Creating a Murder

I met with a friend today to do a bit of brainstorming for the murder at the museum event, but we got stymied when it came to figuring out physical clues. We never got further than my original examples of a weapon, a blood spot, a fingerprint, and some sort of photographic clue. In my own mystery stories, I’ve depended on conversations, especially when one character contradicts another because physical clues always seemed so Nancy Drew-ish. And yet, that’s what I need for this event — clues for the participants to find. Even though I can think of things to plant around the museum, I can’t figure out how any of those clues would lead people to suspect a particular character.

Because neither of us were able to come up with anything other than what we already had, we went on to discuss the victims. Since the event will be called “A Murder of Crows,” by definition, that means that two or more people will have to be victims. My idea is a married couple — traveling salespeople. Perhaps the man sells men’s haberdashery and the woman sells women’s unmentionables. I envision them killed in their bed, but I have no idea how someone would kill two people without one or the other being aware of it, though it’s possible only one of the couple was the intended victim, and the other woke up and saw the killer.

But I haven’t a clue why anyone would want to kill one or both of these seemingly innocuous characters. We discussed the possibility of the couple being spies, but there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy happening in this area around that time (1900), nor does there seem — at first glance — to be anything spy-worthy about that time in the USA, either. If we jettison the spy idea, we could have the couple ending up with some sort of contraband — an Indian relic, for example — and the owner wants it back or a greedy person sees it as a source of personal riches.

There are lots of other possibilities, of course. Most of the costumed characters would need to have to a motive, otherwise, there’s no real game. Often in a mystery story, you start out with no one who has a motive, so the detective needs to search out a motive to discover the perpetrator, but I don’t think that sort of scenario would be feasible in this case. Too much work for the participants.

Which means that I would have to come up with a motive to assign to each of the characters. Possibilities are: robbery, jealousy, vengeance, lust and passion (as in a crime of passion), money, loathing, anger, fear, mistaken identity, covering up secrets and lies, prevention of a greater crime (killing an assassin, for example)

I won’t have another meeting on the topic until next week, so it will give me a chance to let things stew in my brain pan. With any luck, I’ll cook up a likely scenario and plenty of suspects.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator