The Locked Room Mystery

The Locked Room Mystery occurs within a closed location, such as an isolated house or island. A mystery, for example a murder, takes place and only the people known to be in the location can be the suspects. Sometimes there is the suggestion of a hidden person or presence who may be responsible for the act.

Well known Locked Room Mysteries have been written by Agatha Christie, Wilkie Collins and forms many Hammer House of Horror film scripts.

Murder Mysteries are mini locked room scripts. A murder takes place and several ‘characters’ are presented as possible suspects. No characters are added or taken away during the course of the evening and the audience must decide who the most likely suspect is.

The locked room mystery can be solved by the process of elimination provided, of course, that the hidden presence doesn’t make an appearance. Often they are a diversion created by the real perpetrator to take the heat off them.

If you are new to writing then creating your own Locked Room Mystery is a good starting point. Start by choosing half a dozen characters and build them using personality archetypes. Choose a location; a spooky old house or, perhaps, an office cut off by a broken lift. Then let your imagination run wild!

Don’t forget to send me a copy.

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18 Comments

Filed under murder mystery, Writing

18 responses to “The Locked Room Mystery

  1. Liz

    Sounds like a good writing challenge!

  2. There used to be a board game based on this principle. I think its name was Cluedo, but maybe it had different names in different languages.

  3. If “Deathtrap” counts as a locked room, then that’s numero uno in my old school book ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://sharon-moms-madhouse.com/

  4. Now I know a broader view of a Locked Room Mystery.

  5. One of the best Locked Room Mystery locations in in my view: The old grandmothers house where something terrible happened during dads childhood . . . now the house is empty and still hiding a mystery . . .

  6. I know how I write and I would have a hard time only killing one of them.

  7. sounds really interessting – need to find some time for a good sript idea….

  8. Dina Maple

    Hey, very witty advice. I will buy this one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Leo

    I would like to have time to write, it will be a challenge, but I haven’t.

  10. Sounds exactly like Cluedo too me, very interesting.

  11. Sounds like a great way to begin writing a fiction story or book. Personally I do most my writing on non-fictional subjects.

  12. mithuhassan

    Interesting !! Wish to come back again and again to read and learn more!

  13. Peter Collett

    I don’t agree with the definition of a locked room mystery (the alternative name is ‘impossible crime’, which is probably a better description). It’s not to do with having a closed circle of suspects, but with how the crime was committed, The whole idea is that it was apparently impossible for anyone to have committed it. There may be (and usually will be) a closed circle of suspects – without that, it would be pretty difficult to identify the culprit, but it’s the impossibility which is the one overriding feature of the locked room genre.

  14. corio37

    Peter is correct: a locked room mystery involves a locked room (or a box, or a coffin, or an enclosed house, etc). Hence the name.

  15. Lauren

    As Corio said, Peter is 100% correct. Imagine a person shot in the back, from a distance far enough for self-infliction to be impossible – so you can safely say it wasn’t suicide. But, they are found alone in a completely sealed room with only one entrance/exit, which was locked from the inside – making it impossible for someone to have left the room after shooting the victim.
    THAT is a locked room mystery – everything contradicts itself, and the only thing that could have happened, is physically impossible. At least when you first look at it – the beauty of a locked room mystery is that you can only find the solution after allowing all notions of reality and what is possible to completely go out the window. You eliminate the physically impossible, and what’s left, no matter how crazy or convoluted or improbable, is the solution.

    Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ is a good example; it doesn’t become apparent as one until the end of the story, when the police are summing up what they have found (ie, before the epilogue with the killers confession). If you’re more into comics and light reading than classic mysteries, the manga series ‘Kindaichi Case Files’ is possibly the best example of locked room mysteries I have ever come across (and I don’t even like manga) – the murders are beyond impossible, and have the most insane, crazy solutions you could ever imagine. Plus, they’re written so that the readers have the chance to solve it themselves – though that is rare, seeing as the solutions are beyond mind-warping (but incredibly satisfying!). There are some online available, if you search.
    And if you’re not into reading, the British TV series Jonathan Creek is a BRILLIANT locked room mystery series – episodes are on youtube. A girl walks through a doorway but the guy chained up on the other side never sees her come through. A guy locks himself in a garage with a hostage; concrete floors, brick walls, surrounded by police and motion sensor lights – less than 10 minutes, the garage is opened, and the hostage is the only one there. A man is shot dead in a reinforced nuclear bunker which was locked from the inside and contained only the victim – but the gun is missing, and the victim had crippling arthritis which made pulling a trigger or closing and locking a door impossible. A body appears inside a wardrobe which was empty minutes earlier, and a body disappears from a locked and empty room minutes after being seen and photographed by several people.
    Now THAT is locked room mystery at its finest! ๐Ÿ™‚ If you’re serious about trying your hand at this amazing mystery genre, make sure you do your research and get a feel for how the pros do it.

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