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Tropes associated with Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction.


Tropes:

  • Absence of Evidence: When the absence of something is a clue.
  • The Alibi: Someone can prove they were physically incapable of committing the crime.
  • Amnesiac Hero: When the protagonist has amnesia.
  • Anachronistic Clue: Something which can't come from the time period it supposedly came from, which is a sign something is amiss.
  • Anonymous Killer Narrator: When the serial killer is the narrator of the mystery story.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: Someone rips off someone else's face-concealing costume (such as a mask, visor, etc), expecting someone extraordinary, but they get someone ordinary.
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  • Beneath Notice: Disguising oneself as a very plain, regular person.
  • Beneath Suspicion: When the culprit was never suspected because no one thought it could have been them.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: A letter or note that has blood on the paper.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Someone is pretty sure who committed the crime, so they trick the criminal into revealing themselves.
  • Bookmark Clue: An important clue is discovered because someone used it as a bookmark.
  • The Butler Did It: A butler turns out to be the one who committed the crime.
  • Cast as a Mask: A character and their disguised self are played by separate actors.
  • Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: Bad guys hold onto evidence for no good reason.
  • Clock Discrepancy: Something seems to have happened at a certain time, but then it turns out it didn't, for instance because the clock had stopped.
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  • Closed Circle: A plot where the characters can't leave until it's over.
  • Clueless Mystery: A mystery story where the reader/viewer can't follow along.
  • Condensation Clue: A hidden message written with one's finger onto a mirror or window.
  • Confess in Confidence: The criminal confesses to someone whose job requires confidentiality, such as a clergy member, doctor, or lawyer.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: There's a dangerous criminal at large, but luckily the investigators can talk to another, incarcerated criminal.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: A whodunnit mystery is solved by finding a hole in the perp's story, like a logic puzzle.
  • Cozy Mystery: A mystery story where there is no graphic violence, sex, or profanity, the murder victims were bad people, the detective is usually a woman with a down-to-earth hobby, the setting is a small community, and the story in general has a lighthearted vibe despite usually dealing with a murder.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Hiding behind a curtain.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: A character was attacked, but lies that the injuries are for a mundane reason, such as falling downstairs.
  • Death in the Clouds: A mystery story involving a murder on a plane.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Someone lies about the cause of someone else's death.
  • Disability Alibi: A suspect is determined innocent because they have a disability of some sort that makes it impossible for them to have done the crime.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The villain turns out to be a seemingly-harmless character.
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: Someone dramatically removes a curtain/tarp/veil, revealing something important.
  • Driving Question: When the whole story revolves around solving some sort of mystery.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: A detective whose main skill is being really observant.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The story ends with a reveal (or at least an implication) that danger is still present.
  • Eureka Moment: A character has an epiphany from seeing or hearing something unrelated that reminds them of the answer (e.g. seeing a dog, then realising the killer was the owner of the hot dog stand.)
  • Everybody Did It: All the suspects were responsible for the crime in some way.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: When the killer in a murder mystery could have been anybody.
  • Evidence Dungeon: The villain has a lair where lots of incriminating evidence is.
  • Evidence Scavenger Hunt: A scene about protagonists searching for clues.
  • Evil Plan: A plan that a villain has.
  • Exposition Victim: Upon finding out who the killer is, the character speaks to them instead of fighting or running away.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The opposite of a Clueless Mystery— a mystery story where the reader/viewer can follow along.
  • Fantastic Noir: Mystery and magic mix on the mean streets.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: Someone was poisoned by licking something covered in poison.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Testing if a powder or liquid is drugs by sniffing or tasting it.
  • The Game Never Stopped: Characters take part in a game involving a simulated death, then someone actually dies... or so it seems. As it turns out, the game hasn't ended yet.
  • Hide the Evidence: Hiding the evidence of something wrong or embarrassing is a major plot point.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Something is being searched for, and it turns out it was there the whole time but blended into the surroundings.
  • Hidden Villain: The villain's identity is not revealed until much later.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: A character accidentally gives themselves away by revealing information that their knowledge of proves they are guilty.
  • Important Character, Important Evidence: It's always the protagonists who find the important evidence.
  • Insists on Being Suspected: The detective counts themselves as a suspect.
  • Intrepid Reporter: A journalist who actively searches for stories.
  • Let Off by the Detective: The detective knows who did it, but sympathises with their motive (or feels they've been punished enough) and so doesn't say so.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: The lights go out, then when they turn back on, someone has been murdered.
  • Locked Room Mystery: A crime that seems to have been impossible at first glance (for instance, a murder victim in a locked room.)
  • Lotsa People Try to Dun It: It turns out that all the suspects tried to kill the victim.
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: The protagonists did all the cool stuff, but ultimately it was some other person, such as the police, who solved the problem.
