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Eagle-Eye Detection

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Used in mystery-themed media, where a detective relies on observation of otherwise-unnoticed clues at a crime scene, or discrepancies in witnesses' or suspects' testimony, in order to solve the mystery.

May be related to Awesomeness by Analysis, but in this case the sleuth does not necessarily have to be of genius-level intellect; he/she just needs to be able to pay keen attention to detail and to be able to sift critical information away from irrelevant or unimportant information. It is usually Taught by Experience, and subverts Your Eyes Can Deceive You if the detective knows to look past what is on the surface and seek out the facts, and only the facts. For this trope, not doing research is not a viable option, or else the investigator will come across as incompetent.

Unlike Sherlock Scan, the detective will generally refrain from making (or attempting to make) guesses about a person or situation upon seeing them for the first time; nor can he/she afford to make on-the-spot assumptions about the person, as they may turn out to be false. Instead, if observations are made while interviewing a person, questions may (and in some cases, should) be asked, and checks are then made to confirm or refute the claims that are made.

Also, unlike Hyper-Awareness (which is often used only as a humor-themed gag or for one-time plot purposes), Eagle-Eye Detection is much more realistic and is a constant trait of skilled detectives and investigators. If Hyper Awareness is present in the work in question, it is toned down to a bare minimum, or at the most reduced to realistic levels, so that the viewer (or player in a video game) can learn at the same pace as the fictional protagonist(s).

Once a clue is sighted that may be crucial to solving the case, though, it is not immediately discarded or let go of; the burden then falls on the detective to compare/contrast that clue with other gathered evidence and see how it relates to a suspect's guilt, in order to make their case.

Compare and contrast Hyper-Awareness. Contrast Sherlock Scan.

Not related to Eagle Eye, the 2008 movie.


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     Anime & Manga  

  • The protagonist's speciality in Case Closed is to wander around the crime scene and find trash, scratch marks or details about someone's job, and piece together how and why the murder occured.

     Board Games  

  • A necessary skill in Clue.

     Comic Books  

  • This is one of The Question's most well-known traits. Next to his wild and crazy conspiracy theories, of course.
  • Batman employs this in his investigation of criminals, doing background research and analyzing clues to get information on the case at hand. He often ends up with a wealth of small details that he can piece together to solve the case. This shows up a number of times in the comics:
    • In the Court of Owls storyline, Batman performs an autopsy on a corpse. He notices the body has several traces of physical scarring that mainly occur on martial arts coaches, leading him to deduce that the victim trains fighters (specifically, assassins).
    • During the Hush storyline, Batman realizes that he isn't fighting a revived Jason Todd but instead Clayface when Jason's acrobatics look like Tim Drake's moves and when parts of Clayface start getting left on the ground in the rain.
    • The Endgame storyline has Batman examining Joker's new toxin with a duality motif present in its molecular structure. This clues him into Joker's plans. Namely, that Joker isn't just out to beat the Batfamily but to humiliate and kill them all out of resentment as the "sequel" to their last encounter where Joker was beaten badly and fell off a cliff. Batman later figures out that the Joker found an esoteric chemical after falling off the cliff, allowing him to later find it and develop a cure for the toxin.
  • Robin (Tim) usually does judicious amounts of background research and investigation on his own before approaching a suspect, and tends to notice clues overlooked by the police on scene. He's even employed P.I. Jason Bard to get further information on suspects and have a more experienced viewpoint on the matter. His eye for detail and ability to connect the dots is how he somewhat accidentally discovered Batman's secret id as a child.
  • In The Flash, during the "Death of Iris Allen" story arc, Barry discovered that the supposed murderer, Clive Yorkin, may not in fact have been responsible for Iris's death, and so he did some crime scene investigating, including examination of security camera footage. Turns out it was Professor Zoom who killed Iris at super-speed while going fast enough to be virtually invisible to recording security cameras and thus frame Yorkin for the deed. (Then it turned out Iris was Not Quite Dead.)
  • The Martian Manhunter did this often in his human guise as a private investigator, when he wasn't using his powers.

    Fan Works 

  • In Spirits of the Blitz, when spy handler Reggie Diceman first meets her new double agent Crowley, he's smoking a cigarette that he promptly puts behind his ear. Halfway through the conversation, Diceman notices something strange.
    Diceman's thoughts: Before you tucked that cigarette behind your ear, Nevermore, did I actually see you put it out?
  • In Vow of Nudity, this is one of Serris of Tides' defining character traits. Thanks to his private investigator background, he regularly spots discrepencies in seemingly-innocuous scenes or makes large deductions about people from seemingly little information.

  • Used to investigate the Jack the Ripper killings in From Hell.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, Mascha figures out where to find "Karel Vanek" (i.e. Dr. Svoboda) by first deducing that he's a physician by his bandaging skills, and then locating the correct hospital using something he had mentioned in passing.
  • Hot Fuzz: Nicholas Angel uses this to come up with a very wordy but otherwise plausible theory about the murders accidents taking place in Sandford, centering around (he thinks) a lucrative property deal. Turns out the murders are for a much more mundane reason - keeping up Sandford's level of perfection.
  • Plays a role in Detective Spooner's murder investigation in I, Robot. The murder at first appears to be a suicide; a man throwing himself through a closed window. Spooner notices the security mesh, and finds he's unable to break it by smacking it with a chair(and later it's revealed he has a prosthetic arm strong enough to punch through pre-stressed concrete), meaning an elderly man like the victim would have no hope of doing it, and a robot was likely the culprit. Turns out it was assisted suicide - the robot threw him out the window on his request.
  • In National Treasure, it becomes an important skill for the protagonists to advance through the plot.
  • In The Pelican Brief (based on the novel of the same name), the titular document was formed due to Darby Shaw's (played by Julia Roberts) investigations based on a theory she came up with regarding the assassination of two Supreme Court judges. To form the brief, she researched the dead judges' case records and kept an eye open for any traits the two men may have had in common.
  • In Sleepy Hollow (1999), this is Ichabod Crane's preferred method of solving the mysterious murders in the titular village. He uses revolutionary (for the time period) methods of investigation, including autopsies of dead bodies, and scoffs at the supernatural explanations the residents come up with (due to his own Harmful to Minors childhood memories of his Sinister Minister father). The supernatural explanations turn out to be true, but he is vindicated by applying deductive reasoning to them to produce the human who arranged it.


