The Golden Age of Detection Drinking Game

In the course of a light conversation (in the comments section) among some Golden Age of Detection aficionados of my acquaintance, I volunteered to write the criteria for a drinking game which referred to … well, let’s not call them “cliches”, but rather commonly-found words and situations in old detective novels.  Below is my first attempt. I heartily welcome additions and emendations from knowledgeable parties.

article-2025634-00f278c5000004b0-47_468x3223Take a drink:

  • When anyone says: “But he was already dead when I got there!”
  • When anyone says, “Of course I didn’t actually SEE him/her, but I know they were there.”
  • When the narrator casually mentions a little-known short-cut between two far-apart locations.
  • When someone casually mentions a relative who vanished more than 20 years ago. (If it’s a twin, take two drinks.)
  • When the narrator casually mentions how much two suspects resemble each other.
  • When a Scotland Yard officer has to disqualify himself from the investigation because of his personal relationship with a suspect or the victim, and call in an amateur.
  • When anyone described as an amateur detective is said to have investigated more than three cases.
  • When a police officer casually mentions an unusual object that was found by the corpse and dismisses it as random coincidence. (If it’s in the title of the book, take two drinks.)
  • If someone disables a car, or cars. If the word “magneto” or “syphon” are used in the context, take two drinks.
  • If there is a murder during a masquerade ball or costume party and everyone sees the murderer but is unable to identify him/her.
  • 105When the victim changes his/her will within 24 hours of death. If they don’t sign the new will, take two drinks. If the new will disinherits their previous heir, take two drinks. If the new will leaves everything to an unknown legatee, take two drinks. If the new will is a forgery, take two drinks. If the new will is forged by the lawyer of the deceased, take three drinks.
  • If everyone has to live in the same house because of the will of a deceased person.
  • When someone mentions a mysterious poison unknown to science, and/or curare. If someone has a large supply of such a substance in plain view that they obtained while traveling in a faraway place, take two drinks.
  • When the victim quarrels with more than two relatives within 24 hours of death. Add one drink for every relative quarreled with beyond two.
  • When the victim is said to have gone on a mysterious errand within 24 hours of death but no one admits to knowing where.
  • If a party line or telephone operator provides a clue.
  • When the crime scene is adjacent to a well-stocked gun room and/or a laboratory filled with poisons.
  • If a dressmaker visits a private home in order to fit, alter, or deliver a woman’s garment. If the dressmaker overhears a clue or reveals one, take two drinks. If the dressmaker is referred to as “my little woman”, take two drinks.
  • If a crime is committed in order to possess a quantity of radium.
  • unknown-2If the body has been mutilated beyond description and later turns out not to be the person everyone thought it was. If the person whom everyone thought it was turns out to be the murderer, take two drinks.
  • If any two characters have attended the same public school. If one of them is the detective, take two drinks.
  • If the detective refers jocularly to a previous case and there is a footnote giving the title and date of the novel concerned.
  • If any house guest is given a tour of the garden.
  • If there is a plot point involving being out of petrol, or lacking petrol, or theft of petrol. If petrol must be obtained by purchasing it from a quaint rustic, take two drinks.
  • Gypsies (if the police suggest that they are guilty of murder without any evidence, take two drinks)
  • Any time anyone is referred to with a military officer’s rank without a last name. If he is described as being “red-faced”, take two drinks. If he is also the Chief Constable of the county, take two drinks.
  • 787d1da389f119a704f3bceb64cf0b7aIf “the ladies” automatically leave the dining room after dinner.
  • If a specific “cigarette end” is identified as having been smoked by a specific person by dint of its brand alone.
