Jacqueline Beard Writer

Lawrence Harpham Murder Mysteries & Constance Maxwell Dreamwalker Mysteries

Scandal, Secrets & Suffragettes – Vote for Murder is FREE on Amazon Kindle until 4th March 2022. Get your copy here https://geni.us/VFM2

It’s 1911, and the women of Ipswich are making a peaceful stand against the unfairness of the voting system. Suffragist Louisa Russell joins the census evasion protest at the local museum. While exploring the back rooms, she finds a diary belonging to a prisoner – and not just any prisoner, but the infamous Mary Cage executed for murdering her husband James six decades earlier. When Louisa’s next-door neighbour dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between his death and James Cage’s poisoning become impossible to ignore. But can there be a link between two deaths sixty years apart? And will Louisa find the poisoner before an innocent woman is convicted?

Vote for Murder is historical fiction based on a true Suffolk crime.

A Guest Post by Alex Fairweather

Common Tropes of Mystery Fiction

The mystery Fiction genre involves strange or mysterious happenings driving the story forward. These events often occur while the protagonist attempts to solve a mystery, find a murderer or resolve a supernatural puzzle. The mystery genre has been thriving since the Golden Age of Agatha Christie and her peers, leaving Detective Mystery firmly cemented into the world of fiction writing.  Mystery books were soon rife with repeatedly used tropes, some to impressive effect and others to the point of ridicule, promoting some excellent parodies of mystery tales. This article looks at common tropes from the mystery genre, discussing their use and whether writers should avoid them. 

The Basic Classes of Mystery

Three basic classes of mystery novel include the Fair-Play Whodunnit, the Clueless Mystery, and the Reverse Whodunnit. In the Fair-Play Whodunnit, the reader, knows what the detective knows, gaining clues as the detective finds them. A sharp mind will find a moment in the plot where there is enough information to solve the mystery before the detective does. The opposite is true with the Clueless Mystery where the reader has insufficient information to solve the problem. Finally, the Reverse Whodunnit is possibly the most exciting form of mystery. The reader knows the who, what and why from the beginning of the story, potentially having more information than the detective ever finds out. The plot becomes a nail-biting tale focused on figuring out how the detective solves a perfect crime. Isaac Asimov’s The Singing Bell and The Dust of Death short stories follow this class, with the reader watching the murder happen first before being introduced to the detective as the investigation begins. 

The Subgenres

Some familiar mystery subgenres include Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Mystery, Great Detective, and Historical Detective Fiction. Cosy mysteries tend to downplay violence with the crime occurring in a small, intimate community. Agatha Christie’s famous Miss Marple is a classic example of this subgenre, with a little old lady in a small village turning detective. And continuing in the theme of Christie is the Great Detective, a classic character relying on their powers of deduction, insight, or education to solve cases. Who better to exemplify this stereotype than the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, possibly the most well-known character of Christie’s repertoire? His ability to solve crimes quickly using intellect makes him a stand-out detective who Christie further sets apart by characterizing him with a signature moustache and a peculiar gait. The Amateur Sleuth is an untrained detective with no legal background who ends up crime-solving by accident. These budding investigators can inhabit any genre, sometimes venturing into the paranormal like the astral travelling Constance Maxwell. And let’s not forget the Historical Detective Fiction subgenre concerning mystery stories set in the past, like the indefatigable Sherlock Holmes with his ever-reliable sidekick, Dr Watson. 

The Tropes

So those are the genres, but what are the tropes? Listing every trope would take too much time, as they are ever-growing and move with the times. Which are the most common, and will they last in the future?

Eagle-Eye Detection: This trope intrinsically links to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Both detectives rely on observing otherwise-unnoticed clues to solve their mysteries, often confounding the police. Hidden weapons, shards of glass and other less obvious clues can lead to the Eagle-Eyed Detective solving the case with very little else to go on. Eagle-Eyed Detection is often confused with Awesomeness by Analysis, of which Sherlock Holmes is the patron saint. This trope relies on the protagonist running calculations and theories in their head to come to an instant result, surpassing most human capability. Both tropes make the protagonist seem intellectually superior but can give the feeling of a contrived solution. For that reason, it is wise to use Eagle-Eye Detection reservedly, especially in modern media.

Everyone Is a Suspect: One of Poirot’s most famous stories, Death on the Nile, places the victim on a boat surrounded by enemies, making every character a possible suspect. The Everyone Is a Suspect trope turns a mystery into an edge-of-the-seat thriller if used correctly. Nobody knows who the murderer is or if they will strike again. Some authors include the detective as a suspect to make this trope even more effective. 

