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Cosy crime is a genre that is often spoken about with a sneer, exactly the same kind of snobbish tone that is used with terms like “chic lit,” or “domestic drama.” It presupposes that there is a “right,” or canonical type of crime, and then there is crime for those who are not strong enough to take it.
The Bingo Hall Detectives, by Jonathan Whitelaw, could not be further from the well worn tropes of the gritty city underbelly and male detectives who wear their substance abuse like a uniform. It is set in the Cumbria town of Penrith, whoes most famous resident was Richard III. The detectives are out of work journalist, Jason, and his mother-in-law Amitia. Both of whom get an A* for rubbing each other up the wrong way.
When a bingo regular is found dead everyone believes it is an accident, apart from willey Amita who has a terrifying sense of determination. Jason is reluctantly roped in to helping her investigate. Without a phalanx of professionals, such as forensic scientist, anthropogists and a murder squad, much of the book is spent weighing up if there has indeed been a murder, and if it is worth pursuing. This is probably the main difference between cosy crime, and hard crime, it’s everydayness. The fact that investigating is done in between picking the kids up from school, and cooking, and searching for a job.
If crime as a genre is indeed about releaving us from our own anxieties about the world by righting wrongs, then so called cosy crime, and it’s propencity for putting acts of violence right beside the everyday mundanities of life is indeed the most rebellious act in crime writing. To threaten the reader with reality, rather than the cipher of the detective on whom we can project our fears about society and life, and send them off on the written page like a scape goat carrying our sins into the desert