A murder mystery evening comes together a bit like a jigsaw. Guests are trying to establish three things; method, motive and murderer. The challenge is that each of the suspects will have a possible method and motive. Each can be the murderer.
The murder itself often happens in front of the audience, who are usually divided into teams, often defined by the tables that they will eat on. When the murder happens in front of everyone the method is usually poison, but the audience have to establish how it was administered. In the opening scene each suspect will do something that could have administered poison, for example a drink may be thrown. The victim then either staggers out of the room to die or falls to the floor in the room.
In some scripts the murder happens offsite, and this opens up the possibilities to include gunshots, stabbing, suffocation and other methods. In all plots there will be preliminary forensics but in more complicated plots a full scene of crime suite may be opened up.
Each suspect will reveal a motive during the opening scene. Sometimes this is obvious, but often it is alluded to and paper based clues given out later will add to the motive. The audience must pay attention during the opening scene and it’s probably the most difficult time for this because the event has just started and the senses can be overwhelmed. Watch the facial expressions of the actors; if love is declared is it reciprocated? What might it mean if an actress declines a drink and strokes her stomach?
Paper based clues will back up the storylines. These may include love letters, bank statements and contracts. How do they fit together and add to the plot? One very effective way of dealing with clues is to set out a timeline. What happened and when?
The main element of the event is interaction with the suspects who will go from table to table for questioning. This is the part that many enjoy most of all because they can have a lot of fun putting questions to the suspects and trying to catch them out.
Finally teams establish their version of events and the detective who is acting as MC of the evening will read these out and choose the best one who will win a prize. However, it’s often the more creative solutions that are the most enjoyed.