Monday

Carry On Up The Algarve: Solving The Murder at a Murder Mystery Party


By: Steve Hatherley

If you are invited to a murder mystery party you have the chance to act out the role of your favourite detective - whether it's Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Morse.

While many murder mystery parties have a role specifically for the detective, everyone can join in the hunt for the murderer. Sometimes the games are written so that even the murderer doesn't know that they have committed the crime - so they can join in the fun as well.


So while these tips are particularly useful for anyone taking on the role of the detective, they will also help anyone else trying to solve the murder. (They may also help the murderer cover their trail...)


The secret to solving murder mysteries is in determining three things, the 'Holy Trinity' of detection: Means, motive and opportunity.


'Means' is probably the easiest of the three to determine. By 'means', I mean how the murder was carried out and usually an examination of the body will tell you this. Typical examples include stabbing, shooting, poisoning, drowning and so on. In the case of something like poison, you might need to find out how it was administered. Was it something the victim ate or drank?

Was the poison injected?


Sometimes it's not always easy to work out how the victim died - particularly if there are other wounds or marks. Also, the murder might be disguised as an accident.


Once you have determined the means, you should have more avenues of investigation. For example, if the victim was shot, who has access to a gun? This line of questioning brings us to the next in the Holy Trinity: opportunity.

'Opportunity' refers to the timing and planning of the murder, rather than the actual method of killing. In the case of a poisoning, for example, it means having the appropriate access to deliver the poison - such as in a bedtime drink, a favourite chocolate or whatever.

Opportunity also means being in the right place and time to commit the murder. Once you know where and when the dirty deed was committed, you can eliminate from your questioning anyone with a concrete alibi.


Which brings us to motive.

'Motive' answers the 'why' question. Why was the victim killed?

Motive can be both the easiest and hardest of the Holy Trinity to solve. Sometimes there are lots of people with a good motive to kill, and sometimes it can be hard to find anyone with any kind of motive at all.


So, the first thing you should ask is 'Who benefits?' Who has the most to gain from the victim's death? And if it's not immediately obvious, then you are going to have to talk to everyone.


(And even if it is immediately obvious, you may still have to talk to everyone as the murderer isn't always the person with the most obvious motive. Things are rarely as straight-forward as that!)

If nothing else, whenever you talk to one of the other guests at a murder mystery party, you should ask them who they think killed the victim. Someone will have a clue as to the identity of the murderer, but without asking absolutely everyone, you might never find them.


You need to watch for the various tricks and twists that can confuse things further. These can include the misdirected murder (where the victim wasn't the intended victim at all but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) and murder-by-proxy (where the murderer isn't the one with most to gain, but is a misguided friend or servant).

Here, then, are my tips on solving a murder mystery:

Find a piece of paper and write down three headings: Motive, Means and Opportunity. As the party progresses and you learn more about the murder, write down what you learn on the paper under the appropriate heading.

Keep a checklist of everyone present and work through them, one by one. Most murder mystery parties have a list of characters who are present, so you can use that to make sure that you don't miss anyone.