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Literature / Mademoiselle de Scuderi

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Mademoiselle de Scuderi (or Scudery depending on translation) is a novella written by E. T. A. Hoffmann in 1819. It is one of his more famous shorter works, and plays a major part in the history of the mystery genre.


Tropes in this novella:

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  • Arranged Marriage: Not the worst example here as Olivier and Madelon were in love, but Cardillac helps "officially" arrange the marriage as long as Olivier doesn't spill his whole Mad Artist thing.
  • Big Secret: Olivier probably could have cast serious doubts in his guilt, had he presented Cardillac's collection of recovered jewelry with notes written by him, but for the sake of Madelon, he does not.
  • Book Case Passage: Cardillac's house has a secret entrance/exit that allows him to slip out and murder while people think he's at work.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Cardillac makes the most wonderful jewelry you can ask for, but it takes a mountain of patience to ever get the damn thing away from him, and then the plot happens.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: By the time Mademoiselle de Scuderi arrives at Cardillac's home, his body is being wheeled out dead.
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  • Crippling Overspecialization: Cardillac's method of killing is a single precise stab in the heart. The moment he sets on a target smart enough to use armor,..
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The police is all the more convinced of Olivier's guilt due to the murders having stopped after his arrest. They didn't think to tie it to Cardillac's death.
  • Evil Mentor: Cardillac is technically this to Olivier, but Olivier isn't that bad of a guy. Although it works against him when the police assume he is a murderer besides making jewelry.
  • Framing Device: There is a narration inside of the main narration by Olivier.
    • Who then relates Cardillac's own story.
  • How We Got Here: Without a main character detective we have to listen to multiple narratives to learn how exactly we did get into this mess.
  • Mad Artist: René Cardillac is one, killing his clients to steal back the jewelry he can't bare to part with.
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  • Mind Screw: We're in usual Hoffmann territory on this one. While the reader is trying to learn about the Murder Mystery just as Mademoiselle de Scuderi is, we like her aren't actually trailing it like a detective we just happen to be caught up in the mess. So each reveal might as well play out as a "what in the world" example of this trope.
  • Murder Mystery: The one that more than likely fore-fathered all of detective fiction in fact.
  • Serial Killer: Cardillac is an early version of this. Down to ritual patterns of murder, obsessive collection of trophies and seemingly motiveless reason for murder.
  • Shown His Work: Hoffmann did a lot of research to faithfully recreate 17th century Paris in "Mademoiselle de Scuderi", and it shows.
  • Treachery Cover Up: The public never learns of Cardillac's guilt.
  • Unbuilt Trope: For the murder mystery. It was this work that more likely inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write the very first detective story.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Why Cardillac's real killer refused to tell the real story.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When the Mademoiselle finds the officer who actually stabbed Cardillac she lets him have it.
    "And you have said nothing? You have not made a statement to the authorities regarding what happened?"

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