Books Magazine

Hosting a Murder Mystery IV

By Brian Abbott

Setting the Scene.

In 2008, I hosted two murder mystery parties. I talked about them a bit in my last post, Hosting a Murder Mystery III. Since then, I’ve planned and plotted three to four a year, often tapping my existing novels or stories as the basis of the game. What better way to test out the plot and clues for a murder mystery novel?

Yachts 2011
Soon I’ll be revisiting a very early plot of mine.  The setting: a yacht.

Peril Aboard Hybridge Yacht was first written decades ago when I was in high school and originally featured two teenagers (naturally) as the main characters. This novella had been influenced by three source materials: Christie’s novels And Then There Were None and Death on the Nile and the 1980 movie Private Eyes, starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts. I pulled together a group of stock, archetypal mystery characters and set them on a murder mystery cruise. Their host, Dean Porter, was the owner of the Hybridge Yacht and had especially invited each of them. The two teenagers (and their aunt) were to be the sleuths.

One by one characters started dying as the teenagers raced to solve whodunnit. The twist (which I shan’t spoil here) took its inspiration from the aforementioned movie Private Eyes. And of course, one of the teenagers in on the “joke.”

As I developed my Syracuse Mystery series, stories and characters were changed. Several things revamped, and this particular story got an overhaul.

Quinton Quartier subsumed Dean Porter as host, and a mix of old and new characters were invited for what became the inaugural launch of the newly-acquired yacht. Unlike the original novella, this new novel had a definite setting, Ontario Lake. The idea being that Quartier purchased his yacht in Toronto and planned to sail it to Oswego where it would be docked.

And then things got complicated. