On a summer night in a richly appointed Norman manor house in Wiltshire, Andrew Wyke, a highly successful murder mystery writer in his late 50s, is putting the finishing touches on his latest detective novel. As he reads the final pages of his story aloud to himself, the doorbell sounds. Andrew welcomes in Milo Tindle, a vibrant 35-year old, newly moved into a rental cottage in the neighborhood; Milo has come to the manor per Andrew's invitation. After drinks and small talk, Andrew discloses his knowledge that Milo intends to marry his wife, Marguerite, and questions Milo about his background and family. In the course of Andrew’s interrogation, a compliant Milo offers that his now deceased mother was a farmer’s daughter from Hereford; his father, a Jewish-Italian immigrant who came to England in the 1930’s; that he himself is an agnostic; and that he owns his own travel agency in South London.
With an air of condescension Andrew then redirects his cross-examination to focus on Milo's financial wellbeing, explaining that while he no longer harbors romantic feelings for Marguerite—and even boasts about his sexual Olympics with Finnish mistress Téa—he worries that Milo will not be able to accommodate the lavish lifestyle that she has come to expect. Milo disagrees and argues that he and Marguerite will marry and go on to live a simpler life of love and practicality. Unconvinced and sensing the younger man’s uncertainty, Andrew proposes a plan he has already thought out in great detail to benefit them both. He offers to stage a home robbery in which Milo steals Andrew's precious insured jewels to sell abroad to a friend of Andrew’s in Amsterdam who has promised to buy them for £90,000 in cash. This way, Milo could afford to live a comfortable life with Marguerite, and Andrew would report the jewels missing and receive a large settlement from his insurance company.
Milo is skeptical. He points out the many ways such a caper could go wrong, and wonders if the plan is a twisted scheme for Andrew to frame and imprison him. Andrew reassures Milo that he has no desire to be stuck with Marguerite, nor to continue providing for her financially. Apprehensively, Milo agrees to go along with the plan. Andrew is ecstatic; while he has never actually committed a crime before, he knows all of the ways to execute a burglary without getting caught—thanks to his extensive experience writing detective novels.
First things first, the men start by fishing through Andrew's basket of costumes accumulated through amateur dramatics, costume balls, and masquerades. Andrew asserts that Milo must be unrecognizable in case of passersby. After cycling through a gorilla mask and monk garb, they settle on a clown suit. While singing a few lines from Rossini’s Pagliacci, Milo changes into the clown costume and hands his clothes to Andrew who puts them in an armoire. Next, Andrew presents Milo with tools for the burglary: a glasscutter to break in with, a piece of putty to hold onto the broken glass, a stethoscope to break into the safe, and a stick of dynamite. With Milo prepared for his mission, Andrew wishes him good luck and watches him exit out the main door.
While outside, Milo uses a ladder and the glass cutter to break into the manor. Once inside and at Andrew’s direction, he throws clothes all over the bedroom to create the illusion of a burglar searching for hidden jewels. He attempts to jimmy his way into the locked safe with Andrew’s coaching, but when that does not work, Andrew uses the dynamite to open the safe by triggering a small explosion.
With the safe ajar, Milo grabs the jewelry box and smashes it open. For a moment, he stands in awe of the treasure inside. Then, Andrew introduces what he refers to as the "fun bit" of the crime. He details the moment in the burglary when the homeowner confronts the burglar, and a grandiose physical altercation ensues. Andrew explains that feigning close contact with the burglar is the only way he would be able to (falsely) describe the criminal to police later on.
Together, Andrew and Milo ravage the living area of the home, throwing encyclopedias, furniture, and papers all about. Then abruptly, much to Milo’s surprise, Andrew punches him in the stomach. As Milo groans, Andrew emphasizes that, like the rest of the crime, the fight must be authentic. He punches Milo once again before encouraging him to fight back. Andrew insists that Milo must hit him, so that he will have a real injury to show the police. They consider different weapons for the altercation, ranging from a fireplace poker to a bee sting projected by way of a blowpipe. They also consider tying Andrew up and leaving him to be found by the maid. When Andrew introduces the idea of being threatened with a gun and tied up, Milo expresses his adamance against the use of firearms. Andrew persists, produces his own gun, and offers his expert opinion that the most convincing story for the police would include a struggle over the gun and Milo’s taking possession of it for the gagging and tying up Andrew. Reluctantly, Milo agrees, and Andrew begins to shoot the gun at different items in his home to convey a struggle with shots fired. He destroys a jug and a figurine, and then turns the gun on Milo.
