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 clue-tropes, and also those tropes that an experienced mystery reader finds herself using to solve the mystery without reference to the actual clues. For example, this one…
The Excellent Mimic
“Odd about old Addison. Seems a dull chap, but he has all sorts of unexpected talents. He’s a first-rate bridge player, a fine boxer, a dab hand with an embroidery needle, and an excellent mimic.”
Watch out, readers! We have an excellent mimic in our story! That phone call that seems to establish that the dead man was alive at 10 P.M.? That was the work of the excellent mimic. The voice calling for help from the bottom of the cliff? Probably the excellent mimic. The man with his back turned, but whose voice was heard quite distinctly? Excellent mimic! He is here, there, everywhere, confusing things.
The excellent mimic may be the killer (this is quite likely). S/he may be protecting someone, someone who may or may not have done it (see Fat-Headed Lovers, tomorrow’s post!). Someone may have tricked him into making, say, a phony phone call (you know, “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if you called up so-and-so, pretending to be Bob?”–this is the sort of thing that appeals to the simple sense of humour of the excellent mimic), and now he will not admit that he did it, for fear of being suspected himself. He is certainly, for one reason or another, not on the side of the investigators. He also knows quite a lot more than he is admitting.
An excellent mimic is like Chekhov’s Gun: it really has got to go off. The phrase “excellent mimic” makes a promise to the reader (a promise that the author probably hopes the reader won’t pick up on, until later, when the detective says, “after all, you dolt, we all knew he was an excellent mimic;” it is a promise nonetheless).
Have you encountered this trope in something you’ve read? Do you think it isn’t a trope? Can you think of other, similar tropes? Do you just want to say hello? Please leave a comment!
Oh! And! If you’re into tropes, and want to explore a great big jungle of tropes, why not visit tvtropes.org? If you’ve never seen the site before, I strongly recommend having a look.