Book Review: Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Illustrated by Jay Cooper


Thinking of a foray to a quaint English village? You’ll think twice after reading this tongue-in-cheek illustrated guide to the countless murderous possibilities lurking behind these villages’ bucolic façades—from bestselling author Maureen Johnson and illustrator Jay Cooper.

A weekend roaming narrow old lanes, touring the faded glories of a country manor, and quaffing pints in the pub. How charming. That is, unless you have the misfortune of finding yourself in an English Murder Village, where danger lurks around each picturesque cobblestone corner and every sip of tea may be your last. If you insist on your travels, do yourself a favor and bring a copy of this little book. It may just keep you alive. 

Brought to life with dozens of Gorey-esque drawings by illustrator Jay Cooper and peppered with allusions to classic crime series and unmistakably British murder lore, Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village gives you the tools you need to avoid the same fate, should you find yourself in a suspiciously cozy English village (or simply dream of going). Good luck, and whatever you do, avoid the vicar.


I am not sure what I expected when I picked up this slender book, but I suppose I thought it would be more like Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series. Whether you enjoyed that series or not, Johnson really knows her English murder tropes! I was as delighted by her short blurbs as I was the darkly humorous illustrations.

Sometimes during the pandemic I started scarfing down British murder mysteries – Agatha Raisin and anything Christie just hit the spot. I think it is because the last movie I saw in the theater was Knives Out and I just yearn for that feeling of sitting inside not thinking about other people’s germs. Why knows how these personal obsessions begin but I still cannot stop. If it is on the BBC and someone has died, I want to watch.

Because of this background, Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village was like reading a prologue after you read the book – it hits all the highlights and everything makes complete sense. The characters we see in each murder mystery, the red herrings, the locations that are ripe for murder…it is all laid out for you. And I loved each little vignette!

The illustrations, which also credit Gorey, are by Jay Cooper and they are as divine as the stories. Who would have thought that the illustrator from The Last Kids on Earth could be so dark?!

If you are interested in English murder mysteries this spooky season and are on the hunt for a quick and fun read, this is the book for you!

Tell me, please! What weird pandemic interest is still a fun obsession for you?


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