Humorous Mysteries in Unconventional Settings

I’ve been analyzing some of my favorite books, TV shows, and movies, and have come to the conclusion that a lot of them usually have some of these aspects:

[ul][li]Humorous or absurdest, especially self-aware[/li][li]Revolves around a mystery[/li][li]Set in an unconventional and/or imaginative location (usually scifi and/or fantasy)[/li][/ul]
Which would explain why I like the Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch novels and John DeChancie’s Castle Murders so much. I also enjoyed The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, but to a lesser extent since it seemed more like Robert Rankin was making it up as he went along. The Dirk Gently series and Doctor Who could also qualify.

Using only two aspects of the set shows other things I like:
[ul]
[li]Unconventionally-set humor - Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Discworld series, Castle Perilous series, Princess Bride, Stardust, Firefly[/li]
[li]Humorous mysteries - Nero Wolfe, House, Stephanie Plum, Fletch, Psych, Monk[/li]
[li]Unconventionally-set mysteries - Asimov’s Elijah Baley novels. I could stretch and say that the Wheel of Time series and A Song of Ice and Fire series have murder mysteries in them, but they’re only pursued as such in an off-handed manner. I guess Lost kinda qualifies as well.[/li][/ul]
What other TV shows, movies, or especially books might meet these criteria? Unconventionally-set mysteries is the weakest category. Are there any novels about a detective agency in a fantasy setting?

How could I forget Pushing Daisies???:smack:

Check out Jasper Fforde. His “Nursery crimes” series (The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear) fit your requirements more closely, but his Thursday Next series is also fun and has some of what you’re looking for.

Prepare to sing my praises:

“Bimbos of the Death Sun” by Sharyn McCrumb is a humorous mystery set in a science fiction convention. “Zombies of the Gene Pool” is a sequel. I’ve read both, Bimbos is hilarious, Zombies less so but still fun.

And if you like humor in your mysteries, Robert Parker’s “Spenser” novels are packed with wicked little one-liners.

Never really thought of Nero Wolfe as humorous, but … you’re right, he sure can be.

Though I haven’t read them, I would assume Ron Goulart’s Groucho Marx, Detective series would fit your criteria. Goulart has always been a very funny writer.

Nobody’s mentioned Robert Westlake’s Dortmunder series?


Some of the best pure writing around. Robert Westlake was easily the equal of P. G. Wodehouse, at his best, and that’s no small compliment.

(also, P. G. Wodehouse, who was who Douglas Adams wanted to grow up to be.)

Haven’t read them myself, but I’ve always meant to find the Lord Darcy stories, which seem to qualify.

Larry Niven wrote a series of science fiction (with psi powers) stories, the Gil the Arm stories, which have been collected in various places and under various titles.

Also, Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart is sort of a mystery, is definitely funny, and definitely has a fantastic setting (for multiple meanings of fantastic).

Since you like Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker trilogy, I’ll suggest his Dirk Gently novels, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. The first has science fiction elements, and the second involves Norse gods.

Aagh. I missed your reference to these in the OP.

Thanks all! Sounds like I’ve got some good reading to look forward to, instead of reading Feet of Clay for the millionth time :slight_smile:

The Lord Darcy stories are quite good.

Gil the ARM is also quite good, I suggest getting the Flatlander anthology, which collects all the Gil Hamilton books and has a previously unpublished story in it.

Oh, and check out the Dream Park series, written by Niven and Steven Barnes. LARPing to the max, plus various mysteries going on in the real world. The first book is Dream Park, which is a nice stand alone. This book introduced me to the Cargo Cult, which I find fascinating.

I’ve read one of these. I love Groucho, and I love Goulart, but the one I read was disappointing.

Kinky Friedman has a series starring himself as a detective in New York. Okay, but not great.

But I second the Jasper Fforde series. The Jack Sprat series is a spinoff of the Thursday Next series in a way I don’t want to say because it would be a spoiler. Read “The Well of Lost Plots” to see where the spinoff happens.

But is he as good as Donald Westlake? :wink:

I don’t know, but he’s better than Donald Parker.

(Robert Parker is one of Westlake’s nom de plumes. I managed to conflate him with his real name. )
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_E._Westlake

I should point out that The Grifters, a Westlake-penned screenplay, is a hell of a movie.
The other movies based on his work tend to be varying in quality.
Point Blank and Payback are both fondly remembered. I’ve never seen The Hot Rock with Robert Redford, but it should be good.

Avoid the hell out of What’s the Worst That Could Happen? with DeVito.

Glen Cook’s Garrett series. It’s a take-off on the Nero Wolfe mysteries, sorta, but set in a fantasy world. The latest ones have gotten a bit grimmer, but there’s still plenty of humour to be found. Sweet Silver Blues is the first one.

I like the Bryant and May mysteries by Christopher Fowler. Not strictly supernatural, but there’s always a bunch of weird shit going on in the Peculiar Crimes Unit. The humour is very dry and very British.

Lisa Lutz, author of the Spellman series might be in the right area. About a family of PIs who are an absurdly disfunctional family.

Came inhere to mantoin Jasper Fforde, but Thudlow Boink beat me to it. Mysteries in which the protagonist can move from reality into books.

How come everyone has forgotten Harry Dresden?

I recommend the Hilary Tamar mysteries by Sarah Caudwell–Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, and The Sirens Sang of Murder. They are humorous mysteries, though a fairly conventional setting–one of the Courts of London. They are a lot of fun.