Hello, and welcome to my 2019 A to Z Challenge! This year, I am giving you my personal list of Golden Age Mystery Tropes. Particularly clue-tropes, and also those tropes that an experienced mystery reader finds herself using to solve the mystery without reference to the actual clues. However, today’s trope does not fit neatly into either of these categories. It is…
The Cigarette Case
“No, a thousand times, no! I shan’t allow you to take my fingerprints! I don’t want to muck my fingers. Also? How dare you suspect me? Me? All of this is outrageous, and I shall write a very strong letter of complaint to someone!” Stephenson paused, probably to regain breath.
“Yes yes yes. I understand. Respectable citizens often don’t think it quite nice to help the police. Forget I asked.” Inspector Crowner smiled winningly. “Smoke, sir?” And he held out his highly-polished silver cigarette case.
“Oh. Um. Yes.” And Stephenson took the case, opened it, and selected a cigarette with care. They were all the same, but he selected one carefully anyway. “Thank you.”
No, Stephenson. Thank you. You have just given Inspector Crowner your fingerprints. I sometimes wonder if highly-polished cigarette cases are part of the standard equipment of Scotland Yard, issued to officers so they can collect unofficial fingerprints from recalcitrant suspects.
Of course, other people, less nice than Inspector Crowner, can also use this dodge to get a person’s fingerprints. If a highly-polished cigarette case shows up at a crime scene, with a beautifully clear set of fingerprints on it, that is usually a plant.
Inspector Crowner, by the way, is a recurring character of mine. He was the detective in Alas!, my epic 2015 Murder Mystery A to Z. He has also appeared in print, in the story A Gastleigh Curse, which appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine, July 2017. Want to know more? Here is my blog post about that.
Have you seen this trope before in something you’ve read? Do you think this isn’t a trope? Do you just want to say hello? Leave a comment!