Mystery without the Murder


As most of you know I write 4 mystery series. The Zoe Donovan Series, Paradise Lake Series, and Whales and Tails Series, are traditional cozies where the mystery is always a murder. My Seacliff High series features mysteries that don’t always include a murder. To be honest I find this refreshing.

When I first started writing I found it limiting to base every book on a murder. I asked a friend in the publishing industry if he thought it would fly to write a cozy mystery that didn’t necessarily build from a murder and he said no, you pretty much gotta have a body.

cropped legs

So here I am after almost 2 years as an author with over 30 books under my belt and I am still asking myself the same question. It seems unnatural to me that as cozy mystery writers we build this quaint and cozy town with zero crime other than all the homicides. I get that cozy mysteries are murder mysteries but I’m playing with the idea of mixing it up a bit.

While I have not definitely decided on my plot for Santa Sleuth (Zoe Donovan #18) I am seriously considering creating a mystery that does not begin with a body. I realize that my story within a story idea has already thrown some of my readers for a loop, and I hate to mess with success too much, but I can’t help but wonder if a body free story wouldn’t be refreshing.


Comment below and let me know if you think you gotta have a body or if a body can be optional. I will choose one winner which I will announce on my Kathi Daley Books Author page on Saturday morning. Here is the link if you haven’t already found me.


This weeks giveaway is for a Hopscotch Homicide Tote.



89 thoughts on “Mystery without the Murder

  1. Doward Wilson says:

    I don’t remember Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton, The Dana Girls, The Happy Hollisters, Trixie Belton, etc. having very many, if any murders. Sometimes a natural death. A great mystery doesn’t have to have bodies, there are hidden treasure, kidnappings, etc.. Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series doesn’t always have dead bodies and they are entertaining and addictive. I have enjoyed what books I have read of yours so far and have all of them on my TBR list. I enjoy the puzzles and entertainment as much as the murders and am looking forward to reading the Seacliff High series for a change of pace. Sometimes an old or even ancient murder is all that is needed. Thanks for the question. Can’t wait to see where you wander to next.

  2. Peggy says:

    When I read my first cozy without a murder I found myself waiting for one to happen and was disappointed when I realized there wasn’t going to be one. As I continued to read that book, I found myself caught up in the mystery and forgot all about not having a murder to solve. Turns out it was refreshing not to have that dead body. While I still like books with murders, I find the ones without equally as enjoyable to read … it’s really about solving a mystery and enjoying the wonderful characters you have introduced to us.

    Thank you for all your wonderful books, Kathi.

  3. I think that you could do it without a body. It could be a missing person, or even better a missing item! I have always thought that relics or missing items are just as exciting to find as missing bodies. Some kind of antique or some kind of special magical something that is missing that will help solve some kind of overall dilemma would be amazing.

  4. Kathleen Costa says:

    There are many successful detective dramas and mysteries that explore various crimes beyond murder: robberies, blackmail, kidnapping, mysterious disappearances. In “cozy mysteries,” although murder drives the story, it isn’t the story. I enjoy “cozies” for the character interaction, suspense, opportunity to determine the answer before the final revelation, exploring a new location or culture, and the recipes (LOL). An author may enjoy a change of pace in their writing just like a reader may enjoy a change of pace in their reading. What is the saying? Variety is the spice of life! So sprinkle away!

  5. I don’t believe a good mystery necessarily needs a body. I enjoyed all the favs as a kid such as The Hardy Boys, the Boxcar Children, etc. Phyllis A Whitney was my absolute favorite during my teen years. I don’t believe murder was a main characteristic of some of her books. I am enjoying the Seacliff High series and find it very entertaining without a murder as the central theme.

  6. Guillianne kolb says:

    I read all sorts of books..and I find I like the suspense leading up to the action and you don’t always need a body..can be an old mystery there solving or investigating an urban legend..

  7. MaryAnn Forbes says:

    I don’t think you have to have a body to have a good mystery. There is always intrigue and story lines that can be developed without a murder. You have definitely piqued my interest in the Seacliff High series.
    Thanks Kathi.📖📚

  8. Mari Krampach says:

    As a young adult I loved gothic novels that had mystery and secrets around every corner and never a dead body, so I know I would be interested. Intrigue is what I look for in a book, the not knowing until it happens.

