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Always Murder

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"Murder isn't the only crime in the world, it just seems that way around us."
Caroline Julian, Bones

In nearly any Crime and Punishment Series, by the end of the episode, someone will always be heading to the coroner's office, no matter how things start out.

Generally, the vast majority of episodes will be about a killing straight through, from beginning to end. It'll either be a straight-up murder or perhaps a burglary gone wrong, but by the time our heroes are on the scene, there's a dead body and someone out there to answer for that. But that's not all. In the other episodes, when the show will start out investigate a missing person or a heist or something, someone will inevitably end up dead halfway through, killed by one of the perpetrators of the original crime (or the victim, or the detective, or the witness's twin brother's sister-in-law, etc.). It's a law of nature.

If the main characters are specifically homicide detectives, this trope is justified as long as the series sticks to the first variant. In any other case, however… there may not be honor among thieves, but they don't bump each other off that often.

Note that this trope only requires a crime that is investigated as a murder shows up. In many cases, it's Never Suicide as well, but this trope still applies if what looks like a murder turns out to be suicide or an accident.

Sometimes coupled with Murder Is the Best Solution, if the murders in a series are frequently committed as solutions to minuscule problems. Compare Mystery Magnet, where everywhere someone goes a crime is committed. When real-life news broadcasts show nothing but murders, you have a case of If It Bleeds, It Leads.

Applied, of course, for Rule of Drama. What crime can possibly be more vile (and thus its investigation and the eventual Reveal — more dramatic) than taking a life of someone we care about (the author will make sure of that), the highest asset in human society?


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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is discussed in an episode of Lucky Star, where Konata wonders why detectives on TV always keep finding murders to investigate. Series lampshaded by this scene includes Case Closed and The Kindaichi Case Files.
  • Most cases Conan Edogawa of Case Closed has to solve feature one or more murders. You'd think people would worry about how desensitized Conan and Ran must be.
    • There's also one amusing subversion where one of Conan's friends falls asleep in the trunk of a car, only for its owners to toss a bag in without noticing her and drive away. She knocks the bag over, and it contains something round and slimy that turns out to be a head. However, the head turns out to be paper mache - the two men who own the car are actors for a play involving a kidnapping and murder.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files, which can have even more deaths per case than Case Closed.
  • Happily subverted in Q.E.D. where there are other cases which are generally interesting enough not to need it.
    • The author happily continues this trend with C.M.B., in which is more about investigation work in archeology.

    Audio Play 
  • Below Board tends to zigzag this trope, as while the main characters are technically investigating burglaries, there's always someone who ends up dead by the end of each episode.

    Comic Books 
  • Regardless of what crime Jen and Gabe start investigating in The Maze Agency, it almost always ends up involving a murder.
  • Sin City stories always involve murders… usually a lot of `em.

    Fan Works 
  • Turnabout Storm has Phoenix Wright, a big poster boy of this trope, getting pulled into Equestria. It doesn't take him long to find out that it's because he's needed to defend someone charged for murder. Not even being in a Sugar Bowl can keep him away from this trope. Ultimately subverted though, as the victim suffered a case of Karmic Death.
  • This trope would have been averted in every case in My Little Investigations according to Word of God, making it Lighter and Softer than the game it's based on.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Case 5: Turnabout Substitution provides an interesting example. You know full well before you start playing that someone will end up dead since this is an Ace Attorney fangame. During the first day of the trial, you successfully prove that Judge Chambers did not kill Robert Enlemeyer and that Enlemeyer is still alive. It looks like nobody's dead after all... until Judge Chambers is killed by his own car near his brother's grave. The second day of the trial has you defending a (supposed) serial killer of Chambers's death.
  • Because Case Closed suffers from this rather—though there's a suicide or so, and plenty of non-murder episodes with the Shounen Tantei, like in Season One they deal with gold smuggling, a hostage situation, an assassination plot, and a case of mistaken identity—fanfic tends to decide he has a supernatural power to attract murder or be attracted to it, though the supposed methods vary. More common when the writer is engaged in an extensive crossover with Magic Kaitou, which has actual supernatural elements much better attested, even if Kid never uses such things himself.
    • Fanfic is also prone to having the recurring police or similar characters lampshade the Fridge Horror that is Conan's existence—whatever this effect is, it was operating somewhat already on Shinichi before he shrank, i.e. the show started, but had not kicked in when he was really the age he seems, so it's not quite as awful as it looks...

  • Untraceable is a cybercrime movie that managed to end up being about murders. (Of course, something like identity theft would make a pretty boring thriller.) Whether or not The Net proves the latter point is up to debate.
  • Look to The 6th Day, an action thriller about identity theft due to clones.

