On Saturday night I attended a murder. Or, more precisely, a glamourous French woman called Marie de Mignon lent her company to a sparkling evening full of good food, excellent conversation, and death, all compered by a little Belgian man with a waxed moustache who kept popping up on the TV screen. That's right: last weekend some friends and I put on an Agatha Christie murder mystery party!
The box set we used was based on the plot of Christie's The Plymouth Express (luckily one of the few Poirots I hadn't read, so I didn't know the denouement beforehand), and the eight of us each played one of the suspects in Flossie Carrington's murder (she'd been stabbed on a train and her jewels stolen...). The friend who organised the evening thought it would be hysterical if we were each given parts which required accents as far removed from our own as possible -- hence my transformation into Mlle de Mignon for the night. One of my friends was a Scotsman, another a cockney maid, Americans became Brits and vice versa, while the genuine Frenchwoman present became the haughtily English Lady Swansea.
I had great fun donning a blonde flapper wig and feather headdress, twirling a long cigarette holder between my begloved fingers, and trying to guess whodunnit...
We watched the introductory DVD in which Poirot (sadly not played by the wonderful David Suchet!) set the scene (you come back to the DVD at various points throughout the game, to hear witness testimonies and the like, and, of course, to hear Poirot reveal the killer at the end, when you get to see whether your leetel grey cells have matched up to his):
After Poirot had described the murder, the game began in earnest as we sat down in our allotted seats for dinner:
A couple of my friends provided us with a glorious meal of several courses, with such delights as pastry puffs filled with pear, cheese, and pine-nuts, home-made soup, and deliciously succulent pork belly:
The only downside was that by the end of the meal we were all too full to make the most of the wonderful cheeses on offer (oh, and the fact that one of my friends had a bit of a hard time making sure his fake moustache didn't fall off and become an interesting garnish in his soup!).
The game is moved along using script booklets and envelopes containing clues, which tell you about your character and what information you can -- or must -- reveal to other characters. Sometimes you're told to challenge one of the others, and at all points you have to tell the truth as written in your booklet, unless you've just read that you're the murderer, in which case lying is most definitely allowed! The killer's identity isn't revealed even to them until the very final pages of the booklet, however, so it can be quite nail-biting waiting to find out whether you yourself wielded the knife! I've done a couple of these murder mysteries before, and on one occasion I did turn out to be a murderess, which was incredibly good fun (especially as only one of my friends guessed; all the others suspected the nun...). As well as making sure you get in all the information required by the script, improvisation is also highly encouraged, which led to some highly entertaining conversations as we all enjoyed getting into character.
All in all, a fantastic evening, and I recommend such a night to anyone who's a fan of Agatha Christie, or indeed anyone who just likes dressing up in silly costumes and fooling around with their friends over a good meal and some nice wine. Murder is the perfect accompaniment to such foodie frivolity, for, as Sir W said in his 1600 essay 'Of Censuring',
'Death is the last relish'.