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What not to do

Page history last edited by Jon 14 years, 1 month ago

What Not to Do -- a Guide for Murderers


With case notes


Over the last century detective fiction has provided us with many examples of aspiring criminals who were caught out through their inability to observe a few simple rules. For the improvement of the art, we hereby offer these guidelines, with references:


  • Do not invite an eminent detective to look into the case in order to 'lull their suspicions'. As a novice murderer trying out a new method, the last person you need sniffing around is an experienced investigator with a perfect record. Invite daft Auntie Vera or that mad bloke you met in a pub to look into it instead, so that they can trample the clues and destroy the evidence before the Great Detective arrives. (Kitchin, CHB -- Death of His Uncle)



  • Corpses should be disposed of simply and quickly. While the temptation to make some creative and original use of the deceased may be well-nigh irresistible, it only leads to trouble in the end. (Sayers, Dorothy L -- Whose Body?)


  • Do not commit a murder aboard a train, plane or boat on which Hercule Poirot, the most brilliant detective in Europe, is also travelling. He will inevitably spot the culprit. (The same rule applies to parties and country weekends.) (Christie, Agatha - Murder on the Orient Express, etc).


  • If the detective is present when the murder is committed, make every attempt possible to murder him (or, in the case of Mrs Bradley, her). If not successful, try, try, again. Do not wait until the detective sets a trap for the criminal, with himself as bait; he knows who you are by this time, and will almost certainly have told the police. Kill the detective as soon as possible.


  • Do not commit a murder in a locked room. This is simply too much work. Wait in a dark alley with a big stick instead.


  • Do not invite the detective into your home so you can 'keep an eye on them' (Footner, Hulbert - Easy to Kill). Your home is where the clues are. Keep an eye on them by sending them with your trusted confederate on a South Seas cruise, preferably in a crate labelled 'This Way Up'.


  • Do not store money, love letters or incriminating evidence in any bag, box or case which could be confused with another bag, box or case in the immediate vicinity (Clevely, Hugh - Reunion in Florida; Blow, Lynton - The Moth Murder). This is just asking for it. Any item which needs to be handy for a quick getaway should be uniquely identifiable and clearly labelled.


  • Never assume that a detective is dying or dead unless you have personally examined the lifeless corpse and attended the post-mortem (Footner, Hulbert - Easy to Kill). Even then be alert for twins or doubles. Series detectives in particular are notoriously reluctant to die.
  • Always take a sharp object to deathbed scenes, so that when a doctor in the pay of your elderly but malevolent great-aunt, uncle or employer announces from their bedside that this time they really have passed on, you can check it for yourself. (Glover, Robert -- Murderer's Maze).


  • Do not keep a diary or write a letter which explains exactly how and why you committed your otherwise inexplicable crimes (Carr, John Dickson -- The Crooked Hinge). This is just tempting fate. Let the detective work it out for him/herself.


  • Do not dress up as a ghost or zombie and attempt to scare credulous locals away from the scene of your crimes (Daly, Elizabeth - Evidence of Things Seen). It will just attract attention from the police, the investigator, and the local Society for Psychical Research, plus every teenager in the neighbourhood.


  • Don't dash off without checking that your victim really is defunct; otherwise they will inevitably rally and gasp out an obscure deathbed clue, or scrawl a cryptic dying note, which the detective will link to you. (Queen, Ellery -- Queen's Full) Take a little extra time and do the job properly.


  • Don't commit murder within earshot of a supernaturally retentive talking bird, which will repeat back to the investigator revealing bits of your dialogue with the victim (Green, Anna Katharine - The Circular Study).


  • If you must murder your teenage daughter for no apparent reason and hide her body, then at least try to be cheerful about it when the police come round to investigate her disappearance. Sitting in a corner moaning "She'll never come back," is bound to raise someone's suspicions eventually (Waugh, Hillary -- Born Victim).

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