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Mystery Magnet
"...the wedding part I could almost forgive him for, since he saved Candace from marrying a pathological liar and would-be bigamist, but I deeply resented the corpse.
"Most people can go their whole lives without getting involved with a murder. Monk is lucky if he can go outside and get his morning paper off his stoop without tripping over a dead body. Murders happen around him with such astonishing frequency that it's long since gone beyond coincidental and borders on supernatural.
"I guess on some level I knew the moment Monk showed up on the plane that it was inevitable that, one way or another, I'd get dragged into a homicide investigation in Hawaii."
Natalie Teeger, Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

A Mystery Magnet attracts mysteries, usually murders, with the occasional case of kidnapping, extortion and fraud for variety. Where ever they go, people drop dead at their feet, often with a cryptic dying message. This behaviour isn't planned by anyone — there is no killer stalking the magnet, nor is the magnet responsible for the deaths — it's just pure coincidence.

Of course, this is all arranged by the show's creators so that the Magnet always has something interesting to do.

If the Mystery Magnet stays in one spot, such as a little town called Cabot Cove, Maine, long enough, enough corpses will soon accumulate that one would expect people to wonder why exactly their quiet-sleepy-little-town is so unlucky. If this happened in real life the police would suspect the magnet of being a serial killer and would question them frequently; in fiction there may be some Lampshade Hanging about the unlikelihood of it all, but it seldom goes beyond that.

The Mystery Magnet will generally become an Amateur Sleuth in self defence. If not, they'll be a sidekick of the police detective who solves all the cases they stumble into. Some are cases of little old ladies investigating. Others are Kid Detectives. Not all amateur sleuths are mystery magnets, however. Some amateurs, and most professionals, deliberately go to the crime scene and investigate. With mystery magnets, it's the exact reverse; the crime scene comes to them, by seeming chance.

Sometimes an entire ensemble can be a Mystery Magnet. When professional detectives are on Busman's Holiday, they can often temporarily become mystery magnets, but this trope is only for those who are like that all the time.

Very often these are Murder Mystery Magnets, leading to Unfortunate Implications. And Jessica Fletcher is the worst offender, which is the reason she is our page image here.

This only covers cases where there is an actual mystery, with a mundane solution. If there is weirdness involved, or no detective work is required to identify the criminals, the character is some other type of Plot Magnet.

See also Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Invoked Trope with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The main character is a Reality Warper who unconsciously causes fictional plots to happen. Koizumi warns Kyon that if Haruhi were to want to be a detective, people would start dying around her. Koizumi solves this problem by faking a murder.
  • Detective Conan. Poor kid can't go anywhere without a murder happening.
    • Occasionally lampshaded, at least in the Manga. The police inspector, Megure-keibu, upon realizing that Detective Moore/Mori just HAPPENED to be near when the crime occurred, has a tendency to raise his eyebrow and vocalize his incredulity. Sadly, he never seems to follow up on this.
    • The kid also can't seem to visit a mansion without getting trapped there with a psycho on the loose. And if he ever meets a group of people for the first time, chances are at least one of them is gonna die.
    • His Fan Nickname has been 'Shinigami Conan' for a while now. Or Shinigami Kudo, depending on the context. Shinigami Shinichi is a little too alliterative. Though it doesn't seem to have been quite this bad before he shrunk—he was so delighted at the opportunity to show off in that roller-coaster beheading incident; horribly desensitized and self-centered, but not fatigued by constant death. Ran wasn't even that desensitized yet.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files. While Kindachi is occasionally recruited by the police to look into cases, it seems that the guy can't even go on a field trip without stumbling across some intricate plot to avenge the slight/death of a crazed person's loved one.
  • In Gosick, Kujo seems to have quickly earned an in-story reputation for being cursed given how often he ends up being a witness to a murder in a short space of time.

     Comic Books  

  • Jennifer Mays and Gabe Webb from The Maze Agency. Granted, Jennifer is a private investigator and a number of the mysteries they deal with are cases she has been hired to investigate. But, even so, it seems they cannot go on vacation, attend a party, or (in the most extreme case) witness an execution without stumbling across a murder.
    • Lampshaded by Lieutenant Bliss in a special when she's called to her third murder scene involving Jen and Gabe in a single day:
    "Are you two going for a marathon or something? You ought to be locked up as carriers!"
  • How many parties has Bruce Wayne attended that haven't been relevant to the case or plot he's working on?

     Fanfiction  

  • Played With vigorously in the Detective Conan (see above) fanfic It's Raining Men Hallelujah.
    • It is a real thing that when Heiji's around, there is a tendency toward the bodies falling. This fic proceeds to Flanderize the hell out of this.
    "You know what, the way it's going... Let's not get buried in the same cemetery."
    "Breakin' my heart, Kudo."
    "We'd be liable to end up as ground zero for the Moon landing. On Earth."

     Literature  

  • Old Miss Marple? For an old lady who lived in a relatively small town, a lot of people seemed to be murdered near her. Hell, even when she went on vacation someone was murdered.
    • "I hope you never realize just how wicked small villages can be." - Miss Marple
  • In Ship Of Fools, a Doctor Who tie-in, there is a sweet little old lady who goes around solving the murders that happen all around her. It turns out she's actually a telepath subconsciously sending out "kill people in elaborate ways" signals to everyone around her, accidentally causing the very murders she solves.
  • Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, and The Adventure Series all qualify.
    • Made more glaring when the crimes always seems to coincide with their school vacation.
      • Loosely plausible as July and August are probably the best times to carry out the usually outdoor crimes (one- smuggling I think- involves a nefarious man swimming long distances at night, which in England is probably only sane in August)
  • The Trixie Belden mystery series. She stumbles across mysterious happenings wherever she goes and always solves the case.
  • Inspector Kurt Wallander in the novels of Swedish writer Henning Mankell lives in the small town of Ystad (population 17,286). The murders just keep happening...
  • Sam Jones, sculptor turned reluctant sleuth from Lauren Henderson's murder mystery books. In one book she is encountered by her policeman lover, stumbling home at 6 in the afternoon blind drunk, and it takes him mere moments to realise someone must be dead to start her drinking so early in the day. Her response?
    Sam Jones: I am the bastard lovechild of Mulder and Schkully and I'm going to pash out now.
  • The Boxcar Children trip over mysteries on all of the vacations that they take during their apparently endless summer vacation.
  • Hercule Poirot ironically lampshades the improbability: "Never, never does it occur that someone says confidentially: 'Well, as a matter of fact, I've actually known five murderers'!". This refers to a villain who deliberately provokes other people into committing murders. Poirot has known far more than that.
    • Lampshaded in a Two Ronnies sketch where it turned out that Poirot was, in fact, committing all the murders and blaming them on other people using fabricated evidence.
  • James Qwilleren from The Cat Who... Series encounters murders and other various crimes with alarming frequency, even as the newspaper he works for often sends him out to do innocuous fluff pieces on things like a food expo, art exhibits, and the like.
  • 19th century writer Arthur Machen gave us Mr. Dyson, an amateur Occult Detective. In most of the Dyson stories, he either stumbled upon crimes as they happened or gained important clues solely because he unintentionally happened to be in the right place at the right time. The only exception to this rule was The Shining Pyramid where he became involved in a case after the fact.
  • Pointed out by Joan Coggin in her Lady Lupin mysteries. "There must be something queer about me," she says, "like those people in Greek tragedies. The minute I arrive upon the scene everyone cries, ‘Let’s have a murder.’"
  • Both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys were frequently lamenting that they never got to have normal vacations.
  • Fisk and Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series are subject to this, though while Michael is usually excited to have a chance to do good Fisk usually wants to have as little association with the mysteries as possible.
  • Brought up a few times in the Discworld series - every time Vimes goes somewhere, a crime is committed. Sybill is especially exasperated with this tendency in Snuff. The trope is also played with a little; Vimes might find a crime wherever he goes, but when he's somewhere else, less crime is being committed in Ankh-Morpork because of how frightened everyone is of what will happen when Vimes gets back. So he's a Mystery Magnet that actually takes the mysteries with him...
  • Lampshaded heavily in Sharan Newman's Catherine Le Vendeur series; she frequently complains that she can't go anywhere without a dead body falling on her. Often literally, which is a Running Gag.
