Written in 1960, Frederick Knott’s thriller evokes a very different England from almost half a century ago.
It’s an England in which you can pick up an entire gentleman’s estate, complete with ancestral portraits, for £50,000.
And murder is the province not of drug-fuelled social inadequates but aristocratic intellectuals with a watchmaker’s eye for intricate and fragile mechanisms.
At the outset Clive, cash-strapped elder son of the dying Lord Rodingham, is about to sell the family home to Charles, a local oik turned property developer, before marrying a Texan heiress.
His disenfranchised younger brother David, who scrapes a living writing thrillers on his houseboat, takes a shine to Charles’s wife Julie, whose marriage appears to have been an unhappy accident.
Without giving too much away, the murder plot involves persuading an unimpeachable witness, the family’s tweedy female doctor, that she has overheard a murder being committed by an intruder while the real killer is in full view.
You can only marvel at the extreme ingenuity – and, in at least one respect, pointlessness – of the exercise.
But Write Me a Murder has enjoyed much less success than Knott’s two other thrillers, Dial M for Murder and Wait until Dark.
Despite the spanner thrown into the works just before the interval, frankly anyone who doesn’t see the denouement coming well before the end hasn’t been paying attention.
But it’s pleasantly dated stuff, attractively served up in this production by Ian Dickens.
I last saw Leslie Grantham playing King Rat in panto, and he makes Charles a monster of at least comparable proportions.
* Running time: Two hours, 10 minutes. Until Saturday.