Never Suicide: A common trope in mystery novels is where a death first ruled as suicide becomes an act of murder. Unfortunately, overuse of this trope can render it dull, but given a slow, sinister pace, it can transform from a standard story beat into an unexpected twist.

Thriller on the Express: An easily guessable trope, the Thriller on the Express involves a mystery occurring on a train, notably featured in Murder on the Orient Express. Equally famous is From Russia with Love, in which international superspy James Bond survives a deadly assassination attempt by Red Grant. Modern stories often subvert the Thriller on the Express trope, perhaps by finding a body on a train with the murder committed elsewhere.

Should authors avoid tropes?

Unlike a cliché which is an overused idea that has become stale, a trope is a story building device. Though frequently found, effective use of tropes creates compelling stories, and it is perfectly acceptable to recycle them. Readers like to know what they are getting and often search for a particular trope to satisfy their needs. But like anything, tropes can go in and out of fashion. Regardless, they are here to stay.

What are your favourite tropes and why? 

The Maleficent Maid is now available in paperback far earlier than expected and long before the kindle pre-order, still scheduled for 27th December. But if you prefer your books in print or would like to purchase a Christmas gift for that Suffolk mystery reader in your life, please visit the Lulu store for your copy.

The Maleficent Maid. Suffolk 1903. William Gardiner is on trial for his life for the cold-hearted stabbing of Rose Harsent. In a last-ditch attempt to find the murderer, concerned parties call on Lawrence Harpham for help, but someone is stalking the good people of Peasenhall and confounding his investigation. Meanwhile, Violet takes on a poisoning puzzle from the past. Was the bad-tempered housemaid a killer or just a convenient suspect? With two historical crimes and the distraction of a mysterious stranger at Netherwood, will they solve the case before time runs out? The Maleficent Maid is a historical mystery based on true crimes.

Click here for your paperback copy.

Available for Pre-order on Amazon Kindle for 27th December 2021

Maids don’t kill out of spite – no matter how disagreeable… Join Lawrence and Violet in another perplexing case

Suffolk 1903. William Gardiner is on trial for the cold-hearted stabbing of Rose Harsent. In a last-ditch attempt to save his life, concerned parties call on Lawrence Harpham for help, but someone is stalking the good people of Peasenhall and confounding the investigation.

Meanwhile, Violet takes on a poisoning puzzle from the past. Was the bad-tempered housemaid a killer or just a convenient suspect?

With two historical crimes and the distraction of a mysterious stranger at Netherwood, will they solve the case before time runs out?

The Maleficent Maid is a compelling mystery based on a true crime.

https://geni.us/TheMalMaid

It’s raining today, miserable, and a good time for catching up with administration. I’ve just cleared out my writing files, cringing with embarrassment at my earliest efforts, but discovering other long-forgotten favourites like the flash fiction story below written for the 2018 Noirwich Crime competition. I’m fond of this piece. My lovely and sadly departed mother came from Overstrand, and her grandfather, Frederick Dennis, dug the first grave in the cemetery. As the short story says, by a quirk of fate, he ended up in it. The Cotswolds where I live are delightful, but I miss Norfolk, especially on days like these. Days where a brisk walk across the cliffs clears the cobwebs and soothes the soul. This story is for my mum and my Overstrand relatives & ancestors.

Rumour has it that old man Dennis dug the first grave in Overstrand cemetery. By a quirk of fate, he died soon after, and they laid him to rest there. It made me mindful of my mortality—no pauper’s grave for me. I signed up to the North Norfolk burial club sharpish together with the wife and nippers. We went hungry sometimes but always paid our dues. Better to starve than end up in the workhouse; better to shiver and have a decent final resting place.

But that was then.

Ten years on, and I long to dine on food not dragged from the ocean, warm my feet by a blazing fire, be my own man and make my own choices. No more turbulent seas, blistering chills, beaches dotted with crab pots. And no more Florrie.

My heart alive, but she was beautiful once. Her smile dazzled. I would have laid down my life to protect my Florrie. Now she is a hard-faced lump of a woman. Lazy too. She spends all day mardling with the fishwives and has no time for me.

Bessie Storey does, though. Little doe-eyed Bessie, younger and prettier than Florrie, has made no secret of her regard. Bessie is from a large family. She’ll make a good mother for my children.

