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Who Murdered the Asshole

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Anne Oldman: A man as unpopular as Aiden Hawkchurch, must be a million suspects.
Radio presenter: ...Now I'm delighted to say we've just heard that the celebrity chef Aiden Hawkchurch has been murdered!
Jack Cloth: A million and one.

Bob has died under mysterious circumstances. The homicide detectives arrive, looking for someone with a motive to kill him, and quickly find Alice... and Charlie... and Devan... and Erika.... and Tropey the dog… and Zagred the garbage man… Turns out, Bob was such a wretch that anyone would gladly have done the deed.

Establishing that the victim was widely despised makes for a more complex murder mystery because of the way it broadens the pool of suspects. This helps to draw out the investigation and also makes obtaining a conviction harder, as the jury might sympathize with the killer. Expect the police to comment at some point that maybe Bob had it coming, or that his killer did the world a favor. Typically, the truth will be shown that the murder was unrelated to Bob's despicable nature (or at least not directly related). Alternatively, it will come out that Everybody Did It: Bob's victims conspired to off him, and their attempts to cover for each other make the investigation more difficult. In any case, Bob's killer will generally remain sympathetic to the audience unless they were even more loathsome than Bob.

Because of the morally challenging nature of this plot, it's best to send a By-the-Book Cop or a Knight in Sour Armor to solve the crime because they try not to become emotionally invested. A common message in these kinds of stories is that two wrongs do not make a right.

See also Asshole Victim, the subject of a plot like this.

This is a Death Trope, so beware of unmarked spoilers! noreallife

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Ace Attorney Investigations manga, Emi St. Cloud is one, being a selfish Jerkass who puts on a good image for the public and plays the heroine in Othello Detectives. However, she was not killed by any of the people she wronged, but out of a belief that her death and her fiance, who is one of the male leads, being arrested for her murder would prevent Othello Detectives from being released.
  • In the Ace Attorney manga, this happens with Robin Wolfe. In the recent past, he invited Eddie Johnson, a talented employee who didn't work well with others, to his house for a private chat, and tortured him in the Den of Spiders, resulting in Eddie being Driven to Suicide. This angered Eddie's brother, Brock, as well as Robin's daughter, Lira (who was in a relationship with Eddie, and believed her father killed him because he didn't approve). When you consider that Robin's brother Bobby has long resented him for treating him like a nuisance, and Robin has a cold relationship with his wife, Theridia, virtually everyone wants him dead.
  • Case Closed: The frequent use of Asshole Victim in this murder mystery series means this trope is commonly applied.
  • While many a case arc in The Kindaichi Case Files builds on the premise that Everyone Is a Suspect, occasionally the criminal investigation in a given case becomes more challenging because the murder victim is so reviled that (part of) the difficulty in finding the culprits is in narrowing down from the potential suspects.
    • After an actress has died as the first murder victim in "The Snow Demon Legend Murder Case", the director believes the cameraman, who's missing at the moment and, therefore, the presumed most likely suspect, is the culprit due to the two of them having gotten into fights back when they were reporters. One of the actors, however, disagrees by arguing that this line of argument would mark everyone among the participants in this case arc having been in the show business long enough with her as a prime suspect due to her notorious reputation as The Prima Donna.
      Oh, come on. If you're looking for motives, pretty much everybody here has one.
    • In the "Student Kengo Akechi Case File", Kenmochi quickly found out in his investigation into the murder case that the murder victim, being an infamous Serial Rapist, had so many girls victimized and too traumatized by him to report his crimes to the police that the sheer amount of suspects was enough to overwhelm him unless he found a way to narrow the suspect list down. Luckily for him, Akechi was able and willing to step up to the challenge.
      Kenmochi: The victim is really hated by college girls here. There will be too many people to keep an eye on...

    Comic Books 
  • The plot of Watchmen is kicked off when aging former crimefighter Eddie Blake (aka "The Comedian") mysteriously turns up dead on the sidewalk outside his New York apartment, prompting his former colleague "Rorschach" to investigate his murder. It soon becomes clear that Blake was a complete and utter sociopath (and an unrepentant rapist and murderer) who was hated by almost everyone who knew him, making Rorschach's investigation all the more difficult.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Myndi Mayer started out as an amusing Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but by the time she was found murdered in her office she'd become far less pleasant and alienated and pissed off everyone she knew besides Wonder Woman after descending back into her cocaine addiction. The high number of people with the motive to kill her is looked at before it's discovered she killed herself with an overdose, before getting shot by someone who didn't realize she was already dead.

