KATONAH, N.Y. – Matthew Costello, a prolific writer across many genres, has tapped into a popular form of detective fiction known as “cozy mystery.” With his British writing partner, Neil Richards, he has been producing an ongoing series called Cherringham for the past four years and has currently published 34 novellas in the compilation. Costello said he has grown to love the style.
“I’ve always liked mysteries—Agatha Christie, the great Raymond Chandler,” he said. “The cozy mystery is gentle and it’s sweet—very different from horror obviously—it’s a whole subset of mystery that you can read at night and you’re not going to have nightmares; a peaceful kind of world where bad things happen and mysteries occur.”
The sub-genre is one that appeals to readers who are puzzle-solvers and amateur sleuths but seem to enjoy stories without graphic violence, sex or gory crime details.
Costello, a 24-year resident of Katonah and his wife, Ann, raised three kids and were teachers at area schools. But as his writing talent began to turn into paid work, this book-lover left his teaching job and went on to publish works of fiction and non-fiction, magazine articles, created television programs and was notably involved in some best-selling video games. He said his early success in the game category—writing scripts and dialogue that combined game-playing and storytelling—propelled his career as a full-fledged writer.
“Early on, I wrote for ‘The Seventh Guest’ and it sold 3 million copies,” he said. “My life changed and even though I kept doing novels, I was now a game writer and went on to do a game with Robin Williams (‘Aladdin’), ‘Doom 3,’ ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’—one groundbreaking project led to another.”
He penned several horror novels in the years to follow: “Vacation” and “Beneath Still Waters” sent chills up the spines of his readers.
The Cherringham series, however, has garnered a new kind of success for Costello. Thus far, he and his writing partner have seen 400,000 books sell worldwide (including in Germany, Finland and Serbia to name a few). On top of that, the audiobook format has also sold close to 400,000 copies.
The crime fiction stories are set in a fictional English village in the Cotswolds called Cherringham. They revolve around a retired New York City homicide detective who had planned on settling into a quiet life there with his wife, living on a barge. When she dies of cancer, he follows their plan anyway and begins a new life alone in Cherringham. He befriends a local divorced mother who is 20 years his junior and the two eventually team up to solve local mysteries.
Although Costello himself says he is not a huge fan of audiobooks and prefers “haunting” the Katonah Library for old-fashioned books, he understands the appeal and success of his work in audio format.
“People like it. They can take the train to Manhattan and take the train back and they’ve read the whole mystery. It’s like watching a TV episode. There are people who are addicted to these,” he said.
The series is narrated by Neil Dudgeon, an actor who plays John Barnaby in “Midsomer Murders,” the British TV detective drama. His authentic voice lends itself to the evocative descriptions of life in the Cotswold village, including a charming tea shop with fresh scones that bring readers straight into its picture-perfect world.
In his own cozy hamlet of Katonah, Costello wonders why he would ever leave what he calls a perfect town.
“I love Katonah, it’s a real town,” he marveled. “It has real stores: Scaglio’s, Peppino’s, the liquor store, Kellogg’s and Lawrence—and the green space going down the middle.”
The peace and tranquility he finds here have allowed this versatile wordsmith to evolve and work continuously as a writer since 1987, with various new projects in the pipeline. While some struggle with writer’s block, Costello confesses that his creative juices flow readily.
“I’m most alive when I’m writing and I love getting lost in it,” he said. “I think my brain is wired this way, it opens up and it’s like I’m watching a movie.”