What does it take to make a hard-boiled detective? Judging by every drama on ITV, you need a keen eye for clues, infallible logic, and some troubling alcohol problems. Well, my friends and I had at least one of these, so it was time to don our pinstripe suits and pretend I know anything about cards other than the rules of Ring of Fire, because we were going to solve a crime.
Welcome to Dead Man’s Hand, hosted in the basement bar underneath the Grand Union Farringdon. Gambler Jack Spade has been murdered at the illegal Underhand Club and my team – as well as several other groups of Poirot enthusiasts – were tasked by the hapless manager to finger the right suspect and save the club. In order to do that, we needed to put our brains to the test by running around Farringdon, meeting a series of suspicious characters, and unravelling mysteries along the way.
But this is where it pays to have someone on your team who is at least even a little bit smart. We were... not good. I played with friends who all attended the same university as me, so maybe it says more about that school than anything else. Other teams, though, were burning through rounds like pros. At one point I was literally told how to complete the task and I still stared blankly, and blagged my way to the finish like a much poorer, even less funny Johnny English.
The tasks are expertly crafted, and I won’t spoil much, but they range from having to interrogate witnesses to following orders sent to your phone like you’re in that really mean episode of Black Mirror. Farringdon is notoriously empty on the weekend, so you pretty much get free reign of the whole place too.
In the end, we converged back at The Underhand Club to collate our evidence (…and pints were half price, so we got a few of them too). Unfortunately, our deductive skills didn’t quite match up to BBC Sherlock. They weren’t even Jonathan Creek, and no one even knows who that is. But the experience is so worth it: the actors are great, you can get hints when you’re stuck so you aren’t sat sulking in the middle of Farringdon, and it all adds up. Just maybe do a few Sudoku beforehand.
Dead Man's Hand is hosted at Grand Union Farringdon every Saturday until 25th August 2018.