, Needs a Better Name
A deranged Serial Killer
(or an otherwise dangerous, violent criminal) is on the loose, and the Great Detectives
and The Profilers
running the investigation are completely stumped as to how to find the perpetrator before he strikes again. But luckily, law enforcement authorities do have another
serial killer already in custody who, through knowledge of his own malfeasance, may be able to provide some help on the investigation and greater insight into the mind of the suspect the police and detectives are after.
Desperate for leads and not willing to "become" the person he is looking for
, the detective running the investigation will make, at least, one visit to the jail cell of this special prisoner who is just as demented and evil and dangerous as the murdering maniac currently on the loose. Such a prisoner is typically so dangerous that special precautions (shackles, straight-jackets, etc.) need to be taken either to make sure he can't leave his cell or can't attack the detective visiting him. Nonetheless, this prisoner is the only person who can understand and figure out what that maniac is thinking.
Gaining this knowledge will usually come at a price, however. In exchange for any help he gives towards catching the killer at large, the prisoner will usually request to receive something in return, including freedom or greater/extended privileges within captivity. Occasionally, the detective paying the visit(s) may be personally responsible for the prisoner being behind bars in the first place, adding to the tension in their meetings. As such, the prisoner may hold ulterior motives for seeking vengeance or escaping captivity or may otherwise try to be deceitful. However, one way or another, the prisoner will usually be providing some
clue as to who the killer on the loose is or where he could be found.
The Trope Maker
is Hannibal Lecter from the Red Dragon
and The Silence of the Lambs
novels, written by Thomas Harris. Trope occurrences frequently act as a direct Homage
to Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of the character in the film adaptation
. However, where much of Lecter's insight provided to the FBI in catching serial killers derived from his skill as a brilliant yet twisted psychiatrist, most other characters in this role will generally give insight based on the modus operandi
of their own crimes in helping to catch a similar perpetrator, if not a flat out Copycat Killer
Compare: Recruiting the Criminal
, in which such a person is elected to carry out specific tasks at hand for which their devious skills are useful.
Anime & Manga
- In Pluto, Gesicht is tracking a serial killer who might be a robot, and consults Brau 1589, previously believed to be the only robot who ever killed a human.
- In The Long Halloween, Batman visits Calendar Man in his cell at Arkham Asylum to ask him where he might find the killer known as "Holiday". Calendar Man suggests that, the day Batman is paying this visit being a holiday, Holiday is likely looking to commit a murder--specifically, to kill Salvatore Maroni.
- One brief Judge Dredd Story Arc followed Dredd aiming to catch a spree-killer in Mega-City One who disintegrates his victims' bodies, only leaving their right hands. Noting similarities to a past case involving a spree-killer who had a similar motive with left hands, which Dredd had solved, Dredd consults with the perpetrator of the original crimes, now in an iso-cube. The prisoner requests that he get "a cube with a view" for his assistance, but Dredd convinces him to provide insight unconditionally after threatening him. The prisoner then divulges what he could assume about his Copycat Killer, the most important part being that the suspect must come from Brit-Cit because that's the only place the prisoner's original crimes are given any recognition. Part One of this story arc was even titled, "The Silence of the Limbs".
- In Backdraft, Brian McCaffery approaches an imprisoned serial arsonist, Ronald Bartel, in need of assistance in finding the missing links between a string of recent fires that seem to be connected.
- As stated above, the Trope Maker is Hannibal Lecter, who fills this role in two novels and, later, feature films.
- Red Dragon sees Hannibal approached by FBI Special Agent Will Graham, the agent who had originally captured Hannibal, requesting his assistance in capturing a serial killer known as "The Tooth Fairy". Hannibal provides this help to Graham, while secretly corresponding with the Tooth Fairy behind his back, in exchange for a first-class meal in his cell and privileges to use the prison library.
- In The Silence of the Lambs, FBI trainee Clarice Starling visits Hannibal in his cell on multiple occasions for help with catching another serial killer called "Buffalo Bill". Hannibal ends up giving Clarice cryptic clues in exchange for information about Clarice's unhappy childhood. Hannibal later uses an agreement to disclose Buffalo Bill's real name in exchange for a transfer to another asylum as an opportunity to escape.
- In The Pretender episode "Once in a Blue Moon", Jarod is helping to catch a Copycat Killer, and consults the serial killer who is being copied.
- In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Langston seeks the help of his nemesis, serial killer Nate Haskell, to catch the "Dr. Jekyl Killer". He isn't really that helpful and mostly just messes them around. His actual plan was to goad a guard into shocking him as to fall and break his own glasses... and using the broken arms from said glasses to stab Langston through the bars of his holding cell.
- Happened twice on Criminal Minds, once when Mad Bomber Adrian Bale was called upon to help stop a copycat bomber and again when a serial hostage taker was asked to help stop a group of copycats. In the first case, Bale was unable to resist the opportunity to try and trick the team into blowing up a potential victim. Gideon caught on to this and stopped it. In the second, the guy hired the copycats so the BAU would have to consult with him, which gave him an opportunity to escape.
- In Fahrenheit, after Carla discovers similarities between Lucas' case and past murders, she visits Janos, the culprit of those past murders, at Bellevue Asylum in order to find out the link both cases.
- There Will Be Brawl re-imagines Kirby as an Expy of Hannibal Lecter, presenting him as an imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer that is consulted in the hope of solving other murders going on.
- I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC's 's "Happy Hour" story arc sees Spider-Man and Batman visit Lex Luthor in custody to ask questions about how his android Lance works, after the Joker had acquired it and began using it for a nefarious purpose. However, Luthor was brainwashed by Joker before the heroes had arrived and informs Joker when they get to him. Luthor only provides helpful information after Batman acquires Wonder Woman's golden lasso, which he promptly uses on Luthor.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Great Louse Detective", after a failed murder attempt on Homer, the Simpson family approaches Chief Wiggum in order to get help in finding out who would try and kill Homer. Wiggum declares that their case requires "someone who understands the twisted mind of a murderer". They end up seeking Sideshow Bob's assistance, which Bob agrees to under the condition that he have "around-the-clock access to all Simpsons... especially Bart". Because the Springfield PD are useless, Bob effectively takes a more active role in the task at hand and does the majority of the investigative work throughout the episode. Like Bob, the suspect they are after has a revenge-based motive for killing a member of the Simpsons family.
- In an attempt to catch the Green River Killer, members of the police task force assigned to the case periodically interviewed Ted Bundy. However, Bundy's advice wasn't very helpful to the investigation.