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"Everywhere you go, every time you turn around, somebody is killing somebody else!"
Natalie Teeger to Adrian Monk, Monk, "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever"

A Mystery Magnet attracts mysteries, usually murders, with the occasional case of kidnapping, extortion and fraud for variety. Where ever they go, people drop dead at their feet, often with a cryptic dying message. This behaviour isn't planned by anyone -- there is no killer stalking the magnet, nor is the magnet responsible for the deaths -- it's just pure coincidence.

If the Mystery Magnet stays in one spot, enough corpses will soon accumulate that one would expect people to wonder why exactly their quiet-sleepy-little-town is so unlucky. In real life the police would suspect the magnet of being a serial killer; in fiction there may be some Lampshade Hanging about the unlikelihood of it all, but it seldom goes beyond that.

The Mystery Magnet will generally become an Amateur Sleuth in self defence. If not, they'll be a sidekick of the police detective who solves all the cases they stumble into. Some are cases of little old ladies investigating. Others are Kid Detectives. Not all amateur sleuths are mystery magnets, however. Some amateurs, and most professionals, deliberately go to the crime scene and investigate. With mystery magnets, it's the exact reverse; the crime scene comes to them, by seeming chance.

Sometimes an entire ensemble can be a Mystery Magnet. When professional detectives are on holiday, they can often temporarily become mystery magnets, but this trope is only for those who are like that all the time.

Very often these are Murder Mystery Magnets, leading to Unfortunate Implications. (See the entry on Jessica Fletcher, below)

This only covers cases where there is an actual mystery, with a mundane solution. If there is weirdness involved, or no detective work is required to identify the criminals, the character is some other type of Plot Magnet.

See also Mystery Fiction and Detective Fiction.

Examples of Mystery Magnet include:


Anime and Manga

  • Detective Conan. Poor kid can't go anywhere without a murder happening.
    • Occasionally lampshaded, at least in the Manga. The police inspector, Megure-keibu, upon realizing that Detective Moore/Mori just HAPPENED to be near when the crime occurred, has a tendency to raise his eyebrow and vocalize his incredulity. Sadly, he never seems to follow up on this.
      • This Troper remembers in the manga that at one point the detective screams "EVERY TIME YOU GUYS GO SOMEWHERE, SOME ONE DIES!" Or something to that effect.
        • One incident of that is in episode 144, where Detective Mouri Kogoro is called cursed because everywhere he goes a crime happens.
          • Ai has pointed this out, once chiding Conan for acting like something was going to happen while out on a trip with the Detective Boys. Of course, something then happens, which prompts Ai to note, 'I guess you're not getting a vacation today'.
    • The kid also can't seem to visit a mansion without getting trapped there with a psycho on the loose. And if he ever meets a group of people for the first time, chances are at least one of them is gonna die.
    • His Fan Nickname has been 'Shinigami Conan' for a while now. Or Shinigami Kudo, depending on the context. Shinigami Shinichi is a little too alliterative. Though it doesn't seem to have been quite this bad before he shrunk--he was so delighted at the opportunity to show off in that roller-coaster beheading incident; horribly desensitized and self-centered, but not fatigued by constant death. Ran wasn't even that desensitized yet.
      • This raises the question: does he become a body magnet because he's now the star of a detective show? Or does the show start here because this is where he becomes interesting, and the corpse magnetism is part of that?
  • The Kindaichi Case Files. While Kindachi is occasionally recruited by the police to look into cases, it seems that the guy can't even go on a field trip without stumbling across some intricate plot to avenge the slight/death of a crazed person's loved one.
  • In Gosick, Kujo seems to have quickly earned an in-story reputation for being cursed given how often he ends up being a witness to a murder in a short space of time.

Comic Books

  • Jennifer Mays and Gabe Webb from The Maze Agency. Granted Jennifer is a private investigator and a number of the mysteries they deal with are cases she has been hired to investigate. But, even so, it seems they cannot go on vacation, attend a party, or (in the most extreme case) witness an execution without stumbling across a murder.

Fan Fiction

 "You know what, the way it's going... Let's not get buried in the same cemetery."

"Breakin' my heart, Kudo."

"We'd be liable to end up as ground zero for the Moon landing. On Earth."