  • When wild game is served at dinner that has been killed by a member of the household.
  • If someone’s fingerprints are taken and the detective mentions that it’s “only a matter of form”.
  • If a servant is required to carry hot water to a bathroom.
  • Any time anyone is referred to by their job title rather than their name, such as “Cook” or “Vicar”.
  • When the butler is a blackmailer. If the housemaid/housekeeper is also obviously in possession of a mysterious secret, take two drinks. If the chauffeur and/or the gardener is also obviously lying about something, take three drinks. If more than two of these servants die, finish the bottle and close the book.
  • Take one drink each time the following words/phrases are mentioned:
    •      “A thousand years”, in reference to someone’s ancestry
    •      “Damme!”
    •      “Doing the flowers”
    •      “Draw it mild”
    •      “Not proven” (as the Scottish verdict)
    •      “Piercing scream”
    •      “The fishing”, specifically with reference to the right to fish on a certain river.
    •      “Trick cyclist” (for psychiatrist)
    •      A phrase in a foreign language in front of the servants/police so as to be confidential. If someone says “Pas devant les domestiques,” take two drinks.
    •      A reference to someone’s religious beliefs and/or practices being “too High”
    •      Any epithet in Greek or Latin. If it’s “Eheu!” take two drinks
    •      Biarritz
    •      Bigamy
    •      Blitz, The
    •      Cavaliers and/or Roundheads
    •      Chemin de fer.  If it’s called “chemmy” take two drinks.
    •      Chin-chin
    •      Clew, with that spelling
    •      Cloakroom
    • 3751967_orig     Clothing coupons / food rationing
    •      Cocaine (if referred to as a “white drug” take two drinks)
    •      Daimler
    •      Disinherited or disinheritance
    •      Dower House
    •      Elevenses
    •      Entail (in the testamentary sense)
    •      Fête
    •      Footman
    •      Gentleman’s gentleman
    •      Great War, The
    •      Green baize door
    •      Ha-ha (as a landscaping feature)
    •      Hedgerow
    •      Hothouse peaches
    •      Illegitimacy. If it’s referred to as “the wrong side of the blanket” or a similar euphemism, take two drinks.
    •      Jack Ketch
    •      Jumble sale
    •      Kedgeree
    •      Kukri and/or kris
    •      Limehouse
    •      Marriage lines
    •      Master criminal
    •      Michaelmas — if in reference to daisies, take two drinks
    •      Murder Game, The
    •      Nancy (as a reference to effeminacy)
    •      Oriental (if the modifier “sinister” is appended, take two drinks)
    •      Padre
    •      Poacher
    •      Pooh-pooh
    • c78bfd5bcba45e5ef0d2e146923422e3     Pukka sahib
    •      Racing demon
    •      Servant problem
    •      Shaving brush
    •      Simony
    •      Syphon (with reference to alcoholic drinks)
    •      Tapestries
    •      Treacle
    •      Tugging a forelock
    •      Tweeny
    •      Vegetable marrows
    •      Wellies
    •      Women’s Institute
  • card_game_circa_1930sTake one drink each time a scene is set:
    •      In the billiard room (if the phrase “knock the balls about” is used, take two drinks)
    •      During a game of bridge (if this is “after dinner” take two drinks; if it’s merely called “contract” take two drinks)
    •      In a rural pub in which more than two people are heard to speak in dialect. If someone says “Eee, bah gum” take two drinks. If someone uses the letter “z” instead of “s”, take two drinks; if they say “zur” for “sir”, take three drinks.
    •      In the village shop. If something is purchased during the scene, take two drinks. If that purchase would not be available in a modern supermarket, take three drinks.
    •      A gazebo or summerhouse. If someone overhears a conversation therein, to the astonishment of the people having the conversation, take two drinks.
    •      A scientific laboratory in a private home.

Hope you don’t get too drunk!


15 thoughts on “The Golden Age of Detection Drinking Game

  1. Jamie says:

    Shouldn’t people be required to drink something mentioned in the book concerned, or at least appropriate to period and setting?
    The game’s more dedicated players will probably have died of alcoholic poisoning long before the solution is revealed. Not that they’d remember it anyway.

  2. Lucky for me I don’t drink Noah or I’d never get off the floor again 🙂

  3. JJ says:

    Dude, this is amazing — full credit, you’ve done an outstandng job. This is the Knox Decalogue of our era; now, I must summon my gentleman’s gentleman with the syphon…

  4. That’s a good list, though I’m not sure we could make it past the first chapter of the book! You could also take a drink if the book is set at a country house weekend party, the body is found in the library and when the detective gets a twinkle in their eye.

  5. Brad says:

    I fear for your liver!

  6. Aargh! I’m staggering around unable to walk in a straight line…Fantastic list Noah.
    My clothes-based suggestion is this:
    Take a drink when a character is described as having a very distinctive shawl or hat or coat.
    2nd drink when someone says ‘it’s chilly, I’ll just pop your hat (coat, shawl) on to nip down to post a letter.’
    3rd drink if the dead-person-in-the-shawl turns out to be the intended victim after all – double-bluff!

  7. prettysinister says:

    Good lord! This is complex. With my reading I’d end up literally dead drunk if not taken to an ER to tend to an alcoholic coma.

    Vegetable marrows! HA! Took my years to figure out this was zucchini. Luckily, I knew this long before I read your vegetable marrow post you wrote sometime last year.

    However, some of them I’ve never encountered. “Doing the flowers”? Never seen the phrase and I’ve read all five of the Horatio Green mysteries. He’s an amateur horticulturalist with a keen sense of smell that often helps him solve the baffling murders.

    I anticipate these comments will be filled with suggestions from others. I offer one — the amateur detective is referred to as a criminologist because he has written one book on the subject of crime. Take two drinks if the title of the book is mentioned more than once over the course of the novel. [Came across this about ten times in my reading last year! Horatio Green, as a matter of fact, was among them.]

    • Noah Stewart says:

      I think “doing the flowers” means that the lady of the house goes into the garden and cuts a bunch of flowers, then wanders from room to room making sure that all the bouquets are fresh and attractive.

  8. She Dies a Lady by Carr would get me decently drunk by your standards.

    Here’s one you didn’t consider:
    If the house is filled with servants, but the only people even considered to be possible suspects are of higher society, take a drink.

  9. David Oram says:

    May I add a few further suggestions:
    If anyone claims to smell the odour of bitter almonds.
    If anyone declares, “but that sort of thing only happens in fiction; this is real life!” or similar observation.
    If someone emits a low whistle signifying surprise or astonishment.
    If someone says any of the following in helping the progress of the investigation: “I’ve got a hunch”; “one chance”; or, “it’s a long shot”.
    If something appears in the newspaper that couldn’t possibly have already been published in that time; or just would not be in the national papers (e.g front page announcements that Baron X is spending the weekend at Lady Y’s country house; or small fire at fishmongers etc.)
    Seeing/hearing actions/conversations by total strangers in random places that magically pertain to the solution of the crime (Hercule Poirot guilty as charged!)
    I think that’s enough for now!
    Many thanks for the great ideas for the game.

  10. […] — name a GAD trope.  Yup, that’s probably in here.  From various suspicious outbuildings, an abandoned lodge […]

  11. […] and “not what you’d expect in a novel of detection” cropping up in discussion.  There is an idea of GAD fiction that is far more powerful than any limit you’d care to impose by the rising of the sun on a […]

  12. […] just how much of life in the 1930s you can pick up through reading books written at the time, see how much of this strikes a chord.  Financial disasters, governments, contemporary and recent real-life murder cases, developments […]

  13. […] which I think is what really comes to the fore in possibly my favourite of his posts: The Golden Age of Detection Drinking Game.  Those of us deep in this genre — and Noah was deeper than the majority, let’s be […]

  14. […] things, a parasite spoiling the local fishing crop, and (GAD bonus points) a party-line telephone (drink!).  The underwater scenes are very well written, and introduce an element of action and adventure […]

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