Crime fiction clichés
On Saturday night I was watching Beck on BBC4. At one point Beck arrives at the house of a woman whose friends have reported her missing. He rings the bell, no answer, and touches the door which swings open. And I wondered, do killers and kidnappers never think to lock the door when they leave? I have seen this so many times over the years of watching crime on TV. Beck did have some original touches, particularly the opening, but there were some well-worn elements too.
Here are five clichés (not all spotted in Beck), including the one I’ve just described.
There is the scene where the detective finds a bag of white powder, puts his finger in and tastes it. It could be anything. It could be something so toxic that it kills him instantly. No thinking person would do this.
There is the billowing curtain at the open window. You know immediately that the killer is in the house.
There is the detective rushing into a dangerous situation without back-up for no apparent reason other than to put himself in jeopardy.
There is a noise in the otherwise empty house. A cat appears, the woman relaxes – and then –
Sometimes it’s fair enough: it is all part of the game that we know someone’s lurking in the shadows and it isn’t the cat, and it’s the same with the billowing curtain. Sometimes it feels a bit lazy. Sometimes it makes the detective seem, well, not very smart.
And the verdict on Beck? Not as good as the original books from which it’s derived – but what is? I’ll be watching next week.