#1029: “No one can know you are coming — that gives them time to plan.” – Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village (2021) by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper

While not strictly about the Golden Age, this endlessly quotable little book (“The aristocracy have three passions: inbreeding, collecting stolen artifacts, and engaging in recreational violence.”) is clearly written with Golden Age tropes in mind and, since its tongue is wedged so firmly in its cheek, certainly warrants a closer look.

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village (2021) is made up of a series of pithy vignettes about the trappings of the archetypal village of crime fiction lore written by Maureen Johnson and illustrated with macabre glee by Jay Cooper. Covering everything from the local inn (“On the average night, the rooms are occupied by visiting inspectors from Scotland Yard, blackmailers, people long thought dead, and people who are actually dead.”) to the preponderance of dinner parties (“For when you want to be murdered, but you don’t have an entire weekend to spare.”), this is the sort of parody that can only be written with a deep love of the genre behind it, and is best enjoyed with plenty of Midsomer Murders or equivalent under your belt.

It’s difficult to review because it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, and the temptation is to just quote the wildly entertaining skewerings of such genre standfasts as the ever-present Colonel (“Was in the war, you know. Isn’t sure which war specifically.”) and the always-popular fondness for will-making (“The residents can sniff out a fresh will like a pig sniffs out truffles.”), but half the fun is in stumbling over some perfectly-pitched turn of phrase as Johnson revels in the trappings of this most trapping-filled of genres.


They don’t know the Old Ways and refuse to learn. They want to open up a yoga and sound healing studio in that twee Grade Two–listed thatched cottage. They’re talking to you because no one else will talk to them. They’ll be dead soon enough.

Almost no trope is safe, from the tendency of the village gossip to have something very important to tell you only to be interrupted at the last moment to people opening their door and declaring “Oh, it’s you!” before being shuffled off this mortal coil. Indeed, in consort with Noah Stewart’s Golden Age of Detection Drinking Game it would be difficult to think of a more enjoyable way to liven up any cozy mystery either on screen or page, and even when Johnson veers somewhat off-genre into more Gothic tropes you’ll find yourself more than happy to follow along because you’re worried you’ll miss out on a good time otherwise.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else to say; it’s a short book and a quick read, but I’ve already picked through it about four times and will no doubt keep referring to it in the years ahead. More than ever this feels like an extended advert — I guess that’s all blogging about books is, really — but let me assure you that I paid for my copy and am under no duress to write this…I just had a blast reading it, and reckon it will prove highly enjoyable to any similarly-minded genre nerds looking to not take things so seriously for a little while.

2 thoughts on “#1029: “No one can know you are coming — that gives them time to plan.” – Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village (2021) by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper

  1. I picked this up based on your recommendation and chuckled all the way through it. The funniest things of course are those that have some truth to them.

    The book’s satire skewers the golden age tropes well (e.g., the village fête is a “nice way to to spend a summer’s day … because where there is a fête, there is murder. The teapots are brimming with poison. The sponge cakes are filled with glass. There is an axe in the fortune-telling tent. The coconuts are bombs”.).

    Perhaps I enjoyed this all the more because I just finished a good village mystery, “At the Sign of the Clove and Hoof” by Zoë Johnson based on a recommendation from John over at Pretty Sinister. Thanks for giving me my laugh today.


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