The Real Inspector Hound is a short, one-act play by Tom Stoppard. The plot follows two theatre critics named Moon and Birdboot who are watching a ludicrous setup of a country house murder mystery, in the style of a whodunit. By chance, they become involved in the action causing a series of events that parallel the play they are watching.
The play was written between 1961 and 1962, drawing on Stoppard's experiences as a Bristol theatre critic. It was initially named The Stand-ins and later, The Critics. It is a parody of the stereotypical parlor mystery in the style of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, as well as of the critics watching the play, with their personal desires and obsessions interwoven into their bombastic and pompous reviews. The title is a direct reference to the ending of The Mousetrap, a play well known for guarding the secrecy of its twist ending, although the producers of Agatha Christie's play could not publicly object without drawing even more attention to the fact.
The Real Inspector Hound, much like Stoppard's earlier play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, examines the ideas of fate and free will, as well as exploring the themes of the 'play within a play'.
Stoppard's play is an example of absurdism as well as farce, parody, and satire.