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"There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.
Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories, Rule 7

In nearly any Crime and Punishment Series, by the end of the episode, someone will always be heading to the coroner's office, no matter how things start out.

Generally, the vast majority of episodes will be about a killing straight through, from beginning to end. It'll either be a straight up murder or perhaps a burglary gone wrong, but by the time our heroes are on the scene, there's a dead body and someone out there to answer for that. But that's not all. In the other episodes, when the show will start out investigate a missing person or a heist or something, someone will inevitably end up dead halfway through, killed by one of the perpetrators of the original crime (or the victim, or the detective, or the witness's twin brother's sister-in-law, etc.). It's a law of nature.

If the main characters are specifically homicide detectives, this trope is justified as long as the series sticks to the first variant. In any other case, however... there may not be honor among thieves, but they don't bump each other off that often.

Note that this trope only requires a crime that is investigated as a murder shows up. In many cases it's Never Suicide as well, but this trope still applies if what looks like a murder turns out to be suicide or an accident.

Compare Mystery Magnet; where everywhere someone goes a crime is committed.

Examples of Always Murder include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • This is discussed in an episode of Lucky Star, the characters out loud wondering why detectives on TV always keep finding murders to investigate. Series lampshaded by this scene includes...
  • Most cases the title character of Detective Conan has to solve feature one or more murders. You'd think people would worry about how desensitized Conan and Ran must be.
    • There's also one amusing subversion where one of Conan's friends falls asleep in the trunk of a car, only for its owners to toss a bag in without noticing her and drive away. She knocks the bag over, and it contains something round and slimy that turns out to be a head. However, the head turns out to be paper mache - the two men who own the car are actors for a play involving a kidnapping and murder. Hilarity Ensues.
    • The fandom makes much of Conan's evident ability to attract violent death to his immediate surroundings. Fan Nickname Shinigami-kun. Meanwhile the first episode of the actual show purposely drew attention to the psychopathic level of glee seventeen-year-old Shinichi took in working out the method and motive for the messy instant beheading that happened on the roller-coaster behind him. Being a kid again and having to avoid the showing off that has been his whole life seems to render him slowly more human. Although his desensitization remains extreme.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files, which can have even more deaths per case than Detective Conan.
  • Happily subverted in Q.E.D. where there are other cases which are generally interesting enough not to need it.

Comic Books Edit

  • Regardless of what crime Jen and Gabe start investigating in The Maze Agency, it almost always ends up involving a murder.
  • Sin City stories always involve murders... usually a lot of `em.

Fan Works Edit

  • Turnabout Storm has Phoenix Wright, video game poster boy of this trope, getting pulled into Equestria. Why? Twilight Sparkle accidentally summons him while casting a spell to summon the best defense attorney in Equestria (allegedly, she forgot the Equestria part of the spell) while looking for a lawyer to defend her friend from (take a guess) murder charges on her. Yep, not even being in a Sugar Bowl can keep Nick away from this trope.
  • Because Detective Conan suffers from this rather--though there's a suicide or so, and plenty of non-murder episodes with the Shounen Tantei, like in Season One they deal with gold smuggling, a hostage situation, an assassination plot, and a case of mistaken identity--fanfic tends to decide he has a supernatural power to attract murder or be attracted to it, though the supposed methods vary. More common when the writer is engaged in an extensive crossover with Magic Kaitou, which has actual supernatural elements much better attested, even if Kid never uses such things himself.
    • As noted above, Conan has earned the Fan Nickname 'Shinigami-kun' for all that death.
    • Fanfic is also prone to having the recurring police or similar characters lampshade the Fridge Horror that is Conan's existence--whatever this effect is, it was operating somewhat already on Shinichi before he shrank, i.e. the show started, but had not kicked in when he was really the age he seems, so it's not quite as awful as it looks...

Film Edit

  • Untraceable is a cybercrime movie that managed to end up being about murders. (Of course, something like identity theft would make a pretty boring thriller.) Whether or not The Net proves the latter point is up to debate.
  • Look to The 6th Day, an action thriller about identity theft due to clones.
  • Averted in Mystery Team; their case is the first murder they've ever solved.

