10 Cliches in Mystery Novels

Have you ever had that feeling of deja vu? You know, when you feel as though something has already happened, but it’s happening again?

Sometimes that happens in books, but when that happens it’s called a cliche.

A cliche is something that is overused and has no original thought put into it.

Cliches are everywhere. In books, TV shows, blog posts (like this one), and in real life conversations and actions. Some cliches we can put up with, some we can’t. The bottom line is, they’re never going to go away.

Then again, there are so many ideas out there that there are bound to be some repeats.

I mean, have you ever had that feeling of deja vu? You know, when you feel as though something has already happened, but it’s happening again?


10 Cliches in Mystery Novels Rachel Poli

Some cliches are easy to avoid, but as stated earlier, some aren’t. There are only so many original ideas out there and the bare bones of most mysteries are similar. So it’s hard to not have a cliche here or there.

There are a lot of cliches to list, especially in any kind of writing, but here are just a few.

1. The hard-core/alcoholic/depressed detective.

Being a police officer or detective is hard work and stressful. We get it, we understand. But not everyone hates their job and there’s a reason they became a detective in the first place. They don’t need to wallow in self-pity or be drunk late in the night in order to have that “a-ha!” moment.

2. The police don’t know how to do their job.

You see this in a lot of superhero-type stories. A bad guy comes along causing chaos. The police try to stop him, they fail miserably at a loss of what to do. Then the good guy comes along and saves the day. The police work a lot harder than we give them credit for. Even if it’s fiction, they know how to do their job.

3. A death is misjudged (example, a homicide ruled as a suicide), but only the protagonist figures out the truth.

As I just stated, police do know how to do their job. Even if a death looks like a suicide, no matter how well the culprit covered it up, there is always evidence. There is always forensics. There are always autopsies and science and common sense.

4. The current case forces the protagonist to confront the past.

The detective has a dark past (that’s probably why he’s depressed and an alcoholic from point number one). He’s been avoiding it his whole life, but this specific case has something or someone come along that makes him go back in time.

5. The detective has some sort of “power” (example, photographic memory, psychic, etc.) that they depend on to solve cases.

Having supernatural-type elements added into the mystery isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you can make it unique enough. But if it seems as though the detective is the only one who can solve the case because he has that photographic memory… there’s a problem somewhere.

6. A female detective who is torn between two hot men whether it’s another cop or a suspect or victim or whatever.

Women fall in love, yes. But men fall in love as well. And just because there’s a sexy female detective does not mean there has to be a romantic love-triangle. You don’t see a hot male detective torn between two women that often, do you? Nope. They’re just staying up way too late drinking the case away.

7. A female character who is eye-candy to the detective, but also a crucial aspect of the crime (plot twist: she’s the culprit!)

Stop making women eye-candy. Just stop.

8. Detectives who have exceptional knowledge of one specific thing and always happen to have cases related to what they know.

The detective minored in cosmetology in school? Oh, cool. There was a murder in a nail salon? Oh, that’s ironic.

9. A rookie partner assigned to a veteran detective after their partner dies.

This happens in real life, this happens in fiction. But every single time, the rookie is way too eager and optimistic to start while the experienced officer is bitter. In the end, the rookie changes his partner’s view on life. How touching.

10. The detective has relationship issues.

They’re separated, divorced, a single parent… Yes, they work long hours and have a stressful job, but don’t they deserve a significant other who wholeheartedly supports them no matter what? It’s not as rare as you would think.

While researching some cliches I realized that I’m guilty of some of these. But you know what? If you can turn it around and make it unique, you should be in the clear.

What are some cliches that bother you or some that you like?

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