Hello, and welcome to my 2019 A to Z Challenge! This year, I am giving you my personal list of Golden Age Mystery Tropes. Particularly those tropes that an experienced mystery reader finds herself using to solve the mystery without reference to the actual clues. For example…
Actors Are Always Acting
The man was a mess. All the woeful signs of new bereavement were written upon his face. “Without her…” He looked up at me and smiled pathetically. “Well, I suppose I must go on. Yes. Of course.”
I was really moved by the grief in his eyes. Of course, the man had been an actor… but he’d have to be a jolly fine one, to be acting now.
Ah, that phrase, “Of course, the man had been an actor…”! It, to me, means one thing: watch this fellow, he is acting now. This is especially likely to be true, I find, when the author follows it up with a statement such as “but he’d have to be a jolly fine one, to be acting now.” Sort of soothing the reader back into trustfulness, after reminding her briefly of the suspect’s acting talent. Usually, it will turn out that the man IS a jolly fine actor, and that his elaborate show of grief is just that: an elaborate show.
This particular trope is a sort of half-clue. I mean, it is available for the detective in the story to know that the guy is an actor, but the way the information is presented to the reader contains danger signals that the detective does not get. Probably a lot of my tropes are going to straddle that line, this month. For those who like fancy words, my trope today straddles the line between diegetic and non-diegetic: it is sort of in the world of the story, and sort of in the world of the page.
Angry Young Man: See Young, Angry Man later on this month!
Have you seen examples of this trope yourself in a mystery novel you have read? Do you have any counter-examples to offer? Do you just want to say hello? Please comment below!