About the bookFor this Jersey girl, big hair means big trouble!
Newspaper reporter Colleen Caruso just wants her unruly curls tamed into smooth, sleek locks. Instead, she finds her stylist dead, face down in a shampoo sink. Faster than you can say Aqua Net, Colleen starts investigating. The case gets even hairier when the owner of a local fitness studio seems to have jumped from a plane … without a parachute.
Meanwhile, her suave editor, Ken Rhodes, steps in to help. And he may be looking for more than just a good story from Colleen.
Add in a missing bracelet, some suspicious husbands, and a little breaking and entering — and this Jersey girl is heading for a real blowout!
Can Colleen tie up these split ends? Or does she have an appointment with disaster?
Guest Post by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa
Cozy Character Quirks and Small, Quiet Settings
When I first started writing cozy mysteries, New Math is Murder and my latest, Hide nor Hair, I did it because I thought it was a clever way to introduce unusual characters and off-the-wall crimes. Reading them was always satisfying, and I fell in love with the basic structure of the cozy mystery. What I didn’t realize was the amount of work involved to get the story just so. I have always enjoyed them, without fully understanding the reason why. After so many years, it finally dawned on me.
Cozy mysteries are fun! Without any in-depth, scientific explanation, I think most readers love them because they all have a bunch of quirky characters, and the action tends to take place in quiet communities that represent thousands of towns across the country. Crimes that occur in these microcosms of larger towns and communities are shocking and disproportionate to a cozy’s setting. You can expect plenty of murders, suicides and burglaries in the big city, but in small, more gently civilized areas these crimes are appalling and are more apt to traumatize the locals. What it amounts to is a small group of people who are nervous and anxious about whatever crime has taken place – with the added joy of the group coming under suspicion for committing the crime.
The characters in a cozy investigate or have a stake in the crime itself. These people tend to have lots of eccentricities that become endearing to readers. Take Stephanie Plum for instance, in Janet Evanovich’s series. She’s a regular gal with an odd profession. She also has a highly aggressive personality and a thing for looking good (so relatable because, after all, most women do). Her parents, though not necessarily living in a small town, are part of a small Trenton neighborhood – which is Stephanie’s childhood home. We can all identify with this scenario (okay, maybe we’re not all as aggressive as Ms. Plum simply because we’re all not lucky enough to be from New Jersey!), and that familiarity makes for a fun read. The setting, the character, and the crime are all ingredients that are combined in meticulous proportions to produce a delightful cozy mystery.
Though not as precisely adhering to the small, quiet cozy setting, you have to love Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. Talk about personality quirks! He’s fastidious almost to the point of anal retentiveness, so self-confident that he borders on obnoxiousness, and, best of all, Poirot has the ability to be both quaint and endearing.
As for the settings, three of Christie’s works come to mind that at first seem to fly in the face of small town crime. In Death on the Nile, the subdued action takes place on a paddle steamer in Egypt – not exactly a small town setting. Considering that all the suspects are temporary residents on that paddle steamer though, it does become a small community. It’s the same with Murder on the Orient Express. There is Poirot, of course, who is the perfect character to build a novel around, and the travelers as part of the train’s small enclave. The passengers, as well as the railway’s employees, are all suspects in Ratchett’s murder – and they’re all quirky too. And Then There Were None, another famous Christie novel, had the wonderful setting of Indian Island and a house filled with odd “guests” who were being eliminated one by one – perfect for a cozy.
You can probably come up with dozens of examples of cozy mysteries that fit the bill. I hope my series and the characters I have created in my Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series can be even half as entertaining as these very famous novels. If nothing else, they were so much fun to write. And with a cozy, it’s all about fun.
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