The type of humour we appreciate changes quite starkly as we grow from children into adults, and then age even further. The more intelligent and cultivated we become, the more we require our humour to be sophisticated so we can appreciate it.
We all have our own jokes we appreciate more than others, but I feel like a common thread between a majority of us is our appreciation for dark humour. I think the reason for it is rather simple: the longer we live, the more misery we inevitably end up seeing, and the greater our need to cope with its existence by laughing at it, thus defusing its danger.
On top of this, dark humour invites a more complex type of comedy in and of itself, taking a less direct approach and often omitting to outright state the point of any joke or scene. What’s more, there are many types of it to experience depending on the subject and the author’s personal quirks and preferences.
Here you’ll see assembled the dark humour books which I believe really stand out from the rest. More often than not they deal with darker subject matter, but at the end of the day, their primary concern is making you laugh, even in the face of misery.
“A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore – The Confused Shepherd of Lost Souls
Christopher Moore is one of those uniquely inventive authors whose books can be instantly recognized and are impossible to replicate. In A Dirty Job, one of his more famous works, he tells us the story of Charlie Asher, owner of a second-hand clothing store, whose girlfriend passed away during childbirth, leaving him to care for little Sophie. In addition, he has accidentally stumbled into a world hidden within his own, becoming not exactly Death, but something quite close to it.
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“Dead Man’s Sins” by Caimh McDonnell – A Magnet for Trouble
Caimh McDonnell never seem to run out of original scenarios for The Dublin Trilogy series into which he can insert the ever-captivating Detective Bunny McGarry, and in the fifth book, Dead Man’s Sins, he decides to crank things up a notch. Though McGarry thought he could enjoy a break from the force, his dead former partner’s murky past has resurfaced to haunt him, a boy and a former acquaintance desperately need his help, and someone decides it’s the perfect time to frame him for murder.
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“The Final Game” by Caimh McDonnell – The Greed Competition
Caimh McDonnell has always had the talent of dealing with death from a humorous perspective, and in The Final Game, his latest standalone novel, he returns to form with a plot centred on a recently-deceased woman, Dorothy Graham. Though she is gone from this world, she devised a competition for her relatives to engage in to determine who the inheritance will belong to, as well as having preemptively hired a detective agency to solve the mystery of her own murder.
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“Cackle” by Rachel Harrison – The Witch of the Modern Era
Rachel Harrison certainly hasn’t taken a long time to put her writing degree to use, with her second novel, Cackle, having already come out in October 2021. Presenting a new and modern twist on the witch story, it follows a young woman who moves into a small town upstate from Manhattan and finds herself drawn to Sophie, a young lady whose magnetism seems utterly unnatural.
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“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – Where Rational Thought goes to Die
Joseph Heller forever gifted humanity a slightly deeper understanding of human nature and the utter folly pervasive in war when he published the eternally-current Catch-22. The novel, drawing in part on Heller’s experiences as a bombardier, follows the story of Captain John Yossarian and his mates who experience the incongruous insanity of the Second World War as they fly their missions over Italy.
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“Hack” by SGM Ashcroft – Redemption for a Newspaper Lunatic
SGM Ashcroft has spent a long time working as a journalist before finally making his debut novel, titled Hack. The story follows an ambitious newspaper reporter in Portsmouth, England, Llew Sabler, who is always trying to break the big story, even after he has become the most reviled figure in town following a stunt gone wrong. Even more, the story he’s caught the scent of promises either death or glory, nothing in-between.
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“Shakespeare for Squirrels” by Christopher Moore – Murder in the Fairy Kingdom
Christopher Moore possesses the special gift of having a unique sense of comedy, one he put on full display in his Fool Series. In the third book, titled Shakespeare for Squirrels, we follow Pocket as he manages to anger a Greek Duke who orders his death. Upon his escape he meets the fairy king, who promises to save him from the Duke, on the condition he solves the murder of a mischievous sprite.
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“Naked Came the Florida Man” by Tim Dorsey – The Heroic Psychopath
Tim Dorsey has distinguished himself as being one of the more gifted authors today when it comes to writing comedy, being particularly good at exploring the domain of the absurd. In Naked Came the Florida Man, we embark on just such a wild adventure alongside our returning hero, Serge Storms. This time around, a scenic road trip leads him on the trail of a local boogeyman, whom Serge believes might be the Naked Florida Man who has been causing havoc in the area.
