#18 – Host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party
I used to love murder mysteries. As a child I collected Agatha Christie’s which I’d pick up from charity shops and jumble sales and I aspired to own all 78 of her crime novels. I didn’t quite get there – I’d built up a collection of about 40 titles before giving most of them a few years ago during one of numerous house moves. I also studied Detective Fiction as part of my English Literature degree course, and although I don’t read crime novels so much any more, I do still love a good murder mystery. It’s so much fun trying to work out ‘whodunnit’ before the big reveal takes place – and I do quite fancy my abilities as an amateur sleuth (having correctly guessed the end of The Mousetrap) so I was looking forward to playing my very own Murder Mystery game. I’d put ‘host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party’ on my 40 before 40 because some years ago, I was given a boxed Murder Mystery game and I’d never got round to using it. I figured putting it on the The List would make me get on with it!
One of the main reasons I hadn’t used this game was that I had an issue with finding appropriate guests. The game required 6-8 players and with equal numbers of men and women. Given my (until very recently) long standing single status, put simply I was struggling to find enough men to invite!
However, a chance comment by a friend in the pub that she’d never done a Murder Mystery and would love to try one meant I invited some of the regulars and suddenly I had the crowd (and the gender mix) I needed.
The date set, it was time to Open The Box. This was a momentous occasion. I knew I’d have to let my guests know their parts in good time and I wanted to check that a) the box did in fact contain all I needed and b) that I understood what advance preparations I needed to make. When I Opened The Box, I laughed out loud – I’ve had the game for so long that part of it was on a cassette! (Modern games often use an MP3 download.) Luckily, as I’m not a techno geek and I keep using things until they stop working I do actually still have a cassette player, so the game was useable despite being about 15 years old.
There were not a lot of advance preparations. Basically, all I had to do was devise my menu for the evening, read through the Rules so I knew how it worked and issue an invitation and costume suggestions to each of my guests. Then I had to sit back and wait to see how it all panned out on the night, simply trusting that it would work. For a person who is usually very organised and likes to plan well ahead, working blind was very stressful!
Despite having not done one of these before and not knowing how it was all going to work, at the appointed hour I had all the clue booklets ready to give out, the food prepared, the table set, the drinks waiter briefed (I’d cast my other half in the barman role!) and a g&t in hand (to calm the nerves, of course), and I was waiting to welcome my guests; including, of course, the murderer.
My motley crew of suspects arrived at the Soft Rock Café (aka my living room) to celebrate the birthday of Dow Jones, a stockbroker who is a little too fond of a drink or two, when unfortunately Raymond Revue (owner of the café) was bumped off. The murder was narrated on the tape, after which we were joined by two police officers (more friends from the pub), and the questioning, revelations, insinuations and accusations began…
The guests were:
Dow Jones – stockbroker with a drinking problem (and maybe his deals aren’t entirely above board either?)
Lara Parma-Tortellini – socialite and model (engaged to Raymond’s best friend but are they really in love?)
Lady Goodie Twoshoes – charity fundraiser (but where exactly do the funds go?)
Buck Fizz – barman and cocktail waiter (offering a bit more than just what he serves behind the bar)
Thiza Dolittle – lapdancer with an injury (and a family connection to one of the other guests)
Won Ton Suey – Chinese business man and entrepreneur (possibly with some shady associates)
I cast the characters purely with an eye to the costume suggestions (e.g. who I thought might own a feather boa and who would like to dress up and who wouldn’t) and whilst I knew one of the six would turn out to be the murderer, I didn’t know which one. It was perfectly possible that I could cast myself as the killer!
Each character had a booklet containing information to reveal when asked and questions to ask of other characters, and we played 10 rounds in total.
We played a round or two before sitting down to our starter of Baked Camembert with Parma Ham, Figs and Garlic Bread, then continued with the rounds whilst we polished off Lamb Tagine with Minted Cous Cous, two puddings (Apple and Chocolate Crumble and Lemon Drizzle Cake) and a magnificent cheeseboard. And drank more and more wine… Even though my guests had supplied the desserts and the cheese so I’d had less work to do than I might otherwise have, it was still quite difficult for me to simultaneously serve the food, try to follow the murder mystery and stay in character! I was exhausted (and full) by the end of the night!
We were supposed to stay in character all night, but some of us found that easier than others. Whilst we were eating, we had an odd mix of those in character and those chatting about their everyday lives which became somewhat confusing at times. The liberal application of alcohol didn’t help either, especially when one of my guests fell asleep so we had to read his prompts and other people had to deliver them! The police officers had summing up and questioning to do at the end of each round but it was sometimes difficult to tell when the round had finished. On occasion, one or other of us had a piece of information to reveal “when asked” which we hadn’t been asked about so we simply had to find a way to introduce it. This was not an evening for those without a certain level of intelligence as it was a bit difficult to keep track of it all! However, given that none of us had ever done one of these evenings before, it worked very well.
More and more information was revealed as the evening wore on. It seemed all of us had something to hide, but who was so anxious to keep their secrets that they would stoop to murder? We all had a stab at guessing which of us was the murderer before the Police Officers read the solution out to us. It’s true that I did successfully identify and accuse the guilty party but of course it would spoil the fun if I tell you who that was…
Overall, a really fun evening but quite a lot of work too. I’d be more than happy to play another Murder Mystery game but I’m not sure I’d host one again. (Or at least not whilst doing the cooking too.) But, it was fun to give it a go and that was the 33rd of my 40 before 40 completed.