    Fan Works 
  • A Bad Week at the Wizengamot: after being put in jail, Umbridge was apparently murdered behind bars when she got too lippy with a witch who was much smarter and stronger than her. No one was ever punished for her death because she had become so loathed by everyone inside the prison: the warden, the guards, all the other prisoners, and even the house-elves.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Nearly everyone has a motive to kill the murdered Director in "The Murder Mystery".
  • Bolts from the Blue!: A downplayed example in chapter 8. ​A riot breaks out at Hogwarts because the students have gotten tired of Slytherin's bullying, and demand "SLYTHERIN'S OUT!". During the chaos, Draco Malfoy is cursed and injured, and when his father arrives on the scene, he demands to know who did it. No fewer than 15 students raise their hands.
  • Codex Equus: Discussed and deconstructed In-Universe. As Cultura explains to Jade Shell in one drabble, she finds it an interesting trope because of the moral dilemma involved: It's very easy to dismiss a murder case and let the Sympathetic Murderers go free because the victim is an Asshole Victim, but in many situations, obstructing a murder investigation based on petty grudges would only make you an Accomplice By In Action. In regards to the topic, hardline judicial factions believe in punishing both the killers and those who condoned them, while their moderate counterparts insist on giving mercy to those who didn't participate in the actual crime. In one incident, a group of frustrated Poenans arrested an entire village because their collective grudge against the murder victim prevented them from finding the killer. While the adults were subjected to hard labor as punishment, their innocent children were spared and adopted by the Poenans, who trained them to become a new generation of crusaders, inquisitors, paladins, and judicators. The Just Detectives were appalled by the Poenans' ruthless handling of the situation.
    Just Detective: You arrested ALL of them?
    Poenan Judicator: Of course we had. They had all refused to cooperate in the investigation, merely because they all believe the victim deserved it and condoned the killing. That automatically made them accomplices to the killer's crime. That we caught the killer himself is merely an incidental bonus. Now they will ALL pay for their crimes.
  • Dangan Ronpa Forever Despair: The Amoral Attorney, Ryo Nakahara, an abusive and overall Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, is killed in the third chapter. While there was an extra motive, it's hard to tell who had any additional emotional reasoning to kill her, because she was by far the most disliked in the group.
  • The Murder of Lila Rossi: Given a bit of a twist; half the cast thinks that Lila was the sweetest girl they knew, a constant victim of unfair bullying. The other half knows that she was a lying snake who would do anything to get ahead. The cop involved initially looks into the second group as the obvious suspects, but then realizes that the first group could easily have done it if they discovered that Lila had been lying to them (and ruined their friendships) for years. In the end, it turns out to be one of Lila's old victims who happened to be in the city. When she realized that Lila was still lying and manipulating everyone, she snapped and killed her to end the cycle.
  • Murderer's Row: Andy was never well-liked in the prison on account of being an unpleasant Jerkass, but he winds up The Scapegoat for the massive prison riot at the end of Volume 2note . Since the riot killed multiple prisoners and guards, the entire prison winds up baying for his blood, and he "disappears" shortly after. Absolutely no one gives a shit or even bothers to investigate since he was just that hated.
  • The New Retcons: Elly Patterson was such an unpopular, domineering busybody that in the murder mystery arc, "Who Silenced Elly Patterson?", every citizen of her hometown starts off as a potential suspect. It turns out to be her best friend Connie out of a jealous rage because of Elly's Incompatible Orientation. Connie claims it was an accident and her target was John.
  • Retrograde Motion: The first half of the story deals with the murder of the Joker, who was killed not long after the younger Jason returned to Gotham with his teammates and Dick. Naturally, figuring out the motive is the difficult part, because everyone in Gotham has a motive. The culprit turns out to be Artemis, who originally had no motive to hate the Joker until she found out he was Jason's original murderer. Even then, it was a crime of passion; she wasn't planning on killing him that night, but Bizarro and her stumbled upon him by chance, and Artemis had already sworn to kill him if given the opportunity.
  • We Are Nothing: When Freddy Krueger begins his killing spree at Hogwarts, the initial investigation is stymied by the fact that his first two victims were Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape, neither of whom had exactly endeared themselves to the majority of the student body. It's only after Seamus Finnigan (someone who was actually well-liked by his classmates) becomes the third victim that the Ministry of Magic starts a full-fledged investigation.
  • In the first chapter of Where Talent Goes to Die, the victim, Shiro Kurogane, had made a negative impression on anyone who'd spent any significant amount of time with him and had a grudge against Kaori Miura, the protagonist, for defeating him in a game of shogi. The killer ended up killing him in order to frame Miura and graduate, although said killer did honestly dislike Kurogane.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Blood Harvest, Jill's father is a banker who was hated by the community for foreclosing on farms. So when Jill's parents go missing and their home is vandalized, there's no shortage of suspects.
  • In Broad Daylight: After town bully Len Rowan is killed on a Darby, Missouri street, various law enforcement agencies find the entire community quite unwilling to help them find the parties that shot Rowan in the back. Crazier still, this is one of the few examples of this trope in film Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
  • The murder victim in the movie Bully, which is based on a real homicide of a teen who bullied and abused his best friend, his best friend's girlfriend, and all of his associates.
  • One of the earlier examples in film is Cover Up 1949, where everybody in town plays cagey about the unexpected suicide of the despised local tycoon Roger Philips — not because they know anything about it, but they all suspect murder and want to passively impede the insurance investigator's report so whoever killed him isn't punished for it. Ultimately, he learns that the late, lamented Dr. Gerrow, who passes away from a heart attack during his time there, had a nervous breakdown over Philips' cruelty and shot him, but the Sheriff and Mr. Weatherby kept it a secret, for fear that the most beloved man in town being a murderer would permanently demoralize the community; the investigator decides to label it "suicide" on the official report. It was released by United Artists, in part because the Production Code would've frowned on a movie that involved a murderer going ambiguously unpunished, or sympathetic law enforcement participating in a conspiracy to hide the truth, had it been a larger distributor.
  • In Crooked House, Aristide Leonides was not a very nice man. He controlled his family by playing cruel mind games. Every single person related to him had a good reason for wanting him dead.
  • Inverted in Don't Torture a Duckling: the townspeople use the string of murders as an excuse to accuse all the local outsiders and misfits of being murderers, including a witch and a mentally ill man.
  • The film Drowning Mona centers around solving the murder of a cruel woman, found in her car at the bottom of a lake, who was hated by everyone in a small town, making almost everyone in the town a suspect. It turned out several characters were responsible for the murder, and none of them were working together or knew what the others were up to.
  • Gattaca has this as a subplot, though in this case, the murderer does turn out to be someone with a grudge against the victim. Complicating the investigation further is that one of the detectives believes the murderer to have been an "invalid" (person who has not been genetically engineered, the way everyone else at the institute has) and his motivation to have been the victim's finding this out about him. Moreover, the real culprit turns out to be one who was genetically engineered to have an even-tempered personality, despite having very brutally bludgeoned the victim to death.
  • Gosford Park. Though the victim as we see him is portrayed relatively sympathetically, seeming to be a fairly nice old duffer with a horrible harpy of a wife (she tears chunks out of him at dinner in front of all their friends), his past is not so clear and when he is murdered it turns out everyone had a motive. Though in fact all the people with real, personal motives are ignored as they are only the servants.
  • Inverted in Knives Out. The people who had motive to kill Harlan Thrombey all thought that he was the asshole and try to convince Benoit Blanc of this, but it's soon made clear that Harlan was the Only Sane Man in his Big, Screwed-Up Family, trying to get them to finally shape up. The suspects all had legitimate reason to hate Harlan, but in each of their cases, it came down to them being assholes, not him.
  • Invoked by police captain Dudley Smith when he kills his business partner Sid Hudgens in L.A. Confidential. Hudgens ran a tabloid where he routinely outed people in Hollywood as gay or Communists (both career killers in the early 1950s), covered (or created) celebrity scandals, and speculated on organized crime and political corruption in Los Angeles. So when Hudgens is found murdered, the natural thought is that after years of doing that he finally ran a story or found dirt on the wrong person, not that he was part of an elaborate criminal conspiracy and became a loose end.
    Detective: Somebody beat him to death and stole a bunch of his files. Must've dug up garbage on the wrong way. Got it narrowed down to a thousand suspects.
  • In Murder Mystery, before the events of the film, Malcolm stole the fiancées of two of the suspects and treated his son badly for being gay. Shortly before dying, he tells everyone they're leeches and that he plans to cut them out of the will.
  • This trope is exaggerated with the victim in the various film adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express. See the novel's Literature entry below for further information.
  • In Once Upon A Crime (2023), the victim was obsessed with forcibly cutting off the hair of beautiful women, giving nearly every girl in the kingdom a motive for his murder, and he was blackmailing the prince for good measure as well.
  • Discussed in The Toxic Avenger after Toxie murders the criminal Cigar Face's associates Knuckles and Nipples to save the life of a policeman they were terrorizing. Mayor Belgoody and his cronies are trying to figure out who would kill Knuckles and Nipples, one of the men bringing up that the two crooks were hated by everyone.


