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Writing a murder mystery

Part 2 – the killer

A while ago I wrote about how to start writing a murder mystery, focusing upon the characters rather than the plot.  All of our mysteries start with assembling a draft set of characters that fit within the overall theme of the story, finally allowing us to begin considering who should be killed off.

In any story there needs to be a web of inter-relationships between characters, with the prime focus of these relationships being that of the victim or victims. Ideally most, it not all, of the suspects should have a relationship with the victim(s) which might prompt them to consider killing them, so I always draw up some sort of chart early on that helps define and refine this important aspect.

Web of intrigue

Web of intrigue

I usually keep the prime suspects below 10 or so, otherwise the story can get too convoluted, but if the party is larger there may be additional victims which may or may not have been killed by those suspected of earlier crimes.

Having established motives we then need to consider the crime itself and ways that guests can rule out suspects to be left with just one guilty party.  A successful murderer needs three things:

  • A means: a way of killing the victim
  • A motive: as established above, a reason they’d want the victim dead, and
  • An opportunity: to be at the right place at the right time.

Let’s assume that the victim is killed out of sight of the other guests after the main course.  Who left the room after this point?  They have an opportunity.   If someone didn’t leave, it wasn’t them, but did the guests notice who left and who didn’t?

Also, who at a motive BEFORE the victim was killed.  Perhaps we discover a secret will after the death of the victim and the benefactor is surprised by it… in that case, why would he or she kill the victim?

Perhaps the means of death is beyond some of the suspects.  Who had access to poison or could make a bomb, rewire a circuit or accurately fire a gun?  You should establish these points early in the plot as you set up the actual murder.  Motive always sets someone up as a potential murderer and means and opportunity always allows them to be eliminated.  Play fair, and the guests will all have an equal opportunity to work out whodunnit.



Mystery in Curry Rivel

Murder to Measure has a bit of a soft spot for Curry Rivel. Back in July 2004 we presented our first ever mystery under the name of Murder to Measure, and this was followed in August with a private party in the same venue. Nearly 9 years on we’ve progressed to doing over 100 shows a year, but we were once again called back to our old haunt tonight for another rendition of the ever popular “Allo Goodbye”, based, very loosely, on ideas from a TV show you may have heard of.

The good folk of the village did us proud again, and it was great to see so many familiar faces ready to lap up our own brand of murder and mayhem.  In 2004, we were faced with two rival Indian restaurants, and now we had the Allies at our doorstep and desperate attempts by the Gestapo to defeat their advances.  Thanks to all concerned – ’twas a fun night.

New website now live

It’s taken a while, but the new Murder to Measure website is now live. We’re looking forward to adding lots of new content and functionality to it over the next few months, but for now you can browse pretty much everywhere and find lots of information about our services, future events and plots that we’ve used in the past.

We’ve completed lots of tests of the functionality, but as with any new site, it’s impossible to find every bug and niggle, so if you see anything that doesn’t seem to work, do let us know.

Filling in the black squares

Prime Suspect is sitting peacefully in Murder Towers preparing for a day of filming tomorrow, as part of a documentary into the fascinating world of murder and mayhem. We’re used to producing a huge variety of murder mystery scenarios in our day-to-day work, but it’s only when you sit back and think about how it all works from an outsider’s perspective that you realise how many elements actually go into the average event.

Most stories start from the characters, each having a set of characteristics, relationships and values, and usually one or two secrets to hide. As they begin to take shape, you see potential murders looming of the horizon, and have to consider how best to commit the deed so that whilst the perpetrator thinks they’ve got away with it, there’s a fatal flaw which enables the keen-eyed to unpick the mystery. It’s all rather like completing a crossword without the black squares coloured in and only half of the clues, but then if it was easy, why would we do it?

Murder Mystery Competition

Win tickets to an exclusive preview screening of Murdoch Mysteries Series Three, with introduction from Thomas Craig and Lisa Faulkner!

To celebrate the launch of Murdoch Mysteries Season Three on Tuesday 16 February, Alibi is giving you and a friend the chance to win tickets to a special preview screening in London. Hosted by Thomas Craig and Lisa Faulkner and with champagne on arrival you can be sure it’s one mystery that you won’t want to miss out on!

Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is back on our screens with a thrilling third series of Murdoch Mysteries. Set in Victorian Toronto, the series begins with William running for his life through the streets of Bristol, England where he meets a beautiful bar maid Anna Fulford (Lisa Faulkner).

Alibi is the only channel dedicated to crime drama with shows ranging from the cutting edge crime teams of Waking The Dead and Silent Witness to the more traditional investigations of Taggart and classic sleuths like Miss Marple, plus the new and exclusive series of Murdoch Mysteries. Alibi is available on Sky 132 or Virgin Media 130.

Your prize includes a pair of tickets for you and a friend to a special preview screening of Murdoch Mysteries on Monday 15 February at the Soho Hotel, London. The lucky winners will arrive at 7pm, and will be offered champagne or a soft drink on arrival. Thomas Craig and Lisa Faulkner will also be there to introduce the episode and afterwards you will get the chance to ask questions to the both of them!

For your chance to win tickets, simply unlock this page by cracking the code

Can you figure out the question hidden in this code?

P Y I G W O D E 1 ?

Is it his ?
a. Wife
b. Memory
c. Notebook

For a clue to crack the code, click here

Entrants must be over 18, see the competition entry page for full terms and conditions. The competition closes on Tuesday 9th February at 23:59 and the winners will be notified within 24 hours.

Exciting murder mystery developments for teaching

Prime Suspect has been busy developing new plots and expanding his murder mystery events over the last few weeks, including an expansion to the services offered to schools and youth groups. Taking the National Curriculum on science into consideration, he has been enahancing some existing scenarios to include more forensic and scientific elements, combining this with problem solving, team work and puzzles to create a series of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) scenarios aimed at school pupils from ages 8 – 16.
The enhanced stories can include a mixture of forensic investigations with the existing clue solving scenarios, and include techniques such as finger printing, photofit, show casting, fibre examination, blood-typing and elementary chemical analysis. These events are ideal for those looking to demonstrate pratctcial science applications, and can be adapted for most age ranges and abilities. If you are looking for a science day that is exciting and different, Murder to Measure can deliver a day of half-day scenario that suits your schol and its pupils. Call us to discuss the options.

Murder mystery abroad

Murder to Measure is now home following a most murderous and enjoyable weekend in the Dordogne region of France. Our intrepid suspects were housed in a French chateau for the weekend to deliver death and deception the evening before a wedding in a French chateau, and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and welcome the received.
We had to sneak off before the actual wedding, but we wish the stag and his beautiful bride a fabulous life together – their friends pulled out all the stops to make their weekend memorable for all concerned.

School Mysteries

Prime Suspect has just returned from the depths of Essex, discovering the person responsible for the death of a secondary school head teacher – with the help of an enthusiastic group of girls from Year 7. Fortunately, the murderer left lots of clues, plenty of fingerprints and several challenges for the pupils to unravel, resulting in an arrest before it was time to go home.
Our school murder mysteries are proving very popular with pupils and staff alike, and can last for half or a whole day, combining elements of the national curriculum where desired. The pupils are usually presented with a crime scene, and then have to undertake various activities in teams to discover as much as they can about the crime and its perpetrator.
We’ve had schools invaded by vampires, mobsters and wizards, and to places as exotic as Tamworth, Chepstow and Romsford with our very special brand of mystery, entertaining and challenging in equal measure. It’s always a delight to see the next generation of potential sleuths unravelling the clues to unmask the villains that are out there.