Jessica Fletcher Syndrome

Lately I've been in a big mystery phase and have been trucking through some delightfully fluffy mysteries. I've been reading the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle, a few of the latest Chyna Bayles Herb Shop mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert, and just started the Knitting Mysteries by Maggie Sefton and the first of the Tea Shop mysteries by Laura Childs is sitting on my bedside table. These are all very much in the vein of the Catering Mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson.

The general flavor is that of your average person (in this case, they all happen to be women) who stumbles across a dead body and then involves herself in the case solution through amusing happenstance. But they all suffer from Jessica Fletcher syndrome as the series increase - because the only way someone is going to stumble into that many murders is if everyone around them has a friend who dies. And so you realize, as you did quickly with Murder She Wrote, that if you are a friend of someone who knows her well, that your number is going to be up forthwith.

Of course, saying that, I'm not sure what else you'd do as an author. The characters are delightful and you want to keep writing about them - so clearly you need another story. And while they're delightful, I don't see the daily ins and outs of a coffee/tea/knitting shop holding the attention of readers for more than fifteen or twenty pages unless you throw in a tasty murder or two.

And so it is that I heartily recommend any of the above as fun, fluffy summer reading (not that you have to read them only in the summer, but you know what I mean - they won't tax your brain cells any.) Just be forewarned that the icy fingers of death creep out to touch more people of one person's acquaintaince that you would otherwise imagine to be reasonable.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

You are right! It's a difficult situation for those of us who write the type of mysteries often called "cozies." I tried to work around the Jessica Fletcher syndrome by having members of the scrapbook community die off in my second book Cut, Crop & Die. So far, it's working!

The good news is...cozy writers realize our amateur sleuth is unrealistic. So, our readers must be willing to suspend some of their knowledge of reality.

beth said...

Since the whole reason I read is to suspend reality, and I'm pretty sure that's common for most readers out there, it's not a leap to do it. :) I was just laughing at myself the other day as I looked at my stack of recently read books and realized that it probably was good I didn't know any of them for real as I'd very likely be next. :)

Now I'm going to have to go find the first in your series - sounds fun! (And maybe it'll convince me that I was wrong to swear off scrapbooking...we'll see.)