This is my own observation from my part-time Waldenbooks job: men will not read cozy mysteries. Men like hard-boiled mysteries and they don’t mind the sex of the author. They read Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell as well as Robert Parker and Ed McBain. Women like hard-boiled mysteries too, but they also enjoy cozy mysteries by Anne George, Mary Daheim, and M.C. Beaton. I have never sold a cozy mystery to a man.
I just read the first book in a new mystery series that has some elements of coziness, but with more of an edge. It’s cozy in that it takes place in a small town and features an amateur as the detective, but the amateur detective is not a cute and eccentric little old lady who has cats. Cold Slice is billed as “A Working Man’s Mystery,” and features ex-con Terry Saltz, a carpenter/pizza deliveryman, and his gang of blue-collar friends and associates.
Terry is a scary-looking guy: big, tall, longhaired, and mustached. One night he got drunk and stoned and trashed a bar. He was fined and jailed, and he lost his job, his wife, his truck, and his trailer. When Terry gets out of jail, he moves in with his friend Danny, swears off booze and pot, and starts looking for a job.
Terry finds work as a nighttime deliveryman at Carlo’s Pizza, where he also meets some new friends. Terry enjoys his job, he’s beginning to get some free-lance carpentry work, he and his probation officer are in synch, and life is good. Then one of the employees at Carlo’s is killed, and for a time the police look on Terry as a suspect. So he and his friends try to solve the crime themselves.
If you like your amateur detectives smooth and sophisticated with bons mots dropping from their lips, you ought to read Dorothy Sayers or watch Remington Steele re-runs. Terry is a simple guy who likes simple things. He lives in a trailer, he eats in a diner, he works hard and relaxes with a cigarette, Coca-Cola, and card games, and he would scoff at the idea of metrosexuality. Terry would say he’s not introspective, but he knows his weaknesses and is determined not to mess up his life again. He lucks out in his probation officer, a salty old lady who loves to watch This Old House.
The author surrounds Terry with a group of friends and co-workers, who I hope will be developed in depth in further books. The book drags a bit in the middle, and a running gag where Terry tries to get a cool nickname like his friends Bump and Gruf falls flat, but the mystery in this one is good, and I plan to re-read it to see if I can pick up on some of the hints I missed the first time around.
I like all kinds of mysteries – hard-boiled, historical, and cozy – but some cozies pile on cuteness and eccentricity till I end up with a serious case of twee overload. There’s nothing cute about Terry Saltz, but I like him a lot, I like his friends, and I’m going to enjoy visiting with them again.