->''"The Judge said 'Son, what's your alibi?\\
If you were somewhere else, then you won't have to die.'\\
I spoke not a word, 'though it meant my life.\\
For I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife."''
-->-- '''Lefty Frizzell''', ''The Long Black Veil''

A suspect in an investigation has a DarkSecret, completely unrelated to the crime at hand.

Because he is so obviously lying, or because there is such strong circumstantial evidence against him, the police waste a lot of time investigating him before he is cleared.

Sometimes he will finally give in and reveal his secret, but in other cases the police dig it up, or another character will speak up to clear him, even though it may implicate the supporting character. If a character acts reluctant but coughs it up fairly quickly, odds are good that it's InfractionDistraction.

A particular pattern involving adultery (e.g. the suspect has an alibi he can't use -- he was in bed with a married woman and doesn't want to ruin her marriage) is very common and is currently being regularly subverted.

On TV, having a big secret usually means that you're not the murderer, although you may be guilty of other things.

This is a standard RedHerring. Alternatively, it can be a way for a [[MinorCrimeRevealsMajorPlot Minor Crime to reveal a Major Plot]], if investigating the Big Secret turns out to be more interesting and consequential than solving the original minor infraction.

See also: YouDidntAsk, MysteriousPast, BeAsUnhelpfulAsPossible, ShamefulSourceOfKnowledge.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In the anime ''Manga/LoveHina'', the episode "The Case of the Missing Hinata Apartment Money: A Mystery", Naru refuses to let the other residents search her room for the missing money and later grabs the turtle, Tama-chan, when it is seen to have a piece of paper stuck to it (which is thought to possibly be a piece of one of the bills). Of course, it turns out that Naru was not the culprit; rather, she did not want the others to learn that she treasured a photo of herself and Keitaro, which she had been looking for and which was the paper stuck on Tama's shell.
* ''Manga/DetectiveConan'' offers many many examples, and contains some subversions and aversions as well.
* Yoshihisa has one during the second half of Episode 7 of ''Manga/KotouraSan''. This is [[OOCIsSeriousBusiness very much unlike him since he normally doesn't keep secrets at all]]. It's actually [[spoiler: a SurpriseParty for Haruka's birthday which is celebrated at the end of the episode]]. The fact that he managed to keep this away from [[{{Telepathy}} Haruka]] for those two weeks was extremely badass on his part!

* In ''Film/LegallyBlonde'', Brooke Taylor Windham (a famous fitness instructor) is accused of murdering her wealthy husband. She actually does have a concrete and easily proven alibi, [[spoiler:she was getting liposuction at the time of the murder]], but the nature of said alibi would ruin her. Elle does manage to get her to reveal this, but due to a Delta Nu Oath, is sworn to secrecy. Thus she has to prove her clients innocence while withholding this piece of information. [[spoiler:She eventually manages to out the real culprit via ThePerryMasonMethod, by pointing out a [[ConvictionByContradiction contradiction]] in ''her'' alibi, (And her hair).]]
* In 'Catch a Fire', Patrick Chamusso is held and tortured by the authorities. He is suspected of a bombing at a power plant, but cannot acquit himself because he spent the time with the mother of his secret 'illegitimate' son.
* In ''Literature/TheReader'', Michael realizes that Hanna has made a series of strange, hasty moves, including [[AllGermansAreNazis working as a guard at Auschwitz]], to conceal [[spoiler:her illiteracy]]. Her continued efforts to do this result in her taking a far greater share of blame for an atrocity she was involved in than she should have, and those most responsible getting punished lightly.

