What is something so grim as illness doing in a light, comfortable mystery? Let me tell you a story.
Back in the day, I went on a first date. It was with a Welshman, in a beautiful spot on the river Thames: Maidenhead. The restaurant was right by the water, blue from the sky from where the sun was shining. It was a golden day, and I was hopeful of passing an enjoyable lunchtime.
And then …
My date began to discourse. He gleefully related anecdote after anecdote of disease and resulting fatality. ‘There was this man, you see?’ the Welshman continued with relish. ‘It was in the papers. Twenty-five he was and fit as a fiddle, so he thought. An athlete. And then. One day. He dropped dead. Stone dead.’ ‘Really?’ I asked curiously. ‘Tuberculosis! Didn’t know he had it. Well, doesn’t that just go to show? You never know.’ I repeatedly tried to turn to the conversation to happier themes, but with determination, he wrenched it back. Finally, realising what I was trying to do, he explained, ‘I like a bit of death.’
As you can imagine, I excused myself as soon as possible, and we did not have a second encounter. But what is the point of my sharing that with you?
It’s that the story is amusing. It has likely made you smile, even laugh. It has lifted your mood, even though it includes sickness and mortality. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that medical matters can have a place in light literature.
Health Issues in the Great Cozies
Let’s look at one of the novels Daphne du Maurier, who has been listed as a cozy mystery author. In Rebecca, it is a health condition that is the key to unlocking the puzzle of ‘what happened that night?’ There are no disturbing medical details. They would be extraneous to the plot and the genre. We are simply informed of the illness.
In The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie uses disability to throw us off the scent. Miss Marple’s recovery from illness takes us to warmer climbs where she might convalesce in A Caribbean Mystery.
A popular device in whodunnits is the victim’s medication, being used as a vehicle for murder most foul: an overdose or substituted with a dangerous substance or with something harmless but depriving the patient of necessary medicine. What is crucial is the treatment, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the illness. That is, no graphic details, just as a cozy murder takes place usually off-camera.
Why Asthma for Amanda?
So we come to medical matters in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I have been asked why I gave our heroine debilitating asthma. Doesn’t that make her weak? Physically, yes, she is below par. However, that is the very reason why she needs the indispensable component of the genre, magic. She also relies on her familiar, who is, in a sense, her seeing-eye cat.
The origin of Amanda’s asthma provides a vital part of the overall story arc of the series. It also gives her a reason to be at the clinic constructed during Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. It creates balance with Inspector Trelawney. He surpasses her in fitness, but she has the greater, and vitally important, mystical abilities.
A Bit Special
When I researched the format, the formula for a cozy paranormal mystery, I knew that I wanted mine to be a bit different. Amanda’s physical limitations give her the opportunity to develop and demonstrate other kinds of strength. On the other hand, at the same time, it makes her grandparents and fellow villagers disarmingly protective regardless of however provoking their quirks might be!
A medical condition sees the dispatch of one of the less likeable characters. It also influences Granny and Grandpa’s decision as to which level of existence they choose and when.
So, I hope you’re satisfied with the place of medical matters in the cozy context. Even fatalities, the very heart of a whodunit. Perhaps, after all, you’ll say as regards your taste in literature, ‘I like a bit of death!’
Meanwhile, I am now 30,000 words into Amanda Cadabra Book 5, with 15 chapters complete and pretty much finalised.
Back next time with more musings for your entertainment.
Cat adorer and chocolate lover, Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not writing. Holly lives in the UK and is a mixture of English, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh, among other ingredients. Her favourite cat is called Bobby. He is black. Like the hat in her cupboard. Purely coincidental.
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