The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre

It was a dark and stormy morning and our protagonist was about a mission both dangerous and of great import.

“Wake up!” said Timothy the Talking Cat, a highly intelligent cat with a piercing intellect who was looking very dapper that bright morning in a yellow bow tie that deftly coordinated with his purple, velvety fur.

“I am awake,” said Susan.

“It is so hard to tell because you sleep standing up and also last night I painted eyes on your eyelids which was funny at the time but now I regret because when you close your eyes it looks like you are staring at me in a really angry way like you are about to stomp on me,” replied Timothy loquaciously (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them).

“That’s how my regular eyes look,” explained Susan.

“Oh,” said Timothy, backing away nervously and eyeing up possible escape routes.

“So what do you want on this dark and stormy morning,” asked Susan.

“It’s not dark or stormy,” observed Timothy cautiously turning to look outside the garage door where he could see the early sun shining on the meadows adjacent to Felapton Towers.

“I know, I was referring to the obviously incorrect opening sentence,” said Susan.

“Why do you sleep in the garage?” inquired Timothy whose keen powers of observation had settled on the salient fact that Susan, a relatively small triceratops but objectively large being was residing in one of Felapton Towers’s many garages.

“I don’t. I wasn’t asleep. I was looking for paint thinner to clean my face with because somebody painted eyes on my eyelids last night and when I catch the small mammal that did that I will indulge my desire to learn how to play Australian Rules football by using him as the ball.” said Susan.

“Before you act on that desire let me explain a couple of things. One, when I said that I painted eyes on your eyelids I meant ‘i’ in the sense of ‘Straw Puppy did it’. Two, I’ve an exciting publishing proposition for you that would be definitely impaired if I was to be unjustly used as a game piece in some antipodean excuse for anti-cat cruelty.” said Timothy speaking both in a hurry and in a voice that he felt sounded like a lawyer but which was based on that one time he watched Rumpole of the Bailey whilst simultaneous playing Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney on a Nintendo DS which he had confiscated from a student at Bortsworth High School during an unpublished chapter of his adventures when he was a substitute French teacher. I should add the episode of ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ was in French and Timothy was showing it to a class of Year 9 French students (as in students of French, the students themselves were English because the class would have been redundant if the students were French, although the students all had a timetabled lesson called ‘English’, which is around the point when Timothy left the school because it was all too confusing and also he got sacked for playing video games in lessons.)

“I’m all ear openings,” said Susan.

“Said Susan sardonically” add Timothy who was growing increasingly aware of the relative size of the text after things he said compared to the text after things Susan said and was increasingly uncomfortable with it, not out of a misplaced sense of inequity but because it felt like a foreboding omen of sudden violence that would most likely be directed at him. Controlling his desire to inquire why Susan had said ‘ear openings’ rather than ears and deciding that it was probably a dinosaur thing and then realising for the first time that birds don’t have visible ears and getting mildly freaked out by the fact, Timothy continued: “Well, I’ve been thinking about genres and where all the money is…”

“I’m not being in a romance novel written by you or your improbably grass-based dog friend,” stated Susan.

“No, no! Not romance! Gosh, I may be a vicious beclawed predatory monster with a gun fetish and the ethics of a shark that quit eating fish and became a hedge fund manager, but even I don’t have the fortitude to survive the cutthroat world of romance publishing.” exclaimed Timothy, shaking his tiny (by fang-filled) head at the thought.  He may have faced down space vampires, zombies and monstorous squirrel hegemony but he did not have the stomach to face down the trademark wars of the battle-planet known as ‘Romance Publishing’.

“Well if you haven’t got the guts for Romance then you clearly aren’t thinking of going into the Thunderdome-like lawless zone of YA publishing either,” observed Susan.

“Exactly! No, my plan is to ditch all this SF stuff and fourth-wall breaking stuff and go into COSY MYSTERIES!” said Timothy.

