Mystery Cliches -- Part Four


Mystery Cliches, Part Four

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about my favorite mystery show clichés. Since then, people have been writing and calling me telling not to forget all of theirs.  It’s tempting to make fun of television and movie writers who use these, but the truth is that we love them. I love them. If I didn’t, I’d stop watching television mysteries.

Here are three more:

1. Dramatic Lighting:

The forensic team searches through the room looking for that tiny bit of DNA that will prove the governor’s son murdered the archbishop’s niece. The entire case depends on it. The wrong man will go to the death chamber if they get it wrong.

If I am ever in danger of being convicted of a crime I didn’t commit, I really and truly hope that someone on the forensics team turns on a light. A really bright one I hope! Maybe several. In fact, I hope they bring in floodlights that light the place up like a football field.

Television scientists all too often paw around in semi-dark that creates cool and moody shadows raking across their faces. Somehow they are able to pull tiny fibers that are different than all of the other tiny fibers in the carpet.

I suppose that I tend to live in my head a lot, but I’m fairly aware of my surroundings, and I’ve missed fibers on my face.

The governor’s son is never going to get what’s coming to him, and the archbishop will never get the justice he deserves.

2. It Always Rains on Mel Gibson:

Mel Gibson has had some problems lately that we’re all well aware of, but he made a string of some of the best crime movies ever -- the best being the action-noir classic Lethal Weapon and it was in Lethal Weapon that he came up with one of his hallmark cliches.

A woman Mel loves is going to die tragically, and as he ponders the nature of life and death whilst staring at her grave, it’s going to be raining. There won’t be any rain for all the rest of the movie, but there’s always a cold front moving into his wives’ cemeteries.

To be fair, Mel didn’t create this cliche, but he certainly perfected it. He also helped to start the action movie happening during Christmas trend. The tragedy mixes with the faux joy of the season, and they work well together.

3. Location, Location, Location:

“I can’t believe it,” Detective MacLamore says, “All these years we’ve been tracking The Crosstown Killer, all this time he’s been killing up and down the state, who would have believed that it was the governor’s son and he’s lived in town right under our noses.”

It’s awfully convenient that a) murderers don’t get new jobs and move to new towns and b) that they live right down the road from the stars of police shows. I mean they’re often within walking distance.

What are the chances? Pretty good. Otherwise Detective MacLamore has to work with other people who are -- let’s face it -- more likely to catch the killer than he is. They know their areas better than he does after all.

And just to defend the writers of The Days and Nights of Ted MacLamore P.I., that long-time television show I just made up, I don’t want someone else solving the case. I tune in every week to watch him solve the case, and to hear his signature catch phrase, “I guess I’ll have to solve another one by myself.”

Wait, that’s not a really good one. I’m going to have to come up with a better catch phrase for the P.I. in my head.

I end this installment as I have ended those before and that is just to say that I love all these cliches. They’re fun to make fun of, but they’re a lot more fun to watch on T.V.


John Brantingham’s murder-filled violence can be found in Mann of War, and he writes his own blog filled with the hope and joy his students and friends give to him at johnbrantingham.blogspot.com.