Snog Marry Murder by Zac Colbert is a short punch of a crime novella that doesn’t take itself seriously, by an author who knows a lot about the occasionally overlapping worlds of crime fiction and television. And we should know because, full disclosure, he used to be a contributor here on Crime Fiction Lover.
The title of the TV show in Snog, Marry, Murder is Snog, Marry, Swerve, a clear homage to now defunct BBC Three reality TV series Snog, Marry, Avoid – a series which never really took off outside of the UK. This probably says something about British people, but I’m not sure exactly what. The basic premise of the show is that women in skimpy clothing and layers of makeup undergo ‘make-unders’ to bring out the true beauty underneath, and viewers vote on their favourite transformation. In Colbert’s novella, as in the TV series, the transformations take place in a room called POD, or Personal Overhaul Device, which is in reality a plain caravan parked in the corner of the TV studio.
Snog, Marry, Swerve has had its day. The director and the production staff are trying to squeeze another couple of seasons out of a tired idea, with rating plummeting and viewer interest waning. To revitalise the show they bring back an old contestant, the ever-popular Stacy, who had fallen back to her old ways. Her popularity has current host Emma nervous, as she knows that one way to lift failing ratings is to change the host, and effervescent but naively honest Stacy could be the perfect replacement. But is that a reason to commit murder?
It turns out that there is indeed someone on set with enough reason to kill Stacy, because at lunch on the first day of shooting Stacy enters POD and never leaves. Eventually production assistant Charlotte forces her way in and locates Stacy’s body on the green screen floor of POD, her head beaten in with a heavy object.
Charlotte, a murder mystery fan with dreams of something bigger than just being a production assistant, instantly places herself in detective mode. Who could the killer be? Could it be Grant, the jealous boyfriend; or perhaps Emma, the host about to lose her job? Almost everyone on set had motive to kill Stacy, but with Charlotte standing outside POD’s doors the whole time waiting for Stacy’s makeunder to finish and for Stacy to step out, who would have been able to get in undetected? Unless it was Charlotte herself…
Snog, Marry, Murder is at times funny, but sometimes the humour doesn’t quite hit the mark. For instance, there is an ongoing argument about the definition of the word ‘bludgeon’ which left me scratching my head. Discussions like this may have been written in to poke holes in the stereotypes that reality TV relies on. I was never really sure, and in the short format of the Kindle novella, this is a question that isn’t really answered.
The thing about reality TV that is so fascinating, the thing that keeps viewers coming back for more, is the fact that it is so completely unreal. The characters are over the top, the drama is manufactured, but sometimes through all that you get glimpses of something real, something honest. The characters in Snog, Marry, Murder all put on a fake face to meet the world, and as Charlotte digs deeper into the circumstances of the murder, the truth about each character comes to light, including the truth about Charlotte herself. None of the characters is particularly special, and none of the big reveals is particularly shocking, but they do all feel real. Reality TV is never going to produce anything classic, and that’s OK – it’s bland, palatable enjoyment. Snog, Marry, Murder is the same. It’s not ground-breaking or an instant classic, it’s just fun, enjoyable crime fiction for readers who don’t mind crime fiction that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even if you’re not a fan of reality TV!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars