Of all the mystery and thriller category’s many subgenres, the cozy mystery—a narrative in which the protagonist is an amateur sleuth, the setting is an idyllic community, and the instigating violence occurs offstage—may be the gentlest. But even this wholesome grouping has room in it for the otherworldly. Paranormal cozies, which like other subgenres are guided by rules and tropes, show how a touch of the supernatural can take an otherwise traditional story in surprising directions.

Given the subgenre’s propriety, says Tom Colgan, v-p, editorial, at Berkley, only certain kinds of spooky characters need apply. “You have to be a pretty darn inventive writer to make something like a werewolf or a mummy work,” he says; by contrast, friendly witches and magical cats are welcome.

The forthcoming paranormal cozy A Glimmer of Death, which launches Valerie Wilson Wesley’s Odessa Jones series, departs from subgenre conventions in multiple ways, says Wendy McCurdy, editorial director at Kensington. It has a “noirish” atmosphere, a multicultural cast, and an atypical setting—the novel takes place in a “somewhat working-class town” in New Jersey, rather than an idealized community. “These things evolve,” McCurdy says.

In other words, even within the confines of the paranormal cozy, there’s room for things to get a bit weird.

A Cat on the Case

Clea Simon. Polis, Feb. 2021

Simon’s Witch Cats of Cambridge series centers on a young sorceress detective named Becca and the three magical cats who assist in her investigations. This third installment sees Becca and her feline familiars helping a stranger who turns up at the Charm and Cherish boutique and later disappears. “You don’t have to be a cat lover to appreciate this paranormal cozy’s witty observations, entertaining dialogue, and astute characterizations,” PW’s review said of the 2018 series launch, A Spell of Murder.

A Glimmer of Death

Valerie Wilson Wesley. Kensington, Jan. 2021

In the first installment of Wesley’s Odessa Jones series, a Black caterer turned real estate agent uses her not-always-operative psychic powers in an effort to solve a murder. As she pursues the case, she works through the recent loss of her husband, whose death her powers failed to anticipate, and tries to keep her beloved catering business from going under.

Mrs. Morris and the Sorceress

Traci Wilton. Kensington, Apr. 2021

Wilton, a pseudonym for coauthors Traci Hall and Patrice Wilton, continues the Salem B&B Mysteries with a fourth title about bed-and-breakfast owner Charlene Morris. Here, Charlene tries to solve the murder of an actress who may have had supernatural powers with the help of a paranormal historian and a ghost named Jack who lives at her inn.

Phantoms and Felonies

Lucy Ness. Berkley, Mar. 2021

In the second title in Ness’s A Haunted Mansion Mystery series, protagonist Avery Morgan, the manager of a women’s club, attempts to unravel the murder of a local banker. As in the series launch, Avery counts on the assistance of Clemmie, the ghost of woman who once sang in a 1920s speakeasy in the club’s basement.    

Return to the main feature.