Cats and cozies go together like Romeo and Juliet. Mac and cheese. Ernie and Bert. The term cozies was coined in the 1990’s for mysteries that take place in a small town setting where everyone knows everybody and the murders, which occur offsite, are solved by an amateur sleuth. Agatha Christie is often heralded as the first cozy author, though she was never called that during her lifetime. Neither Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot have a pet cat. But then, keeping cats as strictly indoor pets was not in vogue when Dame Agatha was writing her mysteries. However, a more recent Agatha, Agatha Raisin, has a few kitties—Boswell and Hodge, and later on Scrabble.
Like everything else, both cozies and cats have their dark sides. While the word “cozy” conjures up the image of a reader sitting in front of a fire with a cat purring contentedly at her feet, the term “cozy mystery” is an oxymoron. Cozies are still mysteries that include a few bad characters that rob, betray and murder. And while a cat may love to cuddle up on its owner’s lap, it’s an independent animal with sharp claws and teeth and a hunter’s soul.
These days cats are popular pets. They were revered in Ancient Egypt, but they haven’t always had an easy time of it. In the Middle Ages, cats were reviled as witches’ familiars and in league with the devil. Many were massacred. So many, in fact, that it’s been said that the Black Death/Bubonic Plague in the Fourteenth century killed so many people because cats that would have killed the rats and the fleas on them that carried the plague, had been exterminated.
As an author of cozy mysteries and the caretaker of felines most of my life, I naturally included a cat in my Haunted Library series. My sleuth Carrie Singleton finds Smoky Joe, who started out life as a barn kitty, when he wanders onto her lawn. After he jumps into her car, she ends up bringing him to the library where she’s head of programs and events. And when Smoky Joe proves to be sociable with the patrons, he quickly becomes the library cat. He even takes part in the mysteries Carrie resolves—finding diamonds that no one can locate in one book and saving Carrie from a murderer in another.
Cats are clever and curious and comical. They are wonderful companions to their sleuths and add a dimension to the story. Here are some recent cozy series that have cats as characters:
Miranda James‘ popular Cat in the Stacks series feature librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon Diesel.
Krista Davis has Mochie in the Divas and Twinkletoes in her Wagtail books.
Margaret Loudon has a cat named Mrs. Danvers—named after the housekeeper in Rebecca— in her Open Book Series.
Laurie Cass has Eddie in the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries (and in real life.)
Daryl Wood Gerber has Tigger, an orange rescue cat, in the Cookbook Nook mysteries and Pixie , a Ragdoll, in the Fairy Garden Mysteries.
Ginger Bolton‘s cat Deputy Donut, Dep for short, is in the Deputy Donut Mystery Series.
Heather Weidner‘s Neville the Devil tuxedo cat in the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries rules the shop.
Valona Jones has Harley and Luna, a pair of sibling black cats in her Magic Candle Shop series.
Carol J. Perry‘s O’Ryan in her Witch City Mystery series has clairvoyant talents that seem to increase as time passes.
J.C. Eaton has Essie in the Sophie Kimball Mysteries
Jamie L Adams has Coco and Casper in her Ghost Town Mystery series
(BTW, my kitties are named Romeo and Juliet.)