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…
The Bedroom Shuffle
Sir Gawdawful looked round his dinner table with a malevolent eye. “Arthur,” he croaked, “I am putting you in my room tonight. Frederick, you shall sleep in the excessively haunted Blue Room. Sir Bentham shall have the Queen Anne suite. I myself shall take the Tower Room. My dear,” he turned to his wife, “you shall sleep in the stables. I hope that is acceptable to all of you.”
Well, it wasn’t, but Sir Gawdawful was a very, very rich man, and so we all humoured his little eccentricities.
Again, this is a half-clue, half-meta-clue trope. That is, the detective will learn about the Bedroom Shuffle in the course of the investigation, but it won’t mean to him/her what it means to us, the experienced mystery readers. What it means to us, of course, is that Sir Gawdawful is expecting to be murdered, and would rather that it happened to someone else. That, or he is being even more devious, and wishes for it to appear that he is expecting to be murdered, because really he plans to murder someone else–probably Arthur. If Arthur is murdered, the reader who knows will look for someone who did not know the bedrooms had been swapped, or directly at Sir Gawdawful himself, as the likely killer. If Sir Gawdawful is murdered, the knowledgeable reader should look very carefully at everyone who did know about the switcheroo.
Have you encountered this trope in something you’ve read? Do you think it is really a trope? Do you dispute my interpretation? Have you seen this trope play out some other way? Please let me know in the Comments section! It is also totally acceptable just to say hello!