Crime Fiction Alphabet: W is for Walking the Dog (and other clichés)

I have logged a lot of kilometres with one dog or another over my 43 and a half years and have never once stumbled across a dead body but in crime fiction it happens with alarming regularity. I know that bodies have to be found somehow and it must be difficult to come up with new ways for a body that has been unceremoniously dumped outdoors to be found, but by now any time I even get the hint of a dog I’m mentally jumping ahead to the body discovery moment.

Just in books I’ve read this year I’ve come across several ‘dog walker discovers body’ scenarios and I’ve noticed the phenomenon is world-wide:

  • In Leighton Gage’s Blood of the Wicked a dog called Snoopy finds a body which has been dumped in the Brazilian countryside.
  • In Simon Brett’s Body on the Beach a fussy retired woman called Carole is taking her routine walk with Gulliver on an English beach one morning when they stumble across a body (which then disappears)
  • In Katherine Howell’s Cold Justice a teenager walking the family dog Wally finds the body of a fellow school student in suburban Sydney but it takes 20 years for the case to be solved.
  • In Jon Loomis’ High Season a dog called Molly finds one of the several dead bodies littering a small Cape Cod summer resort town
  • In Denise Mina’s Scottish noir tale Exile an un-named pooch finds a body in a story that someone tells as part of the book

I don’t let the phenomenon bother me too much (there’s one 5-star and two 4.5 star books in that list) but it does make me giggle.

Do you notice the ‘dog walker discovers body’ cliché in your crime fiction reading? Or is there another cliché that’s on your personal radar? What’s the best (non-dog related) body discovery method you’ve come across in your reading?


Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week. Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.

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10 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: W is for Walking the Dog (and other clichés)

  1. I like this! There’s a dog too in the Fred Vargas novel AN UNCERTAIN PLACE although I don’t think he finds a body.
    There’s a “truffle dog ” called Honey in NOT IN THE FLESH by Ruth Rendell that digs up a hand.
    In BLIND SPOT by Terri Persons a dog returning from an exploring trip to a nearby river brings his young master a rather gruesome trophy – a human hand.

  2. Bernadette – Oh, yes, dog walking does show up all the time in crime fiction! That’s how the body is discovered in Margaret Truman’s Murder at the Kennedy Center and that’s how one of the bodies is discovered in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. There are other dogs that feature in crime fiction, too, even if they don’t find bodies.
    Dog walking may be cliché, but it’s less so than, “I think I’ll go down to that unlit basement…” ;-).
    The most interesting and unusual body discovery? Hmm… I recently finished Åsa Larsson’s The Black Path, where a windstorm blows away a man’s protective shelter (the novel takes place in Northern Sweden’s winter where people who go ice fishing use them). When he runs for cover, he finds someone else’s shelter, but a body is there before him.

  3. Neat idea! In Helene Tursten’s The Torso, I believe the titular torso was discovered by a dog on the beach. Also, I have an idea that a dog discovered the body in Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s My Soul To Take but as it is such a cliche i could be imagining it! (There was definitely a body on the beach but I can’t remember who found it).

    Bodies on beaches could be another cliche…but not a “best” one….I’ll have to think a bit more about that.

  4. Great post! I read Exile, which I loved, but didn’t remember the dog. It’s probably time for me to reread Mina’s trilogy.
    I can’t think of any dogs discovering bodies or body parts, but David Rosenfelt’s hilarious Andy Carpenter series features dogs everywhere, but they are dogs; they do not talk or detect, although a few are witnesses to murders.

    • I knew I wasn’t the only one with a growing fear of taking the dog for a walk Dorte :). My dog doesn’t really understand it when I say we can’t walk for fear of dead bodies :)

  5. It’s not strictly on topic but I couldn’t help thinking of this:

    “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
    “to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
    “The dog did nothing in the night time.”
    “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

  6. I love this. The funny thing is that I’ve often thought it might be interesting to stumble across a dead body while out walking my dog. But it hasn’t happened – yet.

    I actually have in the works a short story titled: Found By A Woman Out Walking Her Dog.

    Ha.

    One of these days I must finish it. :)

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