Created By: Chabal2 on December 11, 2017 Last Edited By: Chabal2 on December 15, 2017
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Crime-Concealing Hobby

A character's hobby is a front for their criminal activities.

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A character has a hobby or other leisure activity that actually hides their criminal activity. Often they're genuinely interested in the hobby, which lets them make money from doing what they like and avoid Bluff The Imposter questioning.

Compare Naughty Birdwatching (where astronomy and birdwatching equipment is used for a less noble purpose).

Warning: spoilers.

Examples

Comic Books
  • The French comic L'Effaceur (The Eraser) is a comedic series about a hitman and the difficulties of his job. He happens to have a passion for sculpture, so there are several strips where he disposes of a corpse by sinking it in a cement block, then making a statue out of it (it's even one of the contracts he offers). One strip has a customer requesting the victim be turned into enough miniature soldiers for a Napoleon wargame.
  • The French comic Les Maitres de l'Orge (The Barleymasters) has Adrien Steenfort, a rich brewer, go for a lone walk every evening without fail with his dinner's leftovers to feed the local cats. In fact, he's going to feed Garcin, his son's murderer (he'd set fire to the brewery, not knowing there were people inside), who he's kept walled up in the ruins of the brewery for twelve years, using him as a captive and silent audience. At the end of the story, Steenfort's been in the hospital for a few days, and finds Garcin has starved to death. The loss of his captive confidante (he compares the nightly monologue sessions to an addictive drug), in addition to his financial and family woes, makes Steenfort burn Garcin's body and commit suicide.
  • In Runaways, said hobby is philanthropy. The main characters' rich parents are supposedly part of a charity group, but this is a front for their world-ending plan involving Human Sacrifice.

Film - Animated
  • Tangled: Inverted. The pub thugs when the viewer first meets them, seem to be only defined by their being criminals; but once the song "I've Got A Dream" comes, we find out they all have hobbies (playing the piano; baking; mime; interior design; etc.) that they'd really love to turn into their jobs.

Film - Live Action
  • The Ladykillers: The plot begins with Professor Dorr renting out an old lady's basement so he and his friends can practice classical music. In fact, they're digging a tunnel to rob a nearby casino vault, playing recorded music to mask the sounds of their work. While Dorr is Wicked Cultured and likely is a musical enthusiast, the rest of the crew... aren't.
  • Played with in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Norman's hobby is taxidermy, which not only establishes him as kind of creepy, but also would provide ample reason for him to know how to chemically disinfect things. However, this isn't used as while he does clean the bathroom, it's an efficient scrub. Still, it's implied that after he (and, yes, at this point very mentally ill) grave-robbed his mother's corpse after murdering her, to make her appear as semi-lifelike as she does he may have stuffed her, too. With his mental state surrounding his mother, though, he probably wouldn't know if he did.
    Marion: A man should have a hobby.
    Norman: Well, it's, it's more than a hobby. A hobby's supposed to pass the time, not fill it.
    Marion: Is your time so empty? [...] Do you go out with friends?
  • Played with in The Wrong Arm of the Law. While Nosy Parker immediately suspects that Pearly Gates is still using his fashion boutique as a front for his gang's activities, Pearly insists that the fashion boutique is now a legitimate business which he runs on the side.

Literature
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles: Stapleton is an amateur entomologist, forever going on long expeditions into the moor to hunt butterflies. It's also a good way to go to the abandoned mine where he's keeping the giant hound with which to terrify Sir Baskerville. Holmes tells Watson that Stapleton really is an entomologist, even discovering a new species of moth under one of his previous identities.
    • In The Red-Headed League, a pawnbroker's assistant is always taking pictures and running off to the darkened basement to develop them. In fact, he's digging a tunnel to the bank behind the shop.
  • In Foundation, Magnifico has playing a Visi-Sonor as a hobby, giving numerous concerts to the Foundation elite. In the end, it turned out he is the Big Bad, and the instrument served as an Amplifier Artifact for his Emotion Control powers, allowing him to demoralize the Foundation leaders.

Live-Action TV
  • Midsomer Murders: On occasion, the crimes are committed because of the hobby, which are Serious Business in Midsomer and cause for any number of reprehensible activities from adultery to blackmail to creative accounting. One episode has a mentally-disturbed woman murder people who might interfere with the local tourist attraction (a miniature village), a Social Climber murders any potential witnesses that saw her driving drunk (which would have barred her from entering the village social club), etc.

Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • December 11, 2017
    lakingsif
    • Played with in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Norman's hobby is taxidermy, which not only establishes him as kind of creepy, but also would provide ample reason for him to know how to chemically disinfect things. However, this isn't used as whilst he does clean the bathroom, it's an efficient scrub. Still, it's implied that after he (and, yes, at this point very mentally ill) grave-robbed his mother's corpse after murdering her, to make her appear as semi-lifelike as she does he may have stuffed her, too. With his mental state surrounding his mother, though, he probably wouldn't know if he did.
      Marion: A man should have a hobby.
      Norman: Well, it's, it's more than a hobby. A hobby's supposed to pass the time, not fill it.
      Marion: Is your time so empty? [...] Do you go out with friends?
  • December 11, 2017
    DustSnitch
    If Sherlock Holmes was the first story to do this, you may want to make a note of that in the description.
  • December 11, 2017
    StarSword
    Compare Rich Idiot With No Day Job, when a heroic character masquerades as a rich dilettante, and Its For A Book, when a character makes the excuse that they're doing research for a book they're writing.
  • December 14, 2017
    LB7979
    Animated Film

    • Tangled: Inverted. The pub thugs when the viewer first meets them, seem to be only defined by their being criminals; but once the song "I've Got A Dream" comes, we find out they all have hobbies (playing the piano; baking; mime; interior design; etc.) that they'd really love to turn into their jobs.
  • December 14, 2017
    ScroogeMacDuck
    Ought to be cleaned up into folders, but otherwise, good trope, lads! This does seem to be a thing.
  • December 14, 2017
    Synchronicity
    • In Runaways, said hobby is philanthropy. The main characters' rich parents are supposedly part of a charity group, but this is a front for their world-ending plan involving Human Sacrifice.
  • December 14, 2017
    ryanasaurus0077
    Played with in The Wrong Arm Of The Law. While Nosy Parker immediately suspects that Pearly Gates is still using his fashion boutique as a front for his gang's activities, Pearly insists that the fashion boutique is now a legitimate business which he runs on the side.
  • December 14, 2017
    Omeganian
    • In Literature/Foundation, Magnifico has playing a Visi-Sonor as a hobby, giving numerous concerts to the Foundation elite. In the end, it turned out he is the Big Bad, and the instrument served as an Amplifier Artifact for his Emotion Control powers, allowing him to demoralize the Foundation leaders.
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