Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elaine Viets on Bloodthirsty Cozies.

RHYS:  Today I'm delighted to welcome my good friend, bestselling author and former Lipstick Chronicle blogger par excellence ELAINE VIETS. Elaine has two fun cozy series going and this month celebrates the publication of her latest Josie Marcus, personal shopper book called MURDER IS A PIECE OF CAKE.

And she reveals some surprising things about cozy fans. Take it away, Elaine:

          “I hear Josie Marcus gets married in your new mystery,” a reader said. With her stylish silver hair, mild blue eyes and fluffy pink sweater, she looked like Miss Marple’s younger sister.
          “Sure does,” I said. “Josie marries Dr. Ted Scottsmeyer in ‘Murder Is a Piece of Cake.’”
          “And he dies, right?” Now the light in those blue eyes wasn’t quite so mild.
          “No,” I said. “In fact, he looks quite handsome in his tux.”
          “But he turns out to be a total rat and she divorces him.”       
          “Er, no,” I said. “They’ve been dating for three books now. Josie  knows him well. He’s still the same Ted.”
          “She dies!”
          “No,” I said. “Josie is the protagonist. If she dies, so does the series.”
          “Then Ted cheats on her and she kills him.” A gentleman joined in the conversation, also demanding blood.
          “Certainly not, sir!”
          I edged away from these two bloodthirsty fans. A third woman stopped me, “I know,” she said. “They get married, but Ted dies in the next book.”
          I heard the hope in her voice and crushed it.  “No,” I said. “Ted and Josie have a happy marriage. In the next book, they’ll move into their new home with Josie’s daughter, Amelia.”
          Jeez. I thought cozy readers were supposed to dislike violence.
          But ever since “Murder Is a Piece of Cake,” my eighth Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery, was published readers have been hot for Ted’s head.
          Cozies are supposed to be mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie with no gruesome scenes, foul language or bloody bodies. So why are my not-so-gentle readers demanding Ted’s death?
          Can’t Josie have a happy marriage to her veterinarian, Dr. Ted?
          I understand that a contented married couple can be a challenge for mystery authors. Even Sue Grafton said she won’t marry her Kinsey Milhone because she doesn’t want to write Nick and Nora Charles dialogue.
          And I gave into temptation in my Dead-End Job series. Helen Hawthorne was supposed to marry Phil Sagemont in “Killer Cuts.” But when the minister asked, Does anyone know why this couple should not be joined together in matrimony?  I had a surprise guest say I do.
          Many mystery writers see that “till death do us part” vow as an opportunity.  Thriller writer Ian Fleming turned James Bond into a widower on his wedding day, when his new bride, Tracy, was killed by the spy’s archenemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
          James Patterson gleefully murders the bride and groom in “1st to Die,” but there was nothing cozy about that book.
          But cozy culinary cook Diane Mott Davidson went on a killing spree on Goldy’s wedding day. The priest is killed and Goldy’s fianc√© is kidnapped in “The Last Suppers.”
          I could have had Ted kidnapped on the way to the wedding. His family has money. Lenore, Ted’s mother, married a big-bucks Boca plastic surgeon. Josie could have killed her meddling future mother-in-law after Lenore flew in on her private plane to “help with” – read “control” – Josie’s wedding. Josie wished someone would lock up Lenore, and she got her wish. 
          Lenore is arrested for shooting a crazed woman who’s been stalking her son. Josie has to find the real killer so she and Ted can marry. It’s not easy, but she does.
          The wedding takes place at the Jewel Box, an art deco conservatory in St. Louis, beloved of brides for generations. The newly married couple drive away in Ted’s vintage orange Mustang without a hail of bullets. They survive a romantic honeymoon in the islands – another fatal time for wedded bliss in mysteries.
          When Ted and Josie were happily hitched, I kissed good-bye four  books worth of deadly plots: Ted could have been killed before, after or during the wedding in one book. Josie would have spent the next book solving Ted’s murder. In the third book, Josie would fall in love with the police detective investigating the case. Finally, she’d marry the detective.
          See what I gave up for you? Now, readers, tell me, please: Why do you crave a wedding murder? Is killing husbands your secret fantasy?
          I’m dying to know.
          Elaine Viets is the author of two bestselling mystery series, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries and the Dead-End Job mysteries. “Murder Is a Piece of Cake,” her eighth Josie Marcus mystery, is available as an e-book and a paperback from Obsidian. Elaine has one the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards. Visit her website www.elaineviets.com 

And Elaine will be around today to answer questions on JRW.

