Fictional detectives have been around a long time. Edgar Allan Poe is often credited with creating the first detective story in the western world when he wrote The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841. The main character was a man by the name of C. Auguste Dupin, and I guess he counts as the first male detective. I did a little Googling and discovered that Mrs. G. in The Female Detective is considered the first woman detective in western literature. That book was published in 1864, only about twenty years after Poe’s story.
It’s nice to know that fictional detectives of both genders have been digging up clues and solving crimes for well over a century and a half. Fifty years ago, I suspect male detectives greatly outnumbered female ones, but nowadays, you can browse any bookstore shelf and find a solid mix of both female and male protagonists. This is also true of the people writing the books. Both genders are well-represented.
Until you reach the cozy mystery section, that is. Then a strange thing happens: All the men disappear. I’m not sure where they’ve gone, but female detectives dominate this subgenre. From tea shop owners to bee keepers to book restorers, women spend their days running their businesses and their nights and lunch breaks solving murders. You can find a handful of male authors in the cozy section, such as Jeffery Allen, who writes the delightful Stay At Home Dad Mysteries, but those books are the exception, rather than the norm. Even books with male protagonists, like James Henry in the Supper Club Mysteries or Hercule Poirot, are often written by women.
So why don’t more men write cozy mysteries? Is it because men like to tell stories that involve lots of shoot-outs and a high body count? Some men are surely nodding their heads right now, but I can’t imagine all men prefer that type of story-telling.
Is it because men don’t feel the need to break the gender barrier the same way that women did when women started writing thrillers? Are men content to keep writing grittier stories and not delve into a genre that is controlled by women?
Is it because most men just don’t find cozy mysteries that interesting?
I don’t actually have the answer to any of these questions, and I suspect there isn’t a single correct answer that explains the phenomenon. In fact, I wonder if there aren’t more men who want to write cozies. But if so, where are they? Writing under pseudonyms? Waiting for the great cozy mystery uprising where all the men will rush forward and populate the bookshelves with their cozy tomes? Or is there another reason?
If anyone out there can shed light on this particular mystery, please share with me. I’d love to know.