  • Bernie Rhodenbarr can't go anywhere or steal anything without stumbling across a murder. Sometimes this is justified by Bernie trying to steal the MacGuffin other characters are killing each other over. Other times, there's no reason at all.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey thinks this has happened to him at one point in Gaudy Night. He is rowing down the river with the female lead, Harriet Vane, when noxious smells bubble up out of the water. "Honestly, Harriet, it's indecent, the way corpses follow me about!" Fortunately, it happens to be just a local spot of water pollution.
  • Monk illustrates the trope very well with the TV episodes. But the Tie-In Novel series manages to crank it Up to Eleven. It seems that Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger just can't leave San Francisco without running into dead bodies.
    • Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii: Monk and Natalie go to Hawaii. Natalie is going to be maid of honor at her friend's wedding, and Monk chooses to go by Becoming the Mask with the medication Dioxynl because he doesn't want to be alone (although Natalie suspects Dr. Kroger put Monk up to it to avoid having to deal with him). When they get there, Monk first ruins Natalie's friend's wedding by exposing the groom as a bigamist. Then, while Monk and Natalie are walking, they stumble on an elderly woman who apparently was struck by a coconut while in a hot tub, but which Monk immediately declares is a murder. So, rather than have any chance at vacation, Monk and Natalie get drawn into lots more mysteries - the murder itself, a body turning up during a luau that turns out to be connected to the first murder, a rash of strange burglaries, getting one car stolen, and another car wrecked in a hit-and-run. And then there's TV medium Dylan Swift, who seems rather interested in Monk and Natalie and also has unusual interest into the murder. Lampshaded though, in one conversation Monk and Natalie have with Lt. Ben Kealoha after they get their car wrecked:
    Lt. Ben Kealoha: When are you heading back to Frisco?
    Natalie Teeger: Tuesday. Why?
    Lt. Ben Kealoha: I'm trying to decide whether to bring in some off-duty officers and rejigger the work schedule. Since you two arrived on kauai, the crime rate has skyrocketed.
    Natalie Teeger: Maybe you should lock us up.
    Lt. Ben Kealoha: The thought has occurred to me. [He grinned and drove off]
    • Mr. Monk Goes to Germany and Mr. Monk is Miserable: In the first one, Monk and Natalie stumble on a killing at a Lohr duplex while in Lohr to see Dr. Kroger. Monk determines that the dead body is just one of two victims, as the real victim is the owner of the duplex next door, whose body is missing. Then while Natalie is out walking in the woods, she comes upon the missing neighbor's body.
    • Mr. Monk is Miserable is a big-timer. First, a passenger is killed on the flight Monk and Natalie take to Paris. Once in Paris, they visit the catacombs (strange place to go), where the walls are lined with the bones of people condemned on the guillotine long ago. Monk finds a fresher skeleton and concludes it was dumped more recently. Naturally, Natalie is annoyed. But then, when Monk and Natalie go out to dinner at a blind restaurant (where you sit in total darkness), a woman sits down with them who says "I know what you found". Monk senses someone approaching them due to his heightened awareness (a Call Back to the episode "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing"). There is a noise, and Monk tells Natalie that the woman in question has just been murdered. Natalie is naturally pissed, thinking Monk can't get the skeleton case off his back, until one of the waitresses trips, prompting the house lights to be brought up, revealing that the woman sitting at their table has been stabbed and killed with Monk's steak knife and the attacker has fled.
    • In the novel Mr. Monk on Patrol, after Monk and Natalie are nearly incinerated in their sleep by an arsonist who torches their hotel room with a Molotov cocktail, Summit police officer Walter Woodlake tells Randy, "Chief, I thought these two were supposed to drive crime down, not up."
  • The eponymous sisters in the Southern Sisters Mysteries. This is lampshaded several times by policewoman Bo Mitchell, who maintains that they're the only people she knows with such a strong knack for stumbling over dead bodies.
  • Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness Series, Lady Georgiana, whether she's invited to a party or doing a favor for The Queen, "Georgie" will end up entangled in mystery, usually with a Dead Body or two.
  • A stranger example than others, each ''Sammy Keyes mystery usually takes place within a month. Other Mystery Magnet stories aren't as regulated.
  • McBeen, county coroner from Joan Hess's Maggody mystery series, has accused police chief Arly Hanks of being this trope. She snarkily replied that it must be all those classified ads she places in newspapers, inviting murderers to come practice their hobby in town.