* Almost always happens in Creator/AgathaChristie novels. Hercule Poirot sometimes comments that ''everyone'' has something to hide, and will therefore lie in an investigation.
* In keeping with the above, Vimes muses in Discworld/NightWatch that part of the basis of police work is questioning people that privately believe cops can peer into their souls to find the BigSecret. You're just not allowed to [[SecretPolice slam their fingers in drawers until they give it up]].
* In Creator/DorothyLSayers' Literature/LordPeterWimsey novel ''Clouds of Witness'', the Duke was committing adultery when his sister's fiance committed suicide. The other woman was married to a vindictively [[GreenEyedMonster jealous]] man, [[spoiler:making her eventual decision to testify a serious danger, and also giving the Duke a motive to kill the dead man. Fortunately, Lord Peter manages to locate [[SmokingGun the dead man's suicide note]], and the jealous husband's attempt to kill her results in his accidental death]].
** In ''Have His Carcase'', a boat was off shore when Harriet found the body. The owner was surly and obstructive, and his grandson had gone off to Ireland. [[spoiler:When they had constructed several theories involving this boat, the grandson reappeared and explained that he and his grandfather had been poaching on another fisherman's lobster pots.]]
** In ''Whose Body?'', the man in whose apartment the body was found eventually reveals his alibi: he had been persuaded to go to a nightclub.
* In Creator/JohnDicksonCarr's ''Death Watch'', the police are investigating a murder in a house, and announce that they are going to make a thorough search of everyone's rooms. A very prim [[OldMaid elderly spinster]] -- who was completely above suspicion until then -- suddenly starts acting extremely agitated, almost throwing a hysterical fit. Naturally, this draws attention to her. It turns out this very proper lady was hiding a [[PornStash cache of pornography magazines]] under her bed.
* In Creator/CharlesDickens' ''Literature/ATaleOfTwoCities'', Charles Darnay refused to reveal even at his trial for treason that he is searching for the child of a family his father wronged.
* Gintaro Aono in ''[[Literature/ErastFandorin Murder on the Leviathan]]'' has a BigSecret... [[spoiler: which is that he is a doctor and not a soldier, much to his shame. The other characters are European and most of them don't understand that this might be why he was hiding that, making him seem so much more suspicious]]. Likewise with some of the other suspects.
* In Elizabeth Gaskell's ''Literature/NorthAndSouth'', Margaret is seen at a train station at night with a man. She cannot explain that he was her brother, as he is wanted for treason and was not supposed to be in the country.
* In the ''Literature/SherlockHolmes'' story "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" the main suspect refused to tell police what he had argued with his father about moments before he died: [[spoiler:He was married and didn't want the woman he loved (who was in the courtroom) to know]].
** In "The Man With the Twisted Lip", a beggar is caught as a suspect in murder. He keeps silent until Holmes deduces his BigSecret:[[spoiler:the beggar ''is'' the supposed murder victim - apparently, it pays much better than regular work]].
* In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets'', Percy acts suspiciously because he doesn't want anyone to find out about his girlfriend Penelope Clearwater.
* In ''Literature/GoneGirl'', Nick Dunne's suspicious behavior results in him becoming the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance. It turns out that Nick [[spoiler: is having an affair with a younger woman.]]
* In Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''The Currents of Space'', a man is accused of a crime. The man accusing has been {{Mind Rape}}d by the criminal and only remembers that the latter used the accused one's name, and seeing the man towering over him. The suspect subverts the trope immediately by revealing his ''very'' well kept BigSecret - [[spoiler: extremely short legs which make it physically impossible for him to ''tower over'' anyone]].

