Instead of a murder followed by the mystery, artistic director Mark Sullivan said this year's show is a little more deliberately paced.
"We decided to go with a different approach this year and drop all these clues and so on before the murder takes place," he said. "Instead of having it all laid out for them, (the guests) have to kind of double back."
Mount Hope is hosting its sixth annual murder mystery dinner theater every Friday and Saturday through March 23.
Guests are served a French-inspired meal beginning with an amuse bouche, followed by a verte salad, and entrée featuring poulet buco d'osso churrasco, pomme de terre croquettes and haricot vert.
The meal will conclude with berry compote with grand marnier with shortbread and crème fraiche. Vegetarian and gluten-free meal options are available upon request.
"The guests come in and the characters interact with them and the different courses of the meal are served," Sullivan said. "The characters move through the rooms, interact with the guests and drop clues."
The story is set in 1907. Business partners B.F. Knowlton and Raoul Ducos need to make a decision that will affect the future of their vaudeville company, La Mente Mostra.
After years of working together, both businessmen have different visions of their company's future. Knowlton is hoping the company stays true to its identity in live theater, while Ducos wants to move into the newest entertainment medium, motion pictures. Neither partner wants to see the company fold, so they are putting the matter to a vote.
That's where the audience comes in.
"All of the guests are members of the board of directors for this company, and they're coming in to vote," Sullivan said. "Then someone dies and it spins the whole show in a new direction.
"The investigation occurs and the audience is involved in it and they help to solve the murder."
The two-hour show is led by a cast of nine actors. The 209-year-old Victorian mansion holds about 80 people for the dinner shows.
"It's a great time of year. But there isn't a whole lot of live entertainment right now," Sullivan said. "It's a beautiful mansion and it's a beautiful meal and I think people are going to love it."
-- JOHN HILTON,
If you go
WHAT: Mount Hope Estate & Winery murder mystery dinner
WHEN: 7 p.m. Fridays, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturdays through March 23
WHERE: Mount Hope Estate, 2775 Lebanon Road, Manheim
COST: $39.95 per person
DETAILS: Visit www.parenfaire.com