Recently, I participated in a panel discussion with four other cozy authors. The moderator asked if we felt pets in cozy mysteries were an industry expectation or a reader expectation? If you’ve read any of my books, you already know that I love dogs, especially poodles. If in doubt, check out the covers of my Mystery Bookshop series. Those are my dogs (Coco and Cash). So, my inclusion of dogs in my books is because they are a big part of my life, not because the publishing industry expects cozy mysteries to include a pet. However, this question set my gears in motion.
There are quite a number of rules or expectations when it comes to cozy mysteries. Cozies typically feature a female protagonist who is an amateur sleuth. They are almost always set in a small town or village rather than big cities (although this is changing). Cozies can’t have graphic violence, explicit sex, or bad language. When I was discussing covers for my first book, The Plot is Murder, my editor asked for my ideas. To be completely honest, I didn’t have many ideas. I’m not good at covers or titles. I know what I like when I see it, but I’m not one of those authors who has a picture of their covers in their minds. I suggested books (it’s set in a bookstore) and maybe a dead body because…well, you know. This was my first rodeo, but thankfully, it wasn’t my publisher’s. My editor reached out and asked if I’d mind if they included my dogs. Apparently, the art department said that books with pets sell better. Imagine that. Who knew? Did I mind? Are you kidding? Of course not. Those are my fur babies. So, that’s how Coco and Cash (aka Snickers and Oreo) became the models on the covers of the series.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers who share pictures, comments, funny, and sad stories of their poodles (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, etc.). That’s when I learned the power of pets. No one ever told me to include a pet in my books. Even when I was asked to write a second series, the topic of pets never came up. I chose to include dogs in my second series, Dog Club Mysteries, because I used to belong to a dog club and thought it would be fun. Did I mention that I love dogs? The idea of writing a cozy mystery that revolved around a dog club appealed to me because it would enable me to include lots of different breeds without the hassle or expense.
My current dogs, Kensington and Chloe are a part of my family. We’ve weathered a lot (especially over this past year). Based on the responses I hear from readers, pets are one thing that many people have in common. Regardless of race, age, or religion, humans share a bond with their pets. So, back to my panel discussion question. Are pets a reader expectation or an industry requirement? I don’t believe pets are a requirement for cozy mysteries. However, I do believe that pets have the power to bridge gaps and bring people together in books as well as in our real lives.
While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .
Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.
But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .
About the author
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, and Sisters in Crime. V.M. Burns is the author of the Dog Club Mystery series, the RJ Franklin Mystery series, and the Agatha Award nominated author of Mystery Bookshop Mystery series. She currently resides in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Readers can keep up with new releases by following her on social media.