Mystery and thriller fans are no strangers to gloomy, serious, thrilling plots—with plenty of gruesome murder scenes and heinous crimes.
But sometimes, you're just not in the headspace to tackle such heavy themes—but you are in the mood for a good laugh.
Black comedy mystery or thriller books are especially great because, while they do address the darker sides of life, they also find the absurd humor in it all. Black comedy, otherwise known as dark humor, is a style of comedy in which the humor is found in taboo, sad, or painful topics.
By doing so, authors make serious issues easier to grapple with, often creating relatable satirical work that pokes fun at societal issues. Whether it’s an outlandish murder scenario or a crime scheme that goes incredibly wrong for its quirky characters, readers will gain some much-needed lighthearted hijinks.
Here are 10 black comedy mysteries and thrillers that’ll have you cracking up as you crack the case!
Moist is a wacky fever-dream-of-a-story readers won’t mind getting lost in. It centers around an ordinary man named Bob who works at a pathology lab and ends up falling in lust with a woman whose image he admires on a tattooed, severed arm. And if you think it couldn’t get any stranger, you’d be wrong.
He decides to go on a quest to find the owner of the arm in hopes of finding the attractive woman etched on their skin. In the process, Bob finds himself entangled in the world of the Los Angeles Mexican mafia as he tries to keep his precious cargo out of the hands of intimidating mafia bosses and an LAPD detective hot on his trail. You’ll have as hard of a time forgetting the characters in this uniquely strange crime novel as you will trying to stifle a chuckle throughout.
A Man With One of Those Faces
Paul Mulchrone admits that working part-time in a hospice as a companion to the elderly is not the most exciting way to spend his days. Until he is proven wrong when he suddenly has to fight for his life against an old man who mistakes him for someone else. Now Paul is a target for a few people who want him dead, but thankfully for him, his nurse friend, who has read quite a few crime novels, and a violent, alcoholic renegade cop are willing to help Paul run from his killers.
Paul just isn’t too sure why it seems like everyone wants him dead. Hilarious and riveting, this novel will have you at the edge of your seat—then, subsequently, falling off your chair from laughter.
Soon-to-be-married Catriona is about to start a new life in Italy with her husband, but before she can do so, she feels she needs closure from her previous relationships. Consequently, she decides to visit three of her ex-boyfriends to resolve past issues. But on the morning of her wedding, she finds herself arrested for the mutilation and murder of all three.
Told from various perspectives—including Catriona’s unreliable narration and via excerpts from a scathing biography that portrays Cat as a monster—readers will enjoy determining whether our protagonist is guilty or innocent as they savor author Helen Fitzgerald’s biting humor.
A new restaurant is opening in London’s SoHo district, and it just so happens to be run by Susan Ball, a mob wife who is funding her dream with money stolen from her husband Frank “Ballistic” Ball. Then there’s the cook, who is a former celebrity chef and a notorious pervert, and the maître d’, who has recently returned from his drug-laden spiritual travels in Goa.
This band of interesting, witty characters will have you asking for another helping of more from author Nicholas Blincoe.
Since the Layoffs
What is a man to do when he’s been laid off from his job as a factory supervisor, his longtime girlfriend decides to leave him and bills keep piling up, threatening to force him onto the streets? He becomes a hitman, of course! In this satirical, dark crime novel that discusses the plight of blue-collar workers to stay afloat in an economy stacked against them, our disillusioned protagonist, Jake Skowran, realizes how far he’s willing to go to make a good amount of dough.
Spoiler alert: He’s willing to go very far.
Judith Singer leads a very predictable life; she’s a stay-at-home wife who prepares dinner every night for her husband but is starting to find their physical intimacy to be more of a chore than anything else lately. So, when she gets wind of a local dentist’s murder, she decides cracking this case will be just the kind of excitement she’s been needing.
When her close friend is suspected of being the murderer, it makes her even more passionate about solving this mystery, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the chief investigator is incredibly handsome...
Revenge of the Lobster Lover
Eager to learn new recipes that spotlight lobsters, Hyacinth “Hy” McAllister has invited Camilla to her Canadian fishing village’s annual dinner to celebrate the lobster season. Instead, Camilla reveals she is the founder of the Lobster Liberation Legion, a group determined to free as many lobsters as possible and educate the masses about these crustaceans.
Locals are angry; a lobster poacher is on the loose, and a mysterious, wealthy newcomer may be hiding secrets regarding his true intentions after moving to town. The lobsters may not be the only ones in danger of meeting their early demise.
The Sunday Pigeon Murders
To make a quick buck, Bingo and Handsome have been trying their hand at photographing people in Central Park. Needless to say, they’re broke. But thankfully, Handsome’s photographic memory may finally come in handy after they recognize a man who has been missing for almost seven years and is about to be deemed dead. The elusive man, S.S. Pigeon, will leave behind $500,000 to his former business partner, Harkness Penneyth, so the hustling duo comes up with a scheme: kidnap Pigeon until he’s declared dead and hope the beneficiary shares his newfound riches with them.
But they weren't expecting Mr. Pigeon to be so darn likeable or for others to start mysteriously dying. Now the photographers turned kidnappers will have to put on their detective caps as well to keep themselves and their new friend, Mr. Pigeon, safe.
Country of the Blind
Conservative tabloid mogul Roland Voss is found killed, along with his wife and two bodyguards, at their country estate. Progressive journalist Jack Parlabane doesn’t buy that a couple of burglars are to blame. Public defender Nicole Carrow agrees that something more sinister has most likely taken place. What follows is an intricate political conspiracy as action-packed as it is humorous!
Don't Point That Thing at Me
When an expensive painting goes missing, Charlie Mortdecai, a sly art dealer, is the primary suspect. With the help of his servant, Jock Strapp, they convince the authorities of Mortdecai’s innocence—except he’s very much guilty and must now make his way to America to meet his southwestern American buyer. Who knew making a fraudulent living would entail so much work?
What transpires is a whole lot of deliciously dry British humor as readers observe how Mortdecai’s plans go completely off the rails, resulting in an entertaining ride from beginning to end.
Featured photo: Siora Photography / Unsplash