"The writing style was easy to follow and descriptive and pulled colorful and detailed visuals to my mind's eye. The engaging storylines were well-paced and populated with unique, amusing, and authentic characters. I’m already looking forward to more of Ms. Figg’s breezy adventures." DJ Sakata, Goodreads
Published: November 2022
Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in the Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane Mystery series opener.
Can Fiona catch a killer and find a decent cup of tea before her mustache wax melts?
1917. New York.
Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperone duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?
From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!
And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.
When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.
But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby…
If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.
Using humor to add fiber to your stories.
Why I write funny mysteries.
by Kelly Oliver
Using Humor is Serious Business
When I was in graduate school (a million years ago), a guy invited me over to his place for a dinner date and served Chardonnay and Captain Crunch cereal. To be fair, he was living on a grad student stipend and had to economize, and Captain Crunch did double duty as the entree and the dessert. Had he served Oat Bran or Shredded Wheat, he would have had to spring for dessert…and it just wouldn’t have been as funny….
Humor is tricky because sometimes it’s a matter of taste…. And not just when it comes to cereal. Some people get the joke, others don’t. Some people get it but think it’s stupid. And some people are just plain offended. Done well, humor is worth the risk.
What makes a story funny?
I’ve read those words with “K” sounds (Captain Crunch) and hard consonant sounds are funny. Maybe that’s why when I was born, my parents named me Kelly. It’s true that some words are funnier than others. Colonoscopy is funny—unless you’ve ever had one—Endoscopy, not so much. Cucumber, Twinkie, and Okra are funnier than Bread, Butter or Jam.
In a list, an oddball can be funny. She was well versed in the philosophies of Plato, Nietzsche and Winnie the Pooh. His favorite desserts are Black Forest Torte, Cherry Gateau Basque, and Pop Tarts. Or the names of my cats, Mischief, Mayhem, and Flan.
Surprising comparisons, metaphors, and similes can be funny. “With cleavage so deep it could tutor philosophy” (Harlan Coben—I like that one because in my day job, I’m a philosophy professor). She stuck to him like a tick on a rangy deer. She stuck to him like a sequin on a ball gown. He stuck to her like a Velcro on a training bra.
In the Fiona Figg Mysteries, I use humor not only to create a cozy atmosphere and memorable character, but also to help digest the tragedy of the Great War.
In my latest contemporary suspense Jessica James Mystery, COBRA, Jessica forms an unlikely alliance to catch a killer and art thief. The chemistry between the odd couple, former philosophy grad student Jessica James and Federal Marshal Lexington Colt, yields character development and humor.
Are there any issues that are off-limits to comedy?
A few years ago, I was pitching my first novel, WOLF in New York City, and when I told a group of young women authors about the subplot and themes of date rape, party rape, and rape drugs, and I said it was a humorous mystery, some of them were appalled. They didn’t see how rape could ever be funny. Obviously, I agree. Rape can never be funny. Books, on the other hand (even books that take on serious topics like rape), can be funny. In fact, humor often helps us deal with difficult subjects that might be too hard to face without it. Think of John’s Green’s treatment of cancer in The Fault in Our Stars.
Throughout the Jessica James Mysteries, I take ripped from the headline’s issues and deal with them through fiction, suspense, and humor.
And as I said, with Fiona Figg, I use humor to counterbalance the horrors of war.
Sometimes you’ve got to laugh so you don’t cry.
Comedy = Tragedy + Time
Humor releases tension and anxiety, which can help the pacing of your suspense novel. Humor makes it easier to deal with difficult issues. Mark Twain says, “the secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” And self-deprecating humor can be some of the most cathartic to write. Having a sense of humor can help get through the darkest days. And the last few years have been desperately in need of something funny to take our minds off so much tragedy.
Use Humor to Tell the Truth
Mark Twain also calls humor “the good-natured side of truth.” Humor can lighten the mood of your story. It can help you modulate the pace. But it can also help you give the reader new insights. Funny anecdotes are most effective when they have a deeper meaning.
My husband is from Puerto Rico. He likes to tell the story of his encounter with a giant rat in his college dorm. It was the middle of the night and he’d gotten up to pee. As he made his way down the hall to the bathroom, the huge rat ran across his path. He freaked out and called campus security. When the officer arrived, he asked, “How’d you get into Yale? Haven’t you seen a possum before?” In his telling, the possum takes on a deeper meaning and becomes a symbol for his own status as an outsider.
You can see why I married him instead of Captain Crunch.
Who needs drugs?
New studies show that laughter triggers endogenous opioid release in the brain. Hey, endogenous opioid release, that sounds funny… even without a K sound.
I like my suspense and mystery with a generous dollop of humor.
How about you?
About the author:
Kelly Oliver is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: the seven-book suspense series, The Jessica James Mysteries; the three-book middle grade series, Pet Detective Mysteries; and the four-book historical cozy series, The Fiona Figg Mysteries.
Chaos at Carnegie Hall is the latest Fiona Figg mystery, and the first to feature sidekick, Kitty Lane.
When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.
To learn more about Kelly and her books, go to: