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…
“Did you see anyone on the Old Cemetery Road last night?”
“No-one…livin’, Inspector. No-one as’d interest you. Oh no.” And Old Mrs. Crabbe cackled inanely and rocked back and forth.
“You saw a dead man? Do you mean the victim?”
“I don’t mean your victim, anyhow. I saw someone all in luminous white standing at the Old Cemetery gate–and when I looked again, he’d gone.”
“A ghost.” Inspector Gubbins was disgusted. “You think you saw a ghost.” He turned to Constable Watt. “We’ll get nothing useful here, Constable. Old woman’s mad, that’s all. Mad!”
Of course, Inspector Gubbins is wrong. He just got something very useful indeed. Old Mrs. Crabbe thinks she saw a ghost. Well, she’s wrong–but she did see something. Probably the killer. Or the victim. Or a witness. Anyway, she saw someone, and it wasn’t a ghost, and that someone was lurking in the critical area at the critical time. It isn’t Mrs. Crabbe’s fault that she’s ghost-minded; that is the way the author decided that she should be, and now she can’t help herself. She just assumes that people who are lurking about cemetery gates in the middle of the night dressed in white (or anyway, in light-coloured) clothing are ghosts. And when I put it that way, it sounds kind of reasonable.
Inspector Gubbins is, pretty obviously, not our main detective in this story. He is the bumbling policeman that the real detective will show up. The real detective will give Mrs. Crabbe’s story polite attention, to the horror and disgust of any friends he’s brought with him to the interview. He will then turn to them and say something like, “Not at all, my dear chap. I consider Mrs. Crabbe’s testimony to be most important.” That is all he’ll say, until he’s ready to tell all.
Have you encountered this trope in anything you’ve read? Or something kind of like this trope, only different? Tell me all about it in the comments section! You can also just say hello.