Some of Them are Lying

Things characters say in mystery books – that aren’t exactly true

What characters tell us can be really important in mystery books. But just like real people, they sometimes lie. In fact, characters lie so often, some of those lies have become well-worn sayings.

Here’s a run-down of things characters often say in mystery books. And how we can tell they’re not true.

Image of crime scene tape.
Photo by kat wilcox on

First, the potential suspect

Under pressure, characters sometimes say things like:

I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

Note the dubious phrasing here. Not “I don’t know”, but “I wouldn’t know”. I always continue this sentence in my head. “I wouldn’t know anything about that, if I wasn’t involved. But actually, I’m up to my neck in it.” 

Don’t trust this character for a minute!

Then there’s the friend of the victim

It’s considered impolite to comment on a person’s shortcomings, once they are no longer in a position to work on improving them. But that doesn’t help solve mysteries. There’s often a character who tries to have us believe the victim was universally liked.

“Everybody loved them.”

Well, it’s possible that’s not true. Because, you know, someone killed them.

I like to follow this assertion with the word, ‘except’. Everybody loved them, except… 

And now we just have to work out who that person is.

There’s also the friend of a suspect

Characters in mystery books are a lot more trusting than me. They often stand up for a friend who’s been accused. Without a moment’s suspicion. They say things like:

“They could never hurt (whoever got hurt).”

But we all have our breaking point, don’t we? Suspected until proven innocent sounds like a safer approach to me. After all, if they hurt one person, they probably won’t have any qualms about doing away with another.

Next are the characters that know the amateur sleuth

There’s usually a character who likes to verbalise what we all know to be true. Even though it’s utterly pointless.

For instance:

“You should leave the investigation to the professionals.”

In real life, that’s a great piece of advice. Not so much in a mystery novel. If there’s an amateur sleuth in the story, they’re going to be the one to crack the case. Or at least be instrumental in cracking it. 

So we know this suggestion is going to be cheerfully ignored. And that’s why we keep reading.

Let’s not forget the amateur sleuth themselves

Our protagonist often finds out something important. But for some reason, they decide to keep it to themselves. Maybe they trust the person this knowledge relates to, and don’t want to believe they did a bad thing. Or they just want to uncover the solution themselves, before the professionals work it out. 

This leads to concern from their friends and relatives, who may suggest they should be more careful. To which they reply:

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

Of course they will. As long as no-one tries to get rid of them before they realise what a really bad decision they’ve made!

What are your favourite character sayings – that aren’t necessarily true?

Enjoyed this post?

You might also like A Good Reader’s Guide to Solving Mysteries.

Why not check out my travel mystery series on Amazon. Or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads or Bookbub.


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