A Cozy Thriller?

mqwcover (188x300)Kathy Lynn Emerson (aka Kaitlyn Dunnett) here, once again plugging Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe. Next blog, I promise, Kaitlyn will be back with something more contemporary than the sixteenth century. But for today, one last post about my new historical mystery, which is (drum roll please!) now officially available in hardcover and in ebook format for your Kindle or Nook.

Here’s the thing: if you look at the book description provided by the publisher, you’ll see that although it is clearly “A Mistress Jaffrey Mystery” it is also described as “an Elizabethan spy thriller.” The first time I saw this, I was a bit taken aback. You see, I thought I’d written a cozy.

Can the same novel be both?

cozyThere is a lot of debate about what, exactly, a cozy mystery is. I tend to use a broader definition that some folks do, not quite equating it with a “traditional” mystery, but almost. My list of attributes, with tongue only slightly in cheek, is as follows:

  1. an amateur sleuth

Check. Rosamond Jaffrey is a young gentlewoman in Elizabethan England.

  1. no gratuitous sex or violence

Check. There’s no sex at all and the murder is committed off the page. There is some description of death throes, but nothing too ghastly.

  1. minimal amounts of other things people are likely to find offensive, like bad language

Check. Elizabethan curses tend to be amusing rather than vulgar, at least to a modern readership, which is an entirely different problem for writers.

  1. a personal relationship for the detective, usually romantic

Check. Rosamond has a husband from whom she is estranged but she still has feelings for him.

  1. a cat

feral (300x225)Check. His name is Watling. He has one damaged ear. This is Feral. Hey—my other two cats appear as “Lumpkin” and “Glenora” in the Liss MacCrimmon books. Poor baby was feeling left out.

Moving on to what a thriller is, this was a real puzzler for me until I discovered that in Great Britain, where my publisher is located, the term “thriller” is sometimes used for all mystery novels. Other definitions include the following:

  1. full of exciting action, mystery, adventure, or suspense


  1. keeps the audience on the edge of their seats

cusslercat (300x246)Hmmm. There are times, I hope, when this is true, but I wouldn’t say the whole novel is just one gasp after another. Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe isn’t the movie Speed, nor is it one of Clive Cussler’s classic Dirk Pitt adventures like Sahara or Dragon.

  1. a suspenseful, sensational story

I have the suspense part covered, but sensational? I’m not entirely certain what that means but I’m thinking I’d better not put a check mark next to it.

  1. a novel, play, or movie with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage

Check. My novel has murder, attempted murder, treason, and espionage. Rosamond is recruited as an intelligence gatherer by the queen’s spymaster . . . but don’t expect special effect chase scenes. She’s not 007.


The International Thriller Writers, who put on the annual Thriller Fest in New York City, state that thrillers include, but are not limited to, the following types of novels: murder mystery, detective, romantic suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, and adventure. Given that definition, I guess I just might be a thriller writer, after all . . . with a heaping helping of cozy thrown in.

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7 Responses to A Cozy Thriller?

  1. Gram says:

    It’s on my want list at the library.

  2. Thanks, Gram.


  3. MCWriTers says:

    I’ve read it — loved it! And hate putting labels on books. I’d call it an Historical Mystery. But — yup — there’s lots of excitement. And — yup — there’s a cat. Recommended — however you classify it! Lea

  4. Edith says:

    Great check list. The across-the-pond thing does confuse the matter! Have ordered it for my Kindle!

  5. Thanks, Lea and Edith.

  6. You say tomato, I say tomahto . . .

    Whatever you call it, I know it’s good.

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