Trends In YA Murder Mysteries // the one in which I try to sound knowledgeable

I’ve said it before (uh not really but you get the point) and I’ll say it again – 21st century murder mysteries will never be able to beat a good old Christie (personal opinion, please don’t come at me with axes).

I think one reason to this would be that a lot of recently published murder mysteries that I’ve read have certain elements and tropes in common, and with time I’ve just come to expect and predict them. Not that they’re all bad though. And sometimes they’re even executed well. But it’s the repetitiveness that I don’t really appreciate.

But if I got down to my self-contradictory opinions on mysteries, we’d be here all day so without further ado, let me present some common trends I’ve noticed in several recently published YA murder mysteries. Here we go! (and yes I’ve self-created some random quotes to go with each trend to get the point across)

— “maybe she got what she deserved”: villainizing the victim —

Prepare to get the shock of your lives, because the golden boy/perfect girl who was murdered wasn’t exactly that innocent. *GASP* Yes they had lots of secrets of their own, as the protagonist of the story slowly (agonizingly slowly) discovers. Even the victim’s friends admit that their friend wasn’t as perfect and sweet as everyone thought he was. If I was paid every time the victim turned out to be a liar, cheat, or something worse, I could set up my own bookshop today. (yeah so I exaggerated a tiny bit, so what?)

Okay, dramatics aside, I can’t really hold a grudge against this trope (but I do) because in a way it makes sense for the author to use this because 1. that means the victim did have enemies after all 2. and that means MORE suspects for the protagonists to tackle. How exciting.

— “stop looking for me”: threatening letters and mails —

Somehow as soon as the protagonist starts investigating, the murderer always gets to know and decides to compromise his identity by messaging threats to, traditionally, stop prodding or else…

I’ll be honest, I don’t even have much of an opinion on this one. One one hand I guess it does increase the stakes because now the protagonist’s life is on the line as well, but on the other… can we ever have a sensible murderer who tries less to deter the protagonist, and harder to, you know, not get caught?

— not going to the police because initially “i don’t know enough” and later “i know too much” —

It is perfectly reasonable to hesitate to go to the police initially due to lack of evidence. And apparently, according to the unspoken tradition of murder mysteries, it is also perfectly fine to not go to the authorities due to excess of evidence.

We also have these practical friends of the protagonist who frequently suggest going to the police with whatever they know throughout the story. But every time the main character shrugs this off with a “let us be completely sure first” or later a “i’m too deep in now, i HAVE to do this myself

— “she was better than everyone at everything”: the jealousy factor —

We always have these jealous friends/classmates/siblings of the victim to whom all suspicions are immediately directed because they had the motive. But more often than not, they are not actually the murderers. We get a “yes she was a snob and i didn’t like her, but I couldn’t possibly murder her!” and that’s it.

— secrets *said with jazz hands and ominous voice* —

I’m going to be extremely frank here- everyone has secrets. No one lives with their entire life displayed in glowing letters on a billboard.

Murder mysteries make a huge deal out of secrets. “oh my gosh he’s hiding something” leads to the immediate conclusion of “he’s the murderer”. Often the synopsis has something along the lines of “but such and such character has their own secrets…” in an attempt to sound ominous and intrigue the readers.

— “so it had been him all along”: circling round back to the first suspect —

This is something I’ve been seeing frequently of late. Say the protagonist suspects person X first, then realizes he’s wrong and moves on to Y, then to Z and so on. Finally, following a trail of clues and all, they’re back to person X. Now there’s a 50% chance that X is actually the murderer and 50% that it is someone else altogether.

____________

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)
Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)
How We Fall Apart (How We Fall Apart, #1)
Dead Girls Can't Tell Secrets

And that was it for this post! (i can’t pretend to be knowledgeable and experienced forever now, can i?) But hold up, you might say, Rachel are we even talking about the same murder mysteries because I have literally never seen these trends in the ones I’ve read?? So I’ve thought up a solution for that – I’ve shown you some of the murder mysteries I’ve read recently, the ones that I had in mind while writing these trends!

