Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: How to Decipher a Cozy Mystery

Smothered A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

By G.P. Gottlieb

I usually pay close attention to the first few characters introduced in a cozy mystery, and I assume that the nicest and friendliest one is probably the murderer. The book might start out with a description of a donut shop, for example. It will be written in first person by Joyce, the shop’s owner, who was tragically widowed and recently started keeping company with Bernard, a heavyset, divorced pharmacist. Felice, who owns the antique shop next door, will pop in for a donut, and might complain bitterly about Larry, their bad-tempered landlord. I think to myself, ah ha, the landlord is either going to bite the dust or murder someone.

Then Felice will tell Joyce about Fred, a man from her past who’d shown up in her antiques store that very morning. They’d been madly in love a decade ago, but he’d suddenly disappeared while they were traveling together in Thailand. She’d been stunned and hurt, had a difficult time getting back to the states, and spent years getting over him. It turned out that he’d been bashed on the head by muggers and had suffered from amnesia. He’d somehow gotten back home and had been working at the local high school for the past nine years but hadn’t remembered his and Joyce’s relationship until the previous day. Ah ha, I think this Fred character is either going to get whacked, or murder someone.

Then Megan and Nancy, two of Joyce’s employees, weigh in about Fred, Felice’s newly resurfaced paramour. Megan is a sweet eighteen-year-old heading to Wellesley in the fall, and Nancy is Joyce’s twenty-year-old, bespectacled daughter, who attends the nearby community college. Nancy tells Megan that Fred had been her soccer coach, and she’d heard rumors about an inappropriate relationship with a younger girl in the school. At that moment, Joyce will bring out a tray of misshapen donuts that they certainly cannot sell, and they’ll each have one, but I only like apple fritters, so I won’t be impressed by the caramel, butterscotch icing, and chocolate glazes. Megan will burst into tears because it turns out that she was the younger girl at Nancy’s school whom Fred had sexually assaulted. She’s probably not going to be murdered, because it’s rare for beautiful young girls to come to harm in cozy mysteries, but ah ha – she has a motive to murder Fred.

Enter Ian, a dashing grad student, and Colin, his younger brother, who is in a wheelchair, and whom Ian is watching while their parents take a 25th anniversary trip to Thailand. While Megan bats her eyelashes at adorable Colin, Nancy smiles at handsome, square-jawed Ian. Just then, Larry, the bad-tempered landlord, comes pushing into the shop, threatening that he’s going to sue Joyce for damages because she tampered with the HVAC system. Joyce explains that the donut glazes would drip if she didn’t have air conditioning in this hot, sticky southern climate. Larry shouts that she should have called him instead of tinkering with the system, and his loud, scary voice causes antique store owner Felice to have an asthma attack. She falls to the floor, gasping for air, but Ian, Colin’s dashing older brother, finds her inhaler, helps her get it to her mouth and holds her head on his lap. Larry the landlord rushes out in a huff. Ah ha, I think, the author is not fooling me. Ian will turn out to be the murderer.

Two shots are fired from outside the donut shop, narrowly missing Nancy, but hitting young Colin. It’s only a graze, but everyone is shaken. And Larry the landlord is lying dead in front of the donut shop. Ah ha – the murderer is either Fred, the amnesiac sex offender, or Bernard, the portly divorced pharmacist. See how easy it is to decipher a cozy mystery? Suddenly, I’m in the mood for Thai food. And an apple fritter for dessert.

I love cozy mysteries!

BIOG.P. Gottlieb ( has worked as a musician, a teacher, and an administrator, but she’s happiest when writing recipe-laced murder mysteries. Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery and Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery take place in the spring and summer of 2019 and a third book in the series will center on a murder that occurs during the city of Chicago’s lockdown in May 2020. G.P. Gottlieb has always experimented in the kitchen and created her delicious vegan cookies and cakes in direct opposition to what she learned in courses at Chicago’s French Pastry School. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, the mother of three grown children, and lives with her husband in a Chicago high-rise that is strikingly similar to the building portrayed in the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series.

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Smothered by G.P. Gottlieb