The curious case of why we love Murder Mysteries

Crime fiction and theatrical performances have been loved by the British for nearly 200 years. Unsurprisingly, everyone loves the concept of good triumphing over evil.

Now in its 64th year, with more than 26,000 performances under its belt, Agatha Christie’s play ‘The Mousetrap’ is officially the longest running show in the world, but what is it that attracts us to a good whodunit?

Crime fiction and theatrical performances have been loved by the British for nearly 200 years. Unsurprisingly, everyone loves the concept of good triumphing over evil.

In her BBC TV programme ‘A Very British Murder’, historian Lucy Worsley believes that Sherlock Holmes’ popularity was linked to the infamous case of Jack the Ripper, whose crimes started a month after Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels were first published. The public were comforted by the idea of a mysterious sleuth solving the crimes that flummoxed traditional detectives.

After World War One the public appetite for heroes who relied more on their brain than brawn continued to grow, peaking perhaps in the Golden Age of Crime in the 1920s and 1930s led by the novels of Agatha Christie.

Her philosophy behind her extraordinary success was to write for busy people, the workers of the world, who just wanted a bit of escapism.

Her most popular works encapsulate all that is said to make a great murder mystery. Just think of Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There were None, or Death on the Nile when you read this list:

You need:-

  • A big house/train/boat
  • A large number of guests
  • A death on the first evening
  • A large pool of suspects
  • The police, or even better, a detective, immediately to hand
  • A surprise ending

Written as a radio play, The Mousetrap was first performed on the London stage in 1952 and the curtain has never fallen on this tantalising whodunit.  Theatregoers are asked not to reveal the ending and Christie asked for the story not to be published in the UK as long as the play ran in the West End. The mystery lives on.

Wivenhoe House provides the ‘big house’ setting for our own murder mystery evening on Friday 17 June and we hope you will join our guests for an entertaining evening of dinner and crime.


find us, however you travel
By car:

Whether approaching Wivenhoe House from London and the South or Ipswich and the North via the A12, take the exit marked Colchester (A133). Follow the A133 towards Clacton, ignore the entrance to the Knowledge Gateway, continue along the A133 then take the B1028 for Wivenhoe before turning right into Boundary Road, then right again into Park Road. The entrance for Wivenhoe House is shared with the University of Essex but Park Road leads you through Wivenhoe Park and you will be able to see the glorious house from the road.

For Sat Nav please use CO4 3FA.

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By train:

Colchester station, Colchester Town station, Wivenhoe station and Hythe stations are all between 10-15 minutes from Wivenhoe House by car. Trains run between London (Liverpool Street) and Colchester station every 10-20 minutes. The journey takes around an hour. Also connect with Colchester from Norwich, Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich. Some trains from London (Liverpool Street) also stop at Wivenhoe Station. When travelling from the Clacton/Walton direction, alight at Wivenhoe or Hythe Stations.

By plane:

Stansted airport is approximately 45 minutes from Wivenhoe House by car. Helicopter pad coordinates are 603200/223900.