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.
This one is, I think, another pure trope-clue, one that is useful to readers wishing to solve the mystery through cheating, but is of no use whatsoever to the investigators within the story. It is that staple character of mystery novels…
The Young, Angry Man
Harold snarled. “Don’t employ your little pet names on me, you heartless minx!” He cried. “I’ve been had that way before. You don’t mean it. Women never do.”
Grace raised a cool eyebrow. “Very well, darl–well, never mind that. I haven’t time to row with you now, anyway. I simply must change for dinner. So, I imagine, must you.”
Harold laughed hollowly. “Oh, yes, I’ll change for dinner. I’m quite the little plutocrat this weekend. People will starve on the streets,” he said, his eyes suddenly wild, “while we change for dinner.” And he turned on his heels and stomped up the marble stairs.
He is a bit at odds with the glittering scene, is this young, angry man. He eats his fill of caviar, but it, of course, turns to ashes in his mouth. He is angry, angry, angry. His anger is often partially political. Then, he is sometimes a soapbox for the author, and sometimes he’s a chance for the author to poke fun at someone else’s soapbox, and sometimes he’s just there to create a bit of tension. Regardless of the political sympathies of the reader and of the author, the young, angry man in the classic Golden Age mystery novel is never, I think, an entirely sympathetic character. He is awfully rude, even to characters that the reader likes.
Oh, and his views on women make Hamlet’s haranguing of Ophelia look like gentle, constructive criticism. This young, angry man will send ’em to a nunnery, all right. All of them, the darned attractive hypocrites. You see, dear reader, a woman once broke his heart, and made him the embittered fellow he is today.
Oh, and he’s never the killer. Need I even say it? Of course, he will be suspected, because he can’t shut up to save his life, and he will go on being nasty about the victim even after the murder. But, of course, he won’t have done it. Occasionally, he’s even the romantic lead. Some woman in the book will scathingly dissect his manners and morals, and they will growl at each other, and spit, and finally fall upon each other in a swirl of orange-blossoms.
By the way, I know the phrase is more often “angry young man,” but that, readers, begins with “A.” And I needed a “Y” pretty badly.
What do you think of the young, angry man, as he appears in Golden Age mystery novels? Have you encountered him in something you’ve read? Is he ever a totally sympathetic character? Is he ever the killer? How do you like him as romantic lead? Do you think he is a trope? Would you just like to say hello? Leave a comment!