  • An interesting case — all the surviving legal speeches we have from Antiphon, the oldest Athenian orator whose works we still have, deal with murder cases. We know he did write on other topics, we just don't have any complete speeches of them.
  • There are a few of R. Austin Freeman's Dr. Thorndyke stories that do not feature murder, but they are rare. (One example is "The Anthropologist at Large", in John Thorndyke's Cases, which revolves around a robbery of valuable artworks. Every other story in that collection is a murder investigation, except for one that features an attempted murder prevented by Thorndyke's timely intervention.) Freeman noted in his article "The Art of the Detective Story" that murder is so popular a choice because it helps justify a villain desperate to cover his tracks given the consequences if he is caught.
  • Most of the Hercule Poirot stories revolve around murder; there is the occasional jewel robbery though.
  • In an aversion, the majority of Sherlock Holmes' stories do not involve murders.
    • In cases like The Man With the Twisted Lip, The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, The Adventure of the Yellow Face, and The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter, Holmes investigates what looks like a criminal matter and finds there isn't even anything illegal going on.
    • Because Holmes isn't the police, he only gets cases after they've broken; they don't typically break in front of him in the style of latter detective novels. 'Copper Beeches' is notable for being such a mysterious mystery that not one part of it makes the slightest sense at the time it is presented to him, and it turns out to involve very bad parenting, star-crossed lovers, and doppelgangers.
    • Even cases where there are confirmed dead bodies don't always feature murder. In two cases, the perpetrator turns out to be an animal (in one case, the dead guy provoked a horse, and in the other, it was a completely random encounter with a wild creature). In another case, the apparent victim staged their suicide to point blame at a hated rival, and in yet another the decedent had a stroke. Even the actual homicides aren't always murders, as several cases feature people that arguably had it coming and the killers end up making claims of self-defense of various degrees of plausibility.
  • The Nero Wolfe mystery novels always feature murder sooner or later, even the ones that don't start out as murder cases. Narrator and aide Archie Goodwin in the books claims that there are many other cases (in one novel, Goodwin ends up on his own and gives a very brief summary of his solo career - it's successful). He only publishes the murder cases. Partially subverted in at least one novel, however: In The League of Frightened Men, only one of the three deaths turns out to be a murder (the other two are an accident and an actual suicide), and even the murder wasn't committed by the person everyone thinks did it.
  • Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep starts as a fairly simple blackmail case, but it's not long before someone dies.
  • Averted in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, where Precious Ramotswe always insists she's not that sort of detective.
  • Averted in Reginald Hill's Pictures Of Perfection in which the bloodbath described at the start turns out to have been carried out with a paintball gun filled with pig blood
  • In the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries there is always murder, and often other crimes as well.
  • No matter where Bernie Rhodenbarr is or what he's trying to steal he will always discover a body and have to investigate the murder.
  • In one of the Finnish Komisario Palmu novels by Mika Waltari, the eponymous Inspector Palmu chides the participant narrator for writing about some of his cases that didn't involve murder because it's the only crime worth writing about because it's irreparable. All the actual novels (and films) feature murder.
  • Charlie Howard, the eponymous protagonist of The Good Thief series by Chris Ewan, can scarcely steal anything without finding a dead body. The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas has a Double Subversion: the body Charlie finds isn't really dead; her accomplice, however, is.
  • Every novel in the Sister Fidelma series has at least three murders.
  • Sage Adair investigates fraud, theft, kidnapping, and various other crimes, but sooner or later bodies always start turning up.
  • San Amaro Investigations: Downplayed. Each book has the main characters investigating a plurality of cases that unravel and connect together over the course of each book. While there is always one murder at least in the middle of the mysteries, they are not, necessarily, the center of the mystery. For example, in book 2 and 3, the murders are relatively out of the central focus of the mystery, with the second one's main mystery being the theft of an artifact, while in the third, it is the mystery of a missing boy; in both cases, the murder is either solved quickly, or solved as an extension of solving other mysteries.
  • Sugawara Akitada: Some of the Sugawara novels have premises where the crime Akitada needs to solve is bad, but still minor, such as disappearing taxes or blackmail. These minor crimes will always lead to a reveal someone had been murdered, someone being murdered during the course of the novel, or both.
  • All of the Hamish Macbeth books involve a dead body (usually of a really unpleasant newcomer to town); the title formula is actually "Death of a/an (Description of victim)." This does not apply to the TV series, where murders happen, but not in every episode.
  • In the In Death series, protagonist Lt. Eve Dallas is a detective in the Homicide division, making the trope obligatory: she would have very little basis to investigate if there weren't at least some suspicion of murder.
  • Agaton Sax: This series inverts the trope. Since it's a children's series, there are no murders or even suspected cases of murder.