By Author:

  • Agatha Christie liked to do this:
    • Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express is worth mentioning in particular, being doubly an Asshole Victim. He's portrayed as a total jackass from the minute he steps on board, so don't feel too guilty when he's splattered across a Pullman carriage for the watcher's entertainment, and as Poirot investigates his death, he learns that Ratchett managed to grievously wrong almost every single passenger on the train (by kidnapping and murdering a little girl, causing the death of her mother and unborn sibling and driving to suicide her father and maid, and getting Off on a Technicality for all of it), giving all of them a motive... which is why all of them worked together to off him. Poirot eventually chooses to let the murderers go because Ratchett's death wasn't worth the hassle of prosecuting all his killers.
    • Mr. Shaitana in Cards on the Table, who has a collection of successful murderers — the ones he knows got away with it — and invites them to a party calculated to make them squirm. Christie plays with this one, as Poirot immediately points out that this is not a safe hobby. Much of the book is spent trying to find out what murders the suspects previously committed. As a further sign of Shaitana's arrogance, very late in the book, it is revealed that one of the so-called "murderers" was actually innocent of his original crime, and thus did not deserve to be put through Shaitana's mind game in the first place.
    • Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot's Christmas is a selfish old millionaire, who plays sadistic mind games with his family. Here, however, the murder was actually personal revenge.
    • The sadistic Lord Edgware in Lord Edgware Dies. However, as in Appointment with Death, the murder was committed for selfish motives. His Gold Digger wife needed him dead because her next target wouldn't marry a divorcee but might marry a widow.
    • Colonel Protheroe of The Murder at the Vicarage is the most despised man in the village; even the local vicar says that killing him would be a service to the community. However, yet again, the murder turns out to have been committed for purely selfish motives.
    • Mrs. Boynton in Appointment with Death is one of Christie's more extreme examples: she's an almost hypnotic 'mental sadist' who uses sheer force of personality to absolutely control her family and uses that power to psychologically torture them. Her murder, while selfishly motivated, is related to her domineering nature, as she died by Blackmail Backfire. An adaptation changes the ending so that her death was Suicide, Not Murder, as she killed herself so her influence on her family would last past her death.
    • The short story "The Under Dog" (1926) is another example by Christie. The victim was Sir Reuben Astwell, a wealthy businessman and a man of violent temper. He had poor relations with most of his family members and frequently quarreled with them, he managed to alienate his loving wife by threatening to get rid of her right-hand-woman, he was verbally abusive to all of his employees, and he owed part of his wealth to cheating business associates out of their share of the profits in business ventures. Almost everyone has a motive and nobody seems to mourn him. The murderer turns out to be Owen Trefusis, Reuben's loyal secretary for 9 years. He was noted throughout the story to be a particularly meek, patient, and soft-spoken man. It turns out that Reuben was systematically abusing Owen for years, using him as something of a punching bag for verbal abuse. Whenever anyone else got Reuben mad, he took out his anger on Owen. Because Owen, unlike the others, never talked back. During the last session of verbal abuse, Owen briefly snapped and killed his employer. The murder was not even premeditated, and Owen had nothing to gain from it.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Toyed with in The Naked Sun, where the murder victim was the perfect embodiment of the planet's social code ("a good Solarian")... and therefore qualifies, since the definition of a good Solarian is an antisocial asshole. As the detective brought in from Earth just to solve the case has to explain to his audience at the Summation Gathering, everyone had a motive to murder the man who reminded them all of their imperfections.
    • Another story called The Dust of Death, features a famous researcher who dies in a lab explosion. Foul play is suspected. The problem is, it turns out this "researcher" never did anything except steal the ideas and results of his employees. So, not only did everyone have a motive, everyone was openly discussing the best way to kill him.
  • Karen M. McManus:
    • One of Us is Lying revolves around the murder of a high school student who ran a highly damaging gossip app and delighted in using it to tear others down. He was murdered while in detention with four other students, each of whom he was about to publish some major dirt on. As the murderer clearly had to be in the room at the time, the police investigation focuses pretty much exclusively on the "Bayview Four" but, as others point out, there were plenty of people who might have wanted him dead.Subverted, it was a suicide. Simon hated the Bayview Four for various petty reasons and his own life was terrible because people hated him for running the gossip app, so he committed suicide in such a way that the others would be placed under suspicion for his murder.
    • Similarly with the victim of One of Us is Next. Brandon Webber is a spoiled, misogynist Jerkass who killed Phoebe's father and got off scot-free.

