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A: Agatha Christie Pf: 1952, London Pb: 1954 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Monkswell Manor guesthouse, c.1950 C: 5m, 3fGiles and Mollie Ralston have recently opened Monkswell Manor as a country guesthouse, and are about to receive their first guests in a heavy snowstorm. First to arrive is a mature lady, the fussy Mrs Boyle. Then come: amiable Major Metcalf; Christopher Wren, a delicate and sensitive young man; a somewhat manly woman Miss Casewell; and finally, the rather sinister Mr Paravicini. By next morning they are totally cut off by the snow. The local police phone to say that Detective Sergeant Trotter is making his way out to them on urgent business. Trotter duly arrives on skis and reveals that he is investigating a murder. Some years previously, three local children were sent to be fostered by a farming couple called the Stannings, who abused them so seriously that one of the children died. Stanning was sent to prison, where he died. Now Mrs Stanning has been murdered in London. The guests wonder what they have to do with this matter, when suddenly Mrs Boyle is found murdered, and it turns out that she was the magistrate who issued the court order for the children to be fostered. There appear to be six possible suspects left, but this may not be the whole story…

A: Agatha Christie Pf: 1952, London Pb: 1954 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Monkswell Manor guesthouse, c.1950 C: 5m, 3f

Christie adopted a dependable formula for country house mysteries in both her novels and plays: a well-to-do, isolated locale, with a line-up of potential suspects, each with a possible reason for murder. The horror of the crime becomes submerged in the intellectual fun of spotting the perpetrator, and is therefore arguably a profoundly immoral exercise. However, one cannot deny Christie's popularity with amateurs and some regional theatres, nor the remarkable fact that The Mousetrap has played for an unbroken record run for over half a century, now as established a London tourist attraction as the Changing of the Guard.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Theatre.

Reference entries

Agatha Christie (1890—1976) writer

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