Wait, What Day is It?

April 1

Announcement:

Beginning today, the Missdemeanors blog is changing formats. We will no longer post about mystery fiction. Instead, in keeping with our name, we will offer crime tips. We’ll teach you how to distinguish between minor and major crimes, how to choose your crimes with care, how to avoid detection and evade prosecution, and how to choose your defense strategy in the unlikely event that, despite our advice, you end up in front of a judge. We, of course, absolve ourselves from all responsibility for anything that may occur as the result of our suggestions and will disavow all knowledge of what you’re talking about if you attempt to drag us into any mess you make. We will also offer bail bond services, for a fee.

JUST KIDDING! PSYCH! APRIL FOOL!

Today is the day when people play, hopefully, good-spirited, harmless pranks on friends and family. (Warning: some people believe all pranks are harmful and don’t appreciate being teased or tricked. Avoid pranking these people. Know your audience. And don’t be mean. You know what mean is. Don’t be it.) No one knows the true origins of the day—not an official holiday anywhere but observed unofficially pretty much everywhere—but theories abound. History.com and Dictionary.com explain some of them.

Punctuation is tricky

And there’s as much confusion about where, or if, the apostrophe goes as there are theories about the origin of the tradition. Is it Fools’ Day? Fool’s Day? Writingexplained.org explains that it depends on how many people are being fooled—and which style guide you’re following. And the person on the receiving end of the trick? They’re an April fool sans apostrophe. Unless they’re French, in which case they’re a poisson d’avril. Want to play a prank on the grammar police? Put the apostrophe in the wrong place.

The tricky thing about crime fiction

No fooling, crime fiction relies on tricks—deception—to propel the story. Most mysteries and thrillers involve at least one person trying to deceive at least one other person. Most villains wish to conceal their villainy. Rather, most crime fiction wishes to conceal its antagonist’s actions and motives from its protagonist and its reader or viewer. Of course, exceptions exist. Columbo reveals who the killer is and why they killed at the beginning of each episode. Detective Columbo’s not in on the secret, however. The joy in watching is to see if Columbo will figure out the who, the how, and the why before the end of the show. (The real joy in watching is Peter Falk.) And you can probably think of an example or two of a novel or show that’s more about the psychology of the criminal than the crime itself. But, in general, deception rules the day in the world of murder, theft, and fraud. A murder mystery is the ultimate evil April Fools’ prank. (Crime definitely falls under the heading of “mean.” Don’t be mean.)

Your turn

What are some of your favorite criminal tricks, fictional or otherwise? (Remember, you have the right to avoid self-incrimination.) The Talented Mr. Ripley’s long con is one of mine. I also can’t get enough of the real-life stories of Anna Sorokin/Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes. If there were prizes (other than prison time) for evil tricks… Share your favorites here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. And be vigilant. Tricksters abound.

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