For those of you who have been following this series about writing cozy mysteries, we’ve already discussed the hook, protagonist, and setting. Now, we’re getting to the gory stuff.

But wait—we don’t do gore in cozy mysteries. (See “crime scene,” below.)

First things first. When should the body turn up?

The generally accepted wisdom is that the murder should happen in the first chapter or two.

Finding a body gets the plot rolling and involves your readers in the “whodunnit” process. Take that advice with a small grain of salt. There are times when it’s essential to show the victim in action, as it were, with a number of characters who will become suspects. If you go that route, those interactions must be full of tension and well-written to hold readers’ (and a potential editor’s) interest. Unless you are an experienced writer, it’s usually best to put the body onstage earlier rather than later.

Who should find the body?

Your protagonist can find the body, or she can hear about the murder through other means. Either works in a cozy. Sometimes finding the body, and coming face to face with violent death, can give your protagonist more of a vested interest in finding the killer.

How realistic should the crime scene description be?

Don’t describe the violence done to the body in too much detail. If your protagonist happens to stumble over the body, it’s better for her to get an impression of blood and violence, rather than to catalog the eight-inch gash in the victim’s neck with the mere strand of flesh still attaching the head to the body; the victim’s tongue protruding, engorged and purple from her mouth; or the sixteen stab wounds perforating her abdomen.

In cozies, when it comes to describing the murder, less is more and euphemisms are handy.

What are the accepted methods for dispatching the murderee in a cozy?

You can pretty much take your pick of stabbing; shooting; drowning; poisoning; unfortunate encounters with blunt objects, cliffs or stairs; electrocution; triggering of allergic reactions, and the like.

Remember that your book is not peopled with the kinds of folks that keep Sig Sauers on their hip, or garrotes in their undies drawer, and choose accordingly.

Avoid anything that smacks of a serial killer: rape or sexual frenzy, cannibalism, trophy taking, strange rituals. For one thing, there would be no excuse for your librarian or cookie baking amateur sleuth to investigate that kind of murder. If it’s a method you might find in a Quentin Tarantino movie or Game of Thrones, give it a pass.


Stop by our Facebook page and share your hints about committing murder in a cozy mystery. And be sure and check out Parts 5 and 6 in this series, The Antagonist and The Supporting Cast.