Posted by: Natalie | November 1, 2010

Murder Most Marvellous

Following a rather fab week, Steve and I had a fantastic weekend. The poker fund allowed us to take a weekend away to Ettington Chase on one of Joy Swift’s amazing murder mystery weekends.

Principle Hayley Venue: Ettington Chase. Click picture for web link.

I love a lazy Sunday afternoon watching tv detectives uncover many a mystery, but Poirot, Marple, Columbo and even Dr Sloane have NOTHING on Joy Swift. The woman has been creating these interactive sleuthing weekends for 30 years and they are utterly incredible. I have not the faintest clue as to how she even begins to weave together the complex plots and schemes that lead the inevitable gruesome demise of a good half of her cast.

Each plot, there are three a year, follows a theme – there has to be a starting point and a reason between 30-100 strangers might come together. Three years ago we attended The Inner Child Society mystery weekend (when we failed miserably to deduce anything other than the way to the bar) and this weekend’s theme was The Retro Quarter. The idea surrounded a long run family business which had been given a modern shake up; fortunes had been turned around with a relaunch into the much consumed Retro homeware ‘genre’. As a celebration of the Peterson family’s recent success, their most valued of customers (us!) had been invited to the relaunch’s fifth birthday.

Flash! Flash I love you! But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!

To help drop into the theme (and to add to the fun) there are themed dress codes for each evening. Friday we were asked to adopt a suitable customer id whilst dressing in black and white; following a little reality Steve became a world famous poker player and I his WAG! The second night was the more spectacular however. We had a wide option of anything pop culture from the 50s – 80’s. Steve and I plumped for something fairly simple with Flash Gordon and Dale Arden, but there were some true sights to behold including two gentleman in, what can only be described as, ‘exotic’ body-stockings to transform into Morph and Chas. There was precious little left to the imagination – good on them!!




Chas and Morph: Now imagine two grown men trying to dress as them!

There is food a-plenty (I can’t recall the last time I ate so much in such a short space of time) and lots of silly games for you to play if you want to – they are great fun and a terrific ice breaker for the table. But while all this is going on it is the action that is so very very entertaining. The actors are superb – never once breaking character and taking a whole barrage of abuse and questioning from us punters. Their unscripted deceitful lives unravel before the guests in macabre, boisterous and heartbreaking ways; all so very believable and juicy! It is the finest form of people watching with the added bonus of guessing who might get bumped off next! It makes it terribly hard to focus on those cream scones and afternoon tea!

Even though the airing of dirty laundry and disgusting deeds may be fairly straight forward to follow, there are so many depths that you can spend hours upon hours trying to deduce just what the hell is going on! An incident room is set up in a corner of the hotel where additional pieces of evidence are displayed. The investigation boards are added to throughout the weekend and you can spend as much or as little time as you wish trying to syphon reality from red herring. There are so many convoluted twists and turns that you genuinely don’t know which direction the plot will follow next, or who will be implicated – it is all very exciting and the smug satisfaction you gain from understanding just the smallest detail is quite infectious. They are difficult solutions but they need to be to make it challenging, fun and somewhere within the realms of reality. However, it is not impossible to solve as Steve and I showed:


YES! We did it! It may have taken a lot of hours and a lo-hot of questioning, but by God we did it! I was quite relieved as I don’t think Steve would have coped if we had not. I am certainly not about to share any plot details with you now as The Retro Quarter has some time to run yet and how would that be a fair reward for Joy? She is an incredible woman with such an obvious love of life and fun. The whole essence of the weekend is one of laughter and sheer brilliant enjoyment. It may not be the cheapest weekend going, but it is by far the best your money can buy. By the time Sunday looms in and your brain has reeled more that you would ever imagine, you cannot think of anything better value for money. I am hooked, completely addicted and somehow need to come up with a way of affording every theme every year!

I think it will definitely be on the Big-Birthday list for next year, and anyone else who might have a spare £250 or so next December is more than welcome to join me!!

I can’t tell you just how good these weekends are. You have to experience it for yourself but I cannot imagine anyone failing to find the fun and frivolity of it all intoxicating. I cannot recommend these weekends enough. Please, please click through the image below to visit Joy’s website, there is even an online game you can purchase quite reasonably to get a feel for just how clever this lady is.

Thank you to Joy and her talented cast for a weekend of murders most marvellous!




  1. Did you like it then? 🙂

    (As an aside, we looked at Ettington as a possible wedding venue. That place is absolutely stunning, completely beautiful. I can’t imagine a better place to go to for a murder mystery weekend.)

  2. I want to visit you, Natalie!!!
    You have, seemingly outside your door step, hills and dells of castles and common-folk weavers of hand-me-down tales and fantasy mirages!!!
    Okay, so I’m a bit overboard on the bits & pieces, but I love the places you travel and can only imagine myself in your place… you Lucky Dog!
    ~Have a Wonderful Week, Denise

  3. Sounds spectacular – I’m exceedingly envious!! Also, I can never help but guffaw at Steve in that wig! Gets me every time! 😀 xx

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