Absence of Evidence: Happens in just about every murder, given how most of the bodies are left in garbage dumps and that witnesses never come forward. What little evidence is found is frequently lost or forgotten.
Clear My Name: Klaus Haas, after being accused of committing the serial murders and left to rot in jail. It was declared a mistrial, and the book ends as Archimboldi heads to Mexico to get him out of prison.
Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Bubis, aka Baroness Von Zumpe and one of the few people to know Archimboldi's real identity.
Corruption of a Minor: Subverted with Lalo Cura, a child hired to bodyguard Pedro Rengifo's family. He eventually becomes part of the Santa Teresa police force, but he remains a far more honest and straightforward officer than his mentors.
Dirty Cop: And how. The extent of corrupt members of the police force and local government is never directly revealed, but it's heavily implied to include the higher ups and the majority of the beat cops especially Epifanio.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Especially with Archimboldi, who had to fight in World War II, survive multiple injuries, change his identity, and forge his new career as a writer in post-war Europe. It's never revealed if he won the Nobel Prize, but he certainly earned it.
Played with in regards to the fate of Klaus Haas. After getting locked up, he devotes all his time and efforts towards expanding his power base, clearing his name, and helping with the case. In the last few pages, Archimboldi heads for Mexico to get him out of prison, but it's never revealed if Klaus makes it out alive.
Eldritch Location: All of the characters notice that something's... off about Santa Teresa. As one reviewer put it:
There is something secret, horrible, and cosmic afoot, centered around Santa Teresa (and possibly culminating in the mystical year of the book's title, a date that is referred to in passing in Amulet as well). We can at most glimpse it, in those uncanny moments when the world seems wrong.
Many of the soldiers think Dracula's castle has some kind of otherworldly influence. It's mentioned that some of them were building the huge cross before they decided to crucify General Entrescu. When they tried to dig trenches around the fortress, they kept finding skeletons.
Everyone Is a Suspect: So much so that the authorities arrested Klaus just so they could make it appear progress was being made in the investigation.
Failure Is the Only Option: The critics eventually admit that they'll never find Archimboldi, but know he's somewhere in Santa Teresa.
Meaningful Rename: Benno von Archimboldi is named after Guiseppe Arcimboldo, an artist Hans Reiter read about while going through Anksy's diary. The von is associated with his Germanic heritage, but it's also a way for Reiter to remember Baroness von Zumpe.
Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Klaus gains so much power and media attention in prison that he takes a few steps in solving the investigation himself. He even has a cell phone to communicate to the outside world whenever he wants.
Mighty Glacier: Hans. The guy is huge, but moves as if he's walking on the ocean floor.
Non-Idle Rich: Mrs. Bubis runs the publishing business well and played a key role in getting Archimboldi's writing career started.
Nothing Is Scarier: It's never revealed what the Germans and Romanians saw inside Dracula's crypt, but the visitors "were divided into two groups, those were pale when they emerged, as if they had glimpsed something momentous down below, and those who appeared with a half smile sketched on their faces, as if they had just been reapprised of the naïveté of the human race."
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Popescu is introduced as a Romanian intellectual touring Dracula's castle with General Entrescu. Several years later, he shows again, tying up loose ends from the war by killing a former comrade.
Overly Long Name: Benno von Archimboldi. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bubis mention what a weird and ridiculous and an obvious pseudonym it is.
Parental Abandonment: Lola Amalfitano ditches her daughter and husband and travels with her best friend in search of a poet with whom she once had sex.
Police Are Useless: When it comes to the serial murders. Evidence is frequently lost, few leads are followed through, and certain steps in logic are never taken. Not even pressure from the government makes a difference.
Police Brutality: In one instance they not only beat a perp, but they douse him with water and urine and well.
Really Gets Around: Azucena Esquivel Plata and Mrs. Bubis's sex lives and affairs are legendary. Plata quickly remarks that all legends are false, especially in Mexico.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Sammer starts out as one, until he's mistakenly left in charge of the care and eventual disposal of hundreds of Jews originally meant for Auschwitz.
Red Herring: The crazy man who goes around desecrating religious icons is not the killer.
Refuge in Audacity: Klaus practically runs on this after he's thrown in prison. He even has a cell phone, which he uses to contact the outside world whenever he wants.Everyone knows and goes along with it.
Reluctant Psycho: Amalfitano knows he's going crazy and occasionally mentions the possibility of being committed to an asylum.
Viewers Are Geniuses: There are references to literary theory, geometry, mythology, psychology, philosophy, morality, art, religious symbolism, Dracula, Communism, Mexican, German, and Russian history and culture, World War II, and many others.