Friday, 15 November 2013


October 1942. You have been invited for dinner at the Official Residence of the Deputy Mayor of Casablanca. Morocco is a colony of France governed by the Vichy French regime. The guest of honour was to have been France's greatest living mime artist. He fails to arrive, he has been murdered.

You sit at the dining table with the other guests.  Some you know, some are strangers to you.  The tension is so palpable you could cut it with the steak knife in your hand.  People shift nervously in their seats, eyeballing each other, wondering who amongst their number could be responsible.

The door creaks open and a man in a long black trench coat and a fedora enters.  He inhales deeply on his cigarette and tips the fedora back.  You are surprised, he is younger than you had expected, at least younger than most of the people who have lived in Casablanca for a while appear.  The town has that effect on youth.  It slowly, insidiously, saps away innocence and ideology, leaving only a bitter cynicism in its place. He sits with a measured pace, leans back in his chair and fixes each and every one of the ten guests near him with a steely gaze from grey eyes. You feel yourself break out in a cold sweat when his eyes linger on you.  Eventually he relaxes somewhat. "I am the Inspector leading the investigation of this heinous and terrible murder.  So, where shall we begin?..."
Some of our friends are huge murder mystery party fans as an alternative to the usual dinner party celebrations.  They have hosted a couple (lots) before and decided to go with a new one for James' birthday weekend.  We turned up, bottles of wine and cigars in hand, ready to enter the world of Le Chat Noir in Casablanca, the mysterious mime artist whose past is shadier than the cat he is named after.

About a month before the party our character sheets were delivered through our letterbox with a basic outline of who we were and costume suggestions.  It was clear that this was to be the high end of Casablancian society - formal DJ's, evening gowns, silk gloves and furs were all in abundance.  Well, apart from Nicole le Grandbutte who was instructed to wear the shortest, slinkiest dress she could get away with.

We got ourselves fully dolled up and made our way to the home of the Chat Noir, the unfortunate victim with a penchant for good brie who had just been murdered.  Sasha and James always go all out with their decorations when they host dinner parties to attempt to recreate as much of the style of the time period as possible.  It certainly helps get you into the mindset of your character!
Let me introduce you to Ingrid Pith, a Danish art dealer. Educated, intelligent and apparently having an affair with Kirk Ransom III, an American running Kirk's African Cafe in downtown Casablanca.  She was also apparently having an affair with Hughes Le Grandbutte, the Deputy Mayor of Casablanca and Nicole's father. 
Murder mystery party's only really work if everyone is willing to throw themselves into their characters, accents, costumes and all.  Our group of friends aren't exactly what you would call shy violets and every one of them went all out with their characters. 
After the photo's and laughter at how everyone looked had been completed we settled down for our evening in Casablanca.  There was a mixing pot of characters; French resistance members fighting the Nazi party in secret, an American billionaire, the deputy mayor of Casablanca and even Countess Bogov, an exiled Russian who was a trapeze artiste in the circus.
The concept is very simple; everyone has a script that they read from, volunteering specific clues about their own relationship with each other and the victim.  You are told what you can reveal and what your should only reveal if expressly challenged.  There is a CD which is played at various points during the night, driving the action forward.
We ate a veritable banquet of Moroccan food; mezze to start with, followed by chicken tagine and then two different desserts.  Birthday boy had done all of the cooking and he had surpassed himself.  I had to be rolled home I think as I was so full!
There was also plenty of booze flowing so the night got more raucous and accents got worse as the evening progressed.  Mine wasn't great to start with (Scandinavian is clearly not my strong point) and by the end of the night it was more Scottish than anything else.
At the end of the investigation everyone has to summarise their own version of events and then accuse who they think dunnit based on the clues that they have been given.

It had transpired during the course of the meal that there were two guilty parties around the table working as a double act.
No one was safe - suspicious glances were given as everyone wondered if they were sitting next to a murderer.  To be honest the murderers had only discovered that they had done the deed about 20 minutes prior to this!

Fingers were pointed, reasons given and the disc was started again.  I don't think that anyone got it right in the end as the two guilty parties were revealed.
Birthday boy himself was responsible with his accomplice, who had been gender switched for the evening.  To be honest, who would have suspected this guy to be capable of such a heinous deed?
With all that nasty business of the murder over and done with it was time to get down to the business of the birthday cake and catching up with each other.

Something Jackson thoroughly approved of as it meant he was finally getting some attention!  I even did my first ever shot of Unicum, the drink that all of the new initiates to the lad's annual tour have to consume.  It's revolting.  If anyone ever offers it to you, just say no.

Have you ever been to a murder mystery party?  Were you the murderer?!

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