Actors #AtoZChallenge 2019: Mystery Tropes

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!

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  1. I just want to say hello 😉

    And to say thank you for your visit and kind comment on my ALIBI post.

  2. I don’t really remember ever seeing this trope in a novel I’ve read. Though maybe if it were an actress. But of course, women are most of them natural atresses, aren’t they? 😉

  3. Oh dear, I believe you are disillusioning me. I’ve always thought I was so clever in my distrust of actors in mysteries. Sigh. I feel so acted upon! 🙂

  4. Oh, this is going to be a very interesting month, reading your daily tidbits. What of the trope of the mystery writer who is always planning a murder and all the clues needed to solve it? 🙂

  5. Nice theme, Melanie – looking forward to seeing where you take this A2Z :0)

    I’m sure I’ve seen that trope somewhere, but can’t think where. Might be something that Agatha Christie used once or twice…

  6. You always do outstanding work!

  7. Fascinating! And I LOVE your icon you created for the A to Z. Perfection!

  8. I’m so glad I found you through this challenge! I’m definitely coming back here – I love tropes, I love mysteries and I love anything that’s happened in an Agatha Christie novel XD

    I can’t wait for B!

  9. I learned a new concept today, diagetic and non-diagetic. Actually I knew the concept but didn’t know there was a term for it 🙂
    I am sure I have come across the actor trope but can’t remember where.

    Visiting from A to Z

    • I know, aren’t they shockingly useful terms? I learned them fairly recently, too, and I find them amazingly helpful.
      Ha! I know, a lot of these tropes are things I know I’ve read in many mystery novels, but I’d have a hard time saying which, if challenged.

  10. great post. looking forward to joining you for the challenge

  11. Great post, great read and you taught me new terminology. You’re off to a fantastic start Melanie. I’m going to enjoy my A-Z visits. Not able to participate this year, but hoping it’ll give me more time to visit, although I’m catching up after illness.

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