THE CASE OF THE FRIGHTENED LADY
A review by Tanya Howard
Inspector Tanner is called to investigate a ruthless murder at the grand ancestral home of the Lebanon family. Navigating a bloodline-obsessed patriarch, a groundskeeper with a grudge and two unsettling footmen, Inspector Tanner discovers nothing is quite as it seems. As Tanner moves closer to the heart of the mystery he uncovers a shocking and closely-guarded secret…
Against a spectacular back drop of Lebanon Hall and in stunning costumes John Partridge lead an all star cast at the Richmond Theatre as Chief Superintendent Tanner. The show begins with a fancy dress party and we already begin to see secrets emerging between the characters, an affair amongst the staff, excessive drinking by Lord Lebanon, an arranged marriage plan and gossip surrounding the family physician Dr Amersham.
During the party Isla, the niece of Lady Lebanon, finds the dead body of Lord Lebanon’s chauffeur Studd who had been murdered with a red scarf that had a weight tied on the end. Due to the status of the family the local police call for Chief Superintendent Tanner and Detective Sergeant Totti to handle the case to keep things quiet. I love trying to guess the ending to a murder mystery but with so many unexpected plot twists and secrets flying around I was not expecting the ending at all.
There is a lot of suspicion around Dr Amersham who used to be a doctor in the military serving in Indian but began working for the family and suddenly rose in position and stature. Studd had told Lord Lebanon that he believed the doctor was forging cheques as he suddenly had a nice house, a car, owned several race horses despite complaining of having low funds months before. The doctor also has an interest in the younger ladies of the household and tells Isla he can save her from the arranged marriage Lady Lebanon is trying to force upon her to her son Lord Lebanon.
The footman that Dr Amersham helped hire for the estate, from his days in Indian, also seem very suspicious as they are always lurking around the house listening in on conversations and looking like they are gathering intel for someone, possibly Dr Amersham. The police are also suspicious of the doctor and when they search his home they find a scarf that matches the murder weapon, and just as you think they have solved the case the doctors body is found, murdered in the same way as Studd.
Despite having two murders occur on her property Lady Lebanon does not seem particularly sorry or sad that they happened and is clearly hiding her own secrets. One of which was paying off the groundskeeper to leave town for a while, making him look like a suspect as his wife was having an affair with Studd and the doctor always hit on her. The police are quick to work out that he is being set up as the patsy and push to find out Lady Lebanon’s secrets.
There is a locked room on the first floor, next door to Lady Lebanon’s bedroom that she won’t let the police see inside, we find out the footmen are actually spying on her behalf, and after a comment is made about Lady arguing with the Doctor like an old married couple the Superintendent delves into their background and finds out they are in fact married. The doctor had been blackmailing her and this is why he suddenly came became a man of money, and realising they won’t stop digging to find out the rest of her secrets she tries to bribe them into leaving it alone.
The story comes to a close as we finally work out who is behind the murders when the footmen try to drug Lord Lebanon and send him to bed but the drug was too prominent in his drink and so he didn’t finish it. A storm outside kills the lights in the house and during this time Brooks, one of the footmen, is strangled too but when the lights come back on he is saved by fellow footman Gilder who finds he is still alive. Lord Lebanon comes looking for the body expecting him to be dead and the police realise that he has been behind the murders.
Finding the gun that Brooks had been carrying for protection as things got worse, Lord Lebanon start pointing the gun at everyone and anyone trying to keep his calm as he starts to unravel. It turns out he killed a girl back in India, strangling her in the same manner, and this is what the Doctor was blackmailing Lady Lebanon over. The footmen had been drugging Lord Lebanon to stop him from killing again, his target specifically being the Doctor, and he had only killed Studd because he’d been in the same costume at the fancy dress party. Eventually Lord Lebanon accidentally kills himself and his mother is arrested for aiding and abetting a murderer.
The cast put on a spectacular performance, and I loved that I was unable to work out who was behind everything and that it was a surprise at the end. I was engrossed throughout, although this did mean that during the storm scenes and the shrieks from Isla when she found the different bodies meant that I nearly jumped out of my seat at the thunder and lightning and screams.
At the end of the show the cast asked the audience to donate any spare change to Acting For Others, a charity that supports those in the industry who are struggling to make ends meet. I would definitely recommend going to see the show, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and to check out the charity and give in any way that you can.