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“Last Orders” by Caimh McDonnell – Fall of the Mighty
Caimh McDonnell has really birthed something out of the ordinary with The Dublin Trilogy series, finally concluding it with Last Orders, the fourth entry. The story revolves once again around Bunny McGarry as the discovery of some long-buried bodies precipitates the past to begin tightening its noose around the sarcastic detective.
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“Angels in the Moonlight” by Caimh McDonnell – The First Big Case
Caimh McDonnell is well on the way to turning Bunny McGarry into a household name with the Dublin Trilogy Series. The third entry, titled Angels in the Moonlight, takes on the guise of a prequel and transports us back to 1999, when things were no less complicated for the detective. Finally given a chance to solve a real big case, Bunny opens perhaps the most important door of his life, the one which set him down on a path of infinite complications.
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“The Day That Never Comes” by Caimh McDonnell – The Tempers of Dublin
Caimh McDonnell has quickly distinguished himself with his charm and wit as an author, bringing us some rather unique offerings with The Dublin Trilogy (which as of now contains four books). The second novel in the series, titled The Day That Never Comes, follows Paul Mulchrone as he tries to keep his new detective agency from going under, while society around him seems on the brink of collapse with the little guy finally rising up in strength against the corporate bigwigs.
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“A Man With One of Those Faces” by Caimh McDonnell – The Unkillable Fool
Caimh McDonnell has been steadily carving his own little place in the world of crime novels, bringing a unique and humorous twist to his tales like few others can. The first novel which really caught the world’s attention was A Man With One of Those Faces, following Paul Mulchrone who somehow becomes the victim of two assassination attempts.
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“I Have Sinned” by Caimh McDonnell – A Priest Marked for Death
Caimh McDonnell is certainly one of those authors intent on making his characters work for all they’re worth, and in I Have Sinned he sends out his former detective Bunny McGarry into yet another adventure in the second McGarry Stateside series entry. This time around, McGarry is forced to keep a grumpy priest alive while being targeted by assassins, all while pledging to avoid the three things he knows best: alcohol, swearing and violence.
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“Disaster Inc” by Caimh McDonnell – The Accidental Confidant
Caimh McDonnell has introduced the world to Bunny McGarry in The Dublin Trilogy, and in his new series titled McGarry Stateside, he brings the hero to the United States of America. The first novel, titled Disaster Inc, takes us to Manhattan where Bunny accidentally finds himself having to protect Amy Daniels, a woman who heard the confession of a hedge fund manager and is now targeted for assassination because of it.
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“The Grand Dark” by Richard Kadrey – Celebrating the Shadow of Euphoria
Richard Kadrey is one of the most unique and original authors out there, with nearly every single one of his stories being incomparable to anything else in the realm of literature. One of his latest novels, The Grand Dark, bears once again testimony to his incredible abilities as an author, telling a rather complex story revolving around the city of Lower Proszawa, blinded by extreme hedonism and euphoria from winning the great war, despite a darkness looming ahead. In the middle of it, a drug-addled bike messenger from the slums has an ambitious dream he will stop at nothing to realize.
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“The Exit Man” by Greg Levin – An Outlaw’s Compassion
Greg Levin has never been short of mind-twisting premises to impart on his readers, and his first novel, The Exit Man, was very much an early testament to this. The story follows Eli Edelmann, a man who comes back home to take over his family’s supply store business, only to find himself falling down the rabbit hole of the illegal euthanasia business. With a volatile new girlfriend who is also possibly a serial killer and the police breathing down his neck, it’s only a matter of time before the noose tightens around Eli’s own neck.
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“No Sunscreen for the Dead” by Tim Dorsey – Predator of the Elderly
Tim Dorsey added a dose of clever and unique comedy to the world of literature when he began writing the Serge Storms series, always finding new and interesting scenarios for the mentally-disturbed vigilante to apply his moral code. In No Sunscreen for the Dead we are treated to yet another one of his excursions as he decides to observe elderly people in a retirement community along with his buddy Coleman. However, he soon uncovers a mass fraud affair and sets out to hunt down the culprit for swindling all the poor residents of the community.
