Posted in Events, Writing

The Role of Humour in Crime Writing

Photo of Debbie smiling in a graveyard
Grave thoughts about humour in crime writing (photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

A post about striking a balance between crime, humour and optimism in fiction

I often describe my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries as “feel-good fiction”, which may seem odd in a series whose titles all feature the word “murder”. But I discovered long ago that I find it much easier to write fiction if I’m allowed to be funny, and this applies to my crime writing too.

Comic Relief amidst the Crime

As with any story involving tension and perhaps fear, a touch of humour provides balance and light relief – think James BondIndiana Jones and the Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes.

But in my own mystery books, I use a much larger dose of humour because the underlying purpose of my stories is not to frighten or thrill, but to be life-affirming, celebrating the positive features of community life in the village of Wendlebury Barrow.

Crime at the Castle Commendation

logo for Crime at the Castle
Coming soon to Glamis Castle…

So I was particularly pleased to hear this week that Sophie’s getting a special shout-out at the Scottish crime writing event, Crime at the Castle, in the splendid setting of Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mother.

Scottish novelist Wendy H Jones will be citing it as part of a workshop about injecting humour into crime fiction, and she’s told me she’s using the opening line of Murder in the Manger, third in the Sophie Sayers series, as an example:

“Does your Baby Jesus need a cuddle, Mrs Virgin?” said a small sheep politely.

head and shoulders shot of Wendy H Jones
Scottish crime writer Wendy H Jones

“I’m going to use your line because I  laugh every time I think of it,” Wendy told me. She’s also kindly shared it on her radio show since she interviewed me live on her programme last year.

But much as I love laughing at my own jokes, my books aren’t all about comic effect. I embed serious themes about the value of community life and the importance of tolerance and understanding, and about love, loss and consolation.

There’s the odd moment when I’ve even moved myself to tears:

  • In Best Murder in Show, Sophie is overwhelmed with unresolved grief when she comes to Wendlebury to take up her inheritance of her late Auntie May’s cottage.
  • In Trick or Murder, she finds solace in an All Souls’ Day service in the village church.
  • In Murder in the Manger, she attends a poignant Remembrance Day service in the village school.

I’m endeavouring to keep a healthy balance in each book, but always with the emphasis on the upbeat. Like Wendy, I’m a committed optimist, and that’s our take on life.

Even if we do have to commit the odd murder along the way…

  • If you’d like to read the rest of the opening chapter of Murder in the Manger on my blog, click here.
  • For more information about Crime at the Castle, and to reserve tickets for the event, click here.
  • You can also meet Wendy H Jones south of the border at her Novel London event on 2nd February.
  • To find out more about Wendy’s crime novels, visit her website:


Posted in Travel

The Green Hills of Home

From the May issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, a post about coming home from holiday to our Gloucestershire village

Panoramic photo of hills around Hawkesbury
The Somerset Monument that towers above my village, Hawkesbury Upton

It’s always good to come back to Hawkesbury after any holiday, no matter how enjoyable. This Easter was no exception.

Gordon and Laura on path by Baltic
Somehow wed expected our first sight of the Baltic to be cold, grey and wet

We’d just spent two weeks in our camper van, touring the flatter parts of northern Europe. It was unnerving to know we were often driving below sea level, but the flip side was it made cycling a joy. Taking our bikes off the back of the van to go for a family cycle, we didn’t so much pedal as glide. The level roadways provided the perfect surface for lazy, unmuscled cyclists like me. Continue reading “The Green Hills of Home”

Posted in Personal life

Happy New Year – and May All Your Slugs Be Fluffy Ones

A post sending good wishes for New Year 2016

Kitchen floor by sink
Beware of the slug!

Towards the end of December, my body clock addled after a week of late nights and lazy morning lie-ins, I wake up at 4.30am and unable to get back to sleep.

Fumbling for my glasses, I wander downstairs to make a cup of tea, halting just in time to stop myself from standing, barefoot, on a nocturnal slug that has crawled across our red-tiled kitchen floor.

It is now waiting to pounce on me from behind the fireside chair.

Continue reading “Happy New Year – and May All Your Slugs Be Fluffy Ones”

Posted in Family, Personal life

Votes for Minions

This post was written on 12th October, the day of the general release of the film Suffragettes, for the November edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.

Lucienne Boyce and Debbie Young wearing the official colours of the Suffragettes
Lucienne and I show our true colours

Today I did two things I’d never done before: I went to the cinema alone, and I saw a film on the day of its general release.

Though I’d wanted to see Suffragette for ages, I don’t usually get round to seeing films until they’re out on DVD, unless they’re children’s movies such as Minions, whose bright yellow and blue merchandise is everywhere just now. Continue reading “Votes for Minions”

Posted in Personal life

Seeing the (Traffic) Lights

In my latest column for the Hawkesbury Parish News, I’m taken aback by the sudden appearance of the trappings of urban traffic in our quiet Cotswold village.

Traffic lights and diversion outside Debbie's house
Stopping the traffic outside my house for the last couple of weeks

“Sorry I’m late, I was held up by the traffic lights outside The Fox.”

When I first spotted them, I very nearly crashed  my car in surprise. Continue reading “Seeing the (Traffic) Lights”