Our review of It's a Mystery at the Edinburgh Fringe, an entertaining hour debating why we love murder mysteries.
It’s a Mystery is a one-person, hour long show that sets out to investigate why people love Murder Mysteries.
Performer Tim Benzie is an old hand at the Fringe – usually he’s hosting Solve Along A Murder, She Wrote. Here, he’s talking us through how he fell in love with mysteries, whilst also providing a brief history of the genre.
Benzie takes us right back to the beginning, with Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder In the Rue Morgue, arguably the first ‘mystery’ novel. Despite having a conclusion regarded as both absurd and surreal, that story also set down many of the ground rules that mystery stories still abide by today.
These ground rules of the genre were developed and clarified during the period between the two wars, known as the Golden Age.
This is the era when Agatha Christie’s novels began to be published, and Christie was amongst the authors who challenged these conventions and expectations, whilst still remaining true to the principle that the reader should be able to solve the crime as the detective does.
Benzie’s love of the genre began as a child in Queensland, Australia. He enjoyed them for their puzzle nature – despite the subject matter, usually murder, such stories are fun, safe, and always have an answer. Benzie contrasts this with real life, where death is rarely so thoughtful or neat.
Moving through the requirements for a murder mystery, Benzie waxes lyrical about evidence, the victim, the crime scene and the suspects, wrapping all of this up in a journey around a Cluedo board.
There is some light audience participation, but nothing too challenging. Indeed, for a subject supposedly so dark, there’s an awful lot of humour in this hour.
Having diverted to consider how good a detective Spock from Star Trek would be, Benzie allows himself to go off on an even more personal tangent, that perhaps suggests why he became so enamoured of mysteries as a child. Or perhaps it’s not that deep.
There is a huge amount of content crammed into this show. From the history of the genre, to what academics have theorised, to multiple pop culture references, the audience’s attention is held in rapture.
In the end, this is an enlightening hour, and a surprisingly personal piece of story-telling. If you love detective fiction, murder mysteries, or even just stories with puzzles in them, you will find much to enjoy here.
It’s a Mystery continues at the Edinburgh Fringe until 19th August
Featured Image Credit: Edinburgh Festival Fringe