Literature Edit

  • Most of the Hercule Poirot stories revolve around murder, there is the occasional jewel robbery though.
  • Older Than Radio: The majority of Sherlock Holmes' cases are murders.
    • Justified to some extent in that Holmes takes cases based on how much they interest him, and by a quirk of personal taste the sort of cases that interest him have a high probability of turning into murder on such occasions that they aren't murder to begin with.
    • Subverted by cases like The Man With the Twisted Lip, The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, The Adventure of the Yellow Face, and The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter, where Holmes investigates what looks like a criminal matter and finds there isn't even anything illegal going on.[1]
  • The Nero Wolfe mystery novels always feature murder. Narrator and aide Archie Goodwin in the books claims that there are many other cases (in one novel, Goodwin ends up on his own and gives a very brief summary of his solo career--it's successful). He only publishes the murder cases.
    • They don't always start as murder cases, though.
  • Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep starts as a fairly simple blackmail case, but it's not long before someone dies.
  • Averted in The No1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, where the Precious Ramotswe always insists she's not that sort of detective.
  • Rule 7 of S.S. Van Dyne's Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories (1928) is "There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better."
  • Averted in Reginald Hill's Pictures Of Perfection in which the bloodbath described at the start turns out to have been carried out with a paintball gun filled with pig blood
  • In the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries there is always murder, and often other crimes as well.

