Twenty years ago in New Mexico, our family used a Murder Mystery as a way to amuse ourselves during a weekend-long celebration of the new millennium. The fictional story unfolded to reveal a prominent lawyer who had been stabbed in the kitchen at the Albuquerque Country Club. I played the role of the detective who had to expose the guilty party. Uncovering various clues was a wonderful device that encouraged multiple generations of family members to interact with each other.
From time to time I have written other Murder Mysteries. The characters and circumstances changed, but typically a plot unfolded during drinks and dinner and our big old house in Ann Arbor often became one of the characters.
This year, however, a New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery would need to be totally online. Six of us took on roles built around the shock of the murder of Wayne Bruce, “Ace Reporter” for the fictional Metro Times, whose five-day-old dead body was surprisingly found in one of the caskets at the Luke Lexher Funeral Home. (Tip: Names of the characters were derived from Superman and Batman stories.) To simulate our meeting, the six of us each put the same photo of a funeral parlor on our Zoom virtual background screen so we all appeared to be in the same space; we agreed that it was a nice touch. The mystery revolved around, How did the body get there? And who was the guilty party? Was it the reporter’s estranged wife, his old flame, the managing director of the Metro Times, one of the newspaper’s reporters, or even possibly the funeral home owner. The plot was a fantasy diversion which served to take us from a bleak 2020 year into a hopefully more positive 2021.
Murder mysteries can be interesting, but difficult, to write. If you ever thought of echoing Agatha Christie by writing a novel-length murder mystery, I suggest trying to write such an evening’s interactive version first. Use your imagination to write colorful characters, meaningful clues, and a compelling plot line. And although not as easy as it may sound, it is definitely a lot of fun.
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