Writing a thriller is no easy task. Blending it with the best medicine of all – laughter – is still more difficult. How on earth can you blend crime and comedy? Well, impossible as that sounds, some authors have managed to do just that, managing to leave their readers convulsed with laughter even as they wait in anticipation for what happens next. And few authors have managed this cocktail of humour and crime as well as these six worthies
Ancient Rome and a detective who has a penchant for stumbling into trouble – that is what Davis’ epic Marcus Didius Falco series of books is about. And while each title does give you a phenomenal description of Roman society, you will be too busy giggling at the way in which Falco handles his cases. He never takes himself too seriously, to be honest. The problem is: not many others do either. The result: great writing, great plots, and lots of humour. All based in the distant past.
Start with: The Silver Pigs
The greatest Indian detective in fiction is actually the creation of an Englishman. Get past the irony, however, and you will be treated to some brilliant writing featuring Inspector Ganesh Ghote of the Mumbai Police, who battles corruption, bureaucracy, a less than always admiring wife, and a host of life’s little problems even while attempting to bring criminals to justice. It is never an easy task, especially because Ghote is essentially an honest man. Many is the time when you will smile at his predicament – the smiles might be rueful, but come they will.
Start with: The Perfect Murder
They do not make them like Gervase Fen. Eccentric, intelligent and not the best-mannered of people, this Oxford don, who also teaches at the University, nevertheless has powers of observation and deduction that would have made a Sherlock Holmes proud. Unfortunately, he does combine them with an acid wit that many of his companions do not appreciate. Readers, however, will be too busy giggling to mind.
Start with: The Case of the Gilded Fly
There are some who will be scandalised at our having the effrontery to term the man who wrote the Titmus series as a thriller writer, but then Mortimer’s classic Rumpole series had more than just a touch of cloak and dagger about it. Rumpole is a hard-bitten London barrister who makes a living out of defending (often petty) criminals. And he does so with flair – he quotes classic English poetry – and zest, and not a little humour. Some of the most classy writing you will see, and hilarious and humane in equal measure.
Start with: Rumpole of the Bailey
What happens when chick lit meets crime fiction? Well something like Janet Evanovich’s irresistibly readable Stephanie Plum series. She is a bounty hunter by profession who often gets into bigger tangles than she bargained for, and ends up juggling a very active love life with purchase decisions and pursuing criminals. The result is a hilarious, albeit occasionally grim, cocktail that will keep you riveted. And more often than not, grinning!
Start with: One for the Money
Alexander McCall Smith
Lazily elegant and gently humorous – Alexander McCall Smith’s works are like the winter sun. To be enjoyed and savoured at leisure. And while they will not make you explode with laughter, they certainly will make you smile gently more often than not. McCall Smith’s two famous detectives are the professional Precious Ramotswe, the first professional detective in Botswana, and Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher who stumbles on to crimes while meditating on life. The plots may not be the most intricate, but are almost always laced with gentle humour.
Start with: The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Sunday Philosophy Club