Marc West turns super-sleuth for a dastardly night at Weston Manor

Stepping from my carriage I was pleased to hear the reassuring crunch of gravel under foot, but something in the moonlit air told me to expect the unexpected on this chilly Spring eve.

Following my favourable review of her recent West End success, I received a personal telegraph from none other than the celebrated actress Lillie Langtry herself – inviting me to a very special soiree in her honour prior to her imminent departure across the pond to America to star in “dah-ling Oscar” Wilde’s latest production.

I'll admit now, I'm one of the bright young thing's greatest admirers and to share in her 29th birthday celebrations at her simply fabulous pad was an opportunity not to be missed. Plus, who'd forgo the chance to hobnob with the great and the good, including legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, esteemed broadcaster William Heine Esq and even the rather frisky HRH The Prince of Wales.

Following sparkles and canapés, we take our seats for supper in the candlelit 15th century Baron’s Hall of Red House. Seated to my left is Viscount Algernon Fogg – whom, I strongly suspect, might be partial to telling porkie pies. Such is the conversation at table two, I don’t know who to believe anymore, so decide to trust no-one. They say, Friday 13th is unlucky for some, but on this particular day in 1882, it’ll only be one.

This real-life 'whodunit' –staged at Weston Manor hotel, Weston-on-the-Green, near Bicester – effortlessly blurs the thin boundary between fantasy and reality. And this eruption of scandal would leave even Inspector Morse puzzling over a pint or two. With heightened awareness my ears are pricked and eyes peeled trying to detect any tell tale signs in my fellow dining companions – all of whom are prime suspects in this murder most foul.

DNA profiling has obviously not been invented yet, so we need good old fashioned super-sleuthing to uncover the perpetrator of this heinous act and bring him or her to justice, with the promise of a magnum of the finest vintage Champagne on offer to those with incriminating evidence.

Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage, and our host certainly knows how to act. Dressed as the bride of Dracula, I wonder if our Lillie will be spilling blood, but must assume she’s innocent unless proven guilty. As the night wears on, the plot thickens with drama evolving all around us and I attempt to earwig for clues among the pop of corks, clinks of glasses and increasingly strong language.

Sometime around the midnight hour, an ear-piercing scream echoes around the hall – before the bloodied bludgeoned bonce of the victim collapses upon the cold flagstones. Now is the time to nail those colours to the mast and announce your verdict, but my thoughts are little clearer than mud, having spent all evening quaffing bubbles in Lillie’s intoxicating company.

Turns out, she’d been lying through her fangs all night – and I’d been face-to-face with a murderer all along. The green-eyed monster had got the better of her, down in the kitchen, and rumour has it she clunked her poor flunky Mrs Simkins with a copper-bottomed frying pan. Oh Lord!

Smoke & Mirror’s production of Royal Blood is a thrilling Victoriana black comedy of divas, dilemmas and dramatic exits set in the historic surroundings of Weston Manor.

The talented cast return to our county on Halloween for more ructions, royalty and retribution with Malice Through The Looking Glass.

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