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TK Sheffield might know “Why Readers Cozy Up to Mysteries in Wisconsin”

TK Sheffiled is the author of the Backyard Model comic cozy mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Cozy mysteries are to crime fiction what an ice cream drink is to a Wisconsin fish fry, a component of the meal, but sweet and delightful, with the beverages’ dash of brandy (or liqueur) adding zest to the experience. Mysteries are one of the most popular fiction categories, and the genre includes thriller, police procedural, and medical, among others.


Cozies are the most light-hearted of the category, and the books are characterized by small towns, amateur sleuths, and sex or violence occurring offstage. While the books are less intense than other crime fiction, it doesn’t mean the stories overlook weighty themes. Skilled authors weave contemporary issues such as family drama or business difficulties into their narratives, making cozies more thoughtful than what readers may expect. I write comic cozy mysteries, stories for readers to laugh and escape, but my books also discuss addiction and recovery, friendship, and the peril of seeking revenge.

Wisconsin is home to fantastic cozy mystery writers including Blackbird Writers Joy Ann Ribar and Christine DeSmet. Their stories are set in picturesque locales such as Door County, the Northwoods, and other vacation spots. Blackbirds are also writing more traditional or suspenseful mysteries set here, including Jeff Nania and the Spider Lake Mysteries. Other favorites include Annalise Ryan and the Monster Hunter Mysteries and Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson’s stories, which take place in the 1980s in Eagle, Wisconsin, and feature the Old World Wisconsin historical site.

My stories are set in the fictional town of Cinnamon, a burg that combines the touristy locations of Cedarburg and Mineral Point.

Why Wisconsin is the land of great mysteries and storytelling

Wisconsin is a wonderful setting for cozies due to our beautiful countryside, the weather, and the state’s resourceful, family-oriented residents. There are other factors, too, including our cheerful habit of all-weather tailgating, which means we’ll enjoy great food at practically any sporting event—brutal weather conditions add to the storytelling! That leads to another factor: our brilliant sense of humor. Embracing a Cheesehead nickname while living in “flyover” land with seasons bordering on unfair—summer could be a little longer, eh?—earns us a storytelling badge of honor.

The Backyard Model Comic Cozy Mysteries

I write comic cozies, stories that are The Devil Wears Prada meets a Wisconsin supper club. Mel Tower is a fashion model who’s retired and moved back to her touristy hometown to open a craft mall. In the first book of the Backyard Model series, Model Suspect, a woman is killed in her mall, and Mel must investigate to save her freedom and her business—there’s that amateur sleuth angle that’s the hallmark of cozies! In book two of the series, Model Wave (May ’24), Mel travels “Up North” for a vacation and a date with a handsome sheriff. But the date is sunk when a businessman is found dead in his new mega-pontoon. It’s a beach read, and the action motors off like a high-powered yacht from there. In Model Ghost (October ’24), a fashion designer visits Cinnamon for the Boo Bash, a week of spooky Halloween fun in her touristy small town. When the designer is killed, and her cousin is accused of the crime, Mel must investigate to prove her innocence. Model Ghost is The Devil Wears Prada meets The Golden Bachelor in this cozy mystery featuring fashion, an over-50 dating show, and plenty of cheese.


Check out Wisconsin mystery authors if you’re looking for fabulous reads involving intrigue, small towns, and amateur sleuths. If you can’t live in this beautiful place, reading stories set here is the next best thing.

Have a favorite written by a Wisconsin mystery author? Tell us in the comments

I mentioned several Wisconsin mystery writers in this post but had to conclude due to space limits. If you’re an author with a Wisconsin-based mystery series that was not mentioned, please post in the comments so subscribers and fans of cozy mysteries set in Wisconsin or the Midwest will know about your book. If you’re a reader with a favorite series, please let us know!

TK Sheffield

TK Sheffield writes the award-winning Backyard Model comic cozy mysteries; they’re The Devil Wears Prada meets a Wisconsin supper club, whodunnits served with a brandy old-fashioned and a side of cheese curds. She believes in the adage, “Write what you know.” Thus, the tales are mostly set in Wisconsin.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. John DeDakis
    John DeDakis

    My first two novels, Fast Track, and Bluff, are set in Southern Wisconsin and probably qualify as cozies. But later books in the series, especially beginning with Bullet in the Chamber, begin to get harder-edged. I don’t live in ‘sconsin any more, so thanks for the memories of fish fries, TK.

  2. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    T.K., what a fun post! You gave great, humorous reasons in response to your supposition. I can’t play favorites: I love all our Wisconsin Blackbird Writers’ mystery books.

  3. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    Also, Wisconsin has always been a place for bad people from other parts to hide – who would suspect a guy eating cheese curds at a supper club of embezzling millions?

  4. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Fun post! Wisconsin was the vacation spot (and still is probably) for bad guys and presidents. It’s a natural place to set mysteries. I’d love to see Mel own and operate a supper club because you mention “supper club” so often in your materials. Perhaps that’s in the future?

  5. Avatar

    Saralyn Richard
    just now
    I so enjoyed this post! I lived in nearby Chicago for several decades, so I can attest to the picturesque natural beauty of Wisconsin and the endless possibilities for suspense when dealing with weather, lakes, and cheese!

  6. Carl Vonderau (

    Thanks for explaining how cozies can touch on great themes without being violent or prurient. Your cozies sound like great fun. I can see how Wisconsin is a good setting, not only for the outdoor landscape, but for the people there. A perfect place for villains to disrupt things.

    1. TK SHEFF
      TK SHEFF

      Yes, that’s the catch! It’s a lovely place with wonderful people .. .but a villain lurks within.

  7. Colleen Winter
    Colleen Winter

    What a great tribute to Wisconsin and all its authors bringing it to life. I loved ‘seasons being unfair’! That sounds a lot like where I am in Canada, but like Cheeseheads (would love an explanation of that title!) we embrace the experience. Great post!

    1. TK Sheffield
      TK Sheffield

      Hi Colleen. Yes, Wisconsin’s weather is like Canada’s weather. A Cheesehead is how we describe ourselves. It was a nickname given to us by a state to our south the shall not be named but begins with the letter “I.” Wisconsinites embraced the nickname and now wear foam cheeseheads at every opportunity. Wisconsin is the Dairy State, after all, and we love a good joke!

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