By Title:

  • There's no actual (successful) murder, but in one of the Artemis Fowl books, Butler thinks to himself that this trope would very much come into play if something were to happen to his obnoxious young charge.
    Butler rolled his eyes. Who would want to kill Artemis? Every waiter and tailor in Europe, for a start.
  • In Aunt Dimity: Detective no one in Finch particularly mourns when Prunella "Pruneface" Hooper, possibly the most obnoxious person in town, is found dead under mysterious circumstances (Aunt Dimity, Lori's ghostly adviser and confidant, as good as states outright that Prunella has gone to Hell). Pretty much everyone but Lori and her immediate family has a motive, and there's a very long chain of witnesses providing evidence pointing directly to someone else, who has evidence pointing directly to someone else, who has evidence pointing directly to someone else... The final witness actually reveals the truth: Pruneface died of an accidental head injury, and the witness assumed she'd only been knocked out and went about their day.
  • Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael series occasionally plays this straight but often subverts it.
    • For example, the victim in The Leper of Saint Giles was a smug Jerkass who treated everyone around him badly and was about to marry a child bride in love with someone else for her money... but his long-time mistress, a sympathetic character, was fond of him, and he treated her well even though she had aged and lost her looks, and she speaks of him with affection when she and Cadfael discuss him.
    • Interestingly, one of the rare victims in the series who plays this completely straight is a morally upright Well-Intentioned Extremist priest who, through his rigid self-righteousness and lack of compassion, made enemies of everyone he had power over. It's implied later that divine will killed him, helped along by an unsympathetic observer who commits Murder by Inaction and is absolved for it.
  • "Clubland Heroes" revolves around the murder of a small-minded, pompous little busybody whose hobby was apparently suing almost everyone he came into contact with, and who seemed to take great pleasure in getting the law imposed as harshly as possible on people for even the mildest of infractions. Everyone in town is glad of his death — even the local police because he recently got several of them fired for a technical dereliction of duty.
  • In Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in The Expanse, Miller recalls a murder investigation he once worked on. The victim was a property manager responsible for maintaining a bunch of cheap apartments on Ceres station. He was Cutting Corners and did not replace old air filters. After the cops found this out they stopped investigating completely, since any "proper" Belter on the station would have gladly killed the guy, including most of the cops themselves.
  • Ellis Peters's Felse Investigates novels:
    • Helmut Schauffler in Fallen Into the Pit. One of the police at the crime scene, asked to suggest someone who might want him dead, names seven without needing to think hard, and Sergeant Felse notes that he could have done the same without any overlap of names.
    • Arthur Rainbow, in Rainbow's End, manages to get on the wrong side of just about everyone before meeting his end.
  • Scottish police detective Hamish Macbeth, in the mystery novels by M.C. Beaton, often finds himself investigating crimes in which the victim is someone who many people were glad to see go away. It's even right there in the titlesDeath of a Snob, Death of an Outsider, Death of a Poison Pen, etc.
  • Hive Mind (2016): In Hurricane, Treeve was a jerk who claimed people were oversensitive when called on it, so when he died, this was the reaction.
  • Parodied in the Agatha Christie pastiche "Death on the Line" in the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue book Stovold's Mornington Crescent Almanac. Lady Violetta "Gnasher" Ickenham unleashes a stream of invective against everyone else at the dinner table and how much she's dedicated herself to making their lives hell, before adding that she's finally going to do something about the typing error in her will that names them all as beneficiaries...
  • Several cases in the In Death series have a wealth of suspects thanks to the victim being a terrible person. One textbook example is Richard Draco in Witness in Death, who proves to have been such scum while he was alive that Eve for the first time in the series admits that she can't feel any sympathy for him nor condemn his murderer. Since the murder takes place during a stage production of Witness For the Prosecution, nods to Agatha Christie abound.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries:
    • SueEllen Kingsley from Killer Blonde was such a heinous bitch, there's plenty of people in her life who'd have wanted her dead.
    • Vic Cleveland from Death By Pantyhose was screwing over, just plain screwing, abusing, and blackmailing so many people, Jaine finds she has a lot of suspects in his murder.
  • Lord Darcy: In The Eyes Have It, the first reaction to the discovery of the Count's corpse is "I knew someone would do you in sooner or later, my lord".
  • Magical Cats Mysteries: In book 3 (Copycat Killing), Kathleen accidentally discovers the skeletonized body of Tom Karlsson, the biological father of her friend Roma (Tom had disappeared when Roma was just a child). When speaking to Roma's mother Pearl about it later, asking who would want to kill him, Pearl admits she knows who: "Pretty much anyone who knew him." Tom, it turns out, had worked for the town bootlegger, cheated at cards, and was abusive to his wife.
  • Martin Beck:
    • As The Man Who Went Up in Smoke progresses, it becomes clear that the victim was a heroin dealer who also loved antagonizing his peers by insulting them in deeply personal ways.
    • The murder victim in Murder at the Savoy is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who sold arms to dangerous countries, had unaffectionate relationships with many members of his inner circle, and destroyed the lives of many of his employees due to his greed.
    • The eponymous victim in The Abominable Man is a policemen notorious for his callousness and brutality, with far more enemies than friends.
    • The victim in a subplot in The Terrorists is a tax-cheating, drug-using pornographer who got teenaged girls too high to understand that they were agreeing to appear in his movies, causing many people to loathe him.
  • In the Mercy Thompson book Iron Kissed, Mercy has to clear Zee's name in the murder of a man named O'Donnell. Unfortunately, he was a part of an anti-fae hate group who was such a dick to friend and foe alike that it's hard to find the real killer.
