Punderful Titles

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

PISTACHIO PLOT

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.

5 thoughts on “Punderful Titles”

    1. Shari Randall

      Thanks for having me! I think my publisher has a genius whose only job is to come up with funny titles. It’s a talent for sure!

  1. Cheryl Arcemont

    I love the punny titles of cozy mysteries and that is one of the reasons I read so many of them. I started giggling when I read Pumpkin Spice and Nothing Nice. When my dad would visit when we were small and both living with our grandparents, he used that rhyme with me and my brother. Which was actually kind of true – I was the calm and dutiful girl while my brother always pushed the envelope!

  2. Carolyn Kitrinos

    The puns and the play on words are an added bonus to the fun of a cozy. I think that Pumpkin Spice and Nothing Nice has a real ring to it and is a great hint to the mystery’s setting. Can’t wait to read it!

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