And a message from Jan.




have won copies of Michael Sherer's thriller, Night BLIND! Please email Jan at Janbrog@comcast.net so she can send you your copies.


  1. Well, to be perfectly honest . . . I love series books, and I want the protagonist character(s) to be happy [relatively so, anyway], so I most definitely do not want you to do in dear Doctor Ted . . . .

    I once read a series in which the woman, a doctor, was divorced from, but getting back together with, her police chief husband. I felt invested in their story, loved the two characters and wanted to see them find a way to work out their issues and still have their “happily ever after.” I cheered when they got back together, happily remarried, and were on the verge of adopting a child . . . . And then, just like that, the writer killed the police chief husband.

    I felt so betrayed that I have not read one of her books since.

  2. Hysterical post Elaine--thanks for visiting! As a cozy reader and writer, I'm trying to remember if I've wished someone dead. Certainly Diane Mott Davidson's character's ex--he had it coming in a big way!

    I think the fear must be that happily ever after means the end of the conflict and therefore the end of the series, don't you think?

    I recently moderated a panel on romance in mysteries and realized that not one of my protagonists has been successful in her love life--I'm going to have to work on that!

  3. Elaine -- happy to see you Jungle Red and congrats on the new book. Looks like fun!

    Raymond Chandler said "A really good detective never gets married." But then, he wasn't exactly writing cozies.

  4. Elaine, too funny! Your cozy readers are a bloodthirsty bunch. I get comments all the time from readers begging me NOT to kill off Duncan or Gemma. I think Elizabeth George put the fear into them when she had Lady Helen murdered.

    I LIKE happily married couples. Maybe that makes me weird, but I'm sticking to it. And please don't kill off Dr. Ted.

  5. Chandler definitely didn't write cozies, Hallie. And in his world dames were not to be trusted, so only a blind fool would be happy with one. Not the best basis for a happy marriage.
    I'd be unhappy with the dead police chief, too, Joan.
    There will be lots of conflict, Roberta, in the next book. Josie and Ted will be remodeling a home, and that will try the most solid marriage. But no plans to kill him for now.
    You stick to your guns, Deb.
    Er, or not.

  6. I think we fear the Moonlighting syndrome. A married Josie no longer dates hunks or gets set up with fat accountants.

    Let's see. Book 9 includes a trip through St. Louis real estate. Book 10, Amilia should be 13 and can start seriously crushing. Book 11 can include the unfortunate death of a handy Barrington Lacrosse player.

    Can't wait for the next book.

    Would anyone really put plastic trolls on a wedding cake?

  7. And I could NEVER see Josie with a police detective.

  8. Yes, Alan, plastic trolls are real cake toppers. Mostly favored by computer geeks.
    I find the skeleton cake toppers truly creepy. That carries "till death do us part" way too far.

  9. Hey Elaine! SO great to see you!

    Well, interesting..Charlie MCNally seems on the road to happiness in DRIVE TIME..but who knows.

    And Jane Ryland--well, I've gotta admit, happiness of the marital kind seems to be eluding her.

    And exactly Alan, the curse of Moonlighting. Shiver.

    (BTW, my niece got married on Halloween. They gave out Jordan Almonds as favors--in little skulls. I could not believe it.)

    But hey--how about Nick and Nora Charles? There's a role model for Josie and Ted!

  10. I'm glad you didn't kill of Ted. Think of all the new adventures they'll both have solving crime together.

  11. I remember when Elizabeth George killed off Detective Lynley's pregnant wife...She said her fans were outraged. It caused such an uproar that she received hate mail.

    Personally, I thought it was a great plot twist for Lynley's story arc. He became a tortured hero.

    I find it interesting that your readers are looking for Dr. Ted to die! It is humorously bloodthirsty. Do you think at its heart, this desire comes out of a need to sympathize with our heroes?

  12. Lovely to see you here, Elaine! Congrats on the new book!

    I think Alan's right about fear of the Moonlighting syndrome. Like Deb, I like married couples, even if my protagonist's tend to be commitment-phobic.

    When Ben and I got married, one of his oldest female friends sent us as a wedding gift a set of bride and groom calacas (skeletons) in a car with "Just Married" on the bumper. I was fine with it because I love calacas and other Days of the Dead stuff, but she'd never met me and didn't know me, so there was no way she could have known that.

    I've missed JRW while my computer was fried. So glad to be back.

  13. Hi Elaine,
    Welcome back to Jungle Red.

    Just say no to murder - I say - at least to this particular murder. The rate of intact marriages is already low enough!!