  • All short stories in Almost Perfect Crimes are murders and a suicide made to look like a murder, even though they're not sold that way in the title or the blurb on the back. The same author wrote another book of mystery short stories called Almost Perfect Murders, which at least made no bones about its content.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order. Notable is the fact that characters will occasionally be called out for something that isn't murder (being homicide detectives) whether by a mixup or someone thinking something doesn't add up. They will be annoyed until they learn it was a murder, but in other episodes they will investigate crimes that aren't murder (kidnapping seems to be the biggest one) without objections, only to find a body somewhere along the road.
    • The early episodes of Law & Order notably averted this by mixing up crimes quite often.
    • Law & Order: Criminal Intent makes a point of taking place in the Major Case Squad at police headquarters rather than the precinct homicide squad of the original show, but the crime is still always murder. In reality, the Major Case Squad investigates kidnapping and theft, not homicide, but apparently that wasn't compelling enough for Dick Wolf.
    • The precincts or the Chief of Detectives usually bring Major Case in on the case. It's true that Major Case generally investigates theft & kidnapping, but the Chief of Detectives may assign cases to any unit. Sometimes the murders are connected to crimes within the purview of MCS. And the MCS does normally handle cases involving the murder of an NYPD officer. There is no homicide in "Homo Homini Lupus" (unless you count Eames shooting a perp) and in "Folie a Deux" the police investigate an alleged kidnapping that only later turns out to be a homicide (by negligence), so it's not always murder (merely almost always murder).
    • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, it's Always Rape instead, but often there's a murder too. In fact, there are so many murders on SVU, it's the only show in the franchise to have the Medical Examiner Promoted to Opening Titles. This is achieved by making the obligatory crime a rape-homicide, have it first be a rape and then tack on a homicide later, have the perp be a rapist who then "graduates" to murder, or just have the murder victim be a kid (Special Victims deals with the child homicides, regardless of whether or not molestation is involved).
      • One of the most forced examples is "Parts", where they find a severed head in a junkyard and call the SVU because they think that it has traces of semen. At the end of the day, they find that the victim died in an accident, there was no sex-related crime and her body was dismembered by an organ trafficking ring. The episode then turns into a Very Special Episode about people who need an organ transplant but can't pay for it.
      • Another particularly forced example is "Shadow", which features a generic double homicide. SVU is only called in because it looks like it might be a murder-suicide, which being "domestic violence" (the victims are a husband and wife) supposedly falls under SVU jurisdiction. Once it's clear the crime was double homicide SVU is kept on the case anyway, because "the Gillettes were Special Victims". This makes no sense because, even within the universe of the show, the NYPD has Major Case to handle crimes like this, especially once the prime suspect turns out to have been involved in a major fraud she was already under investigation for. The episode even introduced a Special Guest character (Det. Asok Ramsey from Special Frauds, played by Naveen Andrews) rather than feature a Crossover with CI characters (who never crossed over onto any other Law & Order show while it was still running, though Kathryn Erbe did appear as Eames on SVU after it had been cancelled).
  • In Walker, Texas Ranger, most episodes involve murder mysteries, usually because some poor schmuck was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got capped for being nosy. Also, on some occasions, Walker will regularly track down rapists and drug smugglers, but eventually find they killed one of their accomplices to keep him from talking.
  • The X-Files almost always had someone die before they rolled the opening credits, despite the fact that the FBI doesn't usually investigate plain old murder unless it's federal - such as when it occurs in connection to kidnappings across state lines and other things. However, they do consult on serial killings even when they occur within one state, which seems to be like how they get their jurisdiction for the show, called in for unexplained phenomena. Plus, it's not like Mulder ever followed proper procedure anyway. He seemed to just choose cases at random and follow them with or without the FBI's approval.
  • Columbo: Kind of justified since he's a homicide detective, but he's quite often called out to investigate cases that look like accidents or suicides but turn out to be murder (though there was one episode where somebody got kidnapped and Columbo managed to save her from being killed, so there was absolutely no murder in that one).
  • CSI: After 8 seasons and counting, this trope has only been averted a minuscule number of times, mostly in the early seasons; in the episode "Suckers," the Cold Open shows us a dead body in a pool, but we soon find out that it's just a lifeguard training dummy used to distract hotel security from an antique theft (as usual for the series, the B Plot was a straight-up murder). Another early-season episode featured what appeared to be a murder victim found in a dumpster but after several false leads was revealed to be a complete accident.
    • This trope is so prevalent that when they investigate an elderly couple found dead in their home (including one who had hit his head in the bathroom) the idea of even one of the deaths being an accident isn't even mentioned by the CSIs. It was again a series of accidents - he slipped in the tub and she fell on the knife.
