Okay..I just finished a very benign, pedestrian, unremarkable cozy.
Interestingly enough, I read it at 2 o'clock in the morning like I usually do but I was able to follow the story, keep track of the characters (although have three main characters called Lizzie, Lisa and Lucy got a little confusing).
A couple of things struck me about it:
It was NOT great writing. Some of it was pretty BAD writing.
1) The author CONSTANTLY used the same phrases over and over and over again (ie "She drank deeply from her coffee cup." "She took a deep drink..." Apparently everyone drank DEEPLY.
Other annoying phrases: She gave him a smile. She gave her a slight smile. She gave him a grin. (She never flashed a smile, or just smiled she was always giving some kind of a smile or grin.)
And "filched". What kind of a word is "filched"?
2) The main character was pretty flat and not particularly interesting. She was never in any kind of jeopardy and you didn't want her to be your new best friend. You wouldn't want her to step in and save your life.
She wasn't "spunky" and the coffee addiction which was supposed to be one of her signature characteristics just got annoying (see #1). The characters were a little too cute and the dialogue strained.
3) It was mostly talk and very little action. I suppose the setting contributed to that (it was set in a knitting shop) and what action there was seemed gratuitous. Jogging across the golf course to get to the tennis courts. Driving in the snow to see the property. Having the holiday part for the underprivileged kids. ALL gratuitous and not really moving the story forward.
4) You could actually see the author's thought process in solving the "mystery as you read. You could see her thinking and in some places she actually thought out loud in the choice of the main character.."Well the last time I was involved in a mysterious death, it looked like it would be the most likely person but it turned out to be someone else."
But the thing that stood out to me was that you could follow the workings of writing the cozy. It was like the author was following a checklist. It was so simple and basic, you could she her going through the step in her mind;
we've got to have an explanation of how our heroine can be independently wealthy (inheritance from a murdered aunt she hardly knew)
we've got to have a retired cop,
we've got to have a police detective who finds her annoying and nosy.
we've got to have a boyfriend who we are keeping at a distance,
we've got to have a best friend,
we've got to have someone smarmy who no on likes and everyone has plenty of motive to kill to be the victim.
I couldn't help imagining her writing with a text book : "You Can Write a Mystery" open next to her computer.
I liked it (and I hated it) for that and only that reason.
And as awful as it was...she got a book published (three actually and her first in the series actually won a prestigious award.....)
AND I am going to buy the one she won the award for.
Just to see how LOW their standards really are.