Not Cozy Mystery? It Could Be Soft-Boiled

When I pitched White Light, I said that I followed most of the cozy rules. But that’s the thing about cozies, they are set within a firm framework. I didn’t stick to the rules and White Light fell into the Grand Canyon between the cozy and the hard-boiled mystery.

I’ve read my share of the hard-boiled mystery mostly from the 30’s. I loved them all. To me it was the best way to take a trip into history, but I don’t write the tough trenchcoat wearing private investigator type of guy or gal.

We all know every story has to have a genre. White Light‘s turned out to be the soft-boiled mystery. Firmly planted between cozy and hard-boiled.

Let’s take a look at the differences:






Off Stage




Almost None


Curse Away



Amateur or Pro

Private Investigator

Act of Murder

Off Stage

Off Stage or Little Detail

More Detailed

Murder Scene

Non Graphic

Little Detail

More Detailed


Close and Lock the Door

Door Slightly Ajar

Door Slightly Ajar



Light to Dark

Mostly Dark


Murder, sometimes two

Murder, Caper or Both

Murder, and Occasional Caper


Small Town

Big City

Big City


Cooking, Crafts and Pets all encouraged

Welcome, But Not Necessary

Not That I Read


Enough for Suspense

Death of Supporting Cast Possible

Very High


Mystery Lover

Mystery Lover

Pulp Fiction + Mystery Lover

Note: The similarities between soft-boiled and cozy are a quirky character driven story with a reoccurring cast and series potential. So it seems to keep the best parts of what I happen to love.

What are some of your favorite element?


40 responses to “Not Cozy Mystery? It Could Be Soft-Boiled

  1. That chart was interesting. I love mysteries. More to the cozy and soft boiled versus hard core. I get a little squeamish, and I’m prone to nightmares. My favorite author is Sue Grafton. Before I’d heard of soft boiled, I thought she was closer to cozy than hard core, but not quite the Miss Marple type. Now, I know where she fits. Keep writing. I like your mysteries!

  2. Thanks for the comparison. I have never heard of soft-boiled- mysteries until you mentioned it. So interesting. I know my mystery, Coda to Murder, is definitely a cozy, but my latest, Deadly Undertaking, might be a soft-boiled because the mc doesn’t do much sleuthing. She just happens to stumble on information and get in the middle of the muddle. Enjoyed the post. Made me think.

  3. Reading this, I think I’m a bit of a hard-boiled girl, but soft-boiled seems like a happy medium. Besides, the private investigator trope was kind of beaten to death over the past 80 years. Sounds like you mixed it up a bit more. πŸ˜‰

  4. Fascinating. I had no idea there was a middle ground.

  5. I had not heard of soft-boiled before now. I don’t know really what I like. I read J A Janice, Dick Francis, Cat Mysteries, Pernel Hall Puzzle Lady, anything paranormal mystery, Victoria Holt, Mary Higgins Clark, some John Grisham-not sure mystery more crime I think, JD Robb Death series, Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum, not sure all of those fit what you laid out, but to me they are all mystery.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  6. Can’t say as I’ve heard of the soft-boiled term before either. I don’t read a lot of mystery these days, probably a mix of cozy and hard-boiled, I guess. Sometimes, I find the cozies to be a little too cute, so maybe soft boiled is the way I should go.

  7. Thanks for the chart! I didn’t know there were such firm rules for categorizing mysteries. Very interesting. I’d have to say I’m in the cozy/soft-boiled range as far as what I like to read. Hard-boiled is okay, but I prefer the others.

    • The cozy is very stringent and that’s why I fell into the soft-boiled category. After the fall I didn’t have a genre which would never do. πŸ™‚

  8. I didn’t know “soft-boiled” was an option; Love it! I love stories that kind of mash things up and don’t strictly follow any given formula. I guess I go for the Grand Canyon your book fell into. πŸ™‚

  9. I like all kinds of mystery but mostly and most importantly to me, I want something that will keep me guessing and on my toes.

  10. Thanks for this! Now I finally understand the differences between the three different subgenres.

  11. I loved that chart. It really set out the differences so clearly. I think I fall into the soft-boiled category and lean toward the cozy.

  12. I never knew! That chart is so helpful!

  13. So have you created a new genre? I’m all for that; it sounds like you’ve got the best of both worlds. I’m not much of a stickler for rules anyway!

  14. I had no idea there were soft-boiled mysteries. Love the chart!

  15. Nicely done, Anna. You’ve summed these up beautifully. My debut (written five years ago) was a mystery. My publisher labeled it hardboiled, I assume for sex and language. For years I considered myself a mystery writer. Now I try to distance myself from the label because of the restrictions and genre predictability. I’m very out of touch.

  16. spunkonastick

    It’s not a genre I read very often. DLP is publishing it’s first mystery-thriller but it falls somewhere between soft and hard boiled.

  17. I never saw this chart before, but I sensed the differences between types of mysteries. I like all three.

  18. This is a very interesting chart! I love how you spell out the differences. If I’m going to read a mystery, I suppose I go mostly for the soft boiled genre. I didn’t realize until you pointed it out that all the craft/cooking/pet stuff is what annoys me about the cozies and is why I don’t read them.

  19. I get confused with all the genres and where some of the books I read “should” go. I choose what I think applies and if I get it wrong in some people’s book…(shrugs shoulders)
    sherry @ fundinmental

  20. jennifer@badbirdreads

    I love this breakdown. You don’t know until you know.

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