Live Action TV Edit

  • Law and Order. Notable is the fact that characters will occasionally be called out for something that isn't murder (being homicide detectives) whether by a mixup or someone thinking something doesn't add up, they will be annoyed until they learn it was a murder, but in other episodes they will investigate crimes that aren't murder (kidnapping seems to be the biggest one) without objections only to find a body somewhere along the road.
    • The early episodes of Law & Order notably averted this by mixing up crimes once quite often.
    • Law and Order: Criminal Intent makes a point of taking place in the Major Case Squad at police headquarters rather than the precinct homicide squad of the original show, but the crime is still Always Murder. In reality, the Major Case Squad investigates kidnapping and theft, not homicide, but apparently that wasn't compelling enough for Dick Wolf.
    • The precincts or the Chief of Detectives usually bring Major Case in on the case. It's true that Major Case generally investigates theft & kidnapping, but the Chief of Detectives may assign cases to any unit. Sometimes the murders are connected to crimes within the purview of MCS. There is no homicide in "Homo Homini Lupus" (unless you count Eames shooting a perp) and in "Folie a Deux" the police investigate an alleged kidnapping that only later turns out to be a homicide (by negligence), so it's not Always Murder (merely almost Always Murder).
    • In Law and Order Special Victims Unit, it's Always Rape as Drama instead. (But often there's a murder too.)
  • In Walker, Texas Ranger, Walker will regularly track down rapists and drug smugglers, but eventually find they killed one of their accomplices to keep him from talking.
  • The X-Files almost always had someone die before they rolled the opening credits, despite the fact that the FBI doesn't usually investigate plain old murder unless it's federal-such as when it occurs in connection to kidnappings across state lines and other things. However, they do consult on serial killings even when they occur within one state, which seems to be like how they get their jurisdiction for the show, called in for unexplained phenomena.
    • Plus, it's not like Mulder ever followed proper procedure anyway. He seemed to just choose cases at random and follow them with or without the FBI's approval.
  • Columbo : Kind of justified since he's a homicide detective, but he's quite often called out to investigate cases that look like accidents or suicides but turn out to be murder.
    • Although there was one episode where somebody got kidnapped and Columbo managed to save her from being killed, so there was absolutely no murder in that one.
  • CSI: After 8 seasons and counting, this trope has only been averted a minuscule number of times, mostly in the early seasons; in the episode "Suckers", the Cold Open shows us a dead body in a pool, but we soon find out that it's just a lifeguard training dummy used to distract hotel security from an antique theft (as usual for the series, the B Plot was a straight up murder). Another early season episode featured what appeared to be a murder victim found in a dumpster but after several false leads was revealed to be a complete accident.
    • This trope is so prevalent that when they investigate an elderly couple found dead in their home (including one of them who had hit his head in the bathroom) the idea of even one of the deaths being an accident isn't even mentioned by the CSIs. it was again a series of accidents, he slipped in the tub and she fell on the knife
    • CSI New York, on the other hand, has had a few deaths ruled accidents and whatnot.
  • In Monk it is justified in that Monk is both a Homicide Detective and a Special Consultant that the police call in for more... interesting cases. But, even then, even when Monk ends up investigating/or otherwise wrapped up in something that isn't murder, someone will usually end up dead anyway.
    • This is even pointed out by Monk in a few of the episodes.
    • Natalie said it best; "everywhere you go, every time you turn around, someone is killing someone else!"
    • Also, without fail, by the end of the episode, regardless of how his character is written as, the bad guy will always either pull a gun on Monk or try to kill him any other way.
    • One season finale ends with Monk being told that he will get at least a murder a week for the next few years (a reference to the show getting an extended contract). Though it's played for laughs the whole idea is incredibly disturbing once Fridge Logic sets in.
    • The only Monk episode without a murder was "Mr. Monk and the Missing Granny" where the worst thing done was a kidnapping of the titular granny, and then her captors let her go because they only wanted her chair which was worth a fortune.
    • There was no murder in "Mr. Monk and the Kid" either.
  • NCIS often averts this as they deal with a lot of kidnappings.
    • And they subverted it entirely in at least one episode of season 2, "Black Water." They find the body of a Navy officer who disappeared two years ago because of a car crash, and in the end it turns out that it really was an accident, and the wreckage was tampered with to make it look like it had been a murder by a private investigator wanting to cash in on a reward for finding the officer's killer.
  • Dragnet managed to avoid this trope by rotating Joe Friday and his various partners through all divisions of the LAPD. As a result they proved it was possible to craft a compelling half-hour of television about a hunt for a shoplifter.
    • Adam-12, a Dragnet spinoff also managed to avoid this trope in showing the average working day of two regular cops. Of course, when they didn't avoid it, as in the famous episode Requiem For A Pig, it really hits home.
  • Pushing Daisies, by its very nature. The main character's crime-solving usefulness is mainly predicated on his ability to wake the dead, so other kinds of crime are not relevant. Although not all the deaths were murders.
    • Also, one episode involved Emerson tracking down a missing girl; however, someone was murdered afterwards.
  • A Truth in Television aversion of this trope (and the show title) occurred on Homicide: Life On the Street, when the Baltimore Homicide Squad investigated a child abduction. As homicide detectives are usually a police force's best investigators, it makes sense that they would handle a crime of this nature.
    • It doesn't hurt that in some jurisdictions, because of the odds that the missing person will be found dead, because corpses usually cannot testify as to who took them, they now treat it as a homicide case from the start so the person turning up alive can be a pleasant surprise & less evidence gets lost, because people do tend to take homicide cases more seriously.
  • Bones, mainly because half the cast only works with dead people. There's always a corpse, but it isn't always murder -- a few deaths have turned out to be accidents.
  • Jonathan Creek played this straight most of the time, though it was occasionally averted in later seasons.
  • Inspector Morse pretty much does this one straight all the time, which is especially ironic considering that in real life Oxford has had barely any murders in the past 50 years.
  • Similarly, the (fictional) county of Midsomer in Midsomer Murders has a murder rate that should have left it a ghost town (well, county).
  • Murder, She Wrote, appropriately to its title, plays this painfully straight in every single episode. Jessica Fletcher was an incidental bystander for twelve seasons and six TV-movies.
  • Averted in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates where, more realistically than Murder, She Wrote, the little-old-lady PI generally doesn't investigate murders. Sometimes her cases tie into a murder. It is not a murder she's investigating, however, but something related - e.g., Blackmail.
  • In Supernatural:
    • Almost every "case" the brothers take on begins with someone dying horribly. Of course, the killer is usually a ghost, demon, or monster of some kind, so whether it's technically murder is open to question (is it still homicide when the perpetrator died before the victim?).
    • And while the brothers are ghostie and ghoulie magnets even outside of their tendency to be tangled up in the latest Myth Arc and targeted, they also find their jobs and intentionally drive ridiculous distances to them based on accounts of especially suspicious-sounding deaths in newspapers. With this modus operandi, it makes sense that it would usually be murder, given creepy death apparently draws them like bees to honey.
    • There was at least one time it actually was murder, in that the ghost they thought was their perp was actually trying to give warning about the crooked cop who knifed her and the imminence of his knifing them. Naturally, he arrested the guys for his crime that they thought had been committed by a dead woman.
  • Cold Case usually plays this trope straight. However, there were at least four deaths ruled as accident ("Fly Away", "The Boy in the Box", "Yo, Adrian", and "Roller Girl") and at least three others ruled as suicides or as a result of suicides ( "Daniella", "Best Friends", and "Two Weddings"), at least one ruled as self defense / justifiable homicide ( "Justice"). Heck, one case even had the presumed victim still be alive ("Fireflies").
  • Subverted in an episode of Quincy: The corpse of the man who had apparently been beaten to death in an alley really died of natural causes: he'd had a medical condition which caused convulsions, and he'd beaten himself to death.
    • Also averted in at least two episodes: "Semper Fi" (in which a soldier found dead while doing night manoeuvres turned out to have committed suicide) and "Murder By S.O.P." (where the doctor who knows who committed that episode's murder and can prove it is killed in a car accident which is a genuine car accident).
  • Averted by White Collar, where, oddly enough, white collar crimes are investigated.
  • Heartbeat dealt with other kinds of serious crime too - including abortion in one episode (which was still illegal at the time the series was set).
  • Unforgettable so far has had every episode center around a homicide, though sometimes other crimes are discovered over the course of the homicide investigation. Justified in that the main characters are homicide detectives.
  • Averted in one episode of Life On Mars, in which it seems like a man working in a factory has been brutally slashed to death, and one older worker confesses to murdering him and trying to cover it up. It turns out that actually, the wounds the man died of line up to one big, whip-like blow, made when the metal-reinforced, leather belt on his machine snapped. The 'murderer' tried to cover up what really happened so that the mill wouldn't be shut down, because the workers were in a union dispute and had no job security.
  • Early on in Quantum Leap, usually the thing that Sam had to put right was, though life-altering, not usually fatal (like winning a baseball game, stopping a girl from marrying the wrong person, or inspiring Buddy Holly to write "Peggy Sue"). However, in later seasons, nearly every episode involved Sam having to take action, or else X...would die!