  • Agatha Christie's character Hercule Poirot may be the Ur-Example, or a candidate thereof.
  • Plays a role in The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries.
  • The children's book series The Puzzle Club, and the animated series based on it, is about a trio of children who solve mysteries this way.
  • Several Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are solved this way.
  • Sherlock Holmes himself did this in many of his early cases. A Study in Scarlet, for instance, devotes a couple of pages to his careful inspection of the scene of the crime and his picking up on details that didn't catch the attention of the police. Also, the short story Silver Blaze required that he visit the two separate crime scenes to collect evidence in order to make his case.
    • Holmes-inspired Dr. Thorndyke is also known for looking at clues other investigators - including the police - regularly miss. In "The Case of Oscar Brodski", a murder victim was found with smashed glass from his glasses, which the murderer planted so the scene looked like an accident. Thorndyke instantly noticed that the size and condition of the glass pieces were inconsistent with the "accident", each other, and the frames. He reassembled the glasses, noticed that there were an extra pieces, and assumed it was from a drinking glass, which turned out to be from the murder's home.
  • The Retrieval Artist series of sci-fi detective novels has Noelle DeRicci, a detective with the Armstrong lunar police force, whose ability at deciphering crime scenes compares favorably with that of any TV CSI. Pity that she's often the Only Sane Woman on the scene.
  • Used by Kyri in Phoenix Rising to find the first clues on who killed her parents. However, due to inexperience she and her brother draw the wrong conclusions first.
  • A non-mystery example: it's noted in the first Harry Potter book that Harry, as a Quidditch Seeker, has stronger powers of observation than many other people, and a knack for noticing things that others miss. It helps him during the gauntlet of tests underneath the school which lead to the titular Plot Coupon.

     Live Action TV  
  • Adam-12: Along with his uncanny ability to focus, one of the strongest traits of Officer Reed. He recalls license plates while carrying on normal conversations with beat partner Malloy, can spot ringers posing as hostages, recalls memos about serial numbers attached to stolen goods ... on the list goes. At the slightest glance of trouble, Reed immediately alerts others and investigates.
  • Frequently happens in the Law & Order series, especially the first incarnation.
  • CSI and its various incarnations, with the detective work taking place mostly in the crime lab.
  • Happens in every episode of Murder, She Wrote, with each mystery solved by Jessica Fletcher outlining a visual clue that was shown earlier in the episode, and a clip of said visual clue playing back for exposition.
  • Featured during the investigative portions of The Good Wife.
  • Takes place in the lawyer drama series Close To Home.
  • Shown often in The Closer.
  • Without a Trace: Investigations in each episode depend on this.
  • Used in the 1991 series Silk Stalkings to investigate upper-class sex-themed crimes.
  • NCIS had this in its first incarnation, mostly inside the forensics lab or the autopsy room.
  • Psych: Shawn Spencer's eye for detail and photographic memory are so keen they border on a super power. (And indeed, he uses those skills to pose as a psychic.)
  • Lampshaded when Columbo is investigating a murder committed by a genius. He mentions how he went through the police academy with all these smart college-educated people, who he didn't think he could keep up with, but does so by paying attention to every detail.
  • Dorothy is shown to have this in one episode of The Golden Girls, when the four housemates attend a murder mystery weekend event. Dorothy not only solves the mystery in the play being shown, but when Blanche's boss turns up murdered for real, she solves that too. The boss is fine. It was all a stunt.

     Video Games  

  • A necessary tool in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series.
  • The Trope Namer is Eagle Eye Mysteries, a detective-themed Edutainment Game series; in particular, the second game had a feature where the glowing boxes that usually denoted witnesses or clues could be turned off, forcing the player to be that much more observant of the scenery in looking for clues. The series itself also required the player to select the best clues that told the facts, proved or disproved witness statements, and generally painted a plausible picture of what happened and why.
  • Could be considered an in-universe example in L.A. Noire, where L.A.P.D. Detective Cole Phelps is known within the department for being a better-than-average detective, ostensibly because of this ability.
  • Often required of players in Hidden Object Games.

     Web Original  

  • Online text-based game Sleuth relies on the player to pay attention to all clues and witness statements using this trope.

     Western Animation  

     Real Life  

  • Crime scene investigators and detectives have to pay attention to every detail of a case, in order to build convincing evidence for/against a suspect. All aspects of the evidence have to make sense and be able to stand up in a court of law. Anyone who has spend enough time in court (as part of their work, that is), will have had enough opportunity to observe trial proceedings and see how different pieces of evidence have to come together to build a case for/against a defendant.
  • On the fun side, this plays a role in murder mystery-themed parties.