    • At least one episode has a suicide staged as a murder by a broke guy hoping his life insurance policy will provide for his brother. Unfortunately, the CSIs end up figuring out the truth.
      • Unfortunately for a wife in Miami, Horatio and Co figured out what her husband had done as well.
    • Another, involving an elderly woman crashing her car into a cafe, turned out to be murder-suicide on the part of the woman.
    • An aversion happened on the case of a movie star that turned to be autoerotic asphyxiation (not long after David Carradine died), all for the sake of An Aesop against First World Problems.
    • The episode "Hitting for the Cycle" had the whole lab bet on whether or not the quartet of a natural death, accident, suicide and murder occuring in the same shift would be completed. Right before the episode ends, the new assistant coroner is found dead by David, having died of an aneurism and thus completing the quartet, as a natural death was all that was still missing at this point.
    • CSI: NY, on the other hand, has had a number of deaths ruled as accidents.
  • In Monk it is justified in that Monk is both an ex-Homicide detective and private consultant the San Francisco Police Department call in for more… interesting cases.
    • But, even then, even when Monk ends up investigating/or otherwise wrapped up in something that isn't murder, someone will usually end up dead anyway.
      • Example: "Mr. Monk and the Bully" starts with Monk and Natalie looking into a simple infidelity case after being hired by Monk's childhood bully. Then the person said bully's wife seems to be seeing turns up dead.
      • Another good case of this is "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert". Monk and Natalie accompany Captain Stottlemeyer to a music festival to search for his son. Monk comes along because of a misinterpretation of the words "rock show", leaving him stuck in the middle of a Wild Teen Party in the parking lot. While searching for a payphone, he accidentally walks into a port-a-potty. Natalie finds him when he comes out. Then, as Monk and Natalie are walking away, a roadie's body falls out of another port-a-potty right at their feet.
    • This is even pointed out by Monk in a few of the episodes.
    • Natalie said it best: "Everywhere you go, every time you turn around, someone is killing someone else!" It even supplies the Mystery Magnet page quote.
    • One season finale ends with Monk being told that he will get at least a murder a week for the next few years (a reference to the show getting an extended contract). Though it's Played for Laughs the whole idea is incredibly disturbing once Fridge Logic sets in.
    • The only Monk episode without a murder was "Mr. Monk and the Missing Granny" where the worst thing done was a kidnapping of the titular granny, and then her captors let her go because they only wanted her chair which was worth a fortune.
    • There was no murder in "Mr. Monk and the Kid" either.
    • A subversion happened in the episode "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil" - no murder is committed in the course of the episode, although a person does die in a car accident (someone comes along later and sets his car on fire), and there is an attempted murder.
    • Same in "Mr. Monk Is Someone Else" - no murder happens on-screen during the episode, though the person Monk impersonates is killed when he is struck by a bus.
    • Natalie's debut episode, "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring" only has someone killed in self-defense (by Natalie herself!) at the beginning, while no actual murders take place within the episode.
    • Another one of Natalie's early episodes put an interesting twist where the plot involves an attempted assassination against Natalie by an unknown sniper. The Criminal was actually targeting the photocopier, his plan being to put it out of commission so that it would have to be replaced in order to keep anyone from discovering the jammed paper inside that could convict him for arms dealing. Natalie just happened to be nearby and he wrote a threatening note to throw off the police.
  • NCIS often averts this as they deal with a lot of kidnappings. As well as the occasional smuggling and espionage.
    • And they subverted it entirely in at least one episode of season 2, "Black Water." They find the body of a Navy officer who disappeared two years ago because of a car crash, and in the end, it turns out that it really was an accident, and the wreckage was tampered with to make it look like it had been a murder by a private investigator wanting to cash in on a reward for finding the officer's killer.
  • Dragnet managed to avoid this trope by rotating Joe Friday and his various partners through all divisions of the LAPD. As a result, they proved it was possible to craft a compelling half-hour of television about a hunt for a shoplifter.
    • Adam-12, a Dragnet spin-off, also managed to avoid this trope in showing the average working day of two regular cops. Of course, when they didn't avoid it, as in the famous episode "Elegy For A Pig", it really hits home.
  • Pushing Daisies, by its very nature. The main character's crime-solving usefulness is mainly predicated on his ability to wake the dead, so other kinds of crime are not relevant. Although not all the deaths were murders.
    • Also, one episode involved Emerson tracking down a missing girl; however, someone was murdered afterwards.
  • Bones:
    • This is true mainly because half the cast only works with dead people. There's always a corpse, but it isn't always murder-a few deaths have turned out to be accidents.
    • Recent notable subversion, "The Patriot in Purgatory": Vasiri identified the remains of a homeless vet who had died days after the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. By the end of the episode, they confirmed that he had died from injuries sustained while pulling people out of the rubble.
    • A late-season episode "The Lost in the Found" has a prep school student's remains being found in a park. While the initial signs point to a murder, it turns out the girl actually committed suicide in a very complex way that would've made it look like her bullies had killed her, which would've led to their arrests.
