By Meri Allen (aka Shari Randall)
I’ll never forget the moment I opened the email from my editor announcing the title of my cozy mystery debut in the Lobster Shack Mystery series. I was sitting across the breakfast table from my daughter who was enjoying a bowl of cereal when I read the title.
“Curses, Boiled Again!”
We both fell into gales of giggles, and yes, she laughed so hard milk did squirt out of her nose. The title was hilarious – and perfect. What else would you call a book about an injured ballerina who works in her kooky aunt’s lobster shack and solves murders?
This was my first cozy title, and at first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the it. Those who don’t read the cozier end of the mystery spectrum also find the titles baffling, but cozy readers are in the know.
Cozy titles – with their humor and puns – are a little wink, and cozy readers are in on the joke. The titles are fun but they serve a purpose beyond humor, too. They’re clues that a reader will have a particular experience reading a cozy. They’re promise of danger and mystery, with a nod to the hook, and a signal that the book is fine for the whole family to read. The whimsical wordplay lets the reader know what to expect: a book that’s more Gilmore Girls than Gone Girl, more Murder, She Wrote than Goodfellas.
How did we get from The Mystery of the Blue Train or Murder at the Vicarage to
Ho Ho Homicide? Hard to know exactly when the cozy titles got so punny. Some say the magnificent MC Beaton’s Quiche of Death kicked off the trend in 1992. Debra’s cozy series about hapless cook Sarah Blair has fun with her titles starting with One Taste Too Many. All I know is, I get a kick out of these punny titles. Here are a few particularly clever and groan-worthy titles:
Wonton Terror (Vivien Chien)
Owls Well that Ends Well (Donna Andrews)
Last Wool and Testament (Molly MacRae)
Cheddar Off Dead (Korina Moss)
Dewey Decimated (Allison Brook)
So when I needed titles for my upcoming Ice Cream Shop mystery, I started brainstorming with friends, family, readers, and my editor. Before my publisher decided each title would have a flavor in it, I’d come up with THE COLD ART OF DEATH for book two (fantasy ice cream social plus death of a much-reviled avant garde artist at a castle owned by a reclusive super model) You see the problem. The title’s not cozy or ice creamy enough. So after several tries, we hit on MINT CHOCOLATE MURDER.
Book Three in the series is done, but has no title (the set up: murder of the wealthy, cold-hearted bride at her Halloween themed wedding). Here’s the scoop on the contenders so far. What do you think?
MOCHA AND MURDER
PUMPKIN SPICE AND NOTHING NICE
PUMPKIN SPICE ICED
PUMPKIN SPICE VICE
FATAL FUDGE SWIRL
Do you have a favorite cozy title? Share in the comments.
Shari Randall is the author of Lobster Shack Mystery series with the punny titles CURSES, BOILED AGAIN!, AGAINST THE CLAW, AND DRAWN AND BUTTERED. As Meri Allen, she writes the Ice Cream Shop Mysteries. The debut title is THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN (because what else do you call a murder mystery about a former CIA librarian who runs an ice cream shop?) Book Two, MINT CHOCOLATE MURDER, drops on July 26, 2022 and you can preorder now.