The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

In the dark theater, before the curtain rises, the audience hears the tune of “Three Blind Mice.” This music yields to a shrill whistling of the same song as the curtain rises on a dark stage. A woman screams; other voices shout, “My God, what’s that?” Police whistles sound; then a moment of silence is followed by a radio voice announcing a murder. The stage lights now disclose the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor. Outside, snow is falling heavily. First to appear is Mollie Ralston, who has just come in from the outdoors. Her husband soon joins her, and shortly afterward five guests arrive. Four have been expected; the fifth, Mr. Paravicini, a foreigner, claims that his car overturned in a snowbank and that he has happened on the Ralston house.

Cut off as they are by the blizzard, the Ralstons nevertheless receive one more visitor in the next scene, which is set the following afternoon. Detective Sergeant Trotter claims that the person who murdered Mrs. Maureen Lyons left a notebook behind and that in it were two addresses. One was that of the victim; the other is Monkswell Manor. He has therefore skied over to protect the occupants. Trotter wonders whether anyone might know the deceased, whose real name was Stanning. More than a decade earlier, three Corrigan children—two boys and a girl—were sent to the Stannings at Longridge Farm, not far from Monkswell Manor. The foster parents abused the children, one of whom, Jimmy, died before they could be removed and the Stannings imprisoned. Mr. Stanning died in jail; Mrs. Stanning survived until someone, probably a Corrigan, killed her.

In the notebook left with the body of Mrs. Stanning, below the address of Monkswell Manor were written the words “Three Blind Mice.” The murderer also left a piece of paper with the message: “This is the First.” Trotter fears that the other intended victims are trapped in the guest house. Still, no one admits to any connection with Longridge Farm. While Trotter goes outside to investigate the...

(The entire section is 824 words.)