Mother-in-the-Box #AtoZChallenge 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 clue-tropes, and also those tropes that an experienced mystery reader finds herself using to solve the mystery without reference to the actual clues.

…but the trope I have for you today doesn’t really fit into either of those categories. In fact, I was a little stumped for M (weird, because words like Murder and Mystery begin with M… but I could not, for some reason, make either of those excellent words into a trope-phrase I was satisfied with), and have had to improvise a bit. Here we go! A short one, today!


“But why? Why did you commit this horrid murder?” The Chief Constable stared at shy Miss Timkins in disbelief. “You are, as far as is known, utterly uninvolved with anyone up at the Hall. Why kill Sir Gawdawful? Why?”

“I shall never tell! Never!” Miss Timkins’ plain and dowdy face flushed scarlet; her eyes flashed fire.

“She’s young Cecil’s mother,” said Crowner, rolling his eyes. “Obviously. She’s kept it a secret all these years, but has watched over him from her humble village cottage–until–” Crowner shrugged. “She felt that her son was in danger–and she killed to save him.”

“Cecil does not know. He must never know my shame! Never!”

Crowner sighed. “That means she’ll commit suicide in the next ten minutes. No no! Don’t bother to try and stop her. If you knock the poison out of her hand, she’ll manage to hang herself in her cell later.”

I have basically covered this trope already, in Killer From The (Almost) Beyond, but yeah: sometimes, in Golden Age mystery novels, secret mothers pop up like jack-in-the-boxes and murder people. Or should it be jacks-in-the-box? Or… anyway, assume I have pluralized jack-in-the-box flawlessly, and leave me a comment about this trope!


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  1. That last bit had me do a spit laugh. “No, no. Let her off herself. She’s in THAT state, don’t you know. Mmm, I heard there are some fresh scones and honey down at the commissary. Cuppa tea?”

    You could have gone with the Murder Most Fowl, where poultry is cheep. 🙂

  2. . . . maybe: secret mothers pop up like a jack-in-the-box.
    It is a good trope for those classic mysteries.

  3. Your A-to-Z posts are entertaining and hilarious. Congrats on a job well done.

  4. “I am your mother!!!”
    Even Daredevil used this trope recently, and mothers are not as easily concealed as fathers…

    The Multicolored Diary

  5. Ah one of my favourites (and an Agatha Christie favourite). Always be suspicious of two similar looking women twenty years apart. Mother and daughter, always XD

  6. Mothers. Sheesh. Nothing but trouble, am I right? I mean, I know I’d kill the whole village and *their* mothers just to make sure my child’s secrets remained inconspicuous. Oh, wait… now there are police around asking questions? Who’d’a thunk?

    Stuart, I’m afraid your pun was a total cock-up. I could hardly compre-hen-d it. But I guess I shouldn’t be so pecky. =P

  7. And there is rarely any hint, before the big reveal, that the minor character is the long lost mother of a major character! 😂

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