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Canadian Cozies (or Canadian Cozy Mysteries)

Canadian Cozies are a subgenre of crime fiction. Sexual content is limited and almost always relevant to character development. Violent content is minimal and always within the context of the plot. As with the time-honoured British “cozies”, crime and detection take place in a socially intimate community, but the community and landscape more closely reflect the Canadian demographic and landscape.

The “local” detectives in this sub-genre are nearly always amateurs, and are frequently women or couples. These characters are typically self-employed or hold jobs that bring them into regular contact with other residents of their community and the surrounding region. Like other amateur detectives, they typically have contacts on the police force. (Often Canadian rural communities are served by the national police force (RCMP) or a provincial force. In Canada, these are large centralized forces, a reality that impacts some of the traditional small-town-cop dynamic that prevails in crime fiction in the UK and the USA). These contacts are important to the plot (for obvious reasons), supplying access to important information and material support and perhaps guidance. And, they may very well be full participants in the character development of a Canadian Cozy rather than merely subject to the humorous mutual distrust of a typical “cosy” (where the amateurs are often dismissed as nosy busybodies and the cops as rather blunt-headed foils).

The criminals in Canadian Cozies range from multi-national corporations (or their employees or shareholders) to “local people” who have been drawn into criminal activity perhaps in spite of themselves. There is typically a larger threat to the community or its environment at the root of the plot.

Like traditional cozy mysteries, Canadian Cozies reject gratuitous profanity. Murders are violent by definition, and when described in a Canadian Cozy they may indeed be unpleasant but are not dwelt upon. Sexual activity, too, is usually only gently implied and – again – never gratuitous and always relevant to character development. In traditional cozy mysteries, the sexual activity is frequently avoided altogether; Canadian Cozies reflect reality somewhat more closely, if tastefully!

Like traditional Cozies, Canadian Cozies usually takes place in a town, village, or other community, small (or otherwise insular) enough to make it believable that all the principal characters know each other and may well have long-standing mutual social relationships. The amateur detective is usually a gregarious, well-liked individual who is able to engage other community members. There is often at least one very knowledgeable, nosy, yet reliable character in the book who is intimately familiar with the personal history and interrelationships of everyone in the town, and whose ability to fill in the blanks of the puzzle enables the amateur detective to solve the case. In Canadian Cozy series, there may well be a prominent thematic element introduced by the detective's job, pet or hobby. Peter Kingsmill’s “Awan Lake” series, for example, reflect small inland harbours and workboats where protagonist Frank Anderson works.

As with traditional cozy mysteries, with their de-emphasis on sex and violence, emphasis on puzzle-solving over suspense, the setting of a small town, and a focus on hobby or occupation, the boundaries of this subgenre remain vague.