Why are libraries popular in Murder Mysteries?

Holborn Bars Library

The image shows the fabulous library at Holborn Bars in London. It is a very popular venue for our Murder Mystery events.

What is the connection between libraries and this particular genre of crime writing? One obvious link is the significance of the library in the game of Cluedo. However, it is deeper than that. Why is the library in Cluedo in the first place?

If you mention murder mystery dinners to an American they will often say that it is a very British thing, and there is an association with Edwardian England and country houses. This will have much to do with Agatha Christie, who dominates this genre of writing. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is another influence in this area and many of his stories are set in or have chapters set in English country houses.

So, the association is likely to be the link with English country houses, in the same way that the butler is often the prime suspect.

There is another aspect of libraries which may be relevant. In dream analysis a library is associated with knowledge, investigations and the past. When you consider all of this, and that libraries are often very beautiful locations, you can understand why they are associated with murder mysteries and the ideal setting for a memorable dinner.



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Murder Mystery Event Overview

Here is an overview of our events and our most popular scripts.

DI Willy Catchem acts as detective and MC for the evening, a team of professional actors play the witnesses and suspects and the audience tries to solve the crime and deduce Method, Motive and Murderer before coffee is served.

The Reading of The Will

The will of a recently deceased aristocrat is to be read. His wife, Lady Margaret, his son, and the family solicitor are all present expecting payments to solve their various problems. When the will is read a surprise beneficiary gains most of the estate, much to the shock of the assembled guests which now include the family’s maid. When a murder takes place the plot thickens and DI Catchem has his work cut out.

This can be a 5, 4 or 3 actor show (the latter for fewer than 30 guests). We can run this in a contemporary or 1920s setting (Downton Abbey).

Little House of Horrors

Welcome to the film launch of Rod Ducer’s latest hit, a cross between a horror film and 5 Shades of Grey. Also present are his wife, a young actress and star of the film and a shady financier from New York. Suddenly a writer gatecrashes the party, claiming that Ducer has stolen his script. Ducer hands out various gifts, all of which are intended to calm his relationships down but all of which just make matters worse, culminating in his murder in front of everyone.

This is a fun script which is ideal for Hollywood or movie themes and dressing up.

James Bond 007 Murder Mystery

It’s the annual spy of the year awards. 007 is in North Korea (he was the only one who could carry off the hairdo) but 004 and 006 are present, along with a Russian agent on a friendly exchange, WD40. Pocketmoney starts proceedings by remembering fallen agents as everyone waits for M to arrive. In his place DI Willy Catchem turns up and informs the shocked agents that M has been found dead.

The ever popular James Bond theme is ideal if the clients wants black tie and 007 theme room decoration.

Contact us for further information.

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Dr, No!

We have a 007 themed Murder Mystery script and I have been playing with ideas recently. The following idea would not really work in the context of our event but it is fun if you are a bit of a grammar pedant, or perhaps not. Please let me know what you think:

Setting: A villain’s lair.

Villain: ‘Ah, Mr Bond, I have been expecting you.’

Bond: ‘Feltodd!’

F: ‘Indeed. Now, at our last meeting I must have been unclear in some way, so let me be pacific …’

B: ‘Specific’

F: ‘What?’

B: ‘Specific. You said pacific which is an ocean. You mean specific.’

F: ‘Never you mind that, Mr Bond. Allow myself t..’

B: ‘M…’

F: Shushes … ‘to be specific.’

‘Our nuclear transfibulator is now bigger, better and more deadly!’

B: ‘Than?’

F: ‘What do you mean ‘than’?’

B: ‘What is it bigger, better and more deadly than? You’ve used an incomplete comparison.’

F: ‘Mr Bond, you continue to provoke me. I am not the sort of man that will tolerate such beh …’

B: ‘Man who …’

F: ‘Mr Bond! Please, less interruptions!’

B: ‘Fewer inter’

F: ‘I insist! No farther such beh …’

B: ‘Further.’

F: ‘Mr Bond, these continual inter …’

B: ‘Continuous’

F: ‘will result in … oh just forget it’ [Shoots Bond]

Feltodd is a genetic mutation of Blofeld and Oddjob. The alternative is a bit X rated!

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Acting techniques – Improvisation

In each of our scripts we have roles where new actors can start with minimal risk. Our murder mystery format involves a scripted start and a scripted end but the middle bit, where teams question the suspects is all improvisation. For some actors this is a real challenge; some like improv and others are wary of it.

When actors have a few shows under their belt they really get to know the story and they can settle in, but for the first few shows we will put a new actor in a ‘safe’ role. Typically they will be playing an outsider who does not have a two way relationship with the other suspects. As an outsider they are still a suspect, and in some ways even more suspicious, but there are no stories that can get them into trouble when they are being questioned.

The main rule of acting in murder mysteries is that you do not invent as story involving one of the other suspects which they do not know about. Obviously if you do it may trip them up when they come round to meet that team or table. You can use known stories, or you can create a complete red herring using characters that you make up. Many actors are extremely good at doing this.

The characters in a murder mystery typically start out as respectable members of society. They may be solicitors, aristocrats or industrialists. As the plot unravels they are like onions that are peeled away to reveal a character capable of murder. This involves a journey into a characters dark side. With that comes tricks that can be employed to get out of trouble, an alcoholic will have black outs, a solicitor can claim client confidentiality and an industrialist can say that they have people who deal with such trivial matters. It is a matter of deflection. Then they can discretely check with their team leader to see what angle they should take. However, those attendees who are on the ball may not accept a brush off, and this is where the game becomes interesting. If the other actors see this happening they can move in to help their team mate out of a corner. Some of our best evenings feature this sort of sparring with some very impressive people.