  • "Murder in Pastiche" by Marion Mainwaring. It's mainly a detective novel pastiche (gee) but that trope occurs too (and naturally, gets lampshaded on the spot).
  • Stella Rodes, the seemingly angelic victim in John le Carré's second novel, A Murder of Quality. It turns out that she runs the gamut from taunting people to outright blackmailing them (which is what finally gets her killed).
  • Nero Wolfe: Too Many Cooks opens, before the victim has even died, with a man ranting not only about how much he wants to kill the soon-to-be victim Philip Laszio but also how every other person you are about to meet in the book has a motive to kill Laszio too. You almost expect Everybody Did It in this one.
  • One of the Nikki Heat novels centers around the murder of a highly unpopular critic. When Nikki asks who might want her dead, Jameson Rook suggests that she get a copy of the Manhattan phone book and start with the letter A.
  • Ben Elton's Past Mortem, in which a series of grown-up school bullies are found murdered in ways similar to accounts of ways they used to bully their childhood victims. It's zig-zagged, however, in that while some of the bullies kept up being assholes in adulthood, others of them had clearly matured and, even if they didn't exactly regret what they had done, were at least not assholes worthy of death.
  • Ali (actually Courtney) in Pretty Little Liars is pretty conniving and bitchy to her friends and ends up going missing and being found dead in her backyard. On the other hand, a reader may be able to find a little more sympathy as she was only 14 at the time of her death.
  • In the Sage Adair novel Timber Beasts, an associate of the protagonist is for killing railroad bull Clancy Steele. Steele is known far and wide as a Jerkass, and Sage immediately learns about several other people with a grudge against him.
  • The Saint: In the short story "Nassau: The Arrow of God", Simon Templar investigates the murder of a man given to publicly announcing other people's sins for his own amusement. Templar "solves" the crime by determining that only one of the suspects has a prior felony (selling fraudulent stock) to conceal. Because nobody ever killed somebody for threatening to expose an extramarital affair or for claiming one's religion is fraudulent. Really, Simon's entire career consists of liberating a succession of asshole victims from (always) their money and (periodically) their lives.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Exaggerated in The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, where the titular Milverton was such a terrible person, that Holmes not only flat-out refuses to investigate his murder, but he had personally witnessed it (because he and Watson were burglarizing Milverton's house to destroy incriminating documents) and chosen not to intervene. What makes this even more Exaggerated was that the story was Ripped from the Headlines. It was pretty much a fictional retelling of the murder of Charles Augustus Howell, an alleged blackmailer who was found dead or dying with his throat slit and a half-sovereign coin stuffed in his mouth. He was ruled to have died from TB, with the slit throat happening postmortem.
  • Six Suspects: Vicky Rai was such a terrible person, who victimized so many people (his most recent and infamous crime was murdering a bartender for refusing to serve him a drink after the bar had closed), that there are no less than six suspects in his murder. Not only is his own father among the suspects, it's eventually revealed that his father did in fact order a hit on him because he had become a liability, though it was never carried out. Ultimately it turns out the murderer wasn't any of the six suspects, it was a journalist who was tired of seeing men like Vicky Rai get away with so much, and was never suspected because he had no personal connection to him.
  • In the Josh Lanyon gay murder mystery Somebody Killed His Editor, both of the victims were reprehensible jerks who habitually trod on and mistreated others. This has the effect of setting up the protagonist, writer Christopher Holmes, as a main suspect, since he'd been publicly humiliated by both and he had verbally shot back at each of them, just as publicly, in retaliation, in one case joking about how he'd poison the future victim if he had the chance.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • King Joffrey I Baratheon's death leads to a massive dose of this trope. He was so deservedly hated and reviled that the characters who actually cared about finding the true killer said that practically all of Westeros had some motive to kill him and even the most occult of poisons isn't that difficult to get hold of, so... um. Where to find a long enough sheet of parchment to make a solid list? Yeah, sure, suspects were named, but it's clear that few in Court are truly convinced that they are actually the ones who did it, even though it's currently politically expedient to officially agree they must have.
    • Historically, Maegor Targaryen, a similarly cruel, vicious, and murderous king, was found dead on the Iron Throne. Nobody knew who killed him (though it's implied that he could have killed himself), and nobody cared to find out. A common superstition is that the Throne itself murdered him.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Legacy of the Force novel "Bloodlines" Han Solo's evil cousin Thracken Sal-Solo is killed by Boba Fett's granddaughter Mitra Gev. Not knowing it was her, Corellian Security (CorSec) has to work through a fair number of suspects given how many wanted Sal-Solo dead and how many are taking credit for the death.
      • Later, in the novel "Sacrifice" Sal-Solo's replacement Dur Gejjen was assassinated by Ben Skywalker under orders from his cousin Jacen, and CorSec doesn't realize Skywalker was the real killer. Contacted later by Luke Skywalker, Han tells his brother-in-law that given how many people wanted Gejjen dead CorSec is having trouble organizing the sheer number of suspects into a coherent list. Once again several groups that had nothing to do with the murder claim credit for it.
  • The Stormlight Archive, Highprince Sadeas' murder is met with a general "Good riddance" from his peers, and even the steadfastly honorable Highprince Dalinar finds it difficult to investigate, given that Sadeas betrayed him and got six thousand of his soldiers killed; the only reason he wishes it hadn't happened is because Sadeas was a good strategist, and The Legions of Hell are invading. It's lampshaded several times throughout the investigation that there are a lot of suspects. Basically everyone except for his wife had a motive. However, the readers know the whole time that it was Adolin, Dalinar's son, who killed him: the very person Dalinar assigns to catch the killer. Sadeas had explained how he was going to continue undermining Dalinar at every turn, but they were alone, so Adolin snapped and killed him. Once Dalinar discovers the truth, he's as vexed by the inconvenient timing as he is by the whole "murder" thing.