  • Mistaken for Evidence: Something looks like a specific, suspicious item but it's something different.
  • Mockspiracy: A conspiracy theory which turns out not to be true.
  • Mockstery Tale: A story that starts out with a mystery, but the mystery turns out to be fake or unsolvable, so the plot goes somewhere different.
  • Motive = Conclusive Evidence: A motive is treated as incriminating evidence.
  • Mysterious Stranger: A recurring character who isn't known by the others, and who's deliberately set up as enigmatic.
  • Mystery Episode: An episode in a serial work dedicated to solving a mystery.
  • Mystery Magnet: Someone who coincidentally seems to attract mysteries.
  • Mystery of the Week: The protagonists solve a mystery in every episode.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: An object hidden in a bunch of similar objects.
  • Never One Murder: Murder mysteries never have just one victim.
  • Never Suicide: It looks like somebody killed themselves, but it turns out to be murder instead.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Somebody seems to have been the culprit due to having obvious motive and ability to have done it, but it was somebody else who was the real culprit.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: In a detective story, every out-of-place line turns out to be important.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: An actor accidentally kills another actor due to a prop weapon being switched for a real one.
  • Old, Dark House: One or more murders happens in an old, poorly-lit house.
  • Only One Plausible Suspect: A whodunnit where the identity of the culprit is obvious to the viewers.
  • Ontological Mystery: A story where the characters are locked somewhere and must find out how they got there, why, how to escape, and who (if anyone) is the cause of the situation.
  • Orgy of Evidence: A criminal plants fake clues, but gives themselves away by the sheer number of fake clues.
  • Perfect Poison: Killing someone with poison is unrealistically quick and easy.
  • Placebo Eureka Moment: A character figures out a mystery on their own, but thanks someone near them anyway.
  • Precrime Arrest: Someone gets arrested for a crime they haven't even committed yet.
  • Proof Dare: The criminal dares the detective to prove their guilt.
  • Public Secret Message: Sending a coded message to everyone because only the intended target of the message will understand the code.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: The culprit is often defeated at the end by being arrested.
  • Puzzle Thriller: A mystery story where the mystery is "how does it all work?".
  • Red Herring: Something seems like a clue, but it misleads the audience.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: We know who committed the crime, but we don't know how the detective will solve the case.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Somebody finds something that gets their attention in a video, so they rewind and replay it over and over.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Somebody describes a frustrating mystery as three mysteries in one.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A crime story based on a real crime.
  • Saying Too Much: Someone accidentally says something that reveals plot-sensitive info.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: The villains do not care about the true identity of the hero who's always thwarting them.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: A murderer covers up the murder by killing other people with similar traits as the initial victim.
  • Shell Game: Two or more identical things are shown, one is significant, and we initially know which it is until the objects get mixed.
  • Sherlock Can Read: Someone thinks someone else used great detective work when they didn't.
  • Sherlock Scan: A detective comes to a conclusion about someone they just met from looking at them.
  • The Seven Mysteries: Mysteries come in sevens.
  • Signature Item Clue: A distinctive item means that someone must have put it there and that's a clue.
  • Spot the Impostor: Someone is seen with their impersonator and their friends have to determine who is the real deal and who is the disguised phony.
  • The Stakeout: One or more people setting up camp somewhere and watch a location in secret to search for information.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: The answer to the mystery is something or someone we've never heard of.
  • The Summation: When the detective does a speech about how they solved the mystery.
  • Summation Gathering: During the Summation in a murder mystery, all the suspects, including the killer, are present.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Someone reports a crime while giving a description of the culprit that is too vague and generic to narrow down who the person responsible could be.
  • Suspicious Missed Messages: Someone won't answer their phone? Better find out why!
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: A group of people ends up somewhere, one of them turns out to be a killer, and they must find out which one before they kill everybody.
  • That Mysterious Thing: Characters refer to something in ambiguous terms so the audience won't know what it is.
  • Thriller on the Express: A crime story set on a train.
  • Twist Ending: The plot leads one way, but then something happens at the end which changes everything.
  • Two Dun It: There were two culprits all along.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: A mystery story without a resolution.
  • Weather Report Opening: The story opens with a description of the weather.
  • Wheel Program: A number of TV shows are run in the same slot under one title.
  • Who Dunnit To Me: Someone survives a murder attempt or comes back from the dead after being killed and tries to find out who it was who killed them or tried to kill them.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: An unsympathetic person has been killed, but it is difficult to determine who's responsible because pretty much everyone who knew the victim hated them.
  • World of Mysteries: A setting with heaps of mysteries in it.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Reading the indentations of notes written on a separate piece of paper.
  • You Meddling Kids: The villain claims they would have gotten away with whatever they planned on doing, if not for the protagonists.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: A character wakes up in an unfamiliar location.
  • You Wake Up on a Beach: A story that starts with a protagonist waking up on a beach.

Alternative Title(s): Murder Mystery

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