Welcome Guest — Lillian Bell

The winner of Lillian’s book is Kimberly. Watch for an email from her!

I’m so happy to introduce Lillian Bell to the Wicked family! I first met Lillian at Left Coast Crime when we were on a panel together. Her big smile and sense of humor won me over immediately. A Grave Issue is the first book in the new Funeral Parlor Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books. Here’s a little bit about her book:

After an on-air gaffe goes viral and jeopardizes her career, journalist Desiree Turner retreats home to Verbena, California for some peace and quiet. She begins working one of the quietest jobs around: presiding over funerals for her great-grandfather’s funeral parlor. But the action seems to follow her as a fistfight breaks out between neighbors Rosemarie Brewer and Lola Hansen at one of the first funerals she’s in charge of running. It exposes a nasty dispute and Rosemarie’s husband, Alan, is found murdered shortly after.

Lola’s husband, Kyle, is immediately arrested. Desiree, whose own father’s death was devastating, has always viewed Kyle as a second father. Determined to clear his name, Desiree jumps head first into the investigation and quickly discovers that Alan had several unsavory habits at his job and in his personal life, including putting assets into his mistress’s account to hide them from Rosemarie. People murder for money and love all the time, and there’s no telling who he offended just enough to push them over the edge.

Desiree is looking in all the right places, but she better catch the killer fast before they come for her next in A Grave Issue, the clever series debut by Lillian Bell.

Welcome, Lillian!

When the opportunity to write a humorous cozy mystery that takes place in a funeral parlor arose, I jumped at it. It wasn’t until I tried to tell people about it, that I realized not everyone saw the possibilities. A funny book about deaths in a funeral parlor? I got more than a few polite smiles while people took a step or two back from me.

I blame my family  — my two sisters, in particular — for my morbid sense of humor. In times of great sorrow and stress, we make jokes and then laugh inappropriately. It’s generally unseemly and a little unattractive and has gotten us kicked out of more than one ICU, but it has also gotten us through some dark dark days. There’s only been one time I can think of that one of us (that would be me) made a joke so dark and inappropriate that the other two didn’t laugh. It’s kind of a badge of honor.

It’s not that we don’t respect death and the grieving process. We do. We’ve done our fair share. Possibly a little more than our fair share, to be honest. In fact, I think that’s why we make the jokes we do. There’s a well of sadness there that’s too deep. If we fell into it, we might not be able to climb out. Humor provides us with the rope we need to pull ourselves out of it.

That laughter is also a bit of defiance. Yes. Death is inevitable. As one sister often says, none of us is getting out of here alive. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the meantime, though. So we laugh in death’s face.

It also breaks the tension. We are an anxious set of people, my sisters and I. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but the three of us share both those things so it doesn’t really matter. Funerals and all the rituals around them put a strain on everyone. Nothing diffuses a burgeoning argument over what music to play or what food to serve or what to put in an obituary than a really terrible joke that is both horrifying and hysterical.

We use our laughter to honor people, too. We reminisce about the times the people we miss made us laugh. Okay. Sometimes we were laughing at them and not with them, but it still keeps them alive in our thoughts and hearts.

That balance between sadness and laughter along with a bit of defiance was what I tried to strike as I wrote A Grave Issue (and its follow-up If the Coffin Fits). I wanted my heroine to respect the people who were grieving and to take her job seriously, but I also wanted her to be a bit of a rebel and to be able to laugh at herself.

Readers: Does anyone else laugh inappropriately to get them through tough situations? What was the worst place you cracked up yourself or someone else?

Bio: Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. As Kristi Abbott, she is the author of the Popcorn Shop Mysteries published by Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr. Lillian lives and writes in northern California.



40 Thoughts

  1. Bell’s series sounds fun and funny. We can all use a laugh!

  2. Welcome, Lillian/Eileen! I remember your sense of humor from sharing dinner at a recent Malice. Sisters are the best. I also have two. This new book sounds delightful – am off to order. Best of luck with the series!

  3. Your book sounds great! I often have to refrain from laughing when I want to. Some business meetings come to mind.

    1. Oh, it’s so hard. Sometimes the more I try not to laugh, the more it bubbles up inside me!

  4. When told of my grandmother’s death: I felt she had escaped an impossible situation.

    1. I hear you! It’s often worse if it’s unexpected. I heard about someone’s passing on the phone when I was with people who didn’t know me well. I started to laugh and then the horrified looks on the people’s faces made me laugh even harder. Which made them even more horrified. I think you can see where that’s going!

  5. I am so excited to read this book. Yes, I and my cousins have used humor at family funerals to either bolster ourselves or to laugh at the antics of our relatives.

  6. Honestly think we all have laughed or found humor at times that others may think inappropriate. I think humor/laughing is very often a release of tense or bad feelings allowing us to cope and od what must be done. It would be a very morbid world with no laughter.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right about that release of tension idea. It’s a way to find common ground with someone in a tense situation, too. If you can laugh at the same things, maybe you can find other things to agree on.

  7. I am looking forward to this series. It sounds like a fun read.

  8. Welcome! Humor is always a great escape.

    Since my series features a cop and has a secondary character as a deputy coroner, there are occasionally moments of “inappropriate” humor – something I think a lot of first responders use to keep their sanity. My critique group helps me toe the line of what works and what doesn’t.

    1. I have a family full of nurses. I’m no longer shocked at the things they laugh at, but newcomers to family dinners always need to be warned.

  9. Welcome to the Wickeds, Lillian! My husband worked in politics and over the years we got to know several people whose families owned funeral homes and who grew up “over the store.” (There is a connection.) Some of them were the funniest people I’ve ever known. You have to keep your humanity in the job, you have to be very comfortable around emotional people. Humor helps.

    1. You have to be comfortable and you have to know when and where to apply that humor. It’s a subtle thing. The people in the business I spoke to were incredibly empathetic.

  10. I’m most likely to make those inappropriate jokes, so I think we’d get along just fine in person.

    1. Come sit in the back of the room with me and we can pass notes. 🙂

  11. A funeral parlor! Your series sounds like a lot of fun. I have definitely laughed at inappropriate times. I like to think it’s the better way to deal with stress.

  12. Probably the most remembered laughter in an awkward place was at my mother’s funeral. A goof was made during the funeral mass and my daughter and I got the giggles. We were sitting in front so people couldn’t see our faces, but our shoulders were shaking from the laughter. It was funnier because my mother and all her friends were of the uptight, pretty much humorless bent. It only got worse because we could imagine her spinning in the casket. Laughter is a great release whether appropriate or not.

    1. OMG! That could totally be a scene from the book! I had something similar happen in a hospital. Everyone assumed I was quietly sobbing, but I was actually near hysterical with the giggles.

  13. This is such a great and funny post, and your series sounds wonderful! Humor helps me through the darkest times, too. I don’t know where I’d be without it!

  14. I hope to get started on this new series very soon. Congratulations to Lillian/Kristi/Eileen!! Best if everything to you.

  15. Welcome!!! I can’t wait to read this book, it sounds great 🙂

  16. This series sounds really fun and interesting. My family has also been through a lot of hard, emotional times. We tend to use a lot of sarcasm, which often has us laughing, to get through it all. Yes, we do get some strange looks from other people that just don’t understand that it helps us deal with the stress.

  17. My childhood piano teacher said one of the oddest excuses she had for not practicing was from a friend of mine who who told her she couldn’t practice because her Daddy had a body in the parlor.

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