  • CC de Poitiers, the victim in Louise Penny's second Three Pines mystery A Fatal Grace, is self-obsessed, emotionally and verbally abusive to her husband and daughter, and universally loathed (even by the man she's having an affair with). Possible motives are not hard to come by.
  • While most of the murder victims in Under Suspicion were largely good people who were unlucky enough to run afoul of their killers, two of them stand out as being thoroughly unpleasant people.
    • In I've Got You Under My Skin, socialite Betsy Bonner Powell was murdered at a graduation party thrown at her mansion twenty years ago. It comes to light that Betsy had wronged several of the party guests in some way, and all of them had motive and opportunity to kill her.
      • Nina's mother made her life hell because she blamed Nina for introducing Betsy and Rob, thus causing her to lose out on becoming Rob's wife and leaving them struggling financially, especially as Rob had told her to turn down a role in what became an extremely successful sit-com because he didn't want her working so much when they were newly married. Betsy mocked Nina about it at the Graduation Gala and Nina proceeded to drink heavily, to the point she didn't even remember going to bed or some other details of that night save for being furious at Betsy.
      • Betsy's daughter Claire fervently hated both her mother and stepfather for the way they used and manipulated people, including her friends and their families, and for being so controlling of her they refused to let her board at school. Rob suggests that Claire was jealous of his relationship with her mother, as they were close before Betsy married Rob. It's also revealed Rob was molesting Claire and she knew her mother would never have defended her.
      • Alison lost out on a scholarship that would've put her through medical school because Betsy persuaded the dean to give it to another girl (who later dropped out) in order to impress her mother and get into an exclusive club (Betsy and Rob had a lot of influence due having recently made a large donation to the college). Betsy then rubbed it in Alison's face at the Graduation Gala, prompting Alison to vent to her friends that she was going to "kill that witch". Alison is also a sleepwalker who vaguely recalls going into Betsy's room that night, but can't be certain.
      • Regina's father committed suicide after losing all his money investing in Rob Powell's hedge fund; fifteen year old Regina found his body. Consequently, she and her mother struggled with money and had to move out of the family home they'd lived in for years, with Regina's mother dying several years later from the stress. It's also revealed Regina found out that her father had an affair with Betsy, who persuaded him to invest in the hedge fund to ruin him while making her husband richer.
      • Jane Novak was friends with the Bonners for years and was thrilled when Betsy hired her as a housekeeper after marrying Rob Powell, only for Jane to be treated as a mere servant from that point on. Jane also fell in love with Rob and so was bitterly jealous and resentful towards Betsy, knowing she was mostly with Rob for his money and was well aware Betsy wasn't even faithful to him.
      • Family friend and neighbour George Curtis had an affair with Betsy while going through a rough patch with his wife. Betsy began pressuring him to get a divorce, but George decided to stay with Isabelle after she told him she was pregnant with twins, they having previously suffered four miscarriages. Betsy blackmailed George to pay her $25 million or she would tell Isabelle everything. George was terrified of losing Isabelle and their future children, and even though he could easily afford the $25 million, he knew how Betsy loved to toy with people and feared she wouldn't keep her end of the deal. He also secretly returned to the Powell mansion after the party intending to take back the jewellery he'd given Betsy to hide the evidence of their affair, which was around the same time Betsy was killed.
    • In You Don't Own Me, the Under Suspicion team soon realise the late Martin Bell had made several enemies, some of whom would potentially have wanted him dead.
      • He was awful to his wife Kendra and had been planning to divorce her and get custody of their children; Kendra also suspects he was having an affair. This would give her a significant motive to arrange his death. She says that while she loved him once, she doesn't deny her life has improved now that Martin is no longer in it and she was overheard going on drunken rants against Martin at a dive bar she frequented.
      • Steven Carter makes no secret of the fact he's been in love with Kendra since medical school and despised Martin, who not only married the woman he loved but treated her like dirt. He also vehemently defends Kendra against those who speculate she was involved in Martin's death. This leads some to wonder if he killed Martin out of revenge and for a chance to be with Kendra.
      • George Naughten blamed Martin for his beloved mother's death, saying that he over-prescribed her pain medication that ruined her quality of life and led to her accidentally overdosing.
      • Daniel Longfellow was aware of the rumours his wife was having an affair with Martin and the scandal could potentially have derailed his political career if it became public knowledge, especially if he refused to divorce Leigh Ann (whom he obviously adores).
      • It turns out Martin was murdered by his lover Leigh Ann Longfellow, because he refused to let her end their affair and demanded she leave her husband for him. When he threatened to make their affair public to force her hand, Leigh Ann decided he needed to be silenced permanently.
  • Zane in Welcome To Temptation by Jennifer Crusie was essentially trying to blackmail and/or harass almost every prominent person in town and annoyed the hell out of pretty much everyone else. Amusingly enough, despite his having been hit by a car, maced in the face, bundled up in a shower curtain, and disposed of... he died of a heart condition without actually having been murdered at all.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing: Even though Chase Andrews was married, he was extremely promiscuous with both single and married women. After he falls to his death from the water tower, Purdue wonders if he was killed by one of many jilted women or cuckolded men.
  • World of the Five Gods: There is no lack of suspects when Minister Methani, one of the chief ministers in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Byzantine Empire, is murdered. Besides a serious case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder he has managed to offend all five gods, so this is not astonishing.