A confused and fearful Milo asks Andrew what he is doing. Andrew responds that he is going to kill Milo and reveals that the entire night has been one big game of cat and mouse; he invited Milo over to stage the circumstances of his death. Andrew explains that the break-in and stolen jewels are the perfect set up for him to get away with murdering Milo. Milo pleads for his life as Andrew considers aloud where he should kill him. Milo begs Andrew to know why he must resort to murder. Andrew scoffingly confesses that he hates Milo's "smarmy, good-looking Latin face and easy manner." He vehemently hurls xenophobic and antisemitic slurs at Milo and says he would never be ridiculous enough to relinquish his wife—regardless of whether he loved her or not, over to Milo. Milo makes one final attempt to attack Andrew, but to no avail. Andrew takes on a deadly tone and demands that Milo put on the clown mask. Milo pleads for his life one last time, as Andrew holds the gun up to Milo’s head and pulls the trigger.
If you would like to know more about what happens in Act Two of SLEUTH, continue reading below.
Two days later, Andrew is at home again eating caviar on toast and drinking champagne and listening to a record when the doorbell rings. Andrew opens the door to find Inspector Doppler of the Wiltshire County Constabulary. Andrew invites the officer in and offers him a drink before learning that Doppler is there to investigate the disappearance of Milo Tindle. Doppler asks Andrew if he knows Milo and when he saw him last. Andrew responds that while he has a vague idea of who Milo is, he has not seen him in months, nor can he remember when they last spoke. Inspector Doppler reports that the police have been tracking Milo, and that a local bartender recalled the missing Milo mentioning that he was going to visit Andrew at the manor two nights previous. Doppler also reveals that the same night that Milo is said to have visited the manor, a neighbor reported seeing a fierce struggle taking place between two men, and was certain to have heard three gunshots. Although Andrew questions why it would take an officer three days after receiving the report to come to investigate, Doppler assures Andrew that the police force likes to be confident in their facts before making an allegation. Andrew denies having seen Milo, until Doppler mentions that in his search, he stopped at Milo's home and found the letter inviting him to the manor two nights before. The Inspector produces the note and asks Andrew to verify his handwriting, which he does.
Reluctantly, Andrew admits that he did invite Milo over, but maintains that he has not seen him since their visit. When Doppler mentions Milo's association with Marguerite, Andrew eventually spills. He remarks that competing with Milo for Marguerite was an unfair fight since Milo is young, smarmy, and witty. He tells Doppler that after hearing of the affair, he invited Milo over to play a game called "burglary." Andrew exposes the jewelry plot to the inspector and explains that the game was one big ploy to humiliate Milo. He says that by the end of the game, Milo was terrified and pleading for his life. Andrew confesses that he did point the gun at Milo’s head and shot it, but there was a blank cartridge in the gun. Doppler expresses his disbelief in Andrew’s story, yet Andrew insists that Milo recovered shortly following the ordeal, and, after a few drinks, left the house merely stunned.
Doppler reprimands Andrew for his reckless and torturous behavior, but Andrew further defends his treatment of Milo as only game. Doppler contends that Andrew’s game resulted in a man’s murder, a charge for which Andrew maintains his innocence. Still doubtful of the story, Doppler asks if he can look around the house. Andrew agrees to the search, remarking that he will find no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Upon a thorough inspection, Doppler discovers two bullet holes in the furniture, and wonders why there would be real bullet holes in the house if Andrew only shot at Milo with blanks. Andrew clarifies that while he fired at Milo with a blank, he had to first fire actual bullets so that Milo would feel threatened by the gun. Unsatisfied with Andrew’s explanation, Doppler continues to explore the house. When he comes across dried blood on the banister. He asks Andrew to explain its presence, but Andrew is baffled by his question since he has no recollection of blood being a part of the scheme at all. Unable to explain where the blood came from, Andrew begins to panic. As Andrew tries to gather his bearings, Doppler notices a large mound of soil upturned in the yard. When confronted about the freshly dug earth, Andrew suggests that his gardener may have begun working on the area without his knowledge. The investigation comes to a head when Doppler discovers in the armoire a shirt and suit jacket inscribed with Milo Tindle’s name. As his suspicions reach an all-time high, Doppler interrogates Andrew once again, this time demanding an accurate recounting of the night that Milo visited the manor. He insists that while the game portion of the story may be real, Andrew must have murdered Milo accidentally by miscalculating the number of bullets loaded in the revolver. With charges of manslaughter now being held over his head, Andrew asserts that he is positive that he did not murder Milo-not even accidentally.
Doppler disregards Andrew's claims and states with certainty that Milo's body will show up eventually. When he tells Andrew that a police car is waiting outside to take him to the station, Andrew refuses to go and demands to speak to his lawyer. He insists that his prank on Milo did not go awry and that he never killed anyone. Andrew shouts for a lawyer, and, amid his frenzy, claims that he has been entrapped. The Inspector agrees noting, “We real life detectives aren’t as stupid as we are sometimes portrayed by writers like yourself.” Andrew demands to know the inspector's identity. Inspector Doppler reintroduces himself, this time detailing that his name both includes the German word “dopple,”—meaning double—and is an anagram of the word “Plodder,” the last name of the bungling police detective featured in Andrew Wyke’s detective stories. Then…
Not so fast!
SLEUTH wouldn’t be a thriller if we revealed all of the thrilling details. The rest can only be revealed in performance! Enjoy the show!