When you come to a murder mystery dinner, you’ll quickly become aware how crime novels and popular culture shape the mysteries you enjoy. From small references and ‘easter eggs’ to utilising an entire style of plot, the influences of great crime novels can be experienced throughout the evening. Anyone who loves murder mysteries will love these points in the evening, so make sure you read the classics of murder mystery fiction before your big event.

Red Dragon, Thomas Harris (1981)

Red Dragon is an amazing book, and introduces us to the insanely clever cannibal and psychiatrist, Dr Hannibal Lecter. FBI agent Jack Crawford needs to catch a serial killer known as ‘The Tooth Fairy’, who seems to kill random families on a full moon. Will Graham, responsible for capturing Lecter, is brought in by Agent Crawford, to help catch The Tooth Fairy.

He ends up calling on the keen mind of Lecter for his assistance in capturing the killer, but things quickly become a lot more dangerous for Graham and Crawford as they get ever closer to capturing the brutal and terrifying Tooth Fairy.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)

This classic mystery novel tells the story of attempted murder, using the legend of a diabolical and fearsome hound as its inspiration. Family curses, long-lost relatives and intrigue are all part of what makes The Hound of the Baskervilles such a classic mystery. Follow the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes and Dr Jonathan Watson as they unravel a tangle of secrets, lies and deceit to solve the curse of the Baskervilles.

Upon reading this book, you’ll find yourself understanding a wide range of pop culture references, across TV, film and books. You may even notice it during your murder mystery dinner.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie (1926)

Hercule Poirot is enlisted to find out who murdered the wealthy widow, Roger Ackroyd, who is mourning following the death of his fiancée, Mrs Farrars. This seminal book by Agatha Christie is a staple of crime writing and will constantly keep you on your toes as you try to figure out the identity of the murderer.

One of Christie’s best-known and controversial books, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has a delightful plot twist at the end, with the book having an everlasting change on the way crime fiction is written, even today.

Stangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith (1950)

Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller and crime novel is the classic story of two men meeting on a train and swapping murders to evade capture. Adapted into the successful Alfred Hitchcock film just a year later, this story has been retold in countless ways since it was first published.

A cuckolded man and a psychopathic playboy meet on a train and end up plotting to kill for each other, reasoning that the murderer will have no connection to their victim- the perfect crime. Whilst the cuckolded man feels guilty and doesn’t actually want to commit murder, he has to as the other man has on his behalf.

Despite this, a keen detective is on the case, building up a case for arresting the men. Strangers on a Train is a classic crime novel, constantly being updated for modern audiences. Its longevity speaks to just how influential this book is on murder mystery dinners and other forms of popular entertainment.

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