Murder Mystery Review: Golden Age Detective Drama

Can crime writers turn detective? More specifically, could this crime writer face his fears and take part in After Dark’s library-based murder Attic Door Productions - Golden Age Detective Drama Murder Mysterymystery evening and solve the case?

It’s tempting to say that the mists swirled from a darkling Morecambe Bay as your intrepid reviewer made his way through narrow, rain-swept streets to the scene of the murder in the gothic shadows of Morecambe Public Library.

But in fact it was a relatively pleasant, if cool autumn evening. And Morecambe Library lives in a sparklingly modern building.

No, the fears were entirely personal. Although I’ve written crime novels, published and unpublished, I’ve never taken part in a murder mystery event of any kind before.

What would I have to do? Would I make a total fool of myself?

While murder mysteries date back to the nineteenth century, and the first murder mystery board game (Jury Box) to 1935, it seems it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the murder mystery event really took off.

Now just about wherever you live, you can find murder mystery parties, dinners, hen nights, weekends, corporate team building away-days… You can buy DIY kits or you can hire professional actors. Crime is big business – as one of the many providers boasts.

I’d travelled to the pleasant little town of Morecambe to take part in a panel in the wonderfully named crime writers’ festival of Morecambe and Vice. The festival itself is run by the same people as After Dark Murder Mystery Events.

So when they offered tickets to the Saturday evening production – the Golden Age Detective Drama – for a mere £5, I was faced with a choice. I could take the challenge or spend the evening in the pub.

It may surprise you then that I forsook the public bar…

…took my life (and my career) in my hands and set off.

When we would-be detectives first entered, we were given a leatherette folder of important information on the crime we were about to solve. This, appropriately, was a murder in a library – albeit a 1930s private library of the Cluedo variety, rather than a local government one.

Arnold Boyle had been stabbed gruesomely through the eye, before he could reveal the identity of the murderous jewel-thief, The Falcon. But not before he could leave tantalising clues.

Suspicion fell on five famous detectives, each played by actors parodying famous fictional detectives. There was Miss Marbles, Sam Shovel, Lord Peter Wimpy… You get the idea.

Our job was to interrogate the suspects, watch out for clues in the most unlikely of places, and deduce who the perpetrator was. We were marked, at the end, on both getting the answer right, and on how much evidence we could provide to back it up.

Initially, I have to admit, my mind was a complete blank. But it’s surprising how quickly you begin to have ideas if you remain open and just listen.

The actors clearly enjoyed their roles enormously. Their chic thirties costumes added style and the atmosphere was welcoming from start to finish.

My fellow detectives, mostly in teams, comprised mostly locals, as far as I could tell, and festival delegates. Many were families, working together. However, almost no other writers. Maybe they valued their careers too much – or the pub.

After Dark clearly know how to put on a good murder mystery.

The clues arrived in interesting ways and the whole story was both clever and amusing.Morecambe and Vice Crime Writers Festival Morecambe Winter Gardens

The timing was right, too – about an hour for the main section. Enough time to do the necessary detecting without losing pace. The deadline kept us focused all the time.

If there were any flaws, one of the actors could have done with widening his comic range. And while the library setting felt appropriate (crime writers and books) it would have been nice if the location had been more visually exciting and atmospheric.

Perhaps like the Winter Gardens, where the main festival itself took place (pictured above).

But all in all, it was great fun. Woke up my brain cells. It’s good to play – something we perhaps don’t do nearly enough. In all, the evening would have been good value at even a higher price.

And, reader, I came second!

After Dark Murder Mystery Events

Morecambe & Vice