“It Was Self-Defense But Help Me Hide The Body!” Crime Novels

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

Here’s a fun (it’s fiction!) trope that will make you look around at your friends and family to question who would and wouldn’t: the old “it was self-defense but help me hide the body!” plea. I mean, sometimes in self-defense a person dies and, well, it may make things even more complicated to explain things to the police. So why not instead explain the situation to friends or family (or whoever figured it out) and convince them to help you? The other alternative is the book ends after the first chapter, so let’s see who has friends and family (or an angry ex-wife) to come help clean up the mess.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Take a romcom and a crime novel and smash them together (whatever kind of smashing you just imagined is fine, no judging!) and that is Dial A For Aunties. Meddy gets set up with a dude — after very poor choices made by her mother — and when he ends up being way too grabby and scary, she ends up accidentally killing him in self-defense. Whoopsie! Clearly she can’t just call the cops, so shoving him in the trunk and driving home to her big Chinese-Indonesian family (mom and aunts) is the best option. But they aren’t going to let a little murder screw up Meddy’s life, nor the huge wedding they are currently planning. So it’s business as usual — well, with a little added Weekend At Bernie’s to dispose of the body while trying to get the bride and groom hitched. And that romcom I mentioned? Meddy has a second chance at love and she won’t be the only person confessing her heart, dead body be damned.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Now this is a hell of an ask: new, secret wife calls previous wife to help bury the body of the husband. Mmm-hmm. Why would an ex-wife even think about helping? Well you see the previous wife has just been awarded for her clone-making research and it would be very bad if anyone found out that her research was actually stolen by her husband at the time, who then used it to clone her and make a “better” wife. Hence the new wife that no one knows about. I mean you’d help her cover up that murder too, yes? But once you disappear the body, what do you do when there are two of you and people are asking where your ex-husband is…? (TW past child and domestic abuse, mostly alluded/present domestic abuse recounted/death faked as suicide, brief detail)

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Finlay Donovan #1) by Elle Cosimano

This is a fun crime novel that has a down-on-her-luck mom trying her best to finish her past due novel and keeping her ex-husband from getting full custody of their kids. It’s in a meeting with her agent that a fellow patron in the shop overhears her book pitch and mistakes it for a real story. And just like that, Finlay Donovan is offered money she desperately needs and all she has to do is kill someone. She wouldn’t! She’ll just go to check out the guy and see what is up. And, well, terrible dude is what! So she sort of accidentally kills him in self-defense, and no one can find out or she’ll definitely lose custody of her kids. Her babysitter, who just quit, comes to the rescue: they’ll just bury the body, Finlay will maaaaaaybe look at any other potential hit job work, and then get her life back in order. Except the dude that died is not the kind of dude you want to kill, even accidentally. So trouble! (TW stalker/date rapist)

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Okay, so this is not an accidental/self-defense murder, which the title makes clear. But it is a whole lot of “help me with this dead guy, AGAIN!” Ayoola seems to keep killing her boyfriends, explaining to her sister Korede the horrible problem that led to each off-ing and why she must help her clean it up. And so Korede does, thinking she’s being a good sister. But when Ayoola makes googly eyes at Korede’s crush, and he seems to be interested back, Korede’s loyalties will be seriously tested… (TW child and domestic abuse/past sexual assault)