Extremely Cold Case

A professional detective applies their crime-solving skills to an old historical mystery. Either the mystery has remained unsolved in the interim, or the detective has found reason to suspect that the original solution was flawed.

Differs from a usual situation of Revisiting the Cold Case because everybody involved in the original incidents is dead. This means the detective has no opportunity to re-interview witnesses or suspects and is forced to rely on what physical and documentary evidence remains. It also affects the framing of a successful outcome, since it's too late to make things right for the original victims (although in some cases there may be a living relative whose situation will be affected).

Often appears as the premise of a Something Completely Different episode for an established detective.


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  • In The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey's fourth novel featuring Inspector Alan Grant, he's laid up in hospital with a broken leg and passes the time re-investigating a murder from the 15th century. Famous because, rather than have him investigate a fictional case, Tey used the real incident of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.
  • In "The Musgrave Ritual", a young Sherlock Holmes not only resolves the disappearance of a butler but also locates a historical artifact, the crown of King Charles I. The butler had also discovered this, and got as far as the chest containing the crown, but was left to die by his accomplice/ex-lover.
  • In A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs, Ellis Peters' fourth Felse Investigates novel, George Felse goes on holiday and is invited to attend the opening of a historic tomb in the town where he's staying. It's discovered that the tomb's occupant was apparently buried alive, and figuring out the truth about her death becomes the B-plot to the more recent violent death that's the main mystery.
  • In The Wench Is Dead, Colin Dexter's eighth Inspector Morse novel, Morse is laid up in hospital and passes the time by re-investigating a murder case from Oxford during the 1860s, which he suspects resulted in three wrongful convictions. (The murder case is fictional, but inspired by a real 1839 case.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inspector Morse: In "The Wench Is Dead", Morse is laid up in hospital and passes the time by reinvestigating a murder case from Oxford during the 1860s, which he suspects resulted in three wrongful convictions. (The murder case is fictional, but inspired by a real 1839 case.)
  • Used as a quick gag on an episode of Monk: while playing undercover as a security guard of a museum and pondering the clues of the murder of the week, Adrian randomly points out to Stottlemeyer that a Neanderthal skeleton that is on a nearby exhibit shows signs of having been murdered, rather than the natural causes the exhibit says were the cause of death (and that none of the anthropologists or analysts or other people who have seen it in the many years since being unburied noticed).
  • New Tricks: Although the entire purpose of the UCOS team is to investigate cold cases, they cover new ground in "A Death in the Family" when Stephen Fisher of MI5 asks them to investigate a murder that took place 160 years ago.
  • Cold Case: In "Torn", Lilly and her team investigate their oldest case yet, the murder of a woman who was killed in 1919. They soon learn that she may have been murdered because of her activism for woman rights. The only person from the original investigation still alive was a young child at the time.

    Real Life 
  • Spanish criminologist Francisco Pérez Abellán investigated three magnicides from the 19th and early 20th century in the 2010s:
    • He found that Juan Prim (Spanish PM shot in an ambush in 1870) was strangled in his bed while he was recovering from the shooting, ruling that he was victim of a more elaborated conspiracy than commonly assumed.
    • He ruled that Mateo Morral, the Anarchist that tried to kill King Alfonso XIII during his wedding day in 1906, was murdered while in police custody and did not kill himself.
    • He confirmed that José Canalejas, Spanish PM murdered in 1912, was indeed murdered the way he is said to have been in History books, but also found that his killer, the anarchist Manuel Pardiñas, did not kill himself to evade arrest. Instead, he was beaten and then shot twice in the head by Canalejas' bodyguard.