Video Games Edit

  • All of the cases in Ace Attorney seem to involve a murder of some kind:
    • The whole series is a huge lamp-shading of this trope, seeing as how this is pointed out since the first game. If you present Mia's autopsy report to Gumshoe, Phoenix says how unusual it is for a newbie lawyer to take on two murders in a row.
    • Then in Rise from the Ashes, Gumshoe once again lampshades it by pondering why they seem to be no other crime reports apart from murder in this district.
    • Indeed, the one case Phoenix took that wasn't a murder turned out to be a cover for a murder across town. Maya lampshades this in the 3rd game:

  "I'm so used to thinking of the victim as a dead person 'cause we're always on murder cases."

    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, the third case starts out as a kidnapping, until someone ends up dead. He turns out to be a kidnapper. Sort of.
    • Interestingly, the case that ends up causing Phoenix to lose his attorney's badge was actually suicide.
    • Not ALL cases involve murders though. For example, case 1:3 has a death of a man that seems like a homicide but was actually manslaughter in self-defence, and in case 2:3 the death of the Ringmaster was manslaughter as well. In fact in Rise from the Ashes, its played straight then it subverts itself then it SUBVERTS THE SUBVERT when the death of Neil Marshall is thought to be a murder by Darke but turns out to be manslaughter by Ema made to look like murder that then later turns out to be a set up the real murderer to make the original actual murder look like manslaughter. In other words it was a murder made to look like manslaughter made to look like a murder.
      • So all in all, Ace Attorney plays with the trope a lot.
  • In the Laura Bow games, various people commit various crimes which always end in murder.
  • The online game Sleuth has you create and play a private detective. Apparently though, the only crime you ever investigate is murder. Every case is a murder, with nary a blackmailing or kidnapping or stakeout in sight.
  • Happily subverted in LA Noire.

Notes

  1. And because he isn't the police, he only gets cases after they've broken; they don't typically break in front of him in the style of latter detective novels. 'Copper Beeches' is notable for being such a mysterious mystery that not one part of it makes the slightest sense at the time it is presented to him, and it turns out to involve very bad parenting, star-crossed lovers, and dopplegangers.