Reluctant Heroes and a #giveaway

by Becky Clark

Hi. Barb here filling in for Edith who’s out with hand surgery. Speedy recovery, Edith!

Today my, er Edith’s guest is Becky Clark. Take it away Becky!

Of all the tropes I like most about cozy mysteries, I think my favorite is the amateur status of the sleuth.

Moving houses as much as I did as a kid, I’ve always identified with the “fish out of water” comedies. There are a million of ‘em—and I’ve probably seen ‘em all—but these spring to mind:

  • Private Benjamin
  • My Cousin Vinny
  • Big
  • Back to the Future
  • Enchanted
  • Groundhog Day
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • School of Rock

All of these main characters suddenly find themselves thrust into a completely different life from the one they were happily leading. But by the end, they’ve conquered, if not embraced, the unfamiliar and have made a new home for themselves in their strange new world, or learned something important to take back to their old life.

Just like amateur sleuths in cozy mysteries, at least the ones I write.

Because I have an affinity for these fish-out-of-water sad sacks, most of the sleuths in my cozies are reluctant heroes. They don’t want to investigate this crime. They don’t want to stick their nose in other people’s beeswax. They want to pretend it never happened.

At least at first.

But then they realize that justice won’t be served if they don’t get involved. The wrong person will languish in jail. The bad guy will skip off into the sunset unpunished and unrepentant. The previously unsullied family name will live forever besmirched.

They won’t be able to get back to their “normal” life until they’ve solved this mystery.

The sleuth in my Mystery Writer’s Mysteries is a mystery author who keeps having real-life mysteries drop in her lap when all she wants is to craft fictional mysteries. She has her moments of wanting to curl up under the covers with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich, but knows she has to figure out whodunit.

In Puzzling Ink, the first in my brand-spankin-new Crossword Puzzle Mysteries, Quinn Carr has enough personal problems without finding a dead man face-down in his biscuits and gravy in the diner where she works. She’s happy to let the police investigate, at least up until her boss is arrested, throwing further chaos into her life.

I remember very clearly my genesis from reading mysteries to writing them. I was engrossed in a novel with a really kick-ass heroine and I thought, “Oh my. What would I do in that situation?”

Spoiler alert … it was nothing kick-ass.

It was more along the lines of eating grilled cheese under the covers.

But I found the question equally engrossing. How does someone with no police training solve a crime?

And the answer? The same way one writes about them … step by step, decision by decision, clue by clue.

Readers, what do you think about reluctant heroes? What is your favorite cozy trope? Do you think you could solve a crime? Comment and get a chance to win an ebook of Puzzling Ink! Follow the blog tour for more chances to win … and join us for the 24-Hour Launch Party for Puzzling Ink on Nov 3rd! Tons of prizes and fun! All the details at

Becky Clark

Award-winning author Becky Clark is the seventh of eight kids, which explains both her insatiable need for attention and her atrocious table manners. She likes to read funny books so it felt natural to write them too. She surrounds herself with quirky people and pets who end up as characters in her books. Readers say her books are “fast and thoroughly entertaining” with “witty humor and tight writing” and “humor laced with engaging characters” so you should “grab a cocktail and enjoy the ride.” Subscribe to her mailing list to apply to be part of her Review Crew and read her books before they’re published. She writes the Mystery Writers Mysteries, and the Crossword Puzzle Mysteries, among other things.

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36 Thoughts

    1. Then I want you as my neighbor, Kara! I’d pose all my nosy questions and you could figure it all out during our coffee klatch. It’d be fun!

  1. I prefer reluctant heroes as they tend not to muddy the crime scene by jumping in before the police get there. I don’t think I could solve a crime unless it were a little one like missing sausage and a hiding pet.

    1. Oh, I hadn’t thought about that, Barbara, but you’re absolutely right!

      The Case of the Missing Sausage and Hiding Pet made me laugh. I was just telling someone that Nala snuck up on the comfy chair whenever I left the house but I’d never have known if she didn’t do the perp walk the minute I walked in the door! Good thing dogs don’t play poker, eh?

  2. Congrats, Becky! Despite writing mysteries, I don’t think I could solve one. I’d much rather hunker down with that gooey grilled cheese sandwich and let the professionals handle it.

    1. Liz, you and I can hang out on the patio with our grilled cheese (and maybe some margaritas) and critique their methodology.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! You’re right, that’s another entire genre of reluctant heroes. God bless ’em … their stakes are even higher!

