I admit it, I am an Arconiac.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, this is the popular name for someone who is addicted to the TV series Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, which finished its third season earlier this month. The “building” of the title is the fictional Arconia apartment complex, situated in New York’s upper West Side, although the Arconia is modelled on, and the series is filmed within, a real apartment complex called The Belnord.

Read more: The Letby doubters misunderstand what serial killers are really like

I won’t spoil the series ending for those of you who haven’t yet seen the programme but, suffice to say, this comedy drama is a form of “feel-good murder”, or what is more commonly referred to as “cosy crime”. Cosy crime, whether in books, podcasts, or TV and film drama has a number of essential components.

These would include having an aspirational backdrop to the murder that is going to occur, or has just taken place; the fact that we don’t see the murder itself - it’s off-stage; the story that’s being told is a puzzle and the reader or viewer is required to solve the mystery of who it was that committed the crime; and, finally, that the puzzle will be cracked by an “amateur”, rather than an agent of the criminal justice system.

A rarely considered feature of “cosy crime” is that the person who was murdered or is about to die is usually not very likeable, and which therefore prevents the reader or viewer worrying too much about their untimely demise.

These components should be familiar to fans of books written by Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers and, more recently, Richard Osman, the Rev Richard Coles and Janice Hallett. Indeed, if you’ve been to see A Haunting in Venice, which is based on Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party all of these elements are on display, even if the setting has been changed from the fictional Woodleigh Common in rural England to glamorous and watery Venice and Kenneth Branagh, the film’s director who also plays Hercule Poirot, skilfully uses state-of-the-art film technology to scare us in ways that weren’t possible in the days of Christie and Sayers.

Cosy crime has become the dominant genre in crime fiction and has therefore surpassed what might be called “domestic noir”. That genre of crime writing or drama was essentially a form of psychological thriller which wanted to explore our darkest fears or forbidden fantasies. As such the murder, or more typically the murders - there is usually more than one in domestic noir - are central to the narrative and so we see, or have described in quite gruesome, fetishistic detail what is going to happen or has just been experienced by the victim. More often than not, the domestic noir will also be a “police procedural” and so the denouement involves the skilled, but essentially flawed detective bringing the culprit to justice.

I’ve used as my examples fictional writing and drama but it’s also possible to see aspects of this change of genre within true crime accounts and TV and film drama and documentary that is based on real events. Netflix’s new three-part series Who Killed Jill Dando?, for example, is presented as a puzzle to solve with various commentators offering their opinions as to the culprit, with the former SIO on the case sticking stubbornly to the belief that the police had actually caught the right man: Barry George. Nonsense of course and, more importantly, that obstinacy is perhaps the reason why there has been a failure to consider alternative suspects and therefore why we are still asking the same question after nearly a quarter of a century.

At first glance, ITV’s current drama series The Long Shadow doesn’t appear to fit either of these two genres. Based on Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, a true crime account by Michael Bilton about Peter Sutcliffe, the women that he killed and the police’s failure to catch him, it is a compelling drama that centres its narrative around the lives of the women who were killed. It is their perspective that is prioritised rather than Sutcliffe’s and, so far, this victim-centred approach has made for very compelling TV. However, in essence what we are viewing is the domestic lives of these women, rather than their murder and so even if there is a failing police procedural in the script too we are back in “cosy crime” territory, although of course the crimes themselves are truly appalling.

Read more: Why do we have a taste for tales of death by poison?

What all of this suggests is that even if the genre is adapting, dividing and developing, we clearly still love to tell crime stories. There is something persistent and universal about their appeal and it’s worth considering why that should be the case. Of course, as a species we have always loved to tell stories, but surely the fascination with crime goes beyond that love of stories and must have something to do with the fact that crime itself is a mystery - why do people behave like that? - and, as law-abiding people we want to comprehend what lies behind the offender’s puzzling behaviour.

It’s also logical to be interested in crime. After all, if we understand the circumstances in which we are likely to become a victim of crime, we can take steps to avoid that from happening by changing our behaviour, or by learning how to circumvent difficult situations. Thought of in this way, an interest in crime stories therefore becomes a form of evolutionary adaptation because it helps us to survive.

Perhaps all of this takes us too far from Only Murders in the Building - in itself, especially in Season 1, a parody of the true crime podcast Serial - but I can’t help noting that consuming crime fact or crime fiction remains one of the most popular ways that we have to make sense of who we are and how we should live our lives.

And, as a true Arconiac, I have my fingers crossed that there will be a season 4.

The latest episode of David Wilson’s Crime Files is on BBC Scotland at 10pm tonight