Light amongst the dark - the role of humour in crime fiction

One of the reviews of The Secrets Man said: “I love the humour in the John Blizzard series. Had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions.”

But hang on, you may say, surely The Secrets Man is a dark murder mystery. Where on earth does the humour fit in?

Well, humour is vital in creating good fiction. Even if you are not writing an out-and-out comic piece, humour has a role to perform.

For a start, it can create light against the dark. Take an example: you are writing a sinister piece with the tension building as the tale unfolds. You might decide to keep the tension going right to the end, which would be one way of writing it.

However, you might decide that a flash of humour, a single line of dialogue by a character, could momentarily ease the tension, cause the reader to relax slightly, and provide an even greater impact when you suddenly strike with the next piece of drama, or horror or fear. Ghost and horror writers know that trick well - they are past masters at toying with their readers.

Humour also works well in crime novels because a relentlessly heavy theme in a story can benefit immensely from the odd break for something a little lighter.

There is another good reason for using humour in your writing because it reveals things about your character and can show another side to them that the reader might not have seen before. Or it can reveal in a brief conversation the depth of two people’s relationship.

As one critique of the great William Shakespeare said: “Humour is a tool that allows us to see the subtle details of their minds; a glimpse at the inner workings of each character’s personality. It is through the humour that Shakespeare employs that we are able to see ‘roundness’ in characters that could be otherwise doomed to exist as ‘flat’ characters. Shakespeare uses humour to give his players new life, to help them expand beyond the bounds of mere characters and turn into real people.”

And look how well he did!


Secrets Man book details: Whilst detective John Blizzard looks into a series of drug-related deaths, an old nemesis appears who threatens to cloud his judgement.
Frustrated with the slow progress of his colleagues’ investigation into the deaths of several youngsters on his patch, DCI John Blizzard takes over, determined to catch the drug pushers. In so doing, he stumbles across information that might help solve a murder that occurred when he first joined CID.
Many years ago, Des Fairley was shot dead after mouthing off about feared local villain Morrie Raynor. Now with Raynor’s old righthand man on death’s door, delirious, and in hospital, the detective is convinced he will reveal secrets about the unsolved crime.
Suspecting that Raynor, whom he once put behind bars but is now free and at large, is linked to both cases, he rubs fellow officers up the wrong way when he insists on an unusual line of inquiry.
Against the wishes of his superintendent and increasingly at odds with his staff, desperate to catch Raynor, the detective puts the general hospital at the centre of his investigation. But will his instincts prove to be true, or is old age finally getting the better of the veteran crime solver?
If you enjoy murder mysteries full of red herrings and twists, THE SECRETS MAN is for you.
THE SECRETS MAN is the fourth in a series of murder mysteries set in the fictional northern city of Hafton, England.

The other books in the series are:



You can buy the book at

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