It’s a thrill to contribute to an historic publication such as The Strand Magazine!

Thank you to Editor Andrew Gulli and the Strand team for the opportunity, and if ever there is a niche in crime fiction that I am enthusiastic about, mystery-comedies is it.

Just a few parameters before I get into the list:

  • I have limited it to one book per author in alphabetical order (not ranked)
  • I have excluded cozy mysteries and crime capers in lieu of PI / Detective Fiction
  • While it may seem egregious that some crime writing titans have not been included, the five mystery-comedies I selected are not only my personal favorites, but also the novels that had the most influence on my writing



by Robert Crais

This Anthony and Macavity Award-Winning and Edgar and Shamus Award-Nominated debut kicked off the adventures of the now iconic duo of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike in style. From the moment Elvis Cole starts narrating, his tough and righteous ex-Army Ranger turned LA private eye’s moral compass is equaled by his wisecracking nature and Peter Pan complex – right down to his Mickey Mouse phone, Pinocchio wall clock, and penchant for quoting Jiminy Cricket. Although Cole is no slouch in combat as a Vietnam vet skilled in martial arts, he’s still not quite as lethal as his taciturn former Marine partner Joe Pike – whose tattoos of red arrows on his shoulders pointing forward succinctly and aptly sum up his perspective on life. After Cole is hired by a seemingly submissive housewife to find her missing husband and son, the way he navigates his way through the City of Angels that he clearly loves so much is just as satisfying for the reader as the slow burn connect-the-dots revealing the meaning of the book’s quirky title, derived from a famous Japanese haiku.


by Carl Hiaasen

It’s because of my own fondness for fringe sports and unique subcultures, but a twisty tale featuring a down-on-his-luck, ex-convict private investigator drawn into the high-stakes world and murky waters of bass fishing tournaments had me hooked from the moment I first read the synopsis. The gold standard when it comes to crafting a humorous mystery, Carl Hiaasen ratchets up his trademark eccentricity with colorful personalities who include deadly television evangelists, a trigger-happy hillbilly with the severed head of a pit bull attached to his arm, and the introduction of his former governor-turned-roadkill-eating-hermit Skink, a recurring character who  appears in many more of the author’s Florida-set comic novels. While a “Double Whammy” refers to a freshwater fishing lure described as the hottest one used on the pro bass circuit, there’s nothing more sizzling than Hiaasen’s knack for reeling in readers with outrageous antics, unusual backdrops, and escapist storytelling that is all but guaranteed to leave one surprised, satisfied, and smiling.


by Steve Hockensmith

An original and inspired take on the Sherlockian formula, this clever cowboy-and-sleuthing mash-up will beguile both die-hard fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary whodunits and the most devoted pulp Western fiction aficionados. Following the ginger cattlemen brothers Amlingmeyer, burly younger sibling Otto aka “Big Red” and his elder bro Gustav aka “Old Red” are all that are left of their family after an arduous life on the great plains killed their loved ones. While “Old Red” worked to take care of Otto and ensure he stayed in school in order to learn to read and write, the younger of the two buckaroos is able to return the favor by reading the exploits of Sherlock Holmes – from The Strand Magazine no less – to “Old Red” by campfire each night after a long and hard day’s work on the range. But when a body turns up dead on a ranch where they are earning their keep, “Old Red” finds the discovery suspicious and sets out to use the Holmes method of “deducifyin’” in order to reveal the identity of a killer. While Otto writes in epistolary style as the de facto Watson and “Old Red” serves as the Wild West’s version of the world’s greatest detective, the genre-blending antics of these two brothers gives a whole new meaning to the term “cow puncher.”


by Joe R. Lansdale

It’s no easy task to single out the most humorous novel of Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe’s riotously crackerjack Hap and Leonard series, but this fourth outing for the East Texas-based amateur sleuths (at least at this point in the series) stands apart. With an opening that involves male-bonding via good-natured roasting, shooting firearms while hunting small game, and a rabid squirrel attack so hilarious it is all but impossible to not laugh out loud, this book grabs the reader in a stranglehold of sidesplittingly funny adventure that only escalates as the spiritually-enlightened, Caucasian, conscientious war objector and gay, black, Republican Vietnam vet odd couple’s lazy afternoon is hijacked by a trip to the ER. The introduction of a red-haired bombshell love interest for Hap as well as trouble for his true brother (in every way possible except biologically) when the man who stole Leonard’s ex-boyfriend turns up headless in a ditch, this rip-roaring yarn offers perhaps a bit more levity when compared to the previous three novels. Nevertheless, the book still has the signature Lansdale chaotic charm, furious fisticuffs, and gumshoe grit that makes these honorable-yet-troublemaking good ol’ boys so popular.


by Charles Willeford

Magic City detective Hoke Mosely was first introduced in MIAMI BLUES, it is here in the follow-up, with the absence of a blithe bodybuilding psychopath antagonist like the dynamic Freddy Frenger, where Willeford’s best and most unlikely hero is able to take center stage and shine – prized dentures and all. Poor Hoke’s woes continue in the sequel as a call to a lethal overdose is complicated by his meeting of an alluring witness, threats of suspension unless he vacates his beloved-yet-squalid hotel suite, and having the unglamorous assignment of dozens of unsolved murders dumped on his lap. Dwindling finances, a pregnant partner, and sudden custody of his two teenage daughters whom he hasn’t seen in years only stack the deck even more against Hoke as he trudges forward in this classic murder mystery that showcases just why Willeford was one of the true masters of the genre. Despite the endless adversity, Hoke’s big heart remains in the right place and makes him a spirited sad sack the reader can’t help but root for. If his blunt attempt at a “sex talk” with his daughters doesn’t elicit some guffaws, you’ll be hard-pressed to find crime fiction anywhere else to make you chuckle. With a brilliant title for the ages, it’s an absolute delight to watch Willeford flex his literary muscles as he packs this page-turner with atmosphere and humor as thick as the air on a muggy Miami night.

A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children.
Cobra Clutch, the first book in the “Hammerhead” Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, was released in spring 2018 and nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Crime Writers Of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The highly acclaimed sequel, Rolling Thunder, was released in spring 2020 and featured in the Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Globe and Mail, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal Reviews, Mystery Tribune Magazine,,, and on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter.
The third book in the series, Five Moves of Doom, was published September 15th, 2022 by NeWest Press. It was selected by The Globe and Mail as one of the Best Books of 2022, won the 2022 Crime Fiction Lover Editor’s Choice Award for Best Indie Crime Novel, and has been nominated for a 2023 Left Coast Crime Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery.