The ‘Murder Mystery’ genre is not in anyway unique to Britain. Not in anyway. But we do produce more than our fair share of the greatest Murder Mystery authors and directors. And no top ten list would be complete without Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. There’s also no finer real life murder mystery than Jack the Ripper. Would it be a stretch to call Britain the spiritual home of the murder mystery?
If so, perhaps the very centre of the home of the Murder Mystery belongs in St Martins Theatre, London. Mrs P and I took in a show there at the weekend. Not a show. We went to see the show. Agatha Christie’s most renowned creation, ‘The Mousetrap’. It’s been playing for sixty years on the same worn, well trodden stage – longer than any other play in the modern era.
The Mousetrap is a classic Murder Mystery. Set in a hotel with the innkeeper, his wife and a selection of guests trapped inside during a ferocious blizzard. One of them is a cold blooded killer. But who? It’s a secret. A secret that you will only learn by going to see the play. At the final curtain, as the cast take their bow, an actor will ask you to keep the secret in your heart and not reveal it. Alternatively, you can search the internet. I find it a little sad that Wikipedia reveal the killer. Not everything needs to be recorded in an encyclopaedia. Can the world not have a mystery or two left alone?
The Mousetrap began life as Three Blind Mice, although the original name had to be abandoned very early on due to another production having already nabbed that title. The nursery rhyme does, though, feature in the production. Like many English nursery rhymes, this one has a macabre origin – it probably refers to the execution of three Protestant Martyrs by Queen Mary I. Aka, Bloody Mary. She despatched a fair number of Protestants during her reign. Religious altercations, plagues and other disasters often inspire cheery sounding nursery rhymes.
The story of the Mousetrap was also inspired by a true story. The death of a child, Dennis O’Neill, who suffered a rather horrible fate. Happily, Britain is home only of the Murder Mystery genre, not murder. Real world homicides remain a relatively rare occurrence.