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Radio/OurMissBrooks'':
** In "Stolen Aerial," Miss Brooks is able to get a discount from a wolfish television repairman who wants to go out with her. Miss Brooks is advised to keep her discount a secret so as not to get many more freeloaders wanting the same deal. Too late, Mrs. Davis and Walter Denton had already let the cat out of the bag. Miss Brooks gets deluged with broken aerials and even television sets needing repair. However, Miss Brooks keeps her promise; she hides the real reason for her sudden television-equipment windfall from Mr. Conklin. Unfortunately, the television repairman had accidentally lent Miss Brooks Mr. Conklin's checkered television aerial. Mr. Conklin concludes Miss Brooks is a [[Literature/OliverTwist "female Fagin"]], using Mr. Boynton and several high school students to run a television-equipment theft ring.
** The BigSecret trope again appears in "The Jewel Robbery." Mr. Conklin accidentally breaks a jewelry store window when carrying a bad a laundry to the cleaners. Conklin believes the police want him for the inadvertent vandalism. In reality, they're looking for a thief who had robbed the jewelry store a short time before.
* An episode of ''Series/BostonLegal'' featured a case in which the BigSecret was that the man was reluctant to use his alibi of having been in bed with another man.
** The same BigSecret was used in another episode of ''Series/BostonLegal'' but made way more believable by the twist that it was one of Denny's first cases and had happened during the 1960s. Denny, being awesome, managed to get the man acquitted without revealing the truth.
* In an episode of the fourth season of ''Series/TwentyFour'', James Hellar's suspected/interrogated son isn't in league with the terrorists after all... but he ''is'' guilty of attending an anti-war rally and of being gay.
* The ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' episode "Dax" is a typical example, albeit with an atypical defendant.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'': "The Drumhead" features an example. After sabotage leads to an investigation of everyone on board the ''Enterprise'', the investigator's chief suspect becomes Ensign Tarses. A young man of [[HalfHumanHybrid mixed]] human/Vulcan heritage, it becomes clear he's hiding something and the investigative team is convinced he's behind the sabotage. Unfortunately for everyone, especially Ensign Tarses, it turns out that he's completely innocent of involvement in the original crime. [[spoiler:His BigSecret turns out to be that he lied about his heritage to avoid discrimination in Star Fleet: his heritage isn't Vulcan, it's Romulan.]]
* In an episode of ''Series/ThePractice'', a friend of Bobby's (who is also a lawyer) is protecting a prostitute in a murder case. The prostitute has an alibi (she was with a client at the time), but the client doesn't want to be revealed. The truth is that [[spoiler: the client was the lawyer himself, who is married.]]
* In any given episode of ''Series/NewTricks'', expect three or four of these to come tumbling out before the murderer of the week is rounded up.
** One particularly beautiful example: one episode revolves around the 1984 murder of a peace protestor outside a [=NATO=] military base during an anti-nuclear protest. This, naturally, led to a lot of {{Big Secret}}s being dug up about spies and military 'spooks', government moles planted within the peace organization to inform on and discredit them, and secret plans to sabotage the military base's communications system -- and all of it revolves around a 'secret' that the victim apparently had. After all of this, what, then, was the Big Secret that got the victim killed? [[spoiler: Turns out he was sleeping with the girlfriend of one of the other peace protestors.]]
* ''Every'' episode of ''Series/{{House}}'': Member of family gets sick. Cause unknown. History taken, however investigation reveals: a) she was taking drugs, and didn't tell anyone b) she was sleeping around c) and got pregnant d) AND an STD e) AND she's a dude. The clinic scenes, often a microcosm of the whole show, are this to the extreme: patient walks in with a sniffle, walks out with divorce papers.
* Season four of ''Series/{{Dexter}}''. Dexter didn't kill [[spoiler: his wife, Rita]], but he DID kill a whole lot of other people...
* ''Series/{{Broadchurch}}'': it would be easier to name the characters who do not have a secret to hide.
* The fifth episode of ''Series/PoliceSquad'' has a recently released bomb-maker lying about his whereabouts on the night when someone planted a bomb that killed the judge who sentenced him to jail the next morning... because he had violated his parole by crossing state lines to go to a baseball game.

* The song "Long Black Veil" is about a man who is hanged for murder because he refuses to reveal his alibi -- he was having an affair with his best friend's wife.
** The Gary Moore song "Over the Hills and Far Away" (covered more recently by Finnish band Music/{{Nightwish}}) describes a similar situation -- the main character is sent to prison for a robbery he didn't commit, because he'd spent the night in the arms of his best friend's wife and refuses to reveal the secret. Interestingly the reason he was convicted was because his pistol had been found at the scene, implying that someone knew about it and framed him knowing he wouldn't say it wasn't him.
*** [[EpilepticTrees The husband did it]], [[BatmanGambit to break up the lovers without having to confront or kill his best friend]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Commonly used in the ''Franchise/AceAttorney'' games, though Phoenix and Apollo usually manage to prove some point with the secret once it has been revealed.
** A often used trick is for the defendant to be an accomplice to the murder, either blackmailed or hoping you can get them off without them having to go to jail themselves.
** In one particularly brilliant subversion, Phoenix manages to get a suspect to reveal their Big Secret, to the surprise of the court...and then the Judge pretty much says So What, and Phoenix immediately flounders when he realizes that the Big Secret was entirely ''worthless''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Scratches}}''. On the backstory the former owner of the mansion, (where the game is set) was accused of murdering his wife since an eyewitness told that she saw him carrying her corpse to the yard; Since he died soon after and the mansion passed to his best friend, who was also a respected doctor, the police was left with no evidence and a lot of suspicion about their real secret: [[spoiler: All the time he had his [[MadmanInTheAttic deformed son locked in the basement]], who was the real culprit in his mother's death]].

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Virtually every episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Fillmore}}'' has these come out at some point, usually just before the clue pointing to the ''actual'' culprit turns up. These ranged from a BookDumb character turning out to actually be an A-student, to the suspected mascot-napper turning out to have pilfered a rival school's goat mascot.