My 900th Post: Which Sleuths Would I Most Like to Invite to a Dinner Party?

It is quite exciting to have reached this landmark, given my unplanned reduction in blogging this year. I’ve had this idea for a blog post for quite some time, though of course I still left it until post 899 to decide which sleuths I would like to most invite. I didn’t have a rigorous criterion, but I think the key element for me was being able to visualise having an enjoyable conversation with the sleuth in question. It wasn’t simply a case of characters I enjoyed reading about. I wanted some variety within my group, though not too much that the diverging personalities began to clash. I also stuck to serial characters, as I felt this aided my first criteria. Equally there was case of considering whether a given sleuth would enjoy coming to a dinner party. As much as I love Leo Bruce’s Sergeant Beef, I think he would much prefer a pint, a bar snack and a game of darts. I also gave Craig Rice’s Helene and Jake Justus a wide berth, mainly as I am not too sure what state they would leave my home in. That and the amount of alcohol I’d have to buy. I appreciate that I am probably breaking all dinner party rules in having more women than men at the table, but I’m sure some of them have big enough personalities to make this seem less of a problem. Anyways here goes my list…

  • Miss Marple – So yes, I have started with perhaps a rather obvious choice, or perhaps not? After all there are many out there who would find her an uncomfortable choice given her darker and sharper edges. She’s not called Nemesis for nothing. Yet I think that side comes out much more towards the killers she uncovers, so if I hold off from committing any murders before she turns up, I should be alright. Others may feel she is a dour choice, but from my reading and re-reading of her cases, I find she has plenty of conversational surprises up her sleeve.
  • Sister Pelagia – This is Boris Akunin’s sleuthing nun, who only has three exploits during the late 19th century in Russia. However, despite her short outing as a character I think she would make for a rather fun guest. Nuns and fun may seem antithetical, yet Pelagia quickly shows her readers in her debut case, Pelagia and the White Bulldog (2000), that her sense of humour didn’t disappear when she took her vows and like Miss Marple, she is full of disconcerting surprises.
  • Jane and Dagobert Brown – Regular readers will not be surprised by my inclusion of these married sleuths, created by Delano Ames. Given their bohemian and spontaneous lifestyle I felt they would be good mixers within the party, without any eccentricities taking over. Their humorous turns of phrase and the fact they are not completely wrapped up in each other, also means they could contribute well to the dinner table conversation.
  • Ambrose Chitterwick – When thinking about my favourite authors, my mind did turn to Anthony Berkeley, but no one will be perturbed that I didn’t decide to invite Roger Sheringham. My brain, however, did pause over Chitterwick. Now there is an ideal guest for dinner party and he no doubt has plenty of experience of them as well. He paired up rather well with another guest and despite his demure demeanour there is a sharp mind behind that benign exterior.
  • Tuppence and Tommy Beresford – Another Christie inclusion and my second pair of married sleuths. In some ways I think they would fulfil a similar function to Jane and Dagobert, though in a more restrained manner. In fact, I thought Tommy would get on well with Dagobert, swapping yarns about their various exploits.
  • Ariadne Oliver – Well you can’t not invite Ariadne! Yes, she is can be loud and effusive, but she is also wonderfully kind and zany, with her mind pursuing five different thoughts at once. It is hard not to find her company delightful.
  • Lady Lupin – Despite her social title, she is also a vicar’s wife and amateur sleuth, created by Joan Coggin. Like Chitterwick she would be comfortable at such an event and more than able to mix with whatever person you put her with. She perhaps has a similarly scatter approach to conversation as Ariadne does, though the extent to which this happens, very much depends on whether newly married Lupin turns up or more mature mother of two, as her character significantly develops and expands over her quartet of adventures.
  • Lily Wu – Unfortunately poor Lily, created by Juanita Sheridan, does have the most expensive travel costs to come to my party, given that she would be travelling from Hawaii, but I don’t think it would be an insurmountable obstacle for so resourceful a person. Another character with a quiet demeanour, but again there is a sharp mind behind the visage, as well as a wicked sense of humour. Like Lady Lupin we only get four novels charting her adventures, but I would be hoping if she came, she could fill us all in, on some of her unwritten cases.
  • Gervase Fen – Dare I allot Edmund Crispin’s sleuth, the role of party diva? Well he certainly has a big enough personality for one. He would indeed bring a whirlwind of chaos with him, and I would certainly need to leave a large parking space to accommodate his avant-garde approach to driving, but I think he would also bring a good dollop of wit and entertainment as well.
  • Patricia Borchman – Hans Olav Lahlum’s amateur sleuth is another smart young lady and one it is hard to not get close to if you follow her life through the series. I think she is also a character who you naturally develop a lot of questions about and inviting her to the dinner party would be an ideal opportunity to find out more about her.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane – These two guests will simultaneously garner me approval and opprobrium, depending on what your opinions are about them. Peter’s courtship and marriage to Harriet definitely did his personality a world of good, which certainly rounded and fleshed out a bit. Gaudy Night was my first Sayers novel and I have always had an affection for these two ever since, so it seemed a given that they would make the list.
  • Leonidas Witherall – I did um and ah over my final choice; whose creator was Alice Tilton. But I think his adventures show he has the gift of the gab and I can imagine him being a very entertaining and engaging conversationalist.

