How to Write a Culinary Cozy Mystery

Want to write a culinary cozy? Here are a few things you should know in particular about this sweet and sour little corner of the cozy universe:

Note: You can find cozy mystery writing basics here. This post features multiple published culinary cozy mystery titles as examples. Click on cover images to go to the listing for the first in the series.  

Plan for a Series

Think from the very beginning in terms of writing a series. Virtually all successful authors of culinary cozies write in series, which can run into scores of titles featuring the same setting and sleuth. If you are planning on indie publishing, consider choosing titles and purchasing or commissioning covers for four books to start with.


Choose a Theme

This can be a singular food item (tea, wedding cakes, ice cream) or it can be more broadly based on a cuisine (Italian, Chinese, fast food) or a type of foodservice establishment (baked goods for example).


Make Your Sleuth a Foodie

Choose a setting where food constantly crops up. Culinary cozies almost always feature a sleuth who works with food. Think bakeries, restaurants, catering services, food trucks, coffee shops, etc. Occasionally, the sleuth is a food blogger or restaurant critic. Very occasionally, the sleuth is simply a food enthusiast such as a retiree who is a keen amateur baker.

Wherever you choose to set your series and whatever you have your sleuth do to earn her daily bread, make sure it is easy to constantly bring food into the picture.

Introduce Food Early On

Use food in the title, on the cover, and in the first scene. Culinary cozy readers expect this. Don’t let them down.

You may choose to work food into the crime somehow. Think poisoned plum gin at the village fete, deadly lemon meringue pie, or a highly-allergic restaurant patron who dies when he’s served shellfish accidentally-on-purpose

Sticking to poisonings and allergic reactions can get monotonous after a while, however. Alternatively, you can choose not to have food directly involved in the murder, but instead, have the murder or discovery of the body happen in the restaurant or other food-related setting. 

In longer series, simply entangling familiar supporting characters in the crime (most of whom will be associated with the foodservice enterprise at the center of it all) will be enough to satisfy loyal culinary cozy readers.

Spice up Your Sensory Details

Tell your reader about the smells, taste, and texture of the food. No need to go overboard with paragraphs of description that interrupt the flow of the action but do slip in sensory details.

Include a Supporting Cast

All cozies feature recurring characters for readers to become attached to, but in the case of culinary cozies, try to tie most of your recurring supporting characters (sidekick, love interest, wise counselor, rival, etc.) to the foodservice setting. This will make keeping the food element front and center throughout your mystery much easier.

More about supporting characters in cozies here. (link coming soon)

Trope it Up

Consider including at least a couple of common cozy tropes that crop up over and over in culinary cozies. Here are a few:

Small town setting.

A recently divorced sleuth starts a new life as the series kicks off.

A single woman inherits a food service establishment from a relative at the beginning of the series.

A single woman returns to her hometown and establishes a new enterprise as the series begins.

Sleuth has a slow-burn love interest who features in a long-running subplot thread throughout the entire series.

Sleuth has a personal connection with local law enforcement who sometimes slips her inside information.

Sleuth has a long-running rival or antagonist who is always competing with her or sabotaging her efforts. This person might eventually become her ally or remain an antagonist as the series progresses.

Sleuth has a pet that features just often enough to qualify the mystery for inclusion in the pet subgenre.

The series includes paranormal elements which qualify it for inclusion in the paranormal cozy subgenre.

Series heavily blood family or found family ties. Having a close-knit cast of recurring characters makes it much easier to establish high stakes when they get entangled in the next murder case.

Read more about all the different cozy mystery subgenres here.

Post a Comment