Lately, my usual taste for books about murder and mayhem has abated a little. I find myself wanting to laugh. Luckily, there's no shortage of funny mysteries. From a louche secret agent to a clueless bounty hunter, and from a lady's maid whose skills run more to martial arts than pressing tweed suits, to a retired Memphis cop with a foul mouth and an oddly-named grandson, here are a few mysteries served up with a large side of laughter.
The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp
LAPD detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs are investigating the murder of Rambunctious Rabbit. Or at least, the murder of the actor playing Rambunctious Rabbit at Lamaar Studio's Familyland theme park. But when dead bodies start popping up all over, Lomax and Biggs struggle to keep the investigation under wraps and Lamaar Studio's wholesome image intact. But come for the LaLaland murder investigation and stay for Lomax and Biggs, who, when they're not busting each other's chops, are giving hilarious sass and side-eye to the parade of LA loonies they come across on their way to a conviction. Think the cops in the Lethal Weapon movies, but smarter and funnier.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
One night when Stephanie Plum was a 16-year-old with a job working in the local bakery, local bad boy Joe Morelli swung by to relieve her of some pastries. And her virginity. Now, Stephanie is a former-lingerie-buyer-turned-bounty-hunter with a grudge, Morelli is a vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one, and it's Stephanie's job to find him and bring him in. With a supporting cast that includes a mysterious mercenary, a deviant uncle, and a cuckoo grandma, One for the Money is the kind of story for which the word "screwball" was invented.
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
Buck Schatz is an 87-year-old ex-Memphis cop who would rather stay home and watch Meet the Press than visit a fellow veteran in hospital, but pressured into it, off he goes to see Jim and hears a surprising deathbed confession. Now Buck—"grumpy more for sport than out of necessity"—and his grandson Tequila are trying to track down a POW camp Nazi who may have gold for the taking. But they aren't the only ones. Cross Mel Brooks with Dirty Harry and give him a carton of Lucky Strikes, a dose of blood thinner, and a bad attitude, and you have one of the funniest cop tales around.
Lawyer for the Dog by Lee Robinson
Charleston S.C. attorney Sally Barnard has a successful career as a public defender, and an ex-husband. When that ex-husband, Judge Joe, assigns her to one of his acrimonious divorce cases by appointing her as the lawyer for Sherman, a miniature schnauzer, things get tricky quickly. Forced to contend with a dog, the dog's angry owners, her own amorous ex-, and Sherman's handsome vet, her client ends up being the easiest to please. Big-hearted and funny, Lawyer for the Dog shows a middle-aged Southern belle getting her groove back.
The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
If Oscar Wilde took a crack at writing a James Bond novel, The Vesuvius Club might well have been the result. But Lucifer Box owes a debt to Sherlock Holmes also. Author Mark Gatiss was the writer of, and showrunner for, the Sherlock TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch—and he also played Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, on that show. Box is His Majesty's most daring secret agent, so when prominent scientists start dropping dead, only he, an expert in both deduction and seduction, can be relied upon to penetrate the world's most dangerous secret society: the Vesuvius Club.
A Quiet Life in the Country by T E Kinsey
It's 1908, and widowed Lady Emily Hardcastle has moved from London to the countryside in search of a quiet life. But when a dead body turns up in the woods, and when Lady Hardcastle turns out to have better investigative instincts than the police, it will be up to her to figure out the killer. Luckily, her maid Flo is an expert in the martial arts and between the two of them, they can get the investigation back on the right track. Told largely from Flo's point of view (and what she doesn't voice out loud is often even funnier than what she does), the smart and funny banter between Flo and Lady Hardcastle will make this a welcome discovery for fans of sleuths such as Phryne Fisher.
Right now, we're enjoying mysteries served up with a large side of laughter.