Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Butler Did it!

Okay, so I've blogged a lot about romance lately and I've been reading stacks of it, but I've recently returned to my first love. I'm a fickle bitch, but for me there is nothing like a good mystery. I had gotten bored and frustrated with the offerings on the market. Nothing did it for me anymore. Cozy? Blah. I don't need another niche mystery about knitting or dog training or herbal gardening with a bit of sleuthing on the side and a safe love interest. Snore. A savage police procedural? A twisted legal thriller? Um, no. Thanks. I work in the justice system. I want escape, not a further dose of my life. Private Detectives? Not so much. So he drinks and has issues with his ex. Whatever.

But then I (insert happy snoopy dance of joy) discovered historical mysteries and it was Calgon, take me away once more. Recent joys have been Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive and Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave. Both are excellent debuts set in Victorian England. 19th century Europe? Squee!

Now I'm happily back to writing mysteries (historical of course!) and I've been thinking about the familiar tropes of the genre that rub my kitty fur the wrong way.

1.Dangerous to Know: This is the amateur sleuth who manages to stumble across the dead body of a minor player in the first 30 pages of every novel. Seriously, how many dead bodies can one person find?

2.He had it coming: The victim is EEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!!! With capital E and stuff. He's a baddy mcbaddy who evicts little old ladies, kicks puppies and steals candy from kids for kicks. It isn't a question of who had a motive, but of who didn't. Oh, and the one person who doesn't have a motive? That's your killer. Yep. This is especially prevalent in cozies where bad stuff shouldn't really happen to good people.

3. Vee Haf Vayz of Making You Talk: tricking the killer into a public confession or going to retrieve incriminating evidence or moving the body or any other bluff to magically solve the crime. I like to call this the Scooby Doo Method of crimesolving. It seems to work best with overconfident/panicky/stupid criminals. I'd have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

4. Keystone Cops: This is an older but a goody. The inneffective/corrupt/stupid police. They are incapable of solving the crime. Good thing the knitting circle's little old ladies are on the job! This is another trope that cozies are especially guilty of. Naturally an inquisitive elementary school teacher is better suited for solving crimes between classes than trained professionals. Bonus points awarded if she receives assistance from cute kids and a dog.

5. Can Johnny Come out and Play? I seriously hate killers who leave playful clues or engage in games with the cops. Poetic messages, children's rhymes, a black rose, hints about the next victim, taunting calls to the detective's unlisted number? Jack the Ripper beat you to it. Been there, done that, have the 19th century T-shirt to prove it. Time for fresh meat.

Okay, that's enough ranting for one day. I feel better now. Much better. Whist and charades anyone?


AC said...

Ha! I've read every single one of those devices, and way too many times.

I'm with you on the historical romances, though. Especially love Deanna Raybourn. I think the third book in her Lady Julia Grey series comes out next year--wahoo!

Marian said...

My pet peeve in mysteries is when the detective knows something we don't, and uses that to smugly solve the case.

"Of course I knew Johnny was guilty. You see, he reminded me of little Billy Atkins in the village where I grew up. Billy had that way of doing drive-bys on his tricycle and gunning people down with his water pistol."

Miss Marple did this a lot, but Dame Agatha was usually careful to supply enough clues that the readers could figure it out even if they hadn't grown up in St Mary Mead.

Mary B said...

AC: I can't wait for the third installment. Not that I'm an addict or anything.

marian: Ooh, Sherlock Holmes was guilty of that one too! There was always a bit of arcane knowlege that only he possessed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks mentioning the historical mysteries by Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourne. Sounds like my cuppa tea.

Seeing you ended the post by mentioning Whist- do you play? It's my favorite card game, but the only people I've ever met who play it is my family.