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Body count rises among fans of mystery dinners, trains and weekends

Entertainment & the Arts: Thursday, February 17, 2005
By Connie McDougall
Special to The Seattle Times

If you go: Murder mysteries around the Northwest
Thornewood Castle

It's hard to beat an English-style manor for ambience. The castle is a private residence that offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and murder-mystery dinners are open to Thornewood guests and their friends, $100 per person. During spring and summer, one murder mystery per month is planned; the next is March 11. 253-584-4393 or www.thornewoodcastle.com. Located in Thornewood Estates in Lakewood, Pierce County. Visitors are asked to arrive only by appointment or reservation. Directions can be obtained with reservations, or check the Web site.

At Thornewood, guests become the characters, dressing up in costumes, receiving props and personal histories. "I remember one shy man, he was actually going to leave," said Deanna Robinson. "So I gave him a tape recorder and a hat with a press pass. I told him he didn't have to do anything but observe." As the evening progressed, so did his enthusiasm. "He got so involved, he was one of the last to leave!"

A not uncommon reaction, said Deanna Robinson, who with husband Wayne owns Pierce County's Thornewood Castle and hosts murder-mystery dinners. "It's always the shy people who end up really loving this experience," she said.

It may be easy to lose yourself in so dramatic a location. Thornewood, constructed in part with materials taken from a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor, was built between 1908 and 1911 by Chester Thorne, a founder of the Port of Tacoma. "We don't have to create a set for guests," Deanna Robinson said. "They're in one."