Literature

  • Miss Marple? For an old lady who lived in a relatively small town, a lot of people seemed to be murdered near her. Hell, even when she went on vacation someone was murdered.
    • "I hope you never realize just how wicked small villages can be." - Miss Marple
  • In Ship Of Fools, a Doctor Who tie-in, there is a sweet little old lady who goes around solving the murders that happen all around her. It turns out she's actually a telepath subconsciously sending out "kill people in elaborate ways" signals to everyone around her, accidentally causing the very murders she solves.
  • Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, and The Adventure Series all qualify.
    • Made more glaring when the crimes always seems to coincide with their school vacation.
      • Loosely plausible as July and August are probably the best times to carry out the usually outdoor crimes (one- smuggling I think- involves a nefarious man swimming long distances at night, which in England is probably only sane in August)
  • The Trixie Belden mystery series. She stumbles across mysterious happenings wherever she goes and always solves the case.
  • Inspector Kurt Wallander in the novels of Swedish writer Henning Mankell lives in the small town of Ystad (population 17,286). The murders just keep happening...
  • Sam Jones, sculptor turned reluctant sleuth from Lauren Henderson's murder mystery books. In one book she is encountered by her policeman lover, stumbling home at 6 in the afternoon blind drunk, and it takes him mere moments to realise someone must be dead to start her drinking so early in the day. Her response?

  Sam Jones: I am the bastard lovechild of Mulder and Schkully and I'm going to pash out now.

  • The Boxcar Children trip over mysteries on all of the vacations that they take during their apparently endless summer vacation.
  • Hercule Poirot ironically lampshades the improbability: "Never, never does it occur that someone says confidentially: 'Well, as a matter of fact, I've actually known five murderers'!". This refers to a villain who deliberately provokes other people into committing murders. Poirot has known far more than that.
    • Lampshaded in a Two Ronnies sketch where it turned out that Poirot was, in fact, committing all the murders and blaming them on other people using fabricated evidence.
  • James Qwilleren from The Cat Who series encounters murders and other various crimes with alarming frequency, even as the newspaper he works for often sends him out to do innocuous fluff pieces on things like a food expo, art exhibits, and the like.
  • Usually averted with Sherlock Holmes, who often has his cases brought to him at Baker Street than by stumbling onto them himself. It is, however, played straight in "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires", where Holmes is supposed to be on vacation, recovering from the strain of another case, when he finds himself investigating a murder that takes place while he is recuperating.
    • It is also arguably played straight in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", as a goose the police recovered at the scene of a scuffle couldn't be traced to its proper owner, and after the police officer's wife was preparing it (Holmes having decided to buy a new one given the status and nature of the owner he had deduced from the man's hat), he discovers the titular stone in the bird's innards.
  • 19th century writer Arthur Machen gave us Mr. Dyson, an amateur Occult Detective. In most of the Dyson stories, he either stumbled upon crimes as they happened or gained important clues solely because he unintentionally happened to be in the right place at the right time. The only exception to this rule was The Shining Pyramid where he became involved in a case after the fact.
  • Pointed out by Joan Coggin in her Lady Lupin mysteries. "There must be something queer about me," she says, "like those people in Greek tragedies. The minute I arrive upon the scene everyone cries, ‘Let’s have a murder.’"
  • Both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys were frequently lamenting that they never got to have normal vacations.
  • Fisk and Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series are subject to this, though while Michael is usually excited to have a chance to do good Fisk usually wants to have as little association with the mysteries as possible.
  • Brought up a few times in the Discworld series - every time Vimes goes somewhere, a crime is committed. Sybill is especially exacerbated with this tendency in Snuff.

