Romcom mystery is a genre that perfectly blends whodunit, wit, grit, romance and laugh-out-loud moments. With quirky female protagonists desperately trying to navigate life’s complexities, these stories come alive with characters you can’t help but cheer for as they come up against extraordinary events in their ordinary lives. Whether they are waitresses, actresses, nurses, lawyers, or food anthropologists, they manage to keep their humor in situations that are often far from laughable.
Lighter on crime and heavier on humor, romcom mysteries can sometimes border on madcap but still deliver the same rollercoaster ride of thrills, spills, red herrings, twists and turns of the most satisfying crime novel. The genre’s signature traits include compelling and relatable female leads, close-knit family and friend dynamics, zany antics, swoon-worthy romantic interests, fast-paced action and graphic crimes that make us gasp.
But what happens when you infuse this genre with diverse voices and narratives? The storytelling transcends traditional confines, presenting readers with a panorama of rich, varied experiences and perspectives that move beyond the classic crime story to incorporate cultural nuances, familial dynamics, historic contexts, and social commentaries. Here are seven romcom mystery novels by diverse authors that serve up crime with quirky characters, a heaping side of humor, a pinch of romance and the occasional dash of bananas, enriching the genre with their distinct narratives and voices.
Dial A for Aunties, by Jesse Q. Sutanto
This unconventional mystery with a romcom subplot follows Meddelin Chan, who accidentally kills her blind date and turns to her mother and meddlesome aunts to help dispose of the body, all while managing a massive wedding at their family-run business. To complicate matters, her first love, Nathan, makes a surprise appearance during the wedding chaos. A vibrant mix of humor and crime, this is an utterly engaging story about family loyalty, cursed generations, second chances and accidental murder.
Arsenic and Adobo, by Mia P. Manansala
In this culinary mystery, Lila Macapagal moves back to her small Midwestern town to help save her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, only to find herself a prime suspect when a nasty food critic who was also her ex-boyfriend drops dead in their restaurant. Alongside her eccentric family, matchmaking aunties, and her old high school sweetheart-turned-detective, Lila must find the real murderer. Manansala expertly seasons this mystery with delicious food, laugh-out-loud humor, and a healthy serving of crime. Don’t read hungry!
Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien (Noodle Shop Mystery Series)
After losing her job, Lana Lee ends up working at her parents’ noodle house in Cleveland’s Asia Village. When the owner of a nearby shopping mall is poisoned by dumplings from their restaurant, Lana finds herself at the center of murder investigation. To save the family restaurant, Lana and her ride-or-die bestie are quickly on the case, juggling family drama, a grumpy-but-handsome police detective, and enough suspects to keep readers turning the pages. A savory blend of humor, romance, and suspense.
Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett (Detective by Day Series)
This book had me laughing out loud. Dayna Anderson is a mega-broke actress whose claim to fame is a corny catch phrase from a fast-food commercial. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she decides to take on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective, and gets caught up in a world of paparazzi, crime, romance, and hilarious antics in an attempt to solve the case and collect the reward money to save her parents’ house from foreclosure. I loved her caustic sense of humor!
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Set in Nigeria, this smart, sardonic and darkly comedic novel centers on Korede, an antisocial nurse whose younger sister can’t stop murdering her boyfriends. Poor Korede is left to clean up the mess and pretend she believes her sister’s justifications. When her sister sets her sights on Korede’s long-time crush, she must confront her sister, their dysfunctional relationship and her own feelings. Although not strictly a romcom mystery, this wickedly entertaining story utilizes dark humor and elements of romance to explore themes of family and morality.
Mango, Mambo, and Murder, by Raquel V. Reyes (Caribbean Kitchen Mystery)
Food anthropologist and Caribbean cook Dr. Miriam Quiñones-Smith relocates to Miami with her husband and their four-year-old son but has problems adjusting to her new home, her suddenly-distant husband and her meddling mother-in-law. When a woman drops dead at a country club right next to Miriam, and her best friend is suspected of murder, Miriam gets involved to clear her friend’s name. Prepare for humor, delicious cooking, shrewd sleuthing and a mom who can do it all.
The Zoya Factor, by Anuja Chauhan and more…
Zoya Singh Solanki is an advertising executive who becomes a lucky charm for the Indian cricket team and eventually falls for the team’s handsome captain. When her personal life becomes public gossip and she gets tangled up in a scandal, Zoya sets out to figure out who is behind it. Although it leans more towards romance and comedy, the book has a mystery element that adds to the intrigue.
For a South Asian mystery that is more procedure-based, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey is a richly woven tale of culture, crime and charm. My new novel To Have and To Heist falls between the two, mixing love, laughter, mystery and felonious endeavors when a candy store clerk pulls off a heist at wedding to save her best friend.
With their strong female leads, humorous plotlines, intricate crimes, and endearing support characters, these seven novels by diverse authors strike the perfect balance between humor and serious crime-solving. When we read the final pages, we are left not only with the satisfaction of a mystery solved but also with the appreciation of a narrative experienced through a diverse lens. So here’s to love that sets hearts racing, mysteries that get the brain ticking, laughs that echo across pages and diverse voices that enrich our literary journey—all served up with a side of unexpected twists and turns.