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.
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)