A police or private detective, usually a middle-aged male, who is a recovering substance abuser (usually an alcoholic) whose abuse played a major role in either a divorce or serious relationship problems. The struggle with substance abuse must be an essential trait of the character rather than an inessential detail.
The detective functions well enough to solve crimes, but is either sober and frequently tempted by the substance, or periodically falls off the wagon and must overcome the addiction to be able to solve a crime. Whereas the Drunken Master
is made stronger by alcohol, the Detective With Demons is made weaker. The Detective With Demons is usually struggling on all fronts: internally against addiction, and externally with his love interest, boss, and criminal adversaries.
If the detective is in a relationship, then it is unraveling, usually because of the combination of substance abuse and an obsession with work. The love interest of the detective frequently threatens to leave unless the substance abuse stops. If the love interest has already left, then the detective either tries unsuccessfully to win the partner back, or nobly suffers in silence, knowing that he is incapable of bringing happiness to another.
The detective's substance abuse is usually tolerated by Da Boss
because the detective is The Ace
. However, the detective's struggles and damaged reputation may result in Turn in Your Badge
, You Have 48 Hours
, and so on.
If the Detective With Demons is battling a criminal, then this criminal may use the substance abuse as a weapon against him. For example, the criminal may try to "help the demons" by tempting the detective to abuse the substance, or undermining the detective's confidence by pointing to his addiction and failed relationships.
This trope is extremely common in detective novels and TV crime series. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a well-adjusted, happy detective in a good relationship anywhere in the genre.
- Harry Hole in the detective series by Jo Nesbo.
- Dave Robicheaux in the detective series by James Lee Burke.