As you can see below, I also had a go at deciding where I would seat each sleuth.

I did look online at some seating guidelines, which I did partially follow, but in the main I went with my gut instinct as to who would like to be sat with whom. There were some guests that I grouped together because I felt they could intellectually handle Fen, whilst I also considered placing younger characters near those of a similar age or of a fun and adventurous disposition. Consequently, I did have to split married couples up. Out of all the guests I felt Miss Marple and Ambrose Chitterwick were probably best kept together, as far away as possible from the opinionated and raucous sleuths, though poor Chitterwick is opposite Ariadne. Hopefully she won’t be wearing anything as loud as her outfit in Dead Man’s Folly! No single men for Lily Wu or Patricia, apart from Chitterwick, but you can’t have everything. Still in two minds as to whether I should have had the sleuths who are also writers clumped together, but I would be interested in hearing other people’s alternative seating plans; either with my chosen guests or with different ones. After all, was I wrong to not include Hercule Poirot? Or maybe Father Brown ought to have made the list? And I am sure there is at least one reader who would have booted several of my choices off the guest list and added in maybe Mrs Bradley, Nero Wolfe or dare I say it… Miss Pym.

Whilst you’re making up your minds as to who you would invite to dinner, I would recommend giving this YouTube series a go: Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party. All of the guests are writers from the past and it goes without saying that it is real murder which the guests are faced with, as they begin to get bumped off. Agatha Christie is one of the guests and her role is macabrely entertaining.

33 comments

  1. Congratulations Kate on reaching this landmark, and what a great idea for a post! I’m busy thinking who I’d have: Father Brown (he could say Grace), Albert and Amanda Campion, and definitely Mrs Bradley to add some abrasiveness. You didn’t fancy either Gideon Fell or henry Merivale? Disruptive I suppose.

    I once long ago wrote a book on etiquette: I’m a dab hand at table plans and would be happy to do one for you so long as I am invited to the sleuths’ dinner!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Whilst Merrivale and Fell are great sleuths, I just can’t them and me as friends.
      When doing my own clumsy attempt at doing a seating plan I was thinking at the back of my mind that you would probably know how to do this properly! And of course you would be allowed to come!

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  2. Congratulations, Kate! And what an entertaining guest list. I think we can say Nero Wolfe had indeed been invited, but, given his culinary and personal peculiarities, he had politely declined to attend. As for Leeonidas….mm.Yes. And very good company he’d be, I suspect – better than his semi-fraternal brother in crime, Asey Mayo, I think. It occurs to me that it might be interesting to think about which professional detectives you might invite to a Support Your Police dinner – Henry Tibbett, certainly, and Bony and C.D. Sloan…hmm…you might think about that; post 1000 isn’t that far off!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I have somewhat overlooked the police force in my guest list, but I guess I find myself more engaged mentally by the amateurs. But a Policeman’s Dinner/Ball is a good idea, though it would probably require inviting Inspector Alleyn… Oh well at least his more interesting wife would be allowed to come along too!

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  3. What a great celebratory post idea! Now I’ll have to go have a think about who I’d invite. Lord Peter and Harriet are definitely on the guest list…but after that…hmmm. Early in my blogging career I did a similar post–only it was about which authors you’d want to invite.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, Kate, I might as well tell you now: I have held back six hundred and six beautifully written posts so that you could reach this milestone first. I will begin publishing these immediately . . . on second thought, why inundate the world with so much greatness. No, I think I’ll parse them out slowly – say, over the next ten or so years!!