  • Jonathan Creek played this straight most of the time, though it was occasionally averted in later seasons.
  • Inspector Morse pretty much does this one straight all the time, which is especially ironic considering that in real life Oxford has had barely any murders in the past 50 years.
    • One death that appeared to be an accident really was an accident, but Morse's investigation uncovered an art fraud ring.
  • Murder, She Wrote, appropriately to its title, plays this painfully straight in all but seven episodes; two were suicides made to look like murders, three were cases of self-defense), at least one story turned out to just be a dream, and the murder victim survived the attempt on their life in the Christmas special. Jessica Fletcher was an incidental bystander for twelve seasons and six TV-movies.
  • Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, the millionaire couple who were also hobbyist hawkshaws, found themselves mixed up in murder in roughly two-thirds of their (more than 100) adventures.
  • Averted in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates where, more realistically than Murder, She Wrote, the little-old-lady PI generally doesn't investigate murders. Sometimes her cases tie into a murder. It is not a murder she's investigating, however, but something related - e.g., blackmail.
  • In Supernatural:
    • Almost every "case" the brothers take on begins with someone dying horribly. Of course, the killer is usually a ghost, demon, or monster of some kind, so whether it's technically murder is open to question (is it still homicide when the perpetrator died before the victim?).
    • And while the brothers are ghostie and ghoulie magnets even outside of their tendency to be tangled up in the latest Myth Arc and targeted, they also find their jobs and intentionally drive ridiculous distances to them based on accounts of especially suspicious-sounding deaths in newspapers. With this modus operandi, it makes sense that it would usually be murder, given creepy death apparently draws them like bees to honey.
    • There was at least one time it actually was murder, in that the ghost they thought was their perp was actually trying to give warning about the crooked cop who knifed her and the imminence of his knifing them. Naturally, he arrested the guys for his crime that they thought had been committed by a dead woman.
  • Cold Case usually plays this trope straight. However, there were at least four deaths ruled as accident ("Fly Away", "The Boy in the Box", "Yo, Adrian", and "Roller Girl") and at least three others ruled as suicides or as a result of suicides ("Daniella", "Best Friends", and "Two Weddings"), at least one ruled as self-defense/justifiable homicide ("Justice"). Heck, one case even had the presumed victim still be alive ("Fireflies").
  • Subverted in an episode of Quincy, M.E.: The corpse of the man who had apparently been beaten to death in an alley really died of natural causes: he'd had a medical condition which caused convulsions, and he'd beaten himself to death. Also averted in at least two episodes: "Semper Fi" (in which a soldier found dead while doing night maneuvers turned out to have committed suicide) and "Murder By S.O.P." (where the doctor who knows who committed that episode's murder and can prove it is killed in a car accident which is a genuine car accident).
  • Averted by White Collar, where, oddly enough, white collar crimes are investigated.
  • Heartbeat dealt with other kinds of serious crime too - including abortion in one episode (which was still illegal at the time the series was set).
  • Unforgettable so far has had every episode center around a homicide, though sometimes other crimes are discovered over the course of the homicide investigation. Justified in that the main characters are homicide detectives.
  • Averted in one episode of Life On Mars, in which it seems like a man working in a factory has been brutally slashed to death, and one older worker confesses to murdering him and trying to cover it up. It turns out that actually, the wounds the man died of line up to one big, whip-like blow, made when the metal-reinforced, leather belt on his machine snapped. The 'murderer' tried to cover up what really happened so that the mill wouldn't be shut down, because the workers were in a union dispute and had no job security.
  • Early on in Quantum Leap, usually the thing that Sam had to put right was, though life-altering, not usually fatal (like winning a baseball game, stopping a girl from marrying the wrong person, or inspiring Buddy Holly to write "Peggy Sue"). However, in later seasons, nearly every episode involved Sam having to take action, or else X...would die!
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a series where most deaths have supernatural causes, this is averted in "The Body" where Buffy's mother dies from natural causes. Xander suspected Glory was behind it, but this was disregarded because if Glory was behind it she would have made sure they knew it.
  • On the real-life show Unsolved Mysteries, this happened quite frequently. A large number of the cases would be introduced by host Robert Stack announcing that a body was found and saying often verbatim, "The police say a suicide, but his family says murder.". Though it was often split; sometimes it was obviously a suicide, and the show's producers were simply sympathizing with the family; in others, it was so obviously not a suicide that you wonder who the police thought they were fooling.
  • Usually averted on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The detectives get a murder from time to time but most of the cases are crimes like robbery, missing persons, or even purse snatching and vandalism. This is played with in one episode where the detective quickly decides that the death was caused by natural causes and then slacks off while he waits for a confirmation from the medical examiner. When it turns out that the man was poisoned, the detective is quite embarrassed. However, once cause of death is established, the case is easily solved since all the evidence points to the wife and she immediately confesses when confronted.