  3. Congratulations on the new release and the new series.

    I prefer cheddar to American and whole wheat to white. Just in case you need that information.

    Magical realism is rapidly becoming one of my new favorite tropes. Of course I love Punny titles. They create a mystery within a mystery. Is the title a clue? How does it relate to the story?

    1. Thanks, Kait! And I’m right there with you on the cheddar and the wheat. Sometimes—if I’m feeling particularly fancy—I’ll add some swiss or pepper jack. But I’m usually good with the standard. I don’t even need tomato soup!

      I don’t read a lot of magical realism, but I am DOWN with the punny titles. They’re so much fun. I usually brainstorm 20 or 30 titles before I even start writing. First, I want to make sure I can sustain a series. And second, I can then fit a plot line to the title rather than having to crowbar a title in to fit the story. Like you, I love to make the connection between the book and the title. Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes that AHA doesn’t come until the last page. It’s always so satisfying.

    1. Sandy, I bet you could! Like crosswords, crimes only have one right answer … we just have to ask the right questions. You and I could team up; we’d be a force to reckon with!

    1. Thanks, Marla! It’s true … they’re an Everywoman for us, and oh so human. And if they can win, so can we, right?

  4. Toasted cheese is my favorite sort of sandwich! I love a reluctant hero and if she appens to be hiding under the covers at first I like her even more! Best of luch with the new release and your launch celebrations!

    1. Thanks so much, Jessie! I will say, though, when someone says “toasted cheese” it sends me straight back to my youth when I watched someone make an open-faced cheese sandwich under the broiler in the oven! Blew my mind completely. I’ve always been a skillet girl. How do you make yours?

  5. Barb and Edith, thanks so much to both of you for hosting me today. I’ve always wanted to be a wicked author!

  6. I’d fail if it were up to me. I always miss the big things.

    (I’ve got a review ready to post in the morning, so don’t enter me in the giveaway.)

    1. Oh, but Mark, it’s never the big things … it’s always the little things that solve crimes. I bet you’d do better than you think.

    1. That’s true for the writer too, Kathleen! There aren’t that many reasons to murder someone: revenge, greed, power. So there needs to be something more interesting, along with the clues to ferret it all out. Complicated!

      Thanks for commenting!

  7. You had me at “grilled cheese.” A g.c. sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup is a perfectly cozy meal. I like my mysteries cozy, and many of the amateur sleuths I’ve read about have been reluctant. I would not make a good sleuth. Too nervous to go snooping in dangerous places where a murderer might lurk. I like the crossword puzzle theme of this book, so I will be putting it on my TBR list.

    1. Thanks so much, Debbie! I’ve decided that grilled cheese hits all the right notes—crispy, gooey, salty … and sweet if you add a bit of fig jam inside. Yum!

      I’m pretty nosy, but I’m also aware of people’s personal boundaries, so I end up asking my husband all the questions I want to ask a stranger. “Why do you think she’s wearing that? How did he get there? What might they be whispering about?” It’s not as satisfying, but it probably keeps me from getting punched in the face.

  8. I always wonder when the police person says he or she will arrest the reluctant sleuth for asking questions. If a murder happened in my group, we would all be talking about it. I wouldn’t have the nerve to follow up if someone didn’t answer though. I enjoy amateur sleuths more than real ones because I also get to have the cozy food, crafts, etc. Stay safe and well.

    1. Hi Sally … I agree, there’s so much more to cozies than just the sleuth. As far as the police making idle threats, I think probably those amateurs get on their last nerve, even though they always solve the crime!

  9. I much prefer a reluctant sleuth to one who barges I thinking she knows everything. And I, too, have become interested in the magical realism stories. Nothing like a reluctant witch sleuth. The best grilled cheese sandwiches are made with pepper jack cheese spread with Dijon mustard (before grilling) on multi-grain bread.

  10. I like reluctant heroes. There was a post here about how every cozy protagonist needs a compelling reason to make them investigate, and I thought it was very insightful. I applied it to a couple of my own stories.

    1. That “compelling reason” is often quite tenuous! That’s where some suspension of disbelief comes in, which I’m all for. I mean, seriously, how many dead bodies can one poor soul trip over in her lifetime??

  11. I think all cozies are magical in that there is always an amateur solving a crime (that they usually have no business butting in) and that the victim get justice for the crime. Probably why I love them. I am not sure I would make a good detective but I do love the snooping around the characters do! I also love when justice is done! Firm believer in karma!

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