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“Sick to Death” by Greg Levin – Dying to Kill… Literally
Greg Levin has a true aptitude for coming up with unique and original premises to drive the stories of his books, and Sick to Death is a perfect example of his outside-the-box thinking. In this book, we follow a trio of unusual vigilante superheroes: terminally-ill support group patients. They take to the streets and declare war on all the criminal scum, now blindly fleeing them in terror. However, when one of the trio takes their crime-fighting prowess to questionable lengths, hundreds of people are suddenly in mortal danger.
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“In Wolves’ Clothing” by Greg Levin – An Odyssey of Pimps and Monsters
Greg Levin definitely has a way of tackling somber and heavy subjects in his books, a tendency which was certainly well illustrated in his novel titled In Wolves’ Clothing. In it, we are introduced to Zero Slade, an agent working undercover in the world of human trafficking trying to save young girls who are ceaselessly led to their doom. Recently, the youngest girl Slade and his team ever rescued got kidnapped from her safe house, and to find her again the agent will have to go deeper than ever into the bowels of depravity to find her.
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“Hollywood Dead” by Richard Kadrey – New Perspectives on Life and Death
Richard Kadrey has regaled us with stories spilling well into extraordinary territory with his Sandman Slim novels, taking us to heaven, hell, and virtually everywhere in-between. In Hollywood Dead , the tenth novel in the series, we are following our titular hero as he finds himself hunting for those who are targeting an evil power broker from hell. The catch? His body has a time limit attached to it, and if he can’t fulfil his end of the bargain, the clock on his life expires for good.
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“Don’t Eat Me” by Colin Cotterill – Leftovers of Justice
Colin Cotterill has taken Dr. Siri Paiboun on countless adventures making use of his detective skills more than any other profession he might have mastered. It seems there will never be a shortage of criminal conspiracies for our beloved doctor to solve as he returns to the helm once again in Don’t Eat Me. This time around the whole mystery revolves around a skeleton which has been gnawed on, as well as the art of turning on movie camera.
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“Noir” by Christopher Moore – The Wild Forties of San Francisco
Christopher Moore is an author who has certainly set himself apart from his peers by virtue of the originality found in his stories. Time and time again he brings us tales from the outer reaches of ridiculousness, no subject off-limits or humour too distasteful. In Noir he returns to the helm of his ship once again to take us on another crazy wild ride, this one taking place in 1947 San Francisco and populated with a wise-cracking bombshell, a bartender, mobsters, a general, the Roswell crash alien, a talking snake, and this is just for starters.
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“The Rat Catcher’s Olympics” by Colin Cotterill – Blood on the Podium
Colin Cotterill has taken Dr. Siri Paiboun all over Asia in his extraordinary investigative adventures, opening many windows into foreign worlds for his audience. In his latest book in the series, The Rat Catcher’s Olympics, the good doctor takes a slight detour from the usual course as we are transported to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. While the doctor suspects one of the Laotian athletes is concocting a conspiracy, one of the country’s Olympians becomes accused of murder… one Paiboun must navigate complex political waters to resolve.
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“The Everything Box” by Richard Kadrey – The Race to End the World
Richard Kadrey has made a place for himself in the realms of literature with his incredibly unique and sharp stories which could have only been born from his precise and ambitious style. In The Everything Box, Kadrey makes a foray into the realms of fantasy as he presents us with a thief named Coop, specializing in the “acquisition” of magic objects. Unbeknownst to him, his latest assignment had him stealing an ancient doomsday device belonging to an angel who once lost it and failed in his mission to end humanity. With everyone setting their sights on the device though, history might finally see some rectifications.
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“I Shot the Buddha” by Colin Cotterill – Guide the Monk to Truth and Safety
Colin Cotterill plunges us deep in the environment he knows best, following the adventures of Dr. Siri Paiboun once again as he races across Laos to find a Buddhist monk who suddenly vanished. As it turns out, that monk went to help a friend cross the Mekhong River into Thailand in order to escape the prosecution and oppression threatening his life. Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned and the task is severely complicated by everything life can throw at them, including some famous spiritualists, the deadly Laotian special forces, and a terribly-misguided criminal who never knew any better.
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