Saturday, November 03, 2007

Heuristics




Today, the first of a series of columns on rules-of-thumb for literary characters. Starting with murder mysteries:

1. If you are a detective, the first person you bring in for questioning and/or arrest, no matter how much motive, means, and opportunity he had is not the killer. Let him go.

2. If the eyewitness accounts of the fleeing killer all reflect that he wore gloves, a hat, a coat, and nobody could see any of his features, the killer is a woman.

3. If you are a detective with Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes offers a theory as to how the crime happened, he is right and you are wrong. Get used to it -- it will always be thus.

4a. If there are six people in the room who all had reason to slay the victim, the one everybody suspects least did it.

4b. Or all of them did it.

4c. Or somebody everybody thought was dead did it.

5. When looking for reasons why somebody was murdered, always consider the idea that there is a long lost a) son b) daughter c) spouse d) jilted lover that nobody in the family ever knew about.

6. If the psychopathic killer you finally ran down makes bail and you are a woman cop, don't go home. He'll already be there waiting for you.

7. If your family all hates you, don't eat unless somebody tastes your food first.

8. If your family hates you, don't travel by train. Or take long walks by yourself anywhere, especially along rocky points overlooking the ocean. Or let them give your your medicine.

9. If you are a gambler and owe money to shylocks and think you have come up with the perfect way to do in your rich uncle, forget it. They'll get you every time.

10. If you are a murderer and you get caught, don't say a fucking word until your lawyer gets there, and when he does listen to him. Don't try to set the record straight. Ever. Police don't have to be brilliant, just persistent. (And if you underestimate them, you are doomed. Remember Columbo?)

That's enough for now. I think I'll do monster movies next ...

2 comments:

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

11. Before 1940: The butler did it. 1940 - 2000: Anyone other than the butler did it. After 2001: The robot butler did it.

JOShadow@aol.com said...

Another lesson learned from watching Columbo is never try to plant more false evidence AFTER the police are investigating.