A crime story consists of a manageable ensemble of characters. There’s the investigator who solves a case. The case in turn revolves around a victim and several suspects, including the perpetrator. A crime novel comes to life when the investigator plays the psychologist and mercilessly reveals the characters of the people involved. The investigator always possesses exceptional skills of observation and combination.
The investigator need not be an ex-officio investigator. Many investigators in crime stories are private individuals or not familiar with the subject, but with a special talent or a strong drive to hunt down criminals. The probably first investigator in criminal history, King Oedipus, was not a detective commissioner. The readers or viewers of a detective novel or a crime story love it when people who are not from the circle of the police or professional detectives take over the task of investigation. A press photographer convicts a murderer in “Rear Window” (1954). Or a pensioner uncovers several crimes in the criminal cases surrounding “Miss Marple”. External consultants are particularly suitable for television series such as “The Mentalist” (2008-2015), “Monk” (2002-2009), “Castle” (2009-2016) or “Numb3rs” (2005-2010).
Investigators are usually rather reserved people. They think a lot and seemingly casually observe everything very closely. They have a sharp mind, enormous intelligence and extraordinary powers of deduction. In other words, investigators possess something superhuman.
The investigator is always alert. He doesn’t miss the smallest detail, unlike his colleagues. Precisely because his mind is so brilliant, we admire him as a viewer or reader.
In the course of his investigation, the investigator reveals the character of the victim and the suspects and finally also the motive of the perpetrator. We rarely find a love story in a crime play. However, this doesn’t apply to crime series, in which a love story can be told on the sidelines and as a subplot. The investigator is always also a crime fighter and an opponent of evil. In this respect the investigator is also a moral authority and an advocate of the victim.
The suspects and the perpetrator
The duel that took place in the prehistory between the perpetrator and the victim is continued in the course of a crime play between the investigator and the perpetrator. The offender is almost always the opponent, the antagonist. Since the perpetrator should not be convicted immediately, in many cases there are several suspects at first, who can all take on the role of antagonists. One of them may or may not be the perpetrator. Various clues lead to the offender and finally convict him.
To the outside world, the perpetrator is often an initially honourable and innocent person. Ideally, crimes should be committed for personal motives (hatred and passion) and not for abstract reasons (such as material motives). This makes the murder more emotionally comprehensible.
In the course of the investigation, the investigator penetrates deeper and deeper into a world that is foreign to him and sees through it. He analyses the characters of the suspects and finally unmasks the perpetrator and reveals his true character.
Helpers & Clients
The investigator usually sits between two chairs: On the one hand he is a subordinate (to his superior or the client), but he often has his own assistants. This can result in various fights about the order of precedence and teasing – upwards as well as downwards.
For example, a subordinate may try to be better than the investigator and put him on a “siding”. Small jibes within the investigator’s group can also bring funny elements into the story.
In crime series the helpers are of great importance, because they take on tasks that the investigator cannot do alone. They also provide variety and bring new aspects (including a lot of humanity) into the story.
The supervisor often puts the investigator under pressure and can, for example, set a time window for the investigator. Time limits increase the tension.
The victim in a crime story
The victim is the hook for the criminal story. His story is part of a story (the prehistory) that is slowly revealed from different perspectives. Since the victim should have been killed for personal reasons (hatred, jealousy, envy, defamation, etc.), the victim is the emotional occasion to tell a story.
The victim, who is usually viewed objectively and soberly at the beginning, becomes more and more alive in the course of the investigation and his character (whether good or evil) becomes more and more apparent. The more the investigator deals with the victim, the more traces lead to the perpetrator and convict him. A development in relation to the victim can take place when the victim first has a clean slate in the investigation and later appears as evil and bad.
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