  9. Ruth Nixon says:

    As always I think you have hit on a good idea for us to read and you to write. Mystery and secrets are great reading. I know that I oftrn wonder the story of an old graveyard or long empty house. I do enjoy the Seacliff High stories too. So many positive answers.

  10. Linda McDonald says:

    I think it is fun to mix it up a bit and not necessarily have the story centered around a murder. There are so ,any other types of crimes that can be used to create an enjoyable mystery.

  11. Donna Zapp says:

    I think a cozy without a murder would be a good change of pace. I like authors who try something new while keeping to the continuing story line. I liked Hopscotch Murder’s story in a story line. I enjoyed learning what was going on with the other characters while Zoe was about her business for the day. I look forward to the new book.

  12. Michele Hayes says:

    I agree that a mystery doesn’t necessarily mean a dead body. Could be a disappearance, an old mysterious death or any number of things already mentioned here. I think it would be a refreshing change.

  13. Karen Candee says:

    I believe a mystery can be just as good if not better without a body! There are so many things that can be used – a missing person – a stolen jewel – even finding the true identity of a mysterious person. Love all your books!!

  14. Katrina says:

    I don’t think there has to be a murder in a book for it to be a good mystery. There can be other mysterious happenings. I can’t wait to see where you take us next!!

  15. Brenda Rozek says:

    I also don’t need a murder. It can be a missing person, a kidnapping, mysterious events, haunted house or many other events that catch my interest. As long as there’s animals, family, and recipes involved, I’m in.

  16. Jo Anne Vincenti says:

    I don’t think you need a murder to have a good mystery and think you would do an awesome job of writing one of them — there are so many possibilities: missing person or animal, missing items, something mysterious happening that leaves people wondering — and that is just the tip of the iceberg.. I applaud you for trying new avenues in your stories and love that you are trying different ways to tell your stories.

  17. sallycootie says:

    I think it can work just fine either way, as long as there is some mystery and the characters and story line engage you. I love your stories so don’t think I would have to have a body every time. There is another author I enjoy who always surprises me when the murder occurs – I have gotten so involved in the story that even though I know I am reading a cozy and there will be a murder, I forget!

  18. Lin Casteel-Butler says:

    I would say you need a body or its just a missing person. Police will only do so much for a missing person and then done so I think the story would leave a bad taste in your mouth.

  19. Della Williamson says:

    Mysteries can be many things, don’t always have to be a body. An unusual event.
    Lost papers. Lost relatives. Lost hearts. Mysteries solve other people’s problems, like using Finesse to get a cheater out of a house she misappropriated.
    One of the nicest mystery series I have ever read was The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. by Alexander McCall Smith His detectives find ways to solve problems with finesse. Using common sense and a warm heart.

  20. JoAn V. says:

    I think your idea for Zoe or TJ to have a mystery without a murder is a great one. I often think “why does this small town have so many murders?” when reading a series. It can seem to be a little dangerous to live in that town. LOL! You are doing it in the Secliff High mysteries and I have enjoyed reading every one of those books.

  21. Debbie S says:

    I have thought the same thing, how many bodies can a small town have? I have wondered why there always has to be a body. To me if it keeps me guessing then it’s a mystery. Kidnapping, dognapping, drug ring, somebody attacked and in a coma, would be a nice change. That doesn’t mean that I will stop reading cozies because it always has a body, I just wonder why it became that way. There was actually a cozy that did involve someone with amnesia and I found it interesting, then a dead body was thrown in and frankly I think it would have been a better mystery without the corpse.

  22. Nancy Roessner says:

    I agree with all the above comments; you don’t need a murder to have a mystery. I have enjoyed the short e-books books from mystery authors with backstory that do not have a body. Recently M.C. Beaton put one out and it was refreshing. There’s a series by Ian Sanson set in Ireland about a librarian who solves mysteries without bodies and I’ve been waiting for a new book. I can see a little bit of a trend in Cosy mysteries to lower the amount of violence. Nancy Martin commented that she has grown tired of violence. I think your instincts are good.

  23. Michelle Fidler says:

    Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series doesn’t have murders. One time there was a dead body. It was an accident. I think a flower pot fell on the person’s head. They might have thought that it was murder at first. A lot of times there isn’t much of a mystery in the books, but I’m glad that they are classified as mysteries otherwise I might not have found them!