    I’m not sure I would want to attend such a dinner party. Like you, I’ve read a LOT of this stuff, so i know that, being the only non-sleuth in the bunch, I would be found boiled in the fondue or flambeed in the crepes Suzette! Then everyone would be fighting over who will solve my murder. JJ will love the fourteen false solutions before Mr. Chitterwick, with a slight “ahem,” delivers justice for the late host!

    I have thought about one on one dinners or small tea parties. Of course, I often imagine dining with Poirot (think of the fine food!) and Miss Marple (such good conversation, my good boy). Nero Wolfe would serve a fine dinner via Fritz Brenner, and I could get snarky with Archie. Mr. Satterthwaite would provide wonderful gossip. I love the idea of hanging with Ariadne Oliver, but I feel we should be in motion, rather than sitting at dinner. Finally, I give Louise Penny a lot of grief, but try getting through one of her literary meals in Three Pines without getting insanely hungry. I think eating with these people would be twice as fun as reading about them.

    I found the Poe series on YouTube and cannot wait to start watching it!!!!!!! Happy 900th, my dear!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a good point about the host being a potential victim. I may need to invite someone objectionable just to push the odds in my favour…
      I see what you mean about Ariadne – perhaps you could share some cotton candy on a ferris wheel ride?
      Glad you found the Youtube series. Definitely think it is something you’ll enjoy and it would be nice to hear a second opinion on it. Some of the actors in this series was also part of another Jane Austen youtube series in which Elizabeth is a vlogger. Worked really well though boy did it have a lot of episodes (100 in fact).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A very interesting prospect – oh dear, Gervase Fen at the head of the table. He might not stay put, choosing instead to prance around and preen, hatching witty plots and making eloquent jibes among the other guests. 😱

    Perhaps some of the other guests might be engaging in the subtle art of thrust and parry regarding the cases they solved. Too bad Sergeant Beef isn’t there to speak of the three detectives he outsmarted, because Ambrose Chitterwick could blush and cough and titter about outsmarting twice the number of sleuths. ☺️

    Or maybe Poirot could bluster and retreat in distaste in the face of Gideon Fell brazenly poking his ribs and wheezing in his face. Given the former only solved one locked room puzzle, while the latter solved myriad locked room puzzles. 😼

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well I actually put Fen at the other end of table, based on the considered wisdom of having a noisy person at the end of a table in order to prevent them from monopolizing all of the conversation. Sure LPW and Patricia could keep him in order.

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  6. How about a list of detectives you wouldn’t want at a dinner party? For example, Joyce Porter’s Inspector Dover would be thoroughly obnoxious, while Joanna Cannan’s Ronald Price would just be a bore – any more ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fun! I’m so delighted to see Jane & Dagobert AND Leonidas!

    Last year, in the course of writing a lot of irreverent commentary about the Perry Mason books, I wrote a short scene in Archie Goodwin’s voice, illustrating why Mason never gets invited back to Wolfe’s place for another meal:

    “When I’m working for a client,” said Mason, “I’m a fighter. I fight for my client, and I keep on fighting.”

    “Pfui,” said Wolfe. “Your principles may be irreproachable, Mr. Mason, but your articulation of them is manifestly redundant.”

    Then Mason started comparing the current case to the “Thousand Island gravy” he once made on a camping trip, and Wolfe excused himself to take coffee with his orchids. I wanted to excuse myself too, but I was afraid that would be manifestly redundant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why not! Though you may need to share Goodwin with Moira (my seating planner and expert on all things etiquette).
      Brilliant to see you too in the Lakes and looking forward to the conference in London.

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  8. If the vichyssoise is poisoned and your plan is mass detectivecide then I approve of inviting the Sayers duo.
    I’d invite Sgt Beef anyway, in expectation he would pass on the soup. Cold soup??

    I don’t know a lot of these alas. I can think of a few no one has mentioned. Malcolm Warren. Sam Spade of course. Inspecteur Hanaud. Father Brown. Nick and Nora Charles. Columbo.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love that you included Lady Lupin, and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to dig up her books and read them again. I too, thought of Ellery Queen, but honestly it is because I have always had a “thing” for Jim Hutton and really nothing to do with the Ellery on the page. I cut my mystery teeth so to speak on Mary Roberts Rinehart and so would want to include Miss Pinkerton herself, Hilda Adams. And when it comes to husband and wife teams, I always enjoyed time spent with Jeff and Haila Troy.

    Liked by 1 person

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