Locked Room Murder Mystery

Last night, I watched Clue, which is really a masterpiece of comedy. It brings together witty repartee with physical comedy, bordering slapstick. Also, young TIm Curry. Niice.

Moreover, Clue falls into one of my favorite sub-genres: the locked room murder mystery. Murder mysteries are my favorite genre as a rule but I particularly like the locked room variety; basically, everyone goes to a house, someone is killed, the guests have to figure out whodunit. Perfect. Sometimes there is an actual locked room and people have to also figure out how the murder was done.

These stories appeal to me the most since they really heighten the drama. The world as the characters and reader know it is contained in this one house. Passions fly because everyone is cooped up. Everything takes on more signfiicance. And there is the massive amount of problem-solving (especially with the mystery of how the death was done). I simply adore it.

However, it’s really hard to find good executions of this sub-genre. I tend to prefer the locked room mystery that happen in Britain-I’m a huge Anglophile. But that’s perhaps because I’ve found few locked room mysteries that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed outside of Britain. There might also be a bias towards mysteries there in the first place. But I’m open to suggestions both in and out of Britain. Also, there is something luxurious and decadent about having an entire mansion to play with since apparently, per mystery books, Britain is rife with them.  And  most importantly,  the work has to be well written. it can be clever but poor prose ruins the party for me.

Also no serial killer or horror versions of the genre work. I want my murders organized, clean, and the result of wrongs (perceived or actual) being done. I saw MindHunters, which resembles the locked room mystery, but it was a big mistake.

Clue is obviously a good example of the locked room murder mystery, both in its satire of the sub-genre but in execution (hah!). Also, not British, even if it is based on the board game better known as “Cluedo” that first published in Leeds, UK. Another good example is the 1990s TV show, Jonathan Creek, where Alan Davies, a British comedian, plays the awkward Jonathan Creek who designs illusions for a magician and teams up with a journalist to solve locked door mysteries. Many of these mysteries are really quite clever.

In terms of books, Agatha Christie is the master of these stories with And Then There Were None and the Mousetrap but these have faded in time for me. Recently, I read Caroline Graham’s Murder at Madingley Grange, which is both clever and funny.

But I’m stymied by other good examples. I’ve read a lot of other works and the vast majority are just unsatisfactory. Usually it’s the writing that lets me down. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to them.


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