The Mousetrap signed by author Agatha Christie for actor James Grout, £1900 at Cotswold Auction Company.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

James Grout (1927-2012) was best known for playing Inspector Morse’s boss, Chief Inspector Strange, in the television adaptation of Colin Dexter’s novels.

The Mousetrap play opened in 1952 and has run ever since apart from a break because of Covid – the longest-running show in the West End.

It began as a short radio play written by Christie, based on a short story, as a birthday present for Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, broadcast in 1947 under the title Three Blind Mice.

Grout joined the cast of The Mousetrap in 1960.


The Mousetrap signed by author Agatha Christie for actor James Grout, £1900 at Cotswold Auction Company.

The play script, a Samuel French edition which came in blue boards with silver rules and silver titles to the front board (The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, 25th November 1958) was offered with assorted memorabilia relating to the play. Estimated at £500-700, the lot sold for £1900 as part of a Books, Medals, Militaria, Stamps, Coins and Collectables auction in Cheltenham.

It is unclear what the ‘6th birthday’ refers to.

Among the memorabilia was a programme for the 25th anniversary performance of The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre, London, on November 25, 1977, signed by the prime minister at the time, Jim Callaghan, former James Bond star Roger Moore and BBC newsreader Angela Rippon.

The Mousetrap was part of a large collection of books from Grout’s estate. “There’s great interest in memorabilia connected with the hugely popular Inspector Morse series, and I think that was probably a factor in the hammer price,” said auctioneer Lindsey Braune.

Famous names

A single lot from the Grout collection including books with various signatures and inscriptions from famous figures sold for £650 (guide £80-120).

A signed copy of the Morse novel The Daughters of Cain was inscribed by Dexter for Grout. The dedication reads “For James – with every best wish to you in life always, Super Strange! Colin Dexter”.

The saleroom says “Colin Dexter was well known for his love of wordplay and ‘Super Strange’ refers to the character of Chief Inspector Strange.”


The Kindness of Strangers…, in a lot that made £650 at Cotswold Auction Company.

In the same lot was a biography of playwright Tennessee Williams – The Kindness of Strangers, the Life of Tennessee Williams, Bodley Head, 1985. It featured the signatures of the cast of his play Sweet Bird of Youth, including those of actress Lauren Bacall and playwright Harold Pinter.

Other signatures in other books in this lot included those of actress Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, and actor Leonard Rossiter, whose most famous roles included Reggie Perrin in the BBC TV series of the 1970s.