“Cosy mysteries?” said Susan curiously, “Is that like when a T-rex falls out of a tree, narrowly misses a triceratops and instead lands on a pile of sleeping marsupial proto-badgers, thus cushioning his fall but nobody knows why?” Susan was intrigued by the notion of a sub-genre that she was, as yet, unfamiliar with. What new possibilities might this engender for her taxonomic project of classifying all dinosaurid literature into a single universal scheme?

“Cosy mysteries like Midsummer Miss Fisher Murder on the telly! It occurred to me only the other day! We have the perfect setting already! A stately home in a small town in rural southern England! An eccentric collection of characters! Some sinister looking people who probably would murder somebody for complicated but petty reasons – like Mrs Brigsly for example who strikes me as the murdering kind.” enthused Timothy.

“I see and, if I may speculate, you need an odd-couple pairing as the main characters. You see yourself as the sharp-witted but debonair detective and me as the apparently dull but actually astute ‘muscle’ who often provides the key insight for solving the mystery. Our contrasting characters and modes of operation providing both a source of banter and also a way of diverting the plot into many false leads and red herrings with the final conclusion resolved more by fiat than actual detection?” said Susan.

“Yes!” said Timothy.

“It is a terrible idea and after much reflection, I prefer my original plan of using you as the football in a game of Australian Rules,” said Susan.

“eep,” said Timothy running swiftly out into the morning which actually had turned both dark and stormy in the intervening time thus proving the opening sentence correct, if a little premature in its description of the prevailing weather conditions.

13 thoughts on “The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre

  1. Susan would be fabulous both as an Australian Rules player (as long as she didn’t deflate the ball with her horns) AND as a cozy detective, but on her own. Although there’d be no looking for clues quietly, the murderer would just confess because there’s a triceratops stomping around the village and stately home.

    Perhaps Susan would do better as a noir private eye, casting a gimlet glance upon the big mammal cities and roughing up lowlifes.

    Or maybe we could hear about her life as she protects Fungus Town as TRICERACOPTER.

    PS to the meat robot: everyone’s text is the same size.

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  2. I was waiting for Timothy to announce that he had filed for Trademark protection for “Straw Puppy” and “Cocky Squirrels”. 😉

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  3. (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them)

    I feel this way frequently about my own meat robot. “Wait, what — you can’t spell ‘bubble’ without three separate attempts, but ‘deleterious’ is no trouble at all?”

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      1. Gauge and toque are the ones that mess me up. Surrealism, liquescent and spectrophotometry are just phine.

        (I honest to god typed fine that way. I started to backspace then thought it made the point splendidly.)

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  4. I am incapable of spelling niece or weird correctly on the first try.
    Despite having two nieces and four great nieces, most of them at the very least odd.
    A characteristic of all the cosies I’ve encountered is the plucky self-employed heroine.
    Lots of them run bookshops, or antique stores, or bakeries, or nurseries – which for some odd reason seems to leave them plenty of time for whipping up tasty treats and investigating stuff.
    So… perhaps a cozy in which Susie is a small town copyright attorney serving authors seeking to protect commonly used words?
    And somewhere someone is murdered for reasons, and occasionally we have to go pay attention to whatever plot stuff is involved with that.
    But as the story progresses, because of Susie’s efforts, more and more words become unusable.
    Characters are reduced to conversing only in pantomime.
    (Which Timothy is already good at, of course, because of cat, so in an exciting subplot he gradually assumes control of the narrative, and the town, both of which can only be improved by this.)
    Meanwhile, the hunky helpful triceratops cop, a wannabe paperback writer, hangs about Susie’s office mooching on the steady supply of baked goods the genre demands she constantly produce, and bantering with Susie and her slightly less everything best friend.
    Perhaps he is there because, despite his doubts that a female triceratops can really handle all that fancy lawyering, he expects her to get him All The Words.
    Perhaps, for no particular reason, we should suspect him of having done whatever the murder was.
    Or he has been smitten by the gleam of Susies unsurpassed three horns.
    And then something dramatic happens and we find out that – hey – hunky guy didn’t do it, and we’re off to the next fifteen books in the series.

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