Planning a murder mystery dinner party
For lovers of good food who live in the countryside, the murder mystery dinner party is an ideal way in which to bond with friends and neighbours while indulging a love of fine food and wine.
While murder mystery dinner parties have been popular for 20 years or more, they have evolved considerably in that time. The earliest versions were highly staged, with scripted actions and, often, actors in character mingling with the dinner guests. Next came the murder mystery parties based on Cluedo and similar board games, with guests being given written clues and asked to play stock characters.
Now, there is a huge range of murder mystery party possibilities. Complete party packages, which come with full instructions and details, are cheaply and easily bought online. However, many people still enjoy staging the “old style” murder mysteries, complete with costumes and acted roles. This is particularly true in the UK, spiritual home of the murder mystery dinner party, where the stories of Agatha Christie are a huge inspiration.
There are many advantages to holding a murder mystery dinner party. Their very nature encourages social interaction and fun, and the ability to role-play encourages many an otherwise shy guest out of their natural reserve. Murder mystery plots need not be all about death and gloom – most have plenty of room for farce, humour and even romance.
With the majority of murder mysteries set in the past, and in relatively affluent and traditional surroundings (think Agatha Christie novels and British country houses), they are often accompanied by rich, traditional British cuisine – steak and kidney, game pies and sponge puddings prevail. Given that rich, traditional British cuisine is the guilty pleasure of many guests, it is little wonder they are so popular!
The setting of the dinner party is also of prime importance. There is no point in trying to recreate a 1920s Poirot-style mystery in a cutting-edge modern home. Hosts must, therefore, pay attention to the details: are the wine glasses of sufficient quality and style? Is the food that of the correct era? Is everybody dressed correctly?
The latter is an important point. In order for murder mystery parties to work, the guests must be suitably dressed and in character. Therefore the invitations to any such party should contain full instructions regarding costume, and ideally a background “brief” on the character (if any) that the guest will be playing.
When parties require guests to play a role, it is very important that the role assigned to each is appropriate. Asking a timid, slender man to play a Falstaffian gourmand, or a naturally chatty woman to play a timid mouse, is asking for trouble. On the other hand, if characters are allocated appropriately, the party will be unforgettable.
For those who live in rural settings, particularly those with period properties, a murder mystery dinner party is the ideal way to bring friends and neighbours together in a fun and unusual way. Given just a little thought and preparation, an authentic murder mystery party will be talked about for years to come – and what host could ask for more than that?