    In classic mysteries, such as Victorian ones, there wasn’t always a murder. For example, the Sherlock Holmes stories. There could be a jewel robbery or investigation of another matter.

    I also enjoyed the mysteries of Trixie Belden, The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys.

  24. Patricia says:

    As long as the mystery is interesting and great — no body needed ! I grew up reading Nancy Drew sitting in my bedroom on the window seat .. pretending !!

  25. Edwina Wronski says:

    As long as there is a good mystery plot, no body is needed, after all an evil plot to take over someone’s life ,business or property belonging to a family inheritance,espionage, expensive artifacts etc. are many examples. Hey with your clever writing skills, anything could keep your fans reading!

  26. I am fine either way. I believe a mystery can be written without a body needed. I like how the Seacliff series does not involve a dead body. I think there is a tendency toward too much violence in our society as a whole.

  27. Linda L. Hall says:

    I think a mystery without a murder is refreshing. I have read a couple cozy mysteries where there hasn’t been a murder and they were very entertaining. You are such a great writer and I enjoy your books so much.

  28. Elaine N Robinson says:

    A good mystery does not have to be about murder. There are many other mysteries to write about, missing items, people who are held captive but not murdered, missing
    works of art etc. I enjoy books with good character development, often I am so into the characters, I forget about the dead body. I support the idea of writing a mystery without a dead body, so go for it, I will be purchasing that book.

  29. Mysteries without dead bodies are also great! I grew up reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins, etc before graduating to Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Arthur Conan Doyle by junior high. (The Miss Marple stories that I mainly remember didn’t have a lot of dead bodies, and they were fabulous!)

    Your writing style is so engaging that any mystery will work, with or without a body. The characters are the main attraction of each of your series, and I enjoy attempting to figure out the answer to each mystery – plus getting to live a virtual timeframe with each of them. ~lol~

    If Zoe is going to be traveling with Zak, that presents a wide range of non-body mystery opportunities – especially since she won’t have a working relationship with the local law enforcement. TJ and Cait also have a number of possibilities available in their home town/island areas for non-body mysteries. ~smile~

  30. martie says:

    I think it would be refreshing to have a cozy without a murder. I always thought it would be hard to sell real estate in Cabot Cove, Maine due to the high murder rate. Your many characters could still have many mysteries involving town secrets, kidnapping, mistaken identities, run-aways, a vast myriad of misunderstandings that could turn the town upside down.

  31. Elizabeth Dent says:

    I love a good cozy mystery with a body , but I also love your series without a body . So I like them either way .

  32. Janet Bailey says:

    I haven’t read your Seacliff High series, but I would be fine with a mystery without a body. I agree that there must be other crimes going on in any city rather than the monthly or quarterly murders.

  33. I don’t know why everyone who writes thinks blood and guts along with dead bodies is the way to go. I have absolutely no problem with a bodyless book. 🙂

    I loved reading my hardy boys as a kid. just give me good wholesome entertainment with a lot of laughs thrown in.

  34. PNWMuse says:

    I think a mystery without a murder can have even more intrigue and subplots. With a body, there is always that base to return to – without a body, the search for the “base” is even more complex, giving the mystery just that more to enjoy.

    • Maureen says:

      I am always looking for mysteries that are not about murders, gory and violent. I see enough of that on the 6;00 News. I would love a good series with ” deduction quality “. Is there a Genre out there that has ” who done it ” value without murders? Snowhugs

  35. Karen M says:

    Definitely want cozy mysteries without a murder — aren’t enough of them or can’t find them easily … some parents do not want their children (preteens and young teens) reading about murder, abduction, and/or gore but teachers still want kids to read mystery genre books, so YES, write without a murder, especially Hi-Lo are needed (high interest, low readability for older kiddos who don’t read well).

  36. extraordinaryordinarywhimsy says:

    Please please write more mysteries without murder. We need them and they are not easy to find. Are there any of yours written for adults that don’t center around murder?

  37. Samantha Smith says:

    I’m looking for cozy mysteries without murders. I love the costs but my Mother was really murdered. I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me to find a good cozy that was just a mystery to solve. Thanks

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