  • In Psych, there are several mere attempted murders, plus a few times when a death was made to look like an animal attack, though Shawn insisted said attacks were murders and was always proven right.
  • In one arc of Forensic Heroes, instead of the typical murder case that the Forensic unit handle, they had to deal with a famous celebrity who had recently been assaulted and found unconscious, and it all points to the entertainment industry looking to destroy her career. It turns out she had reneged on an offer to help donate bone marrow to a girl, her mother was upset by that, and the ensuing chase found her unconscious. There was no murder but the celebrity had to finally face the fallout of her actions.
  • Goes without saying in Midsomer Murders: although a few episodes open with Barnaby investigating less serious crimes, it always ends up in a murder investigation. Also very old deaths that were put down to accidents or suicide almost always turn out to be murders as well.
    • The murder rate in the (fictional) county of Midsomer should have left it a ghost town (well, county).
    • One episode opens with Barnaby preparing to arrest a low life criminal; when the police swoop to make the arrest they find the criminal lying dead on the ground with a pitchfork sticking out of his back. Barnaby takes one look and utters "Oh for goodness sake!"
    • Highly downplayed in the episode Blue Herrings. Given the show, you are primed to expect the deaths to be murders despite the setting being a retirement home, somewhere where death of natural causes is not uncommon… but in the end, only one of the deaths in the episode was murder in a legal sense, and it was so heavily slanted as a Mercy Kill that it doesn't exactly feel like a murder.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: The case might start out as locating a missing hat, but someone's going to die soon enough. The title should be something of a clue.
  • Averted in Criminal Minds, as even though most of the BAU's cases involve serial killers, they've also dealt with kidnappings, rapists, and non-fatal arsonists in their time.
  • Forever (2014):
    • Lampshaded in "6 A. M." where a character who has been given odds that Henry Morgan will rule a death to be murder says that it's a sucker bet because Henry always says that it's murder.
    • Subverted in "The Art of Murder" where a suicide unintentionally appears to be a murder after Gloria Carlisle took an overdose, then got dizzy and fell down a flight of stairs before reaching the site she intended to die.
    • Also subverted in "Best Foot Forward" as the ballerina whose dismembered foot led them to believe a murder had been committed is actually still alive and had in fact masterminded the entire event.
    • Zig-zagged in the opening of "Look Before You Leap" where the case of a random victim with an ax in his forehead looks like a clear murder but Henry rules it an accidental death (the guy fell off his roof and the ax fell down after him, Henry's Sherlock Scan determines), and the next case is a supposed bridge jumper whose death looks like a suicide but Henry determines she was murdered.
  • Death in Paradise puts their Always Murder status right in the title. The victim dies in the Cold Open, the detectives show up after the opening title music, and they investigate from there. There was one case where whether it was murder depends on the letter of the law. The death was a suicide attempted to seem as if it was a robbery gone wrong (so the life insurance still applied), but was deliberately caused by another person — the victim's doctor, who had lied that the victim had a terminal illness specifically so that he would commit suicide, even helping a bit with the 'make it seem as if it was a robbery gone wrong' part to encourage it further.
  • Subverted in Castle. Kate Beckett is a homicide detective so she and Richard Castle are typically on the trail of a murder (and, lo, there are many) but occasionally there will be cases in the series that aren't murders (such as Kate being called to help investigate a kidnapping or sending her undercover as a narcotics mole). There are also incidents where the murder ends up auxiliary to the main plot (such as when Castle is taken hostage during a bank robbery but Castle relaying info out to the hostage negotiation team leads to Esposito and Ryan coming across a connected murder that they are able to use to figure out why the bank robbery was actually committed and track down the guy who orchestrated both events).
  • Averted in one (and so far only one) Murdoch Mysteries episode: "Raised on Robbery" is about a bank heist, and while the robbers hold one person at gunpoint when they're discovered, they never actually kill anyone. (It's not an Everybody Lives episode, though, because the robbers themselves are killed trying to escape.)
  • Diagnosis: Murder, fitting its title. Though there are a few episodes where characters only think a murder happened.
  • Cannon was a homicide cop turned private eye. His cases fell into these categories:
    • Clear My Name cases, where his client was falsely accused of murder;
    • Cases where a private client hired him to find a loved one’s murderer;
    • Cases where he was hired (often by an insurance company) to investigate an unusual death that inevitably turned out to be murder; and
    • Cases that started out with no dead body at all, but someone was sure to be killed by act 2.
  • Generally averted on Barney Miller, where the detectives generally dealt with the full breadth of crimes committed in Manhattan's 12th Precinct. In one two-parter, the Inspector pulls strings to have them assigned to a newly-formed Homicide "specialty squad", and the grind of having to deal with nothing but grisly murders very quickly wears them out.