  • In the whodunnit Panel Game Foul Play, the murder victim was always someone that all three suspects had reason to want dead, often but not always because they were a terrible person.
  • The Julia Tinnberg mysteries, five radio drama series about a crime novelist with a tendency to encounter real crimes, are practically built on this trope. The murder victim is always a despicable person that very few people actually like or even tolerate... curiously enough, they never show up in person to have any actual dialogue. Either they're dead before the story begins, or the body is discovered in the first chapter, and we only get to know the victim through the (usually negative) descriptions of the rest of the characters. The fourth series is the only one to break the norm here; not only is the victim a sympathetic person but she actually appears in a couple of scenes to talk to the protagonists before she's murdered.

  • Consul Karl Baumer in Margin for Error is a Nazi of the least likable sort. When Adolf Hitler is making a speech, he turns up the volume on the radio so loud that nobody hears the gunshot that kills him.
  • Mrs. Boyle in The Mousetrap spends most of her time on stage pissing and moaning, coming across consistently as a reactionary, entitled, elitist, obnoxious, and just generally unbearable person. She dies at the end of the first act, and if it wasn't for the "three blind mice" motif leading to a high chance of another death, there wouldn't be much of a mystery because it would be hard to care who killed her. The first "blind mouse", Maureen Lyon, was also this (although in her case she died before the play's beginning). She was an abusive foster parent to the three Corrigan brothers, which led to one of them dying (her husband also took part in it, but died in prison). It's suspected that the killer is targeting people who were involved in the Corrigan case (Mrs. Boyle was the judge who placed the Corrigans with the Lyons), out of revenge for the youngest brother's death.
  • Walter Breckenridge in Ayn Rand's Think Twice is a wealthy philanthropist who uses his power to keep people dependent on him, so he can run their lives. When he's murdered, nearly everyone is happy about it. When every suspect explains their motive and how they could have gotten out of their room and back unnoticed to do it, the implication is they're trying to muddy the waters as much as possible to protect whoever the real killer is.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed Syndicate DLC Dreadful Crimes includes a mystery titled "The Most Hated Man in London", where the trick is that the titular John Ashton has not one, not two, but five murderers, all acting independently within the space of about fifteen minutes, leaving the Frye twins to figure out who gets the credit (and criminal charges) of actually killing the man.
  • In Disco Elysium, the Hanged Man, the victim of the main case, turns out to be a scummy, racist mercenary hired by the Wild Pines group to break up the strike of the Dockworkers' Union. The Hardie Boys, the militant arm of the Union, fully and freely admit to have lynched the guy and dare you to do something about it. They lie. They only hanged him post-mortem; the true killer and his motives turns out to be (mostly) unrelated to the struggle between the Union and Wild Pines.
  • In L.A. Noire the Body of the Week with whom Cole Phelps makes detective turns out to be an anti-Semitic jerkwad. He tried to use his position in the Chamber of Commerce to sabotage a non-competing store because it was owned by a Jew, who finally snapped and filled him with lead.
  • The first Nancy Drew game, Secrets Can Kill, has Nancy posing as a high school student to find out who murdered Jake Rogers. It turns out everyone had a motive to kill Jake, as he'd been blackmailing all of the suspects over different secrets.
  • In Paradise Killer, it's less surprising that the Council was massacred than that one of the enslaved, tormented, mortal Citizens they ruled with an iron fist was able to do it.
  • The first murder victim in Pentiment, Baron Rothvogel, turns out to have been a violent lecherous rapist who gave many different people ample reason to want him dead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Happens on occasion in Ace Attorney.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All:
      • In the second (chronologically first) case, the victim Dr. Turner Grey is killed during a channeling session. The session was to get the deceased Mimi Miney to admit full responsibility in a malpractice incident, and he brought a gun to the session, presumably to force the issue if Mimi refused. That leaves half the cast with motives to murder him (and the rest all have strong alibis): Mimi might take exception to his blame-shifting (especially as he'd been a Bad Boss to her), Maya might've been threatened, and Mimi's little sister Ini was nearby and might have wanted revenge. Mimi did it, but not out of revenge; if he'd realized she was still alive and impersonating her dead sister Ini, he might have revealed the impersonation to the world and ruined the new life she was trying to build. Morgan Fey was also involved, but had nothing personal against Grey; she just took the chance to frame Maya as part of a power grab within the Fey clan.
      • In the final case, it eventually comes out that the victim, Juan Corrida, had driven Celeste Inpax to suicide years ago, and forged a suicide note from her to make Matt Engarde look bad. Celeste was Adrian Andrews' mentor and Matt's career was on the line, so that's both suspects with motives in one fell swoop. Matt Engarde killed him by hring a Professional Killer, but Adrian Andrews framed him because she hated Engarde and knew that he was responsible.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: The first victim, Shadi Smith, rigged a poker game against Phoenix and whacked Olga Orly in the head when it didn't work out, again giving the two main suspects motives. The real killer was Kristoph Gavin, who he'd snubbed 7 years earlier. Later, Drew Misham was a forger, so any of his clients could have killed him to keep him from talking. The murder had been arranged 7 years ago to silence him, by Kristoph again.
    • The Great Ace Attorney has a couple from the second game:
      • First up is Jezaille Brett, who's actually the first killer from the original game and is a racist bitch and assassin to boot. She'd also managed to get away with murder in the previous game due to Diplomatic Impunity, so Susato (Jezaille framed her best friend for her crime), Yujin (protege of the man Jezaille killed) and Rei Membami (main suspect and Susato's friend) all have a motive to kill her. None of them did it, of course- it was that journalist who'd been following Soseki around, Raiten Menimemo, who'd happened to meet Jezaille and get really sick of her racist abuse soon after stealing a sample of toxic alkaloids, which he used to poison her. He then stabbed her to frame Rei as he knew that the poison he used could be easily traced back to him.
      • In the second case, we have failed actor William Shamspeare, a gas thief who made plenty of enemies, and tried to kill Soseki Natsume via suffocation by blowing air into the gas pipe. Oh and he's also an ex con. But it was the far more sympathetic Crusading Widow of his victim that nearly killed him. This case is unusual in that Shamspeare managed to survive, and get exposed for his crimes.
      • In the following case we have Odie Asman, whose ill intentions and vile deeds are spelled out in his name. But for context's sake, he was a criminal journalist who ruined the lives of several people, including the ones who schemed to kill him through blackmail. Enoch Drebber may have set up the murder but the one to actually kill him was the coroner herself.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • One of the Chapter 3 victims is Hiyoko Saionji, a massive brat who treated her classmates like garbage (especially Mikan Tsumiki) and had a habit of abusing small animals. However, even though Mikan is the one who killed her, this turns out not to be the case; Hiyoko wasn't targeted, she just walked in on a murder already underway and had to be silenced. Though the fact that Mikan chose to arrange the body so Hiyoko looked like a prostitute (Kimonos, like the one Hiyoko always wears, are tied at the back and usually taken off with help. Prostitutes tie theirs at the front so they can easily disrobe, and Mikan re-tied Hiyoko's kimono at the front) indicates that she probably relished the opportunity to off the little bully.
      • Two cases later, there's Nagito Komaeda, who'd alienated everyone with his insane obsession with hope and had recently threatened to blow up the island in order to out the traitor. Said "asshole" is found brutally murdered, and it's initially thought that the killer might have tortured the victim in an attempt to learn the bomb's location. Nagito actually arranged for himself to be murdered in an unsolvable murder (with the traitor being the one to actually kill him) so that said traitor could graduate.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: The victim of the fourth case is Miu Iruma, The Friend Nobody Likes who's rude, lazy, and unhelpful despite her 'Inventor' talent making her the biggest potential gamebreaker in school. When she winds up dead, basically everyone is pegged as a suspect because if anyone was going to murder anyone, it'd be Miu. The case is ultimately solved when Kokichi forces them to acknowledge that of all the people who wanted Miu dead (including Kokichi himself, who Miu had been planning to kill as he was the only person more hated than she), only Gonta had the opportunity to actually do the deed- though he only did so at Kokichi's instruction.
    • Also from Killing Harmony, we have Angie. While she's generally a friendly and personable sort, she was also a Well-Intentioned Extremist who turned half the school into her own personal cult under the guise of a student council, and was found stabbed to death in her studio. The murder is nigh-unsolvable because multiple people would have had the motive (any student council members might have gotten into an argument over her manipulativeness, any others might have gotten tired of her lording it over them), and anyone would have the opportunity as Angie was killed while alone at night, and the murder weapon was easily accessible in Korekiyo's lab. In the end, it turns out that much like Hiyoko before her, Angie was killed because she accidentally walked in on Korekiyo setting up a death trap.
  • The victim in the Murder Mystery Visual Novel Jisei was working with her company to steal information from a rival corporation, but decided to doublecross her employer in favor of a third party that offered her more money.

