Host your own murder mystery game night with Ann Cleeves

Get ready to dive into a classic country house murder mystery – with a Vera Stanhope twist . . .

Host your very own murder mystery party with this murder mystery game kit based on Ann Cleeves’s Vera novel The Darkest Evening. The Darkest Evening is the ninth book in the DCI Vera Stanhope series. Driving during a blizzard and desperate to get home, Vera is waylaid by a car stuck by the side of the road. Upon further investigation, she finds the driver has disappeared – and there’s a child abandoned inside . . . 

Taking inspiration from the events of The Darkest Evening (but without any spoilers), Ann has written an exclusive script to help you plan your own murder mystery party – either at home or via Zoom – and we’ve filmed some local Northumberland actors performing the script to get you started. We’ve all played Cluedo or watched Poirot, but now it’s your turn to be a part of the action!

You can find the script and the video available to download on this page, and here is our suggested running order and everything you need to plan your own murder mystery night:

Before you start:

 All you need are four actors to play the characters Ann has written, or the video of the actors below. The actors don’t need to learn lines but should be confident about reading a short monologue in front of the rest of your group. 

Step one: Suggested introduction from the host 

For this evening we’re not in ……….., but rather, an old country house on a snowy, long night in Northumberland. The house is in need of repair, but the parties are as glamorous as ever . . .

The Stanhope family and their tenants are gathered to celebrate the Winter Solstice at Brockburn House. Full of local artists and musicians, it is a favourite tradition of the village.

But then – the party is interrupted by a body in the snow. Harriet Stanhope, the lady of the house and Crispin’s wife, has been found stabbed to death outside the kitchen door.

In the tradition of the Golden Age detective novel, only the people in the house could have
committed the murder. One of the suspects standing before you is a killer and your task is to decide
which of them stabbed the unpleasant and arrogant Harriet. If you enjoy Agatha Christie and understand classic crime fiction, you can use your little grey cells to solve the mystery.

Step two: Witness statements

Either play the video below (making sure you pause it before the confession) or introduce the witnesses in turn and have them step forward to read their statements:

  • Dorothy Felling, housekeeper at Brockburn House, and friend of Juliet’s
  • Mark Bolitho, writer, director, and Juliet’s husband
  • Juliet Stanhope, Crispin’s daughter and heir to the Stanhope estate
  • Crispin Stanhope, owner of Brockburn House

Step three: Present the scene of crime report

The victim in this case, Harriet Stanhope, was discovered at the back entrance to Brockburn House, her place of residence. This was a small yard with the wall of the big house on one side, and an outhouse, containing a workshop on the other to form an L shape. The open sides of the yard faced to the northeast, the direction of the wind. There had been a considerable blizzard, and snow had blown in and formed drifts, so any possible footwear marks had been covered. Mrs Stanhope had been stabbed with a sharp, wide-bladed knife, which had been wiped clean of fingerprints. At this point it’s not possible to say whether the knife had been removed from the kitchen, brought with the killer or taken from the workshop, where a number of tools were laid on a bench. Access to the yard was from the kitchen door or around the house by a gravel path from the grand drive. The tyre tracks on the drive had also been covered in snow, and the house would only be accessible to a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It was clear that only the people in the house could have committed the murder.


During this time, if you are using actors and they are sufficiently confident, they can stay in role and mingle with the rest of the group answering their questions. If you are using the video, guests can discuss their thoughts about the case amongst themselves. 

Step four: Decision time

It’s time to decide who killed Harriet Stanhope and why! Discuss with the group what everyone thinks, and what the motive for the murder might be. You could give the winner a prize once the murderer is revealed . . . 

Step five: Confession

If you are using actors, ask the murderer to make themselves known. It’s very corny, but get all your suspects to start rising from their seats, before only Juliet is left sitting. She reads the confession. If you are using the video, play Juliet’s confession to the group. 

Beginning with The Crow Trap, the Vera Stanhope series is a bestselling and critically acclaimed series of crime novels set in Northumberland, written by award-winning author Ann Cleeves. The series has been made into a hit detective drama on ITV1, starring Brenda Blethyn as Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope of the Northumbria Police Force, and will return for an eleventh series in 2021. Whether you're ready to start with the first novel in the series or you're looking for the new Vera book, you can find all Ann Cleeves's Vera Stanhope books in order.

The Darkest Evening

by Ann Cleeves

When she comes across a car slewed off the road while driving home during a terrible blizzard Vera is shocked to find the driver's seat empty but a toddler strapped in the back seat. Vera takes the child to the first house she comes to, a stately home where her own father grew up. Inside a Christmas party is in full swing, but outside a woman – possibly the child's mother – lies dead . . .