Live Action TV

  • 24 Clearly Jack Bauer gives off terror plot causing waves....
  • Murder, She Wrote: One suspects that if Jessica hadn't traveled so much, Cabot Cove's population would have been about eight.
    • Of course she's a serial killer, and all the murders are hers.
      • Hilariously lampshaded in one episode when Jessica is called as a witness in a Canadian murder trial. The defending counsel (played by Patrick McGoohan) attempts to undermine her credibility as a witness by highlighting the alarming frequency with which Jessica and her relatives are embroiled in murder cases, eventually suggesting outright that the entire Fletcher clan is comprised of homicidal maniacs.
  • Jonathan and Jennifer Hart of Hart to Hart.
  • DCI Barnaby of Midsomer Murders. Seriously, that relatively small English county must be swiftly running out of citizens by now.
    • In most episodes the actual Mystery Magnet is Barnaby's wife. One gets the impression that the reason Tom is never enthusiastic about Joyce picking up a new hobby is that he knows he'll be looking at a corpse within five minutes screentime and half her social circle will be dead soon after.
  • Adrian Monk. At one point, Natalie starts to become convinced that Monk is bad luck, but by the end of the episode she's convinced that Monk doesn't cause the murders, he's cosmically drawn to where they occur so he can solve them.
    • Lampshaded when he notices that a skeleton on display at a museum is determined to have been a victim of homicide. Nope, no corpse that Mr. Monk has come across has died of a natural death.
  • Psych occasionally tries to avert this. In the commentary track for the episode "Lights, Camera, Homocidio", the show runner states they threw out an idea for the original reveal of the murder as "Too coincidental, even for us."
    • Also, it is shown many times that Shawn and Gus stumbling upon a police crime scene while out for ice cream is due to Shawn actively chasing down homicide investigations to worm his way into, in Season One episode showing him with a police scanner and using the ice cream run to get Gus to come along.
    • From 1995 to 2011, Santa Barbara, has never had more than three homicides in a year. In the two years before the show aired, there were zero.
  • Laura Thyme and Rosemary Boxer on Rosemary And Thyme. Murders follow those two gardeners everywhere, no matter where they are. It's a wonder that they keep getting hired.
    • Well, their employer usually wasn't the one getting killed, and they are implied to be fairly cheap as landscapers go, so people continuing to hire them is not that surprising.
  • Due South. Despite being a cop show, almost every episode has the heroes just stumbling onto a crime to solve in their civilian lives.
  • Lamented by one the five in the Comic Strip Presents episode "Five Go Mad in Dorset". This greatly upsets one of the others, who lives for their adventures.
  • Ernst Stockinger, on Stockinger. Often lampshaded by his boss Dr Brunner, who laments how ever since Stockinger was assigned to the region there's been an influx of bizarre crimes.

Video Games

  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is sometimes approached out of the blue with a defense request, but a lot of the time, he ends up at the crime scene before the crime is even committed. The second game is especially bad about this - the first case begins with his already having agreed to defend someone, but the second has him going up to a remote location in the mountains where someone is killed, (which turns out to be somewhat justified because the murder was intended to target his friend Maya), the third has him go to the circus the day before the ringmaster is killed, and in the final case, he attends an event at a hotel and a guest is murdered.
    • This happens to Apollo Justice as well, in case 3 of his game.
    • This is the case in every case of Ace Attorney Investigations, because the game doesn't use court cases, instead simply letting Edgeworth investigate the scene and interview people. Poor guy can't even go on vacation without someone getting killed on the plane. There is one trial, but it's only a backdrop and Edgeworth doesn't even get to prosecute.
      • Not to mention the fact that every single murder, despite occurring in isolated incidents and one of them taking place seven years before the rest of the game, is directly tied to the same smuggling ring. The only real exception is case 3, and both the victim and the father of the murderer (who is also arrested for helping to cover for his son) are members of the ring.
    • Lampshaded by Gumshoe in the third game, where he says he's starting to wonder if Phoenix is directly responsible for everything he gets caught up in. Edgeworth notes to himself that Gumshoe is involved just as often.
    • Wendy Oldbag is a self-proclaimed version of this. Proudly so. In case 2-4, she describes herself as a "devilish woman" saying that wherever she goes, blood starts pouring down and corpses appear. Phoenix kindly suggests that she should stop working as a bodyguard, at least for the sake of everyone else, only for the old bat to reply in her usual way ("Whippersnapper!").
  • Not only has Nancy Drew been a Teen Detective Mystery Magnet for decades, but the PC game-series Lampshades that fact in the denoument of The Final Scene, where a tabloid newspaper article ponders the odds that her endless cases are just a coincidence. Luckily for River Heights' population-figures, most of them aren't murders.
  • Madison, from Heavy Rain. Not only did she run into a serial killer taxidermist even before the game starts (via DLC), during the actual plot she runs into a guy who's after another serial killer (ironically the one she was looking for in the DLC). In the course of investigating that, she gets captured by still another serial killer, almost gets raped by a psychotic nightclub owner too, and trapped in a burning building by the real killer. Then, in one of the endings, yet another serial killer threatens her during a book signing, saying he's a true Worthy Opponent for her. Poor girl can't catch a break. No wonder she has nightmares.
  • Jake and Jennifer Eagle, the protagonists of the Eagle Eye Mysteries series, seem to be this. It's noted during the second game's Justified Tutorial.

  Jake/Jennifer: It looks like mysteries just seem to pop up wherever we go!

Western Animation

  • Scooby Doo - the entire gang, collectively. Even if they weren't investigating a mystery, they would often be forced to.
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