    Web Animation 
  • Operation: Turnabout: The murder victim was the corrupt military Captain Janus Harvey, who was such a massive Jerkass that none of his subordinates or colleagues, past or current, had ever felt anything but contempt for him, with all of the ones who worked for him at the time of his death being relieved that he's gone. He was also responsible for causing the "Helios-6 Incident", which killed his entire platoon, four years prior to the case in order to silence them from revealing that he had smuggled explosives to insurgents, and from then on kept trying to pin the blame for the incident on one of the victims it claimed, the case's defendant's older brother Charlie November. In this case, however, him being an asshole was not the motive for his murder: the real murderer, Captain Adel Renard, killed him because he was going to receive legal immunity for the Helios-6 incident in exchange for a confession, which would mean he would have screwed Renard over by revealing that Renard was his accomplice in smuggling the explosives and the one who persuaded him to cause the Helios-6 Incident.
  • Turnabout Storm: It's eventually revealed that the murder victim, Ace Swift, was a massive Jerkass who, among other things, threatened to take Cruise Control's injured little sister off of life support if he didn't keep intentionally losing to him, and attempted to murder his partner in blackmail, Sonata, when she started developing a conscience and wanted to walk out. However, this is later subverted in that while Ace Swift was indeed an asshole, he wasn't actually murdered. His death was a freak accident that he brought upon himself.

  • Girl Genius: When Agatha arrives at London's Queen's Society, nearly everyone has a bad word to say about the mysteriously absent Tobber ... who meanwhile has just been discovered ground into pulp and washed down the drain. Subverted in that it's quickly determined his death had more to do with his research than his personality.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: A non-lethal version comes up in "Golem" when the car of the school's Jerk Jock is found crushed like a soda can. Bruce asks Terry whether anyone might be holding some kind of grudge or otherwise seeking revenge against said jock. Terry promptly admits "The line starts with me and goes around the block, twice."
  • In the Moominvalley episode "The Strange Case of Mrs Fillyjonk", Moominmama has been accused of murdering Mrs Fillyjonk, Moominpapa, trying to clear her name, says he can't imagine why anyone would want to kill Mrs Fillyjonk. After a Montage of her barking disapproval at Snufkin, the Hemulen, the Muskrat, the Snork Maiden, Little My, and the Woodsies, he concludes the answer is everyone in Moominvalley.
  • In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns survives the events of the two-part episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns" after being shot by an unseen gunman. The whole idea of the Cliffhanger is that practically everyone in Springfield wanted to kill him, and in many cases, few would have blamed them. However, not only does he survive, the shooting was (presumably) an accident, making it a subversion twice-over.note