"A situation where contact with the outside world has been severed..."
January 15, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

TVTropes describes the trope of the closed circle: "A stock plot designed to force the characters or players to stay in a location and get involved in the adventure... and not be able to leave until it's done." Familiar, right? I am looking for examples of novels that employ this trope, but with a twist: the primary crime they're trying to solve took place in the past, before they were enclosed in the circle.

So the way this trope normally unfolds is that a bunch of people wander into a house, someone gets murdered, and the detective has to solve the crime. Or, alternatively, they're invited onto an island, and they all get murdered one by one. Often, past events are crucial in figuring out why the murder occurred, but there's almost always an active murder investigation going on - a corpse in the library, so to speak. I'm looking for books that take this even further - that are about people who are all trapped in one place, solving a mystery that took place entirely in the past.

Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time is close, but since other people can come and go from the main sleuth's hotel room, it's not quite what I'm looking for.

To make this a bit easier, it's totally fine if a murder happens eventually, as the culmination to the plot, but it can't be the immediate trigger.

posted by pretentious illiterate to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Marooned in Realtime, by Vernor Vinge. It's a sequel, so pick up the collected edition called Across Realtime so you only have to buy one book.
posted by Jairus at 8:52 AM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ooh ooh!!! The Westing Game!!!
posted by stinkfoot at 9:06 AM on January 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

Bonus, elliptical answer: No Exit
posted by stinkfoot at 9:07 AM on January 15, 2014

In Cabinet of Curiosities two of our protagonists get trapped inside a creepy murderhouse they were only inside of in order to investigate previous murders (that took place many decades prior). But then they're trapped in there with a murderer, so...it kind of blends both.
posted by phunniemee at 9:10 AM on January 15, 2014

Peter Dickinson's The Last Houseparty
posted by dizziest at 9:17 AM on January 15, 2014

posted by bruce at 9:20 AM on January 15, 2014

The Westing Game was so awesome! But the first book I thought of was Michael Crichton's Micro. Don't hate me for my lowbrow tastes...
posted by whatzit at 9:37 AM on January 15, 2014

The Haunting has a bunch of people trapped in a haunted house, and to get out, they have to solve the crimes committed by the former owner.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:55 AM on January 15, 2014

The Andromeda Strain has this plot. They're trapped in a lab figuring out what the pathogen is that killed people before they entered the story.
posted by Jahaza at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Charlie Stross' "Glasshouse" is sort of like this, but not exactly. Without giving too much away, there is a crime, and there is a closed circle.
posted by adamrice at 10:10 AM on January 15, 2014

I only have movie examples:

Twelve Angry Men

posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:29 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Weekend, a delightfully trashy teen horror novel by Christopher Pike uses this trope. There is a party in which one of the partygoers is injured. Some time later, the suspects are all back together for a weekend away in a big mansion on the beach, and the truth is going to come out eventually...
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:32 AM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

My novel has this trope in the second half of the book. Eight individuals are forced together and one is a killer. The misdeeds that brought them together are a combination of the distant past (1890s) and more recent.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:42 AM on January 15, 2014

Wool, by Hugh Howey
posted by mazienh at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2014

Tana French's The Likeness sort of does this--the actual crime takes place in a closed circle, but the detective then joins the circle masquerading as the murder victim (the suspects think she was injured but not killed) in order to solve the crime.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Inhuman Resources. I only caught the last half hour or so of it so it might not entirely fit what you're looking for, but I just saw it a few days ago.... Basically a group of people are kidnapped and held in an abandoned office building by a man who was convicted of being a serial killer. Everyone in the group has some connection to how the man was originally convicted (witnesses, police, his lawyer). He's been driven insane by this point and insists on his innocence so forces everyone into proving his innocence by doing horrible things.

It's somewhat similar in concept to The Negotiator except as a horror film, there's much more gore/torture and they are entirely isolated.
posted by Green With You at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2014

I don't think i would call it a major point of the plot, but there is some element of this to Steven King's 'Under the Dome.'
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2014

Thanks, everyone! You've given me a great list to check out. Marked a couple of best answers, just cause they seemed like to get the closest, but I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2014

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