Welcome back Mysteristas friend Wendy Tyson, author of the Greenhouse Mysteries and the Allison Campbell Mysteries.
The mention of this month’s theme caused me a moment of panic. You see, I don’t write books that would be characterized as humorous mysteries. If you pick up a novel from the Allison Campbell Mystery Series or the Greenhouse Mystery Series, you’re probably not expecting the kind of belly-aching laughter you might get from reading authors like Janet Evanovich or Chris Ewan or Gretchen Archer. My novels, especially the Allison Campbell books, are more suspense than comedy. But what I’ve come to realize over time is that while crime is, well, crime (and what’s funny about that?), crime fiction provides the perfect backdrop for humor.
Let’s face it, humor serves many masters. It can be an end in itself, of course. But within the context of a mystery it can also help to alleviate tension, create relatable characters (who isn’t attracted to a strong sense of humor?), denote character, highlight or create conflict, and show the relationship between characters. Think about Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series. While you won’t find them listed on many Humorous Mysteries lists, Detective Barbara Havers’ often fumbling relationship with life is quite funny, as are the interactions between Barbara and her boss, the Oxford-educated, aristocratic Inspector Lynley.
While my mysteries may not elicit guffaws, humor is woven throughout. It’s in the banter between Megan and her veterinarian boyfriend, Dr. Denver Finn. It’s in Bibi’s often ironic proclamations about life. It’s embedded within new-farmer Megan’s internal and external conflicts—conflicts that affect her decisions and her relationships with others. (There is something funny about a woman arguing with a goat.) And it’s in the antics of Winsome’s quirky townsfolk. Same for the Allison Campbell Series. Simply the notion of an image consultant solving crimes in the upscale Philadelphia Main Line is amusing, and Allison doesn’t take herself too seriously. Despite often dangerous situations and dark issues, Allison maintains a sense of humor about who she is and what she does—and therefore so does the reader.
I saw somewhere that the television show Malcolm in the Middle relied on music rather than canned laughter to denote the funny parts. Upbeat songs served to lighten the mood, signaling the humorous portions of the story line. Thankfully with books readers don’t need a signal. In fact, humor is often the signal that things are about to change. Whether it’s an out rightly funny slapstick scene, elements of dark humor, or simply witty dialogue that reflects the absurdity of everyday life, crime fiction is often loaded with laughs.
It turns out solving crimes can be downright funny.
Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons, and three dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series. Her latest Greenhouse novel, Bitter Harvest, was released March 7, 2017.