These novels can be a warm and welcome antidote to life’s stresses, and they are often what people think of first when they think of “comfort reading.” The good thing about cosies is that there’s a large variety, even within the sub-genre. For instance, there are themed mysteries such as Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series or Isis Crawford’s Libby and Bertie Simms series. Both of those have baking as the main theme. And then there’s Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig’s) Memphis Barbecue series. There are dozens of other themes, too, from soap-making to antiques to gift-basket creation and far too many more for me to mention.
Interested in a cosy, but not necessarily with a theme? Some cosies focus on a small town or village, and we follow along with the sleuth and residents of that town. Many people find these cosies a welcome respite from real life stresses. For instance, Lilian Jackson Braun’s Jim Qwilleran series is based mostly in fictional Pickax, which is located in Moose County, “400 miles north of nowhere.” Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans is the constable of the Welsh town of Llanfair. M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth is the reluctant constable of the Scottish town of Lochdubh. Caroline Graham’s Tom Barnaby is the Inspector for the town of Causton. In all of these series, the characters in the town can be just as interesting as the mystery, and certainly can help readers escape.
There are many other kinds of cosy mysteries, too, and they can be the perfect remedy for a stressful time.
Suppose cosies aren’t your choice? They aren’t for everyone. If you have an adverse reaction to cosies, you may want to try a dose of the classic mysteries. Those mysteries have been around for quite a while and have proven curative powers. For instance, the work of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh are remedies that I personally find most restorative. Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and stories are renowned for their ability to help the reader escape. The nice thing about the classics is that they are time-tested. Whichever classics you’ve discovered, they can be comforting reminders that no matter what’s happening in one’s own life, they’re always there when you need them and don’t lose their “edge.”
Books That Make You Laugh
Let’s face it, sometimes the best cure for stress is a good laugh. Well, if that’s more your line, there’s lots of funny crime fiction out there. I’ll just mention two examples. Carl Hiaasen has made crime fiction hilarious, and I would prescribe a dose of Hiaasen for anyone with too much stress. The same’s true of Donna Moore’s novels. Both authors tell a good crime fiction story while showing us the ridiculous and absurd side of life.
It’s not easy to tell a crime story that’s also very funny, because to be honest, in real life, crime is not funny. But talented writers like Hiaasen and Moore do it well.
Sometimes, the cure for stress is to be completely swept away to another time and place. So for those who like to escape into the past, there’s nothing like a good historical mystery. Dr. Margot ;-) recommends authors such as Lindsey Davis, Peter Tremayne, Ellis Peters or Shona MacLean. Of course, these authors write about long-ago history, and you might not be interested in events that happened in the ancient or near-ancient past. In that case, Rebecca Cantrell’s World War II-era novels may be just the cure for what ails you. There are many, many other examples of fine historical mysteries; these are just a few.
The good thing about historical crime fiction is that it really shows you an entirely different world from the one that’s probably the source of your stress.
Not everyone is a history buff, of course. Sometimes the crime fiction reader is in need of comfort, but doesn’t want to go to the effort of learning about another time in history. In that case, relief can come in the form of one’s own “old favourites.” Of course, someone new to crime fiction may not have a whole host of these authors, yet. But even with a small amount of exposure, most of us soon have a list of favourite authors whose books we’ve read and loved. Just like a comfortable old chair, a book one hasn’t read in a long time by a favourite author can comfort like little else.
Of course, everyone has different favourite authors, so mine may not be exactly the same as yours. But you know who those authors are. The ones whose novels make you smile, even years after you’ve read them. The books on your shelves with the most dog-ears and the most battered covers. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series, Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn/Chee series, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series and Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series are just a few examples. Wondering which series counts as an “old favourite” for you? Fill in this blank and you’ll know: You can’t go wrong with a ______ (name of author).
Stress happens to everyone. But you don’t have to let it take over. Choose one of these remedies, and I’m sure you’ll feel much better very soon.
What about you? Anything you’d like to add to this set of prescriptions? What do you choose for “comfort reading?”
OK, the Doctor has now left the office ;-)…
On Another Note…..
Want to share the healing properties of a good crime novel? There are lots of ways to do it. The obvious is, of course, to give crime novels as gifts. I’m not going to make a whole list of suggestions, because people are individuals, and I think gifts should be chosen that way. But if you would like a suggestion, just Email me (click the “Email Me” button on my sidebar) and I’ll be happy to try to help.
The other way to share the love of books is to donate them. Many libraries, thrift shops and charitable groups are always happy to get your donated books. I’d like to also suggest school libraries. Some crime fiction is appropriate for teens, and school libraries appreciate donations.
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Moody Blues song.