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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 5

Innocent Suspects

“Everybody has something to conceal.”

—Sam Spade in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon

“I’ve called you all together …” announces the great Hercule Poirot as he rearranges Staffordshire figurines on a marble mantle into perfect symmetry before turning his beady-eyed attention on the suspects gathered around in the drawing room. With great drama, he lays out the case against suspect number one, only to reveal his innocence. He does the same with suspect number two, and so on around the room until, somewhere around suspect number five Poirot spins around and confronts anew one of the earlier suspects and reveals him to be, ta-dah, the killer.

Modern mysteries are rarely so heavy-handed, but the basic bait-and-switch ...

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