Murder at the Museum

The local historical museum is hosting an open house at the end of the month, and they want it to be more than simply a viewing event, so they’ve decided to use a murder theme. And I’ve been coopted to help figure out how to do create the mystery.

This is not a murder dinner (that will come in February instead of a Valentine’s celebration), nor is a skit. It will basically be just people visiting the museum and . . .

The “and” is where I come in.

My idea was to give people photos of certain exhibits as they were pre-murder. Then people need to find those exhibits, discover what is different, and so learn what the murder weapon was, or the time, or anything else I can figure out.

We will have a body. (In fact, the very first time I roamed the museum, I turned a corner and for just a second thought I saw a dead body.)

People will easily be able to figure out the weapon and time of death because of the photo evidence. But I can’t figure out how they can guess whodunnit. There will be people in costumes of the period, and one of those folks will be the perpetrator. I could leave a clue somewhere, I suppose, that would indicate one of the people. I could give them alibis, I suppose, and have visitors decide which one is lying. I could give a handout, I suppose, with all the motives.

As you can see, I am doing a lot of “supposing.”

I could set up the game where motive isn’t necessary to figure out who did it. I don’t remember, was motive a part of Clue, or was it more, “Colonel Plum in the library with a candlestick”?

If motive isn’t necessary, we could give a small prize to anyone who figures out how the mannequin was killed and who did it (that way it’s not a race, and the museum won’t be destroyed in the process), and then give a main prize to the person who comes up with the most intriguing motive.

If you have any suggestions how I can go about putting together this murder at the museum, please feel free to leave a comment. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.


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.

The Mystery of Mystery Novels

I don’t think I have the proper attitude for reading today’s novels. (Or yesterday’s novels, either – I tried to read Nicholas Nickleby and by the time I paged through the list of illustrations, a biography of Dickens, the introduction, the acknowledgements, a note on the text, suggested reading, the first preface, the second preface, the table of contents, and the first sentence which was so long it was also the first paragraph, I had to take a break.)

I used to like reading mysteries, especially the old style of mystery where a crime was committed before the story began, and we followed along with the detective as he or she tried to figure out whodunit. It was a puzzle, an intellectual game, and if the characters were flat and the guy detectives had a new dame every book, well, that was the formula and rather fun. Who could take it seriously? It seems as if we are supposed to take the current crop of sleuths seriously even if they are sassy and glib and don’t take themselves seriously. We’re supposed to care about their relationship problems, their obnoxious children, their annoying families. Which is fine, but where, in all that, is the mystery? Unless the mystery is why the writers are so popular.

I just finished reading a non-mystery mystery. Half the story was told from the point of view of the sleuths, who were so poorly drawn the only thing I know about them is that they were on a honeymoon; I have absolutely no feel for them as people. The other half of the story was told from the point of view of the jewel thieves the sleuths were after, so I knew whodunnit, I knew why they dunnit, I knew how they dunnit. Where was the mystery? And where was the suspense? The book had only two outcomes: either the sleuths caught the thieves or they didn’t. So what? Perhaps if the characters were well drawn I could root for one or the other, but as it was, I simply did not care.

I used to think mysteries were easy to write. You conceived of a mystery, created an intriguing detective to solve it, hid clues in obvious and not so obvious places, drew dried herring across the path to confuse the scent, and when the mystery was solved, the book ended. But apparently I was wrong. If it was easy, we’d have great mysteries with great characters and I wouldn’t be writing this.