The news on
the radio at Monkswell Manor relates a murder that has recently taken
place. Mollie and Giles Ralston, the young, newly-married owners of the
once-regal estate which they recently converted into a guest house,
hardly notice the news. They are far too busy preparing for the arriving
of their first guests—and concerned that the blizzard raging outside may
hamper their arrival.
Wren arrives first. He is an obviously neurotic young man who speaks to
the Ralstons with a familiarity that makes them rather uncomfortable.
The next to arrive is Mrs. Boyle, a generally unpleasant person who is
dissatisfied with just about everything and everyone. Next comes
Major Metcalf, a middle-aged man who is very military in manner and
bearing. Miss Casewell, a young woman who is just a bit masculine,
is the next to arrive. She relates more details about the murder that
recently took place. Then an unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini,
arrives announcing that his car has overturned in a snowdrift. He is
just happy to have found someplace to get in out of the weather.
The next day
finds Mrs. Boyle generally getting on everyone's nerves. Mollie
announces that a phone call from the police has informed her that an
officer is being sent to the manor, in spite of the weather. She was
given no indication as to why the officer is coming. Several of the
guests are obviously unnerved by the announcement. It becomes apparent
that the Ralstons really don’t know much about their guests. Gradually,
everyone is becoming a bit suspicious of everyone else.
police detective, Sergeant Trotter, arrives on skis. He relates that the
murdered woman was once a resident of a nearby house. A few years back,
the courts sent several children there for care and protection. The
children had been terribly abused at the house, and one of them had died
before the courts had the other children removed. The murdered woman was
the one who had abused those children. A note had been left on the body
claiming there were “three blind mice” who would be murdered, and the
name Monkswell Manor was also on the note. Sergeant Trotter believes
that someone at the manor had a connection of some sort to the murder
victim. The murderer, he says, may well be among them even now. Each of
the guests, as well as the Ralstons, denies having any knowledge of the
however, recalls privately with Major Metcalf that she was once a
magistrate on the bench. In fact, she was the one who had sent those
children to the place where they were so miserably abused. Suspicion at
Monkswell Manor is growing rapidly, and the telephone no longer works.
a scuffle and a scream coming from the library and enters to find Mrs.
Boyle has been strangled. Sergeant Trotter assembles everyone for
questioning. Each accounts for his or her whereabouts, but none
satisfactorily. Soon, everyone becomes suspicious of everyone else.
Giles accuses Christopher Wren of being the most likely to be the killer
since he is about the same age the oldest of the remaining children
would be now. Mollie points out that the killer may be the father of the
abused children and therefore wouldn’t necessarily be a young person at
all. Trotter casts suspicion on Giles Ralston, producing a London
newspaper from the pocket of Giles’s overcoat. Trotter is also
suspicious of Miss Casewell, who, in turn, sees something strange in his
behavior. Everyone realizes a murderer is among them—and two more
victims, the other bind mice, are in danger.
So, who is
the next victim? Will the murderer be unmasked in time to stop more
deaths? The Mousetrap has kept audiences guessing about these answers
and many more for over five decades in this classic whodunit by the
master of British murder mysteries.