a hole through my Kindle waiting for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks so much for your informative post on cozy tropes, Olivia. I must confess my tastes in mysteries run more toward traditional and hard-boiled mysteries than cozies, but I’ll appreciate any story with a great setting and character development. One of the things that makes any mystery stand out is attention to detail. Indeed, one of the best ways to obfuscate is to include so much detail that it’s difficult for the reader to tell which details are important clues and which are merely descriptive. Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ed McBain were masters of this technique.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a thought-provoking blog post!
    For my pet peeves (in lieu of specific negative tropes), I do have a couple to propose.
    First is when there are too many characters in the story. I realize you need enough people to make it difficult for the reader to know who done it but casts of 20 or 30 (introducing the entire town in one book, for example) are really frustrating. Along those lines, those character lists as the beginning of stories don’t work for me because they tell me that it’s going to be very difficult to keep all the people distinguished. The well-written story clearly defines the characters so the up front list should not be needed.
    My major pet peeve (again, not a trope) is overusing the impersonal pronoun, particularly when two people of the same sex are talking. ‘She said….’, followed by ‘she replied…’, followed by, ‘well, you know….’. Unless the context is clearly written, I have to reread the sections to clarify the speakers and that’s disruptive to the story’s flow and immersion.
    I love the ‘big reveal’ setting. I think Agatha Christie was the first to use that? Or when the author creates an imaginative reason for the small but diversified possibility of suspects. Recently read examples include the (good trope here!) B&B for it’s ever-changing guests; one set on the Lusitania so all the first class passengers (and some staff) were suspects but in that constrained space & time or restaurant settings like Leslie’s books.
    In my mind, all of you are brilliant at what you do and I remain in awe of the places you transport me. Thank you and Happy New Year!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. LOL, Dru! That is absolutely my biggest dislike as well–people who walk into dark alleys to meet someone who supposedly has information for them, and the like. Ugh! (Brings to mind my favorite Geico commercial with the teenagers about to go into the garage with all chains hanging down and the killer in the hockey mask rolling his eyes.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. In addition to Dru’s point about people who are too stupid to live, my other pet peeve is women who need to be rescued by men (which kind of goes along with Dru’s point)–though thank goodness that trope is far less common nowadays than a few decades ago.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Fun reminder of all the things I love about cozies! I’m partial to a locked room mystery, but they are HARD to write. It wasn’t until recently that someone *coughCynthiacough* pointed out that a locked house mystery is a thing and that I was actually writing one! Who knew??

    Looking forward to reading your escape room mystery, Olivia!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Hi Olivia! Thanks for visiting Chicks today. I’m a big fan of KILLER CONTENT and I’m looking forward to reading Book 2. Back in the 80s, I lived in Williamsburg and it was quite a different place, LOL. (My son lives there now, so I visit a lot.) I enjoy all cozy tropes, but I particularly love them when they have fresh twists. When they don’t, I tend to roll my eyes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for visiting us, Olivia! Great post. Reminded me of–okay, I can’t remember the name of the show–but they would chant “Murder board, murder board” whenever they were going to use it and it always made me laugh! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I *LOVE* this one when it’s done well – it has to take me by surprise and be believable. If they pull it off, I’m so happy.


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