A gruesome murder has taken place in London. A deranged killer is on the loose. In a remote bed and breakfast in the English countryside, a motley group of guests is stranded in a winter storm and the killer is in their midst. Each guest had motive, opportunity and a direct connection to the victim. Each guest could potentially be the murderer. Will the killer’s identity be revealed in time or will more blood be spilled again?
This is the basic plot of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap”, the longest running play in the world. For sixty-two years it has been staged in London, having been performed more than 25,000 times. It’s not difficult to understand why.
As a masterful storyteller, Christie eschews mindless violence and unnecessary gore. Instead, she creates a claustrophobic atmosphere of suspense by chiseling away the layers of the human spirit, revealing the intricate and colorful personality of each character. In this respect, three characters stand out: the young, histrionic architect Christopher Wren, the mordant foreigner Paravicini and the curmudgeon, old former magistrate Mrs. Boyle.
These three are responsible for the great surprise of the play, which is not the suspense itself, but the humor. Christie actually managed to write a comedy disguised as a thriller. Jokes written more than six decades ago still elicit laughter today and that is an impressive accomplishment indeed. Because each individual character is so well developed, the audience is compelled to make an emotional investment in the story, at times laughing, at times wincing in apprehension.
Fans of Agatha Christie, fans of a good thriller or those just looking to have a laugh are well advised not to miss “The Mousetrap.” Before passing away, Christie requested that for as long as the play was being staged in London, it never be published or transposed to the silver screen. Her wish was respected. So if you want to know what happens to the guests stranded at the Monkswell Manor, there is only one way to find out.