Do you read murder mysteries? Have you noticed these trends too? Your favourite mysteries?? (please give me recs because i seem to be having a bad experience with murder mysteries lately)

~ Rachel

39 thoughts on “Trends In YA Murder Mysteries // the one in which I try to sound knowledgeable

  1. I love murder mysteries, YA or otherwise. I also watch pretty much every crime procedural there is out there. Plus I grew up on Nancy Drew so I understand what you mean by seeing common trends. There are only so many ways to make a high-stakes intense mystery story at some point where there’s a credible motive and culprit for the murder (so it’s not just a random death and there’s almost a purpose for such an untimely demise unlike a lot of true crime). I agree they’re there but personally I don’t mind them. It may make it more predictable for me to guess halfway into a book, but I still love the whodunnit and the challenge of guessing right 😊 Maybe that’s just me but you’re not alone in noticing trends because they’re definitely there

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whoa you’re a true crime nerd haha. yess I pretty much grew up reading Nancy drew too, some of them were iconic.
      exactly, I’m so glad you get my point! there are not a lot of ways of coming up with different motives so authors have to go with common trends.
      thank you for reading the post!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can totally relate to being able to deduce who the culprit is pretty early on in most murder mysteries I read or watch because of such common trends too! However its always interesting to see how a particular character is made to handle these in a unique manner. I have to agree that I am biased towards works written in the golden age of murder mysteries like Christie’s, because a lot of emphasis is put on understanding the behaviour and psychology of the characters, unlike some like for example Sherlock Holmes which focuses more on concrete evidence. While I think both aspects are important in actual investigations, being a psychology student the former certainly appeals to me more. Brilliant post!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yep fair point, each character deals with the situation differently.
      I’m in awe of how Christie manages to do the psycological aspect so well, and i’m not even studying psychology so I can only imagine how fascinating it is to those who are actively in that field.
      thank you!

      Like

  3. Don’t worry, Rachel – if I come anywhere near you with an axe, it will be to come to your defense! Agatha Christie is the queen of writing crime fiction, and I wholeheartedly agree that nobody in our century even comes close to her brilliance! 🥰🪓

    All of these are so true, though 😂😂😂 Especially the not going to the police because of “too much evidence” one. Like, seriously, at some point I would be so scared of being murdered myself for knowing too much (especially after the murderer had sent me threatening messages that showed they were clearly dumb enough to go in for a kill even if they might be caught) that even if I had obtained my evidence through slightly illegal methods, I’d rather the police stepped in before it was too late!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank god, i was about to say my last words before the ‘defense’ think cropped up because i thought to were actually going to come running at me with an axe.
      YES QUEEN OF CRIME and i take no arguments.
      same! first of all, if I ever got involved in a murder mystery by mistake, I’d lock up all the doors and windows and call for police protection and sit in my room for days because maybe THEY’LL COME FOR ME NEXT, WHO CARES ABOUT PLAYING DETECTIVE??

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic post Rachel!! And i completely agree with all your points! Murder mysteries are fun yes but most follow the Same Old Plot. LIKE GIVE US SOMETHING FUN AND NEW PLEASE.
    Adult mysteries are different than YA ones, you might find yourself enjoying them more!
    The Drowning Kind is an adult horror mystery and i love! Consider that my rec ❤️
    Do you have any mystery book recs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i know, and to think I actually enjoyed my first murder mysteries because i hadn’t seen those tropes done before 😭
      YES I do find myself gravitating towards adult mystery more nowadays.
      oooh I’ll check that out, thanks for the rec!
      well, if you’re looking specifically for adult murder mysteries, then i’d have to recommend Agatha Christie… but if you’re fine with adult mysteries (without the murder part) you should check out books by Jeffrey Archer, especially the William Warwick series!!

      Like

  5. great post! i haven’t read many ya mysteries (probably only one or two, i really should get into the genre because it’s interesting) but i can see how these tropes are popular! my to-go mystery writer is arthur conan doyle lol, i think i have read too much sherlock holmes stories, those are addictive. thanks for the recs!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I NEED TO READ MORE MYSTERIES OMG. I’m literally failing at reading ahhh😭😭😭 I’ve read a few Sherlock Holmes stories, but all of them were for school so I was not happy or interested reading them 😂
    I’ve never read an Agatha Christie before PLEASE GIVE ME RECSSS!! THEY SEEM SO GOOD AND I THINK I SHOULD START MY JOURNEY WITH THE CLASSICS!
    And ohh that ‘she was better than everyone else’ seems like a really popular trope lol, it’s been there in most of the mysteries I’ve read(which are like really less but *cough* we will conveniently ignore that)
    loved reading this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. haha dont worry, until a few months back the only murder mysteries I’d read were Christie so yeah, been there.
      oooh my favourites by Christie are Murder on the Orient express, And then there were none and Three act tragedy, maybe check those out?
      and if you’re looking for adult mystery in general, might i also suggest Jeffrey Archer’s Nothing Ventured? His other books are AMAZING too, but i think they don’t really fall into the mystery genre.
      thank you suhani ❤

