I've brought in some of the best cozy authors out there to share their secrets and their insights about the booming genre of Cozy Mysteries.
Cooking Up Delicious Red Herrings
By Marilyn Leach
Have you ever read a cozy mystery where you were certain who the perpetrator was before reading the last two chapters? That book probably didn’t end up on your ‘keeper’ shelf. How do you entice the reader to continue guessing and create an entertaining read all throughout? You must cook up a few, (usually never more than five), delicious red herrings.
The term red herring, as we know it, means to set a false trail, disguise the scent of the real antagonist, with rather smelly fish. How is that done in a cozy mystery? Here are some possibilities.
THE FRAME UP: This is quite popular in cozies. The perpetrator skillfully, and in an underhanded manner, sets up a false trail that leads to a not-guilty-of-the-crime person. I’ll refer to them as the NGP, not guilty person.
The perpetrator plants false crime scene evidence that points to the NGP.
- “There were several Mars Bars wrappers found at the scene of the crime.” He looked at the policeman. “And we all know who can’t survive more than two hours without one of those sweet treats in her mouth.”
- “Miss Tibbles,” the constable commented, “we’ve discovered that you actually were aware of your aunt’s habit of squirreling away her life savings in the large box of doggie biscuits in her kitchen pantry. And by the way, you’ve got chocolate on your lips.”
- “Why yes, Constable. I overheard them just recently.” She straightened her back. “Miss Tibbles said she’d strangle her aunt if she called her Nibbles Tibbles one more time.”
- “And now, the heir named in her will.” The lawyer paused and ran a finger around his collar. “Since dear auntie has passed on, it’s Miss Tibbles.”
- “But, I come to Auntie’s every Thursday afternoon to take little Scamper for his walk, Constable. He wasn’t in the back garden, so I went inside and called him from the door. But the little beast didn’t come. So, I left.” Miss Tibbles took another bite of her Mars Bar and lifted her chin. “I had no idea a crime was committed.”
- “We know you’ve said you worked a great deal of overtime, Miss Tibbles, but we understand you purchased one thousand shares of the Mars Bars’ enterprise the very afternoon of your aunt’s demise.”
LAST ONE TO SEE THE VICTIM ALIVE: This always makes someone appear suspect.
- “But officer, when I invited him to my home for dinner, how was I to know the gentleman would die of poisoning an hour later?”
- “Ok, Detective. So you’ve discovered I wasn’t at my swim club the night of her murder. But if it became known where I really was, my wife would make me your next murder investigation.”
- “How dare you make such a vile insinuation about my wife, you crazy-mad woman. You’ll regret you ever opened your mouth.” He clenched his fists. “You’ll pay for this.”
- “Oh, alright then.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “I did send him a poison pen letter. I disdained the man and he deserved it. But I would never kill him.”
- “But detective, I knew you’d never believe I had nothing to do with it, especially since the poison- tipped spear belonged to me. As soon as I realized it was stolen from my home and had been declared the murder weapon, I flew to Spain.”
Enigma of Fire: A Berdie Elliott Pentecost Mystery
When English village, Aidan Kirkwood, experiences an explosive fire, the entire parish is aflame with rumor and innuendo until Berdie Elliott, the scorching sleuth and vicar’s wife, can douse the flames with cold, hard facts that expose the perpetrator. A heroic dog, elusive book, and military champions come together to reveal the enigma of fire.
“Cedric. Don’t chance it. Please.” Doug’s voice trembled as he shot out the command.
“Don’t what?” Berdie asked herself as much as Doug.
“Down, Mrs. Elliott.” Doug’s eyes wide, his breathing was short and rapid for the toil of making his wheels go toward them as fast as he could manage.
“Down? What are you talking about?”
Berdie suddenly experienced a jolt to her body that propelled her to the ground with such force it left her breathless. A stab of pain coursed through her while the reverberation of full-on colliding trains penetrated her ears. The horrific ache that shot through her knees focused her senses as she tried to gather her thoughts. Grass etched itself into her cheek, making it itch. Then the smell of acrid smoke assaulted her nose. She worked to catch a breath of air. What’s happened?
Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Does the thought of an English village make you long to grab your passport and head across the pond? Are cozy mysteries your cup of tea? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you won’t want to miss Marilyn Leach’s newest release, Enigma of Fire.
Intrepid heroine Berdie Elliott, a vicar’s wife whose sleuthing skills were honed as an investigative reporter, faces her most challenging mystery yet when her husband’s former military comrades come to the sleepy village of Aiden Kirkwood for a sculling regatta. From its riveting prologue to the final resolution, this story showcases Leach at her best.
Amanda Cabot, CBA and ECPA bestselling author
Marilyn Leach is a dyed-in-the-wool British enthusiast who lives lakeside near the Colorado foothills. She enjoys viewing and reading mysteries that originate across the pond. From the Scottish Borders to Devon, city buzz to rural church bells, she enjoys excursions throughout the beautiful isle that inspire her writing. Her dear friends, who have become like family, live in Reading, England.