In fact, Geoff’s prediction is no big surprise to anyone, given that he, I and 60 other members of the public have signed up for one of Joy Swift’s Original Murder Mystery weekends, which promises to be packed with murderous mayhem.
Sure enough, before long one of the other ‘guests’ meets a grisly end, stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors.
From this moment on the weekend becomes a living riddle to be solved, with clues doled out through actors’ improvisation and scraps of paper – in the form of letters, cards and newspaper cuttings.
From the first murder on Friday night, guests have 36 hours to interrogate the suspects and crack the case.
Actors stay in character until the big reveal at noon on Sunday, when prizes are awarded to those guests who have unravelled the mystery.
The experience is surreal in the extreme: an Agatha Christie-esque combination of murder, mayhem and cream teas. It’s a lot more full-on than watching re-runs of Poirot on your sofa, and you find yourself living within a play, where the characters burst into tears or anger on a regular basis.
The intertwining plots unfold with a startling realism and you quickly understand that this is one holiday where nothing is quite what it seems.
Some swift thinking
It’s tribute to the seamless organisation of one woman that the whole experience is so convincing.
Joy Swift came up with the idea of the murder mystery weekend almost 30 years ago and ran her first in 1981.
She now runs three plots a year (over more than 30 weekends) in the UK, and even the odd international holiday and cruise.
From the start the mini-breaks have proved massively popular – attracting people from all over the world – and Joy was awarded an MBE for services to tourism in 2003.
All walks of life
I had worried that my boyfriend and I would be sharing our murder mini-break with a load of humourless Miss Marple types, but in fact there was a real mixed bunch.
Apart from Joy Swift regular Geoff, his wife and their adult daughter, our table for Friday night dinner included another couple in their mid-20s – ‘murder virgins’ like us – and a 32-year-old woman who admitted to being “obsessed” with the Joy Swift weekends.
Strategies for solving the crimes also varied – some people kept themselves and their theories very much to themselves.
Others teamed up in pairs or small groups.
Our strategy of sharing clues and ideas over several rounds of drinks with our fellow guests seemed to pay off, and we walked out on Sunday with new friends, slight hangovers and – best of all – a certificate proclaiming our ‘excellence in deduction’.
If you don’t fancy doing your own sleuthing, why not plan a trip following in the footsteps of one of these famous detectives?
We all know that Holmes and the faithful Dr Watson lived in London, but you can get a feel for the pair in other parts of the UK too. Take a trip to Dartmoor to the site of Holmes’ most famous case, The Hound of The Baskervilles.
Many people now think of John Nettles as DCI Barnaby from Midsomer Murders, but he was solving crimes much further back as DS Jim Bergerac – the most famous fictional resident of Jersey. Visit the island to sniff out the locations of Bergerac’s triumphs and tribulations.
OK, so she wasn’t exactly a detective but she is certainly Britain’s most famous crime writer, and the creator of characters Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Visit her National Trust-owned summer house Greenways in Devon, and find out more about her.
Surely murder has never been this much fun?