  • Lampshaded by The Clash in "I'm So Bored with the USA":
Yankee detectives
Are always on the TV
Because killers in America
Work seven days a week

  • Parodied in Animal Crackers, when Spaulding is examining the painting John has forged:
    Spaulding: It's signed Beaugard. There's the criminal, Beaugard.
    John: No, Beaugard is dead.
    Spaulding: Beaugard is dead. Then it's murder.

    Video Games 
  • All of the cases in Ace Attorney seem to involve a murder of some kind:
    • Phoenix Wright, a novice attorney with zero in-court experience, takes the murder trial of his friend as his first case. Everyone from his boss to the judge is astonished that he would jump in feet-first when there are so many other kinds of cases that he could work on before accepting such a high-stakes case.
    • If you present Mia's autopsy report to Gumshoe, Phoenix says how unusual it is for a newbie lawyer to take on two murders in a row. Though in Phoenix's defense, he tried to have a more experienced lawyer take the case... it's just that the guy Phoenix asked refused because Mia's real murderer was a highly influential blackmailer. It was either Phoenix take the case, or an overworked public defender who'd probably do the bare minimum.
    • In "Rise from the Ashes", Gumshoe ponders why there seem to be no other crime reports apart from murder in this district.
    • The one case Phoenix takes that isn't a murder (theft of a Fey Clan heirloom) turns out to be a cover for a murder across town. Maya lampshades it:
      "I'm so used to thinking of the victim as a dead person 'cause we're always on murder cases."
    • Case 2 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney starts off with three seemingly unrelated cases (a hit-and-run, a noodle stand theft, and a panty theft) before they all come together in—you guessed it—a murder.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations:
      • The third case starts out as a kidnapping, until someone ends up dead. He turns out to be a kidnapper. Sort of.
      • The whole game is Always Murder incarnate. With the exception of a flashback case that also had a double murder, the game takes place over three days and Edgeworth solves four murder cases in that timeframe (including two murders in a single day, one of which happens in his own office, no less).
    • Gyakuten Kenji 2/Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has a case where Edgeworth and a friend go to a location to discuss a murder case that took place there 18 years prior. They wind up getting caught in a poison gas attack (that doesn't kill anyone) and then discover the body from the past case during the resulting investigation (it had been lost at the time). This results in Edgeworth solving both the poison gas case and the 18-year old murder case simultaneously (because everyone still alive from the past case is also at the site that day, including the person who really killed the victim).
    • The case that ends up causing Phoenix to lose his attorney's badge was actually suicide.
    • 1-3 has a death of a man that seems like a homicide but was actually manslaughter in self-defense.
    • In "Rise from the Ashes", The backstory case is one really convoluted example. What seems like a straightforward case of Joe Darke killing Neil Marshall is actually discovered to be a frame-up because Lana didn't want it known that her sister Ema committed manslaughter (shoved Marshall into a sharp object in a panicked attempt to break up a brawl), but Phoenix later uncovers that Ema was also framed by Damon Gant, who murdered Neil Marshall and framed Ema so that Lana would frame Darke. So it was a murder, made to look like a manslaughter, that was made to look like a different murder.
    • Subverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies during the DLC case involving defending an Orca and eventually her trainer. It turns out the victim wasn't murdered at all, his death was entirely accidental, and the "culprit" actually tried to save him. The culprit did attempt to kill the orca, however, but then decided framing her for murder was just as good.
    • Subverted in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in the first case: Espella is accused of several crimes, but not murder. You even cross-examine the victim Espella allegedly hit with a pipe. Played straight in every subsequent case, though (as a secondary charge, with witchcraft being the primary concern).
    • Spirit of Justice:
      • Phoenix travels to a far-off land on personal affairs only to find himself defending murder suspects once he's there (though this is in part due to the fact that the country he's visiting has eliminated the concept of defense attorneys in lieu of spirit communication so he's merely trying to prevent unjust verdicts). However, in case 3, the two deaths were caused in self-defense and a suicide, respectively.
      • Played with during the third case as the "murder" Phoenix is investigating is actually a complicated suicide that was designed to shift blame away from his wife, who would have been tried and convicted of capital murder for a self-defense killing she committed against someone who was very likely going to kill her. The Pool of Souls prevents her from getting a fair trial as she would be instantly portrayed as guilty with no one willing to defend her, so her husband contrived his own suicide in a bid to throw suspicion off her and pin his and the actual victim's deaths on a family friend.
