"He laughs best who laughs at the end."
I found the panels I attended at the Bouchercon mystery conference in San Diego a few weeks ago a treasure trove of writing and reading inspiration!
Over 1600 mystery and crime writers; book bloggers and podcasters; readers and book club members attended this year, making for some spirited discussions during the Qs & As.
For today's post, I wanted to chat about one of the panels that piqued my interest: Humor and Homicide. I constantly juggle with mixing the two as I write the books in my cozy mystery series.
A body hits the floor but that doesn’t mean the tone must be completely serious. Sometimes a bit of levity or some outright silliness is just the perfect accompaniment to a criminally good time.
I'm sure we will all agree there is nothing funny about heinous crimes IRL, and certainly ones as hideous as murder. #Yikes Yet in the worst of times, humor sometimes has a sneaky way of entering the scene...
Cozy mystery writers have a delicate balance to follow. Let's face it, in these style books, most of us have a do-gooder, amateur sleuth leading the investigations--bakers, librarians, teachers, knitters, shopkeepers, retirees, and the odd American marchioness to name a few.
What during/after-the-fact reactions occur when these nosy parkers stumble across a deadly situation? (My MC, Gemma usually deals with body counts ranging from one to Midsomer Murder levels. Cocktails flow.) 👀 How are the reactions dealt with in the story, mixing elements of humor to ease the tensions? Let's sift through a few examples of how humor can be infused:
Exaggerated Main Characters/Personalities:
Margaret Rutherford as Miss Jane Marple in movies such as Murder Most Foul; Murder Ahoy; Murder at the Gallop; and Murder She Said is a perfect example of stretching a character's persona almost to the limit of the humor zone. As a devoted Miss Marple book fan, she didn't fit the profile as to how I imagined Miss Marple to act, but Dame Rutherford put an authentic, comedic angle to her portrayal which is quite entertaining.
Albert Finney's over-the-top performance as Hercule Poirot in the film, Murder on the Orient Express had a similar comedic exaggeration with his mustache fussing and shuffling gate that made you smile as he roamed the corridors of the fated train in his patent shoes. Peter Ustinov's performances in Evil Under the Sun and Death on the Nile had many smile-worthy, Poirot eccentric moments for this mystery lover too.
Humorous Side Stories and Situations
I'm a particular fan of this humor inducing method and have used it often in my cozy tales as a means to lighten up the tragic events. Ill-timed births (thank goodness Figgy is a midwife!); getting caught running naked by the manor house security cameras; monarchs who faint dead away, a Santa whose chair is sabotaged are just a few examples where I've pulled out the rug to make readers smile for a moment in the midst of deadly deeds.
One of the cheekier uses of this ploy was by Dame Agatha in The Body in the Library. **Spoiler alert, stop reading if you don't want to know these details! Naughty prankster Basil Blake, takes revenge on Colonel Bantry by moving the dead woman's body from his home to the library of his nemesis neighbor, causing all kinds of tangled havoc for Miss Marple to sort out! M.C. Beaton used this humorous method in her Agatha Raisin tales too, placing MC Agatha in embarrassing situations where she is frequently outed and teased (ie store-bought quiche scandal in Quiche of Death).
Foil Characters and Settings
Poirot had Hastings, Sherlock had Watson, Barnaby has his revolving door of sergeants, Qwilleran had Coco and YumYum (not all sidekicks are human), and of course, Gemma has Figgy, Max, and Mama to provide comic relief in-between deadly deeds at Cherrywood Hall. These side characters play huge roles in mystery tales, IMHO. Without the giggles and frivolities they bring to the stories, it could get a bit dark and boring. I like to be kept on my toes in a mystery, and these type characters help keep tensions down and the MCs on track.
As for settings, I love seeing stories set during vacations and seasonal holidays (Loved watching Ustinov's Poirot 'swimming' in the Evil Under the Sun movie 👉!) You're away from home or celebrating, then, #HoHoHo boom! Having a fun location or special occasion can be used in many ways to bring a few grins to the page. Let's not forget those cocktail scenes... It's a good thing!
