If you’re sold on period Yuletide celebrations and the ghosts of Christmas past, there’s a 1960s murder mystery up in the highlands.
Jim Thompson, in the library, poisoned? Ah, Christmas has come again to Cameron Highlands Resort.
The YTL Hotel’s annual murder mystery romp – in which guests play characters borrowed from Agatha Christie’s wastepaper basket and dive into a comedy whodunit – is the Yuletide party you think you’re not going to like but somehow end up loving when you’re in the thick of it.
For a start, despite the Downton set-up, it’s less Sherlock or Gosford Park and more Pink Panther and Scooby Doo. Basically, people drop dead and you’re having a laugh pretending to be crime scene investigators as you dine on posh nosh and knock back champagne cocktails.
It’s also different from standard murder mystery dinner shows in which performers act out the drama and diners are asked to solve the case. Oh no, in Murder Mystery In The Misty Mountains, you are the victim, the murderer, the police constable, the doctor, the cook, the lover, the thief, the singer, the socialite, the nanny, the reporter or the plucky young girl, among 20 characters in the game.
Oh yes, you need about 20 players for it to work, although some parts are non-consequential roles. Meanwhile, everyone’s given top secret character cards in advance, which includes details of who you are, what you’re wearing and what you’re meant to do or say to the others.
There were 40 guests invited to mark the start of the resort’s year-end festivities this season, which included holiday traditions like the lighting of the old conifer trees that line the drive of the hotel entrance, a preview of the Christmas Eve dinner menu, and their signature killer party.
The story of Jim Thompson, by the way, is legendary among Cameron Highlanders. The American businessman was a Thai silk magnate who mysteriously disappeared into the jungles during a stay at the Moonlight Bungalow in March 1967. He was never seen nor heard from again.
So, a lot of guests meant two separate plots and non-related deaths, which was somewhat confusing as everyone was in the same room. But it was merry and bright, nonetheless. I got the part of the butler, John Smithers, whose profiled silhouette on his card was more Smithers from The Simspons than John Smith from Doctor Who. (If you’ve seen David Tennant in The Unicorn And The Wasp, you’ll understand.)
Still, everybody was eager to get stuck in the game and plenty donned their gay apparel for the part. Not everyone nailed the 1960s-John F. Kennedy-James Bond-Jackie Onassis-Audrey Hepburn style guide, but you can’t take these things too seriously.
As drinks and dinner were served, we were instructed by our host (who played the chief inspector) to eavesdrop on conversations, leave clues, cast doubts and feed suspicions. As the game progressed, we were shown a bunch of evidence – letters, notes, possible leads and red herrings – all alluding to scandals involving the victims and suspects. Then, everyone received new cards with what to say and do next.
Frankly, it was a little difficult trying to solve anything while sat at the dining table and stuffing our faces with food and wine. In the meantime, more characters were killed off and mild chaos reigned as we tried to figure out what exactly was going on, despite the detective explaining things along the way. Let’s just say the spirit was gay and willing, even though the mind was weak and inebriated.
In the end, while you’re not required to have any acting chops, a sense of the absurd and some amateur sleuthing skills go a long way in sussing out the killer. There are also winners for best costume and best role-playing, although this is the sort of game where everyone wins just for participating.
The resort says the whodunit was developed exclusively for it, and that the event is perfect for a celebratory weekend, a corporate getaway or a company-brainstorming icebreaker. While you’re up there, the hotel also offers a tour of the Jim Thompson mystery trail and tea-based spa treatments as part of its holiday experience. So go on, 'tis the season to be jolly.
Cameron Highlands Resort is By the Golf Course at 39000 Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. Phone (05) 491-1100 or visit cameronhighlandsresort.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (03) 2783-1000 to book a Murder Mystery In The Misty Mountains.
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