      • The first part of case 5 is a civil trial, where you play as Apollo Justice against Phoenix Wright. The trial in question is over who claims ownership of a relic that belonged to an archaeologist who died in an accident. Of course, it turns out that he was actually murdered, and the verdict ends up hinging on whether the plaintiff or the defendant was responsible.
    • Subverted in The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures in the second case where the incident was involuntary manslaughter thanks to a set of unfortunate coincidences and misunderstandings. The fourth case averts the trope by having the victim merely stabbed in the back but not dead, as well as revealing that it was just an accident.
      • Played with in the second case of The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve. The victim originally thought to be dead by poisoning, but then revealed to have barely survived the attempt, so the defendant is only prosecuted for attempted murder. However, then it turns out that victim was responsible for one death which originally thought to be an accident.
  • In the Laura Bow games, various people commit various crimes that always end in murder.
  • The web game Sleuth has you create and play a private detective. Apparently though, the only crime you ever investigate is murder. Every case is a murder, with nary a blackmailing or kidnapping or burglary or missing person or a stakeout to catch a cheating spouse in sight. And what's more, in many cases one or more of your suspects might get killed due to the killer either claiming more victims or trying to cover their tracks. Occasionally this is slightly played with, as sometimes it turns out that the original victim whose death you were asked to investigate isn't actually dead, and they used either a lookalike's body or the body of a long lost relative to fake their death for one reason or another.
  • Generally averted in L.A. Noire. While cases tend to open with murder or attempted murder, several don't, such as when you deal with a rash of car thefts. In the cases that do have murders, the investigation often winds up revealing bigger crimes, such as pornography rings, drug trade, corporate espionage, and a massive real-estate conspiracy.
  • Virtue's Last Reward is so twisty with this that, depending on which timeline and path you play in the game, straight plays can seem like subverts and vice-versa, and entire parts become completely different, and in actual fact, in a sense most of the main murders end up not having murder victims depending on which way you look at it.
    • This is concerning mainly Alice and Luna's "murders" but can also be applied to the murder of Akane and most of the twisty nature of this trope comes down the way the plot is presented.
    • Alice is straight out shown to commit suicide in some paths, while in others she's found dead and the characters assume she was murdered. This in itself is subverted in dialogue, by several people who point out they can't assume she was murdered. In one of the paths, you have to use info from another path where you saw her commit suicide to prove to someone that there's no "murderer". In other paths, she is found without a knife in her stomach, which is different to the weapon she used in other timelines to commit suicide, thus throwing more subversion into the works.
    • Luna never died, due to her being a robot. But you don't learn this until the end of one of the paths, with the other paths treating it like she was murdered. Even the person who "gave her the killing blow" thought she killed her.
    • Depending on what path you're talking about, Akane's either murdered or she's not. In the case where she's not murdered, she was SUPPOSED to have been murdered. Or at least, that's what it seems like. But it turns out that, due to "future choices affect the past", she actually was STOPPED from being murdered in the past, due to a certain series of choices leading to her death being erased.
  • Every single case in Criminal Case involves a murder. Sometimes, other lesser crimes (e.g. kidnappings, drug trafficking, theft, illegal trespassing) are involved in the Additional Investigation, but the main chapters is always about the murder.
  • Justified and invoked in Danganronpa. Monokuma, the one making the rules for the Deadly Game, explicitly states that trials are to be held for murders and only murders. Even when, in the first game, a personal treasure of the mastermind is stolen, he doesn't act or change the rules (though he does get mighty pissed). On the other hand, Monokuma's definition of murder is basically "anything that results in a dead body and isn't an execution"; an Accidental Murder is treated the same as any other murder, and a suicide is treated as a murder where the victim is the same person as the perpetrator. In the first game, Mondo is considered the second Blackened for committing manslaughter (he was in extreme emotional distress and blacked out while committing the crime), while Sakura is the fourth Blackened for committing suicide.
  • Small Town Murders: While thefts, raids, kidnappings, illegal drug/animal trafficking, and other crimes are sometimes involved, the main meat of each chapter is always to solve a murder.