      Like

  7. I totally agree with you, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan-Doyle (I am a massive Sherlock fan) will never be beaten.
    And of my goodness the point you made about the letter trails and notes to deter the protagonists, its like come on, IS YOUR AIM TO GET CAUGHT.
    You were also totally correct about the “I’m in too deep, I’ve got to finish this alone,” point in the book, is just so ridiculous. NO YOU DO NOT have to refrain from going to the police because you, “have too much evidence,” WHAT ON EARTH does that even mean and why do people bother writing into stories.

    Loved the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes although the murderer is usually very careful to use newspaper cutouts in their threatening notes, it is ultimately the same trail that leads the protagonist to find them.
      haha ikr! there’s no rule that police won’t entertain you if you have too much evidence.
      thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. YESSS OH MY GOSH RACHEL I LOVE THIS POST!!! I adore murder mysteries but the brilliance and charm of Agatha Christie will never be recaptured by modern-day works honestly (i hope someone proves me wrong though). I HATE the secrets trope when done badly because usually in YA I feel like even the secrets are predictable? Like, Person X cheated with Person Y and Person Q is doing drugs and wow, how the tables have turned! I really love the style of the old murder mysteries, which usually had well-developed characters or an investigation that didn’t require too much suspension of belief? Now, I feel like the mystery aspect is just there for shock factor. Anyways, this is such a great post and now I’m in the mood to read a good mystery lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AHH THANK YOU KAYA!!
      honestly i feel the exact same and i’m just waiting for the book that’ll prove me wrong.
      yeah like after reading a couple of YA murder mysteries, i now have the (very short) list of “secrets” in my brain (cheating and drugs top the list btw lol) so they’re not even that shocking now.
      same here, i’m once again in my adult mystery phase at the moment!

      Like

  9. Aaah, I agree, Agatha Christie novels are unmatched, and are always probably gonna be (To think she came up with these plots eating an apple in a bathtub)
    While murder mysteries are fun to read, a lot of them do follow this trope, yes! The similarities are striking, and you summed all of them up amazingly! But come what may, I’ll always love AGGGTM, lol, it’s an amazing novel, and the third part even more so.

    Love this post Rachel, it was a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeeeah i think I’ve read that bathtub thing earlier too, not quite sure whether i believe it tho.
      to be honest, agggtm is definitely my favourite out of all those books i mentioned lol! thank you riddhi 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OKAY IF I’M BEING HONEST I have read SO FEW YA murder mysteries but I can still relate to ALL of these! ALSO ALSO YES Agatha Christie is queen WE WILL NEVER DENY IT and don’t worry no one shall bring an axe near you, THEY WILL HAVE TO GET PAST MY SWORD FIRST.
    I’d never particularly paid much attention to it before, but now that you mention it, YES. Selling a book by adding the word ‘secrets’ IS SO OVERUSED, but…. I somehow get sold EVERY. SINGLE. TIME? Apparently I’m TOO easy to please???
    I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!!! And shall now be on my way to check out all the mysteries you mentioned (ESPECIALLY AGGTM I NEED TO READ IT) I’ve only read like half of Truly Devious from your list BUT THE WRITING?? did not grab me?? So I dnfed??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yep see you don’t even have to go deep into the genre to see these trends THEY ARE SO COMMON istg.
      yay I’m eternally thankful to your sword for protecting me, it’s why I’m still here and replying to your comment!
      ANOUSHKA I CANNOT BLAME YOU FOR THE DNF I MYSELF HATED TRULY DEVIOUS but i was traveling and only had that one audiobook so I had no choice but to listen to it till the END 😭 but it was BORING and the romance was EW and guess what, they don’t even SOLVE THE MYSTERY.

      Liked by 1 person

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