If Agatha Christie had written like Raymond Chandler, would we have the Murder Mystery Party in its current form? This is the kind of question that has distracted absolutely no one ever, and has constantly failed to plague me since Saturday night and Death by Chocolate. For newcomers to the form, you can get off-the shelf packages of characters, set-up and clues which play out over the course of an evening. The characters are a Christie-esque mix of stereotypes thrown together at a dinner party; an off-stage murder occurs; each character is given set clues and dialogue to drop into the normal interaction over the meal until finally you get a chance to guess who was the murderer, and the murderer is revealed. Meanwhile you have fun rummaging up a suitable costume for your character and playing out the part. In Saturday’s scenario, American chocolate manufacturer Billy Bonka has been killed by a bomb planted in an Easter egg.
And that's just the start of the bad puns. Professor Sigmund Fraud, the psychiatrist.
Dr Doris Johnson, the archaeologist (looking lovely).
Mike Bison, the boxer. Dame Barbara Carthorse, the novelist. It’s that subtle. Others can be subtler. Why was I the only one who laughed when the renowned chocolatier Bertrand decries the use of milk chocolate and claims ‘c’est plain pour moi’? When Ziggy says that we can be heroes, just for one day? Never mind.
In case anyone else uses the scenario, I won’t reveal whodunit, but will say it confirmed a couple of suspicions I’ve always had. And be warned that the accompanying DVD includes an unheralded appearance by Michael Winner, so don’t play it while people are eating.
I think I preferred dressing up in a suit, waistcoat and bow tie to the time at a previous party where I had to play X-It, the world's most famous rapper. But you take what you're given.
Still on the chocolate theme, Friday night dinner showed that perseverance pays off. As usual this was boys’ night to cook. I contributed Thai green turkey curry, courtesy of the BBC and the British Turkey Info Service. Yes, such a valuable expenditure of taxpayers’ money does exist. And for the fourth or fifth time, the Boy contributed chocolate crumb pudding. We had this a few months ago and got it right first time: a delicious chocolate sponge-type pudding, except that it’s not sponge, it’s bread crumbs. With further melted chocolate inside and a white chocolate sauce. In case I hadn’t made it clear, chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate.
Several attempts to repeat the initial triumph have all ended in failure (very nice failures, but failures all the same) but we finally seemed to get there. The trick turns out to be: actually follow the recipe (rather than having the egg whites left over at the end, or mixing up all the crumbs at once when the recipe says just mix half), fasten the foil with rubber bands to prevent ingress of steam to the mix, and give them 30-35 minutes rather than the advised 20.