Ten pairs and ten clichés: games for the holidays

A game going the blog rounds concerns the bromance, a horrid word meaning a non-sexual partnership between two men, a common crime-fiction theme. I wonder what a partnership between two woman is called, or indeed, one between a man and a woman, that is purely professional? As I thought the list at Criminal Element scores only 3 out of 10*, I thought I’d provide readers with some pairs – can you name their creators and the genders of the (strictly professional) pairs in each case?

1. Beck and Kollberg
2. Stanhope and Ashworth
3. Pickett and Romanowski
4. Sejer and Skarre
5. Montalbano and Augello
6. Gunnarstranda and Frolich
7. Challis and Destry (?)**
8. Van Veeteren and Munster
9. Rebus and Clarke
10. Grace and Branson

*Holmes and Watson; Poirot and Japp; Cole and Pike.
**I am not up to date with this series but sense I might have to exclude this pair.

Another Criminal Element post lists “the ten least thrilling thriller cliches“. This post pretty well sums up why I don’t read a certain type of thriller – the cliches are indeed extremely common to the genre. What about crime/detective fiction, though, as opposed to the thriller yawns listed by Criminal Element? There are a few standards that I could do without:

1. Mobile/cell phone runs out of power/no signal (only at crucial plot points, of course). Variants include car running out of fuel/breaking down/flat tyre, torch running out of battery.

2. Female character has boyfriend but never goes to his house or knows his address. (Less common, but not unknown, is the reverse gender situation.) Variant: character does not lock doors, close curtains, etc.

3. Police take the whole book to interview witnesses/suspects one after the other, leaving till the last the person who is either the perpetrator or who has the crucial information leading to the solution. (Why have so few police teams heard of dividing up interviews among a group of cops and conducting them at the same time?)

4. Not checking medical or criminal records in sufficient detail during a search; the solution depends on a piece of information available all along.

5. Two detectives dislike each other so do not tell each other about crucial information. (Variant: they get together romantically at the end.)

6. Character goes to meet someone without telling anyone where they’ve gone. (Variant: he/she does tell someone, but that someone is the perpetrator or ally of the perpetrator.)

7. A hacker can get into anyone’s computer or any database/network, by methods not explained by the author. (Variant: the detective has to access a victim’s computer and guesses the correct password on the third attempt.)

8. Someone is being blackmailed or pressured but does not log a statement with a lawyer spelling out what is going on as an insurance policy. This person is usually killed by the murderer in the middle of the book, so if he/she had taken this elementary precaution the book need only be half the length ;-).

9. A character has been abused in the past and is too scared to reveal what he/she knows until near the end of the book. Either the abuser is the criminal or the information itself is relevant to the current crime’s solution in some other way. (Variant: the information is not revealed because someone kills this character so it has to be discovered by other means. Other variant: this character is the killer.)

10. The detective is stuck in the investigation, having followed up all possible leads. Then someone else is killed, leading to the solution to the original crime by connecting the two (or more) victims.

Have I omitted any? 😉 Excessive, often irrelevant, back-story of between one and all of the characters seems to be a more popular cliché of late. Which crime novels have you read that manage to avoid all these clichés?

I just discovered a similar post I wrote in 2009. This post contains some of the above clichés but also some other ones! Even more can be found at Crime Fiction Dossier in a 2008 post with an amazing set of comments (including a good nomination by Norman.) Going back even further, there’s a good list by William Meikle, here.

12 thoughts on “Ten pairs and ten clichés: games for the holidays

  1. Maxine – I don’t want to clutter up your comment section, so I won’t list the genders, etc in your first challenge. But thanks :-).
    As to those clichés, spot-on!! Absolutely spot-on! Superb! I get tired of all of them, to be honest. And here’s another: Sleuth is, for at least part of the time, at the mercy of the “bad guy” and is beaten/abused/in imminent danger of being killed. I know it can add to the suspense, but really, I’m tired of it. *Variant – Someone sleuth loves or is responsible for is at the mercy of the “bad guy.”

  2. Good one, Margot! Here is another good one from
    @westwoodrich (Rich Westwood), via Twitter: @Petrona_ What about witness calls detective and asks to meet in person, but is killed on the way? Last seen (by me) in a Camilleri.

  3. Merry Christmas Maxine!

    No one ever takes a bus anywhere. Unless the whole thriller story is based on this like in the movie Speed. But why don’t people take the bus in novels?

  4. I’ve no idea who number 6 or 10 are, and yes you’d have to exclude number 7 as they’re no longer strictly professional

    As for cliches I feel like the Australian ‘thriller’ I have just finished is one long cliche although I can’t say it has all the ones you mention. Have to give it some thought before reviewing…all I could think was ho hum.

    • It’s always hardest to review the ho-hum books, I find too, Bernadette,

      6 is K O Dahl and 10 Peter James – all four of them males.

  5. All of these cliches are on my list. One thing I also dislike is when a detective or someone else key to the investigation is called to go to a remote spot at 3 a.m. alone! And do they do this? Of course, including women. So the character is either beaten up or killed, depending on how key she/he is to the plot.
    Absurd coincidences and accidents: An earthquake (or other act of nature) happens at a crucial moment, throwing the murderer to one side and the detective to the other, or it swallows up the gun. Or a massive wind comes along and blows a weapon out of someone’s hand or knocks over a culprit. Or a long-lost person shows up at exactly the opportune moment. There are lots of these.

  6. I have noticed that more cliches are used when the author is writing a series. The later books tend to rely on more cliches, coincidences, accidents, etc. Perhaps the authors just run out of clever plot lines and fall back on gimmicks or what’s easier. Maybe then the series should end.

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