Behind Closed Doors

Over the weekend, I had a few surprises from readers.

One was disappointing.

Somebody returned a Beatrice Stubbs Boxset for a refund.

“Nothing in the description said it was an R rating.”

An R rating? In Europe, we understand an X rating, but what does R mean?

I checked the definition and it’s pretty vague, especially when it comes to books. R means restricted. Some sex, violence, nudity and if anyone under 17 cracks the spine*, they should be under supervision. (*not a euphemism)

If my reader didn’t like the first chapter – which does indeed involve some medium to strong language, allusions to sex and a gently twisted murder – s/he has every right to ask for his/her money back. No offence taken.

Raw Material

How to communicate to potential readers that Beatrice Stubbs is neither cozy/cosy nor excessively violent/graphic? Is there a scale one can use to reassure the nervous while enticing the curious?


The second surprise was a new review from an Amazon reader called Roxann.

I hope she’ll forgive me quoting her here:

I loved the entire Beatrice Stubbs series… Great plots, wonderful endearing characters and JJ Marsh’s sense of humor is delightful. READ THEM ALL. I am very sad that the series is only six books….. I miss the characters…..!!!!! Please write more.

Now stop that. I know what you’re thinking.

Eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.

But I do want to mess with Mister In-Between. How do I please both ends of the crime reading spectrum?

Cold Pressed

What kind of warnings do I add to my books? Maybe we need a new system.

  • Small x: Bad cuss-words, almost-sex and a few bloodstains
  • Small r: Medium swearing and not all dead bodies are female
  • Small c: No creatures or children injured

I started writing crime not to shock or horrify, but to entertain. I don’t want to give you nightmares. My aim is essentially to reassure that good can prevail; that human beings want to look after each other. If you’re reading a Beatrice Stubbs book before you go to sleep, I hope you’re enthralled and excited and even unnerved, but never disgusted, repulsed or upset.

Tread Softly

Yes, horrible people and situations exist but beware of gratuitous shocks.

The Nasties accentuate the negative, fan fear and distort perception.

This piece by Rene Denfeld sums up why I write crime from the female perspective.

Women can be so much more than victims.

Beatrice Stubbs knows all about the negative but strives, at least, for the in-between.

If you’ve read a Beatrice book – whether you’ve loved or hated – how would you describe it?








    10 replies to "Crime: Cozy or Cruel?"

    • Sharon

      Marsh is the Agatha Christie of her generation. Its not so much And then there were none it’s more case of piss off poirot, Stubbs has taken centre stage.

      • jilljmarsh

        Oh I could never rival the wonderful Dame Christie – her plots were so incredibly clever. Not to mention the mysteries in her own life. But I would love to think people had a similar fondness for Beatrice Stubbs as they did some of her characters.

    • writeanne

      I’d describe all the Beatrice books as FABULOUS. Not a fan of cozy/cosy makes my toes curl way more than the realistic. Beatrice Lit is like real life – mix of brutal and benign. Go Beatrice, go JJ!

      • jilljmarsh

        Thank you. I too dislike the term cosy, but it does give readers a shorthand, I guess.
        Still, I will happily settle for fabulous! Thank you so much!

    • Barbara Scott-Emmett

      It’s Cultured Crime – grown up without being grotesque.

      • jilljmarsh

        Cultured Crime? I like that. Sounds like ti has a glass of wine in its hand.
        Thank you Barbara!

    • DawnGillDesigns

      fabulous is the word. add convincing and authentic.
      Oh, plus entertaining and positive.
      And of course there’s the added bonus of positive examples (yes, I hear you yawning) of women, LGBT and mental health. Just like in life really. Of course….if you were to write any more (I imagine prequels must be harder work) I think you probably have a devoted and captive audience terribly keen to hand over the readies. #Stubbs #Grovel #Please

      • jilljmarsh

        That’s great to hear – thank you!
        And rest assured, there will be a Beatrice ‘extra’ before the year is out.
        We could even call it a Christmas special.

    • Sara Castelli

      Well, I’m almost finished with Bad Apples and the last book. I too look forward to more. In a way the books have an Agatha Christie ring to them. Life and all its bits is not simply a rosy picture…it is harsh reality but good people (all kinds) shine through. We need to remember that! Just love the books and can’t wait for more to come.

      • jilljmarsh

        Thank you Sara, that’s good to hear! And yes, I agree. Good people do shine through.

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