In good times and bad, through thick and thin, laughter is always the best medicine in my book. Use it wisely and you'll have a whodunnit readers and film lovers won't soon forget! Do you have examples of humor's darker side used in mysteries you found memorable? I'm dying to hear!
It's Wednesday, time for #DearDiary:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Reviews Rolling In!
Bibiana and I are so grateful for the fabulous reviews rolling in for Shadow Reflection! For the next few weeks, I want to highlight our reader's kind words. This week it's fellow author and reader, Cathy Maza's review 🎃:
There's no better way to celebrate the Halloween kick-off season than by reading a copy of the fourth edition of The Haunted series by authors Veronica Cline Barton and Bibiana Krall. Shadow Reflection is a well-written, entertaining read that has you jumping at sounds and wishing for an extra light or two. This edition is aptly named, as it had me reading over most stories twice, unsure if I had actually read what my mind was processing. Kudos to both authors for the ability to have readers doing double-takes right along with the characters. Let's just say that if you're a reader who likes immersive reading experiences, this is a book you'll love.
As in years past, I like to highlight my personal favorite story by each author. "Hijinks" by author Cline Barton is an absolute delight for those of us who live for the season between Halloween and Christmas. Full of little teases and references to every traditional holiday on the calendar, this tale was totally witty and charming. It also served as some fun cushioning before devouring my other favorite story. "Billy" by author Krall is a fantastic, traditional ghost story that leaves you looking over your shoulder. This author has a true talent for making ordinary things seems terrifying. In this case, scarecrows. After reading this story, the ones that I own will not be coming out of the autumn decorating box this year...for real.
Five stars and big thumbs up for Shadow Reflection! This is a highly recommended read for lovers of clever short stories and/or dark fiction.
Thank you so much, Cathy! 💀🌹
Haunted tales and the perils of being in a crime novel this week from the writers of X...
Author Sharon Bradshaw, The Bookseller's Ghost, 5 ⭐
"candlelight dances__shadow sways__a phantasm jigs__in silence__midnight__creeps__while Innocence__sleeps__evil is stalking__the room"
Author Bradshaw eerily sets the scene for the chills to come in this spooktacular collection of ghostly tales. Readers are swept into stories of the bizarre and macabre, giving a glimpse of a paranormal realm surrounding us.
Are the happenings real, or simply stirs of our imagination? Do the spirits reach out to calm us, or deliver a warning, or vengeance from beyond? Each story delivers a different perspective, with chilling results!
I thoroughly enjoyed this haunting mix of stories, a classic collection for this season of scary. A highly recommended read!
Author Kate Jackson, How to Survive a Classic Crime Novel, 5 ⭐
Did you ever wonder what you would do if you suddenly found yourself in the midst of one of your favorite mysteries, encountering a plethora of deadly deeds? Author Jackson gives readers and writers a brilliant, entertaining collection of the scenarios and pitfalls occurring on the pages of crime capers, and what you may want to look for to prevent an early demise.
Whether you wander into homicidal settings at home, on the road, during the holidays, or at work, this crime deterring tutorial gives you plenty of examples of the perils that might be met in each setting, with plenty of literary examples to reference for each quandary. Add in romance, blackmail, and seedy personalities and you'll have the perfect profiles of who and what you might want to avoid.
Author Jackson's brilliant overview and literary examples kept me turning the pages, enjoying every detail and description. This is an absolute must read for fans of mystery and intrigue, highly recommended!
Next up in the reading queue:
24 Years and Counting...
The OH and I had another beautiful evening at the Ritz in Laguna Niguel. The sky was simply stunning at sunset, overlooking the Pacific. We celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary in fine style and a good time was had by all. Here's to the next 24! 💖🌹
Welcome to my world. Until next time, have a good one!
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. Be still my heart! (Not too still)...Guess where I'll be this Friday? A Haunting in Venice hits the big screen, and I cannot wait for this latest Poirot thriller! Gemma and Rikkhe approve 💖👑