‘Hold you hard,’ I hear you say. ‘Is poor Florrie dead?’

Not dead yet, but soon. There is money aplenty in the burial club and still more besides in our life insurance policies. Money scrimped and saved from my toil at sea – money I could have spent on ale, like every other red-blooded man – wasted, like my life.

Look, here comes Florrie now, plodding over the cliffs, her dumpling face set in its usual frown, demeanour as predictable as her Friday evening walk. Always the same routine. She visits her mother in Paul’s Lane before lumbering down to the cliffs, where she waits silently, staring out to sea. But why?

Florrie has seen me. She lifts her hand uncertainly and waves it in my direction. Her face, a mask of misery, shows no pleasure in my presence. What does she make of my intrusion? No matter. One minute or two – soon, she will be close enough. I will sidle towards her, smile and give her a little shove. The moment is perfect. It’s close to dusk, and there is not a soul around.

Florrie reaches me, piggy eyes searching my face. There are bristles on her chin. How did I ever love this woman?

It is time.

I move towards her but suddenly feel a weighty thud on my chest, then fall backwards, arms flailing. The Overstrand cliffs rush past me. I can smell the salty sea and hear the cackle of gulls–but is it? No, the sound is raucous laughter, and it’s coming from Florrie. I cannot see her, but before the world goes black, I sense her looking down at me, smiling as she did when we were young.

Accused of a crime she didn’t commit, Connie flees Cornwall in despair. But with Oliver Fox’s help, she begins an independent life complete with a fledgling romance. Connie’s new world is looking promising until she finds herself embroiled in yet another murder. Worse still, Felix Crossley has arrived in London, and is already in hot pursuit.

With the odds stacked against her, can Connie stay one step ahead of Mrs Ponsonby? Why is Crossley determined to find her, and what are his intentions?

The Croydon Enigma is the second book in this gripping 1920s mystery series with a supernatural twist.

Available on paperback or Kindle ebook. https://geni.us/TCEnigma

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Available for Pre-order Now

The Cornish Widow

Connie Maxwell has a secret. Though broken in body, her spirit runs free. Dreamwalking might be useful if only she could control it. But it’s one thing roaming the Cornish Coast and quite another witnessing a murder – especially when she can’t influence the outcome.

Annie Hearn has absconded after the suspicious death of her neighbour, and the authorities are about to pounce. But in a county of people hell-bent on bringing her to justice, Connie alone believes in her innocence.

With time running out, a chance encounter brings evil to Connie’s door. Nobody is who they seem, and Connie’s background is an ever-changing mystery.

Who is Connie? And is saving Annie the reason for her burdensome gift?

A gripping Golden Age historical series perfect for those who like a touch of psychic suspense with their mysteries.

Pre-order on

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-cornish-widow

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cornish-widow-jacqueline-beard/1139556731?ean=2940165374951

Tolino

https://www.thalia.de/shop/home/artikeldetails/ID151918994.html

Amazon

https://geni.us/TheCornishWidow

Coming Soon

The Croydon Enigma

Recently, and after listening to a particularly inspiring Joanna Penn podcast, I’ve taken to writing using Vankyo headphones. I have little choice in a household with two dogs and assorted family members who don’t understand what a shut door and ‘do not disturb’ notice means. It’s like Piccadilly Junction in my office, and now the Cockapoo has learned how to open the door, the lack of privacy is even worse. Cue noise-cancelling headphones.
When I used to write in perfect silence (before teenagers and badly behaved puppies), I didn’t expect to take to writing with sound. I tried nature music, but anything with rain/waterfalls sent me running to the loo and whale noises were a step too far. So I searched for a ‘writers playlist’ and found one on Amazon music, which I’ve taken and adapted to my tastes. And surprisingly, I’m very productive listening to music and now feel guilty for the many years I’ve spent berating my son for doing his homework with earphones in.


So, this week’s writing music is:

  1.  Mozart Serenade in G
  2. The Good Part – AJR
  3. Montanita – Ratatat
  4. Orinoco Flow – Enja
  5. Gymnopedie No 1 – Erik Satie
  6. Opus 36 – Dustin O’Haloran
  7. Intro – The XX
  8. Funeral for a friend – Elton John
  9. Alaska – Maggie Rogers
  10. Verse – Rhye
  11. Scandinavia – Van Morrison
  12. Feel it still – Portugal The Man
  13. Take me to Church – Hozier
  14. Soul Limbo – Booker T & The MG’s
  15. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison