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 Killer From The (Almost) Beyond, or, The Dying Murderer
As the priest was leaving the dying woman’s room, he gestured for Crowner to follow him.
“I have much that I am to tell you, Inspector. She–has made a confession, to God, and now, she instructs, I am to tell you.”
Crowner looked at the priest in deep annoyance. “But Father! That is absolutely the dreariest way possible to end a murder mystery!”
The priest was surprised at this outburst. “Surely–surely! You cannot know already what I have to tell you?”
“Yes yes yes. Of course I know. She did it. Somehow, she got up from her death-bed, on five separate occasions, and murdered all five victims. She did it, of course, for some terribly noble reason that, however, you are not permitted to divulge.”
The priest bowed his head.
Crowner continued. “Poor woman–you are about to remark–her sin is heavy–but she has paid for it.”
The priest bowed his head again.
“She’s probably secretly someone’s mother. Is that it?”
The priest began to bow his head again–and then froze, and eyed Crowner reproachfully. “I must not answer that question.”
Crowner smiled. “Of course not, Father. Of course not.”
Ah, the dying old woman upstairs. An object, when the characters remember, of pity–poor faithful soul! Little do they know that it is she who has been doing all that stabbing or poisoning or whatnot. For, of course, the most noble of reasons. These reasons will probably be gently implied in the final chapter, without actually being stated.
Of course, it is also possible that, in order to shield the killer (or the person she thinks is the killer), she has made a false deathbed confession.
Either way, the dying woman upstairs wants watching. As a reader, you should immediately suspect her–of shenanigans, if not of the murder itself. The writer rather expects you not even to consider her as a possible on your list of suspects–she is so old, and so almost-dead, and she bears it all so nobly. Really, you’d have to be some kind of monster to suspect such a sweet, feeble old lady! Therefore: suspect her. Never lose sight of her. She is in the book for a reason.
Of course, if she is ever seriously suspected, she probably hasn’t done it. Probably. Still, she may very well be calmly lying on an important clue, to hide it from the detectives. Shenanigans.
What do you think of the Killer From The Almost-Beyond? Besides, I mean, that I had to stretch it a bit to make this one begin with K? Would you like to use her (or, of course, him–but the examples I am thinking of all have a woman in the part) in a scene of your own? Do you just want to say hello? Leave a comment, please!