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.
Today, however, I am, once again, going to address the hopeful fictional murderer. He keeps, in fiction, getting caught–and often simply because he will not learn from his many fictional predecessors. You, oh prospective fictional murderer, cannot help but utter…
Questions You Shouldn’t Know Enough To Ask
“There was,” said Crowner, eying Mr. Sneer speculatively, “a lovely set of fingerprints on the gun.”
“But Inspector! How can that be–when the killer wore gloves?” Asked Mr. Sneer, his mouth operating just fatal seconds ahead of his brain.
Mr. Sneer, I despair of you. You are very easily tricked. This is only slightly more intelligent than the classic trope “But I wore gloves,” beloved of Old-Time Radio detective shows and other shorter-format detective stories because it wraps up the case so very efficiently.
Let us turn away from this depressing spectacle and examine another error of the same sort.
“What I don’t understand,” complained Mr. Sneak, with the air of a man with a deep and genuine grievance, “is this–why was the body found in the rosebushes, when the murder was committed in the summer house?”
Mr. Sneak, you have my sympathy. It must be very annoying, when one has committed a perfectly simple murder in one place, to hear that the body of one’s victim has been discovered elsewhere. It must be very tempting to ask questions about it. But–you mustn’t, you know. You really mustn’t. If you want your involvement to remain a mystery to the authorities, you must, I am afraid, accept a certain level of doubt and mystification on your own part.
Can you think of other fatal questions a murderer might ask? Is this a trope? Have you seen it in something you’ve read? Do you just want to say hello? Leave a comment!