  14. Well, so far Castle and Beckett are still sparking off each other, even though they've Done It. But it's early days yet.

  15. Deb - I'm one of those who had a hard time getting over the senseless murder of Lady Helen. As a reader, I still don't see what the up side of that was even though she was never one of my favorite characters.

    In cozies and in series in general, I'm happier when the good guys prosper or at least get on. With the bad guys I'm more flexible.

    Even outside the cozy genre, too much torture for a character makes me enjoy a series less. I don't know exactly where the line is.

    Harry Bosch has been through a lot over the years and yet I'm always looking forward to the next Michael Connelly book.

    But I do know that Val McDermid's Tony Hill has simply been put through too much for me. His only family is worse than none. He's impotent, has endured literal hanging-from-a-wall torture and numerous severe beatings. For his "case solved from a hospital bed" book, he was put in that bed by a fire ax to the knee. (I had to put that book aside for a while before I could go back and read it.) But for me, the most recent book was worse than all of that - I don't expect to get over what was done to Tony Hill in "The Retribution."

  16. Oops, I missed that Deb had already commented on Elizabeth George's Lady Helen when I wrote my comment.

    I asked Elizabeth about it at the time, and she said she'd always planned to kill Lady Helen off, since the beginning of the series practically. She stuck to her guns about that, and I applaud her for it.

    Especially for non-cozy mystery series, it doesn't do to have our protagonists be too contented in their private lives. Gets a little boring after awhile...

  17. Hi Elaine!!! Great to see you here! Married couple... very nice, so do not kill Ted, please. Please do not kill Ted. xo

  18. Whew. You all are much less blood-thirsty than my bookstore fans. I thought Lady Helen was a drip, but she didn't deserve the death penalty.
    Ted is safe in the Josie mysteries.
    One reader threatened to kill ME if anything happened to Helen Hawthorne's husband Phil in the Dead-End Job series.
    Let me repeat. Both Ted and Phil are safe.
    For now.

  19. Elaine,

    I love your sense of humor and can't wait to get caught up on all your books!

    Unlike your bookstore fans, I am NOT bloodthirsty! Glad you plan on keeping Phil and Ted safe, and I sure hope they are always happily married. (Let other people be murdered; keep "our" guys safe!)

    About happily married protagonists: that is definitely what I prefer to read about. There are enough unhappy marriages in "real" life. I read fiction to be entertained. (I will not try to explain why I find murder mysteries to be entertaining:-)

    There are some authors whose books I am no longer interested in reading because they either carry out the story line of the protagonist's inability to make a commitment for way too many books, or they have protagonists in shaky marriages. In cozies, I think there are LOTS of opportunities for entertaining story lines with happily married characters. Several other authors besides you who also do a great job of it come to mind; among them are Susan Wittig Albert, Donna Andrews, Louise Penny.

  20. Elaine, I haven't read your series (well, not yet -- they're going on my TBR list right now!), but please don't kill off the new husband. Even when he's the not-so-new husband, a few books down the road. I LOVE books with happily married couples. Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple series comes to mind, along with Deb's Gemma and Duncan. (Deb, I only found your books about a year ago, and still haven't tracked them all down, so I hope Gemma and Duncan stay a couple!) Let's see... there are also Rory and Troy Alleyn (Ngaio Marsh), Lord Peter and Harriet (excuse me, Lady Peter) Wimsey (in the sequels penned by Jill Paton Walsh), Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (Christie), Lori Shepard and Bill Willis (Nancy Atherton), George and Bunty Felse (Ellis Peters)... and as I look at this list, those are at least half of my favorite mystery series. There's definitely something about the happily-married detective that appeals to me!

  21. I'm a big fan of happily married couples in my cozy mysteries! Charlotte & Thomas Pitt come to mind (Anne Perry) and Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series.

  22. I'm glad Phil and Ted are safe -- both good characters and helpful in emergencies . . . You have plenty of other opportunities for mayhem.
    A friend was married on Halloween, and they did it up with all the appropriate props for the theme. I wasn't there, but I did see their photos, and it looked like fun . . . for them. It wouldn't be my choice, but I love the variety of possibilities, and as long as the love is real, that's what matters.
    I may have to re-read some Elaine, while I wait for the next . . .

  23. I really enjoy Josie's escapades through Maplewood & different neighborhoods of St. Louis.
    Not to date myself, but I was resident of St. Louis same time as Elaine awhile back. Lived there 29years & don't get back often enough. So it's Elaine's job to help me revive some fond memories.