If you’re reading a Dusty Kent Murder Mystery you’re reading a Masala Mystery. A Masala Mystery? Seriously? Yes! It’s a murder mystery enriched by a blend of different spices such as chilli, allspice, cinnamon and mace, and sometimes black cardamom and nutmeg. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Don’t be alarmed; I can explain everything.
You see, outside the general classification of Mystery Novel, murder mysteries have many different categories. Brigid George’s Dusty Kent Murder Mysteries do not fit neatly into any of them. Instead, they contain elements of several different categories, which earns them the intriguing title of Masala Mysteries.
In India the word ‘masala’ (məˈsɑːlə) is often used to describe a dish enriched by many different spices, such as Masala Chai. From that usage evolved Masala Movies – Hindi films that combine several different genres. And now we have Masala Mysteries.
A Masala Mystery has strong elements of the Traditional Mystery, with murder (chilli) as its foundation. However, murder and its associated issues is explored in more depth and not treated humorously. In addition, a Masala Mystery has elements of the Whodunit (allspice), the traditional Cozy Mystery (cinnamon), and Detective Fiction (mace). Masala Mysteries can also include aspects of the Suspense Story (black cardamom) and the Locked Room Mystery (nutmeg).
It’s all just a bit of fun on my part but I kinda like the term Masala Mystery. Brigid George’s latest Masala Mystery is due out at the end of this year.
For those of you who would like to know more about the many types of murder mysteries I’ve outlined some of them below.
The general category of Mystery Novel with the basic plot elements as follows:
Discovery and elimination of suspects
Evaluation of clues
Identification and apprehension of the killer.
Here are some of the categories that come under the broad umbrella of Mystery Novel:
Traditional Mystery (which I call Christery Mystery) where profanity, sex, and violence are downplayed. The murder takes place in a small town within a ‘nice’ community. Violence (including the actual murder) and sex are not described in detail and, according to Otto Penzler, ‘characters are created as mechanical figures needed to move the plot along and have little depth or inner lives.’
Whodunit features a complex, plot-driven story in which the reader is provided with clues from which the identity of the perpetrator of the crime may be deduced before the solution is revealed at the end of the book.
Cozy/Cosy Mystery was once synonymous with Traditional Mystery. However, Cozy Mystery has come to mean murder mysteries that are frivolous, fluffy and funny involving cats, dogs, cooking, knitting etc.
Detective fiction is a subgenre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator or a detective investigates a crime, often murder.
Suspense Novel (aka psychological thriller) which is similar to a thriller but usually with a strong psychological element.
Locked Room Mystery which involves a crime that seems physically impossible, e.g. the murder victim is killed in a room locked from the inside.
Thriller is a fast paced story where the clock is ticking and action follows action breathlessly with no light moments or fun characters to relieve the tension.
Police procedural where police detectives work within a network to solve murders.
Forensic procedural where scientific research is used to investigate the evidence.
Hardboiled which features violence and sex, often graphic, and a psychologically scarred investigator.
Readers are not necessarily aware of all the sub genres of crime fiction. As a result, a reader who buys a Mystery Novel expecting the fast paced story of a thriller will be disappointed if they are actually reading a Forensic Procedural or a Traditional Mystery (or a Masala Mystery).
My thanks to the good people at No Worries Curries for helping me to match appropriate Indian spices to the various murder mystery elements.
Murder - chilli – red for danger
Cosy - cinnamon- used in comfort foods like apple pies and doughnuts
Detecting - mace - the outer skirt reveals the nutmeg inside
Deduction - allspice - it can taste like cloves or cinnamon
Suspense - black cardamom - looks like nothing till you cook with it and you get the smoky overtones
Locked room – nutmeg - smells good but only revealed once you grate it