The Heavily-Spiced Dish #AtoZChallenge Mystery Tropes

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. A short one, for today…

The Heavily-Spiced Dish

“I hope you like curry. The Colonel is rather particular about his meals. He likes his curry very heavily spiced indeed.”

If a heavily-spiced dish is alluded to at the beginning of a story, watch out for poison! The taste of the heavily-spiced dish in question will, the author rather thinks, cover the taste of the poison. However, the reader who knows will look elsewhere for the actual poisoned dish (or drink). The curry or whatever is usually a sort of bluff. That is, everyone will assume the poison is in the heavily-spiced dish, and this will mislead the investigators for a bit, but it will eventually turn out to have been in something else.

Coffee is a good variant here. Strong coffee allegedly covers the taste of just about anything. Of course, sometimes the investigator thinks the poison is in the heavily-spiced dish, when it is really in the coffee. I imagine sometimes this gets switched around, and the investigator assumes the poison was in the coffee, when really, it was in the heavily-spiced dish.

Anyway, my main point here is this: mention of “the heavily-spiced dish we’ll be eating for dinner tonight” means that the reader should look out for death by poison.


Have you encountered this trope in something you’ve read? Have you seen variants of this trope? Do you think that this isn’t a trope? Do you just want to say hello? Comment, please! I love hearing from people, and I will do my best to reply.

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  1. I, too, enjoy a heavily spiced Indian meal. Why, let me take a bite of this Lamb Vindaloo.



  2. Shame about Stuart, isn’t it.

    I’m still waiting for the mystery where they announce “I hope you like bland. We shall be eating a completely flavorless dish tonight.” And then the poisoner will have to use iocane powder.
    Black and White: H is for Hercinia

  3. Alas, poor Stuart… I didn’t know him, Horatio.

    Yes this trope is EVERYWHERE – so much so you have to wonder how even fictional characters fall for it anymore! Tangental to this, (and I hope I’m not spoiling any of your future posts) is ‘the smell of almonds’. Every detective seems to be able to ‘smell almonds’ i.e. Strychnine which makes me think a good spicy korma would be the perfect meal to hide almonds!

    Not that I’m planning this or anything…

    • Yes, you are totally correct! The smell, generally, of bitter almonds. You’re not spoiling any of my future posts, though, as I don’t have all of them planned out yet, you may be suggesting one. I think I do already have an S, though… hm… 🙂

      I do not know what korma is (blush), so I am now Googling it. Ah, yes. Yes, that would be just about perfect… and also, it sounds good!

  4. Heavily spiced foods are no longer on my list of acceptable meals so I have no worries of one day being poisoned via a curry dish. While the masters of murder mysteries of yore (my favorites) used this as a murder weapon, today’s authors have created new means of murder most foul.
    I is for: Infamous-Prison Secrets
    (Theme: very short stories/varied genres)

    • Hello Gail! Um, well that’s… good? I mean, it is a shame that you can’t eat spicy foods (why, by the way? Allergy? I have a peanut allergy myself, so I know they’re no fun), but it is good that now no-one can poison you that way.

  5. I’m extremely partial to a spicy curry, so I’m clearly deeply vulnerable to poison 😉

    • Oh no! I like curry too, actually, though I’ve only learned this recently… we’re doomed?! I mean, if anyone wants to poison us. I also like coffee. I am, I note with a thrill of horror, drinking coffee right now. Gak!

  6. Love coffee. Can’t drink it too often, just as a special treat. And now I learn than leaves me even more vulnerable to poison! Your sequence of A-Z posts are being such good fun Melanie, excellent choice of subject!

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