Gateway Players of Southbridge, MA opened their 44th season this weekend with The Butler Did It! and I understand the cast did a fantastic job. At least that's the word from The Citizen Chronicle's theater critic Katie Alicea-Tilton in her enthusiastic review of the show.
The Butler Did It! was my first full-length play and my second mystery, so when I wrote it I was still feeling my way around this challenging genre. For inspiration, I turned to Agatha Christie, not just for the classic misdirection techniques she used in her novels but for the character of Edwina Corry, a world-famous mystery author who serves as the amateur detective in the story.
I soon realized there are two mistakes you can make in writing a mystery. One, you make it so easy that everybody figures it out. Two, you make it so hard that nobody figures it out.
Admittedly, the clues I planted were pretty hard--so hard that I worried I was veering too close to the second of those two mistakes. To make up for it, I added one line of dialogue that completely gives away who the culprit by showing that they know more than they're supposed to.
I know that some hardcore mystery fans have picked up on it right away. But apparently, the play still manages to fool most of the people who see it.
And yeah, I'm really glad that the critic and her mom were fooled.