So there are tricks that can be employed when improvising, but the real trick is teamwork from the actors themselves. Some of us have a few hundred shows behind us and when we have a really competitive and, it has to be said, intellectually combative group it can be an extremely fulfilling evening for the actors as well as the clients.

Tip: When improvising really get to know your character and have some plausible escape routes. You may not need them, but it will really build your confidence to duck and dive in this way.

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Little House of Horrors

Little House of Horrors is one of our most popular scripts. The occasion is a film launch of a cult film that is part horror and part 50 Shades of Grey. The audience seems to find that mix very amusing and it lends itself to dressing up in costume.

A successful film producer is murdered. There a four suspects, each with a motive. The audience must examine the evidence, question the suspects and reach a conclusion as a team; Method, Motive and Murderer.

The actors come onto the stage and act out the first scene. The murder takes place in front of your very eyes!

A terrible crime has been committed and, for now, no-one can leave the building. However, don’t despair because food and drinks are available.

The local CID, efficient as ever, arrive quickly and explain what happens next. The teams are given evidence packs including bank statements, contracts and love letters.

Teams then have the opportunity to visit the suspects in position around the venue. They can question them on their theories and build up their evidence.

Everyone in the main area gathers for a final scene. The best, and worst, team verdicts are read out before the true facts are revealed.

Find out more about this Murder Mystery plot.

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Murder Mystery at The Troxy

Actors on a murder mystery event.

Many were surprised when the boss’s speech was interrupted by someone claiming to be Jay Troxy, owner of the fabulous venue where the Gala Dinner was being held. There was no less surprise when he apparently dropped down dead at the top of the stairs.

When another character removed a wig and moustache, having been posing as a member of the waiting staff, it became apparent that a Murder Mystery was in play. This character introduced himself as DI Willie Catchem of Aldgate Police and he explained that the building was in ‘lock down’ while the crime was investigated.

The suspects were the victim’s wife, Myrtle, a dancer called Tiffany Charms, Troxy’s assistant manager Seymour Betts and a mysterious money man called Herbie Ravioli. As the details of the case emerged clues were found, and teams were assisted by a nosy reporter and a solicitor’s clerk who were both sharing documents.

Teams needed to investigate the three Ms; method, motive and murderer. How was Jay Troxy murdered and why would lead to the murderer?  Documents revealed that he was divorcing his wife, who would get nothing, and he was having an affair with the dancer, who was going to have a baby that she claimed was his. Meanwhile he had just discovered that Seymour Betts was embezzling the business and was on the verge of exposing Ravioli’s Mafia connections. All in all there was a lot for the the investigators to check out.

In the end eleven teams, including CSI, thought that the murderer was the wife, Myrtle. Only two teams thought that it was Herbie Ravioli, with table 22 thinking that he did it in cahoots with Myrtle. Five teams, including Damian’s Detectives, thought that Seymour Betts committed the crime. Three teams correctly identified that it was Tiffany; Suspectors Red thought that she did it in partnership with Myrtle while The Mexican Cartel thought that Tiffany and Myrtle were having an affair. Only Table 21 correctly deduced that the poison was in the chocolates and that Tiffany had intended to kill Myrtle and Jay mistaking them for a birthday present for him.

In addition to the official suspects two teams named their boss as the murderer, and he took this in good spirit when accused by DI Catchem, and another team thought that another manager, with his Prohibition black market shenanigans, had taken his criminal career one step further.

All in all it was a fun night and the Murder Mystery actors commented that they had had a lot of fun with investigating teams who had asked some great questions with many of them playing the game in character as investigators themselves. Find out more about our events on our website.

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Advice from Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes' pipe.

Sherlock Holmes is known as one of the great detectives, even though he was a fictional character. Perhaps the better detective was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the famous books, although we do not know whether he actually solved any crimes.

Holmes offers his advice on how to solve crimes. He says that it takes dedication and practice of the following skills:

You have to be able to see things that others do not

This is critical for the detective. Everything potentially has a story, how things are placed at a crime scene could explain what happened. This is one of Holmes’ key skills – an ink stain on a gloved finger indicates that someone is left handed, for example.

You have to know where to look for clues

The first clues that you see in an investigation may tell you what to rule out, so you must not assume that everything is a positive clue. In one episode of Columbo a cuff link falls into an umbrella and a murder scene and he manages to find it, thus placing a suspect at the scene.

You should have a knack for wearing disguises

This is perhaps more important in the Holmes stories than it is in real life. However, observation can be an important aspect of a case. You might be surprised to find out how much access you can gain with workmen’s overalls and a clipboard, particularly if you can get some plausible ID. Now, do not get into trouble!

You must study evidence closely

Study the evidence and keep an open mind for as long as possible. Once an opinion is formed the inexperienced investigator might be prone to adapting everything to fit that theory. The longer you can keep an open mind the better. In our murder mysteries we advise people to seek method, motive and then murderer. The evidence is like a jigsaw puzzle, and every piece must be examined.

Knowledge of people, and their curious ways

This is class Holmes terminology. At the core of this is the advice that you should never assume. People have all sorts of motivations and they are not always predictable. However, there are personality types and understanding these can help you to understand motivations. These are worth understanding.

Times have changed, and solving crime using forensics has made great advances since Sherlock Holmes’ times. Yet we should not depend too much on technology, and the understanding of people and observation are still just as important as they were then.


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