     Live Action TV  

  • 24 Clearly Jack Bauer gives off terror plot causing waves....
  • Murder, She Wrote is by far the worst offender of this trope. To such an extent that one suspects that if Jessica hadn't traveled so much, Cabot Cove's population would have been about eight. There is no better explanation for the sheer number of murders the lead character encounters throughout the long run of the series than her involvement in all of them. Indeed, if Cabot Cove alone existed in real life and suffered that many murders, it would top the FBI's national crime statistics by several orders of magnitude, in fact, 86 times that of the most murderous real city. note 
    • Some years, more people were murdered on the show than were actually murdered in the entire state of Maine in the same period.
    • Lampshaded in one episode when another character tells Jessica, "If murder were a disease, you'd be contagious."
    • Lampshaded again by Sheriff Metzger, a former New York cop, who after a year as the sheriff of Cabot Cove, asks Jessica, "Just what the hell's wrong with this town?"
    • Lampshaded again in an episode where Jessica is called as a witness in a Canadian murder trial. The defending counsel (played by Patrick Mc Goohan) attempts to undermine her credibility as a witness by highlighting the alarming frequency with which Jessica and her relatives are embroiled in murder cases, eventually suggesting outright that the entire Fletcher clan is comprised of homicidal maniacs.
    • MAD Magazine parodies it with "Murder, She Hopes," in which Jessica is overjoyed every time she learns that a new murder has taken place.
    • The Unfortunate Implications of this are illustrated in the article, "Suspected Serial Killer ‘Jessica Fletcher’ Arrested at East Cork Home", which implies that she's killed at least 265 people, which ought to label her a terrorist, and certifiably leave her in a straitjacket for the rest of her natural life.
  • Jonathan and Jennifer Hart of Hart to Hart.
  • DCI Barnaby of Midsomer Murders. Seriously, that relatively small English county must be swiftly running out of citizens by now. In most episodes the actual Mystery Magnet is Barnaby's wife. One gets the impression that the reason Tom is never enthusiastic about Joyce picking up a new hobby is that he knows he'll be looking at a corpse within five minutes screentime and half her social circle will be dead soon after.
    • All indications are that Tom retiring put an end to his and his wife's status as mystery magnets (they certainly haven't been involved in any cases after that that we've heard about). The bad news is, it turns out it's DCI Barnaby and friends and family who are the mystery magnets, regardless of who exactly that DCI Barnaby is, so when Tom is replaced with his younger cousin John Barnaby...
  • Monk has taken over Murder, She Wrote recently for the fact that Monk clearly is a walking Grim Reaper.
    • In "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever," Natalie starts to become convinced that Monk is bad luck, but by the end of the episode she's convinced that Monk doesn't cause the murders, he's cosmically drawn to where they occur so he can solve them.
      • Just to emphasise; the reason why Monk was in that cabin in the first place was because he was in Witness Protection for witnessing a completely unrelated homicide completely by chance. So basically, it's homicideception.
    • Lampshaded in "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring" when Monk notices that the skeleton of a caveman on display at a museum is determined to have been a victim of homicide. Yes, no corpse that Monk has come across has died of a natural death (with a few rare exceptions). Even if they've been dead for 30,000 years.
    • "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert": Monk and Natalie go to a rock concert (Monk accidentally having mistaken Captain Stottlemeyer's use of the phrase "rock show" for "geology museum") to help Captain Stottlemeyer search for his son Jared, who has ditched school. So Monk, looking for a payphone when he decides he wants out, accidentally walks into a port-a-potty. As he exits, Natalie finds him, and as they are walking away, they find the dead body of a roadie named Greg "Stork" Murray. Monk and Natalie are subsequently roped by Stork's girlfriend Kendra Frank into investigating the murder instead of looking for Jared, though Natalie seems perfectly okay with this.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the UFO", Monk and Natalie break down in some Nevada town in the desert. They see a UFO, and when search parties arrive looking for the UFO landing site, they find the dead body of a hiker. Turns out that the hiker's killer built a model UFO so that a search party would come find the dead body because coyotes had rendered it beyond recognition.
    • "Mr. Monk Bumps His Head" - Monk accidentally gets knocked out and wakes up in a little Wyoming town with amnesia. A waitress at the diner he stops at to get some food then goes missing. He begins to suspect that it's murder.
  • Psych occasionally tries to avert this. In the commentary track for the episode "Lights, Camera, Homocidio", the show runner states they threw out an idea for the original reveal of the murder because it was "too coincidental, even for us."
    • A subversion: it is shown many times that Shawn and Gus stumbling upon a police crime scene while out for ice cream is due to Shawn actively chasing down homicide investigations to worm his way into, in Season One episode showing him with a police scanner and using the ice cream run to get Gus to come along.
  • Discussed in The Conditions of Great Detectives when Banzo mentions that at certain types outside of work murders will happen around either himself, Fujii or Tenkaichi. The moment Banzo and Tenkaichi realise Fujii has taken time off to visit a hot springs, they rush over to her knowing somebody was going to die — the one woman Fujii had been talking to while she was there.
  • Laura Thyme and Rosemary Boxer on Rosemary And Thyme. Murders follow those two gardeners everywhere, no matter where they are. It's a wonder that they keep getting hired.
  • Due South. Despite being a cop show, almost every episode has the heroes just stumbling onto a crime to solve in their civilian lives.
  • Lamented by one of the five in the The Comic Strip Presents episode "Five Go Mad in Dorset". This greatly upsets one of the others, who lives for their adventures.
  • Ernst Stockinger, on Stockinger. Often lampshaded by his boss Dr Brunner, who laments how ever since Stockinger was assigned to the region there's been an influx of bizarre crimes.
  • House is different from other medical dramas in this respect because most of the cases brought before the titular character are medical mysteries which appear to be unsolvable. And, yes, 90% of them are located in one section of New Jersey. Of course, sometimes a mysterious case will be brought to House precisely because of his reputation for solving mysteries, but for the most part it falls squarely into this trope.

     Video Games  

  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is sometimes approached out of the blue with a defense request, but a lot of the time, he ends up at the crime scene before the crime is even committed. The second game is especially bad about this - the first case begins with his already having agreed to defend someone, but the second has him going up to a remote location in the mountains where someone is killed, (which turns out to be somewhat justified because the murder was intended to target his friend Maya), the third has him go to the circus the day before the ringmaster is killed, and in the final case, he attends an event at a hotel and a guest is murdered.
    • This happens to Apollo Justice as well, in case 3 of his game.
    • This is the case in every case of Ace Attorney Investigations, because the game doesn't use court cases, instead simply letting Edgeworth investigate the scene and interview people. Poor guy can't even go on vacation without someone getting killed on the plane. There is one trial, but it's only a backdrop and Edgeworth doesn't even get to prosecute.
    • Lampshaded by Gumshoe in the third game, where he says he's starting to wonder if Phoenix is directly responsible for everything he gets caught up in. Edgeworth notes to himself that Gumshoe is involved just as often.
    • Wendy Oldbag is a self-proclaimed version of this. Proudly so. In case 2-4, she describes herself as a "devilish woman" saying that wherever she goes, blood starts pouring down and corpses appear. Phoenix kindly suggests that she should stop working as a bodyguard, at least for the sake of everyone else, only for the old bat to reply in her usual way ("Whippersnapper!").
  • Not only has Nancy Drew been a Teen Detective Mystery Magnet for decades, but the PC game-series Lampshades that fact in the denoument of The Final Scene, where a tabloid newspaper article ponders the odds that her endless cases are just a coincidence. Luckily for River Heights' population-figures, most of them aren't murders.
  • Madison, from Heavy Rain. Not only did she run into a serial killer taxidermist even before the game starts (via DLC), during the actual plot she runs into a guy who's after another serial killer (ironically the one she was looking for in the DLC). In the course of investigating that, she gets captured by still another serial killer, almost gets raped by a psychotic nightclub owner too, and trapped in a burning building by the real killer. Then, in one of the endings, yet another serial killer threatens her during a book signing, saying he's a true Worthy Opponent for her. Poor girl can't catch a break. No wonder she has nightmares.
  • Lampshaded in Persona 4 Arena. Yosuke thinks that he's going to have to start calling Yu "the mystery maker", since trouble seems to follow every time Yu shows up in Inaba. Weather this was really a coincidence or not is up for debate.
  • Jake and Jennifer Eagle, the protagonists of the Eagle Eye Mysteries series, seem to be this. It's noted during the second game's Justified Tutorial.
    Jake/Jennifer: It looks like mysteries just seem to pop up wherever we go!
  • The Diamond Brothers always get involve into some mystery either by accident or by choice.

     Visual Novels  

  • Parody Sue Erika Furudo from Umineko: When They Cry tells Battler at one point that whenever she goes on a trip murders just happen to occur around her wherever she goes.

     Western Animation  

  • Scooby-Doo - the entire gang, collectively. Even if they weren't investigating a mystery, they would often be forced to.


Magnetic MediumPlot MagnetWeirdness Magnet
Mystery ArcMystery TropesMystery of the Week
Meddlesome PatrolmanCops and DetectivesMystery Writer Detective
Little Old Lady InvestigatesImageSource/Live-Action TVMy Name Is Earl
Mysterious WaifImageSource/OtherNo Guy Wants to Be Chased
Mysterious MistAdded Alliterative AppealMystery Meat

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