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Happy National Cozy Mystery Day!

And Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!

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Why is today National Cozy Mystery Day? Because it is also Agatha Christie’s birthday and she is the Grande Dame of the Cozy Mystery!

Dame Agatha wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short stories. Her most famous sleuths were Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, a murder mystery called The Mousetrap. The play opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running continuously since then. Think about that for a moment. It’s been running longer than I have lived! And longer than Godzilla!

I had the extreme privilege of seeing the play in London back in the ’90s and still sigh with happiness when I think about it. 

Under her pen name of Mary Westmacott, Christie also wrote six romance novels. 

In 1917 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to literature. 

The Dame of Mystery caused a mystery herself, but disappearing for 10 days. She never explained what happened during those ten days. Her second husband was the renowned archaeologist, Max Mallowan and it is likely that her travels with him sparked some of her later books. She died in 1976.

In my most humble opinion, no one writes Christie like Christie. 

Around our house, we were fans and I’m excited to celebrate her birthday with a shout out to the cozy mystery genre. Did you know that the cozy mystery genre is the second most popular genre for readers?

What is the cozy genre you ask? Cozy mysteries are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously and the crime and detection take place primarily within a socially intimate community. 

Because I love the genre, you know I had to write some books in the genre. My series is called The Big Uneasy and it is set in New Orleans—the Big Easy. I originally conceived the series way back, almost to the turn of this century. I know, pause here for old lady moment. At the time I had an agent and she marketed it to major publishers. Thankfully, my refusal to add sexual content resulted in a no sale and a no more agent, leaving me free to pick it up a few years ago and write it the way I wanted to write it with the Baker family intact (the publisher wanted me to reduce the family size!).

The first book in the series is Relatively Risky, followed by Dead Spaces, Louisiana Lagniappe, and Worry Beads released last summer. There is also a short story in the series called “Family Treed.”

I can’t tell you how much I wish I were announcing the next book in the series, but Life Happened this summer and I’m still working on it. I still hope to release it this year though! 

All the current installments of The Big Uneasy are available separately, or you can get the first four installments in the Big Uneasy Bundle. 

The first book introduces the Bakers and specifically, the first Baker son, Alex, a good guy with issues (most of them related to his family). 

Here’s an excerpt from chapter one of Relatively Risky:

When Alex Baker felt the cold gun barrel press against the back of his neck he knew a bad night had just gotten worse. New Orleans at night was always a walk on the wild side, but when the moon was full, wild got super-sized. The crazies came out, the bullets flew, and the emergency rooms filled up with the bloodied and the bowed. 

When he already had the best view of the city’s worst, working Homicide for the New Orleans Police Department, it wasn’t a good idea to piss off a mayoral aide, cuz the view was worse at night. Thank goodness it was his last night shift, at least until he pissed off someone else. It had felt like everyone was taking potshots at everyone else the whole damn night. The homicide rate had never been great, but it had gotten worse since Katrina. If something didn’t change, the City Council really would move to reclassify bullet holes as a natural cause of death, just to improve the stats for tourists. Starting to feel like it didn’t matter how many people lived in New Orleans, just how many died. 

Nights like this, he wondered why he didn’t find some quiet little town where only wildlife got shot at. But the Big Easy had moved into his head and his heart and worse, it set a good table. His stomach rumbled a reminder that it had been a long time since its last feeding. No question the food wooed the taste buds, wined, dined, and entertained them. Lured a body like those sirens in the legends. Even when he hated the city, he loved it. If the devil had a home here and in hell, he’d live here, no question about it. Except in August, when hell was cooler. 

In the quiet semi-dark, with morning just starting to lighten the horizon, he’d turned onto the narrow street where home, breakfast and bed waited. As usual, cars haphazardly crowded both sides of the street, fitting in where they could and where they shouldn’t. Parking in New Orleans required patience, ingenuity and a huge pile of luck. Sometimes he’d be driving along, spot a great parking place, and feel this overwhelming urge to grab it because it was there. Alex had known he was running out of patience, was probably out of luck. This time of the morning no one was likely to clear as space just because he needed it. They were all sleeping something off in their beds. He should have taken the front fence down a long time ago so he could park on the lawn, but Zach insisted a white picket fence was a chick magnet. A guy really didn’t want his dad saying chick magnet, let alone having one in the yard. 

He’d passed his house, wondering if he was going to be doomed to drive around until one of the college students across the street had to go to class, but as he passed a cross street, he’d spotted half a space just around the corner. It was by a hydrant, but the parking Nazis weren’t out this early, and he could get his dad to move his truck later. He pulled in, got most of his truck off the street, if he didn’t mind blocking the sidewalk. He didn’t. The dividing line between street and sidewalk was more imagined than real anyway. He’d shut off the engine and thrust open the door, anxious to get unconscious as soon as possible. Should have known better. Should have kept an eye on his surroundings. Which was why the stinking little piece of crap got the drop on him, down shifting his night from bad to worse.   

“Get out real slow with your hands where I can see ‘em, mother—” The pressure of the gun against his neck eased some, as if the perp couldn’t point and talk at the same time.

Alex rolled his eyes at the spate of unoriginal swearing. The education system was so screwed up, it was depressing. Kids couldn’t even swear good and had nothing better to do than try to jack a detective who’d spent the night knee-deep in bodies.

“Keep your cool,” Alex said, more for himself than the kid, as his temper tried to slip tired’s leash. Making sure both hands were visible, he slid out and turned around. The kid was as small as he sounded and looked like he was on the downside of a high. Probably looking to trade Alex’s wheels for a trip back up. Man, the guys’d really roast him if he got jacked by a kid too young to shave. 

“Shut up and give me your wallet and keys!” The kid practically foamed at the mouth as another round of filth poured out. 

At his age, Alex hadn’t known half that many cuss words. And when he got caught saying the ones he knew, his head had been down in the sink eating soap. If he shoved a bar down the kid’s throat? Probably be called police brutality and get him a sit down with IAD. 

“Life’s not fair,” his dad would say about now. “But it’s always interesting, bubba.”

And about to get more so, Alex realized. The swearing, while tiresome, had drowned out the unlikely figure on a bicycle bearing down on them both. She was hunched over the handles, an intent scowl on a face that was ordinary, but not in a bad way. Her feet pumped hard on the pedals, as she steered around the numerous potholes and bumps that pockmarked the street. Her eyes were narrow slits and her hair stuck out around her head like a ragged, brown halo. 

Alex sure hoped she didn’t plan to ram the little crap while he had a gun pointed at him—oh yeah, she meant to. As if the kid sensed her incoming, he started to turn. 

* * * * * 

So once again, happy Cozy Day! I hope you’ll take time today to curl up with a cozy mystery, or just raise a glass to Dame Agatha for introducing us to solving puzzles with “our little gray cells.” And if you’re looking for something to read, I hope you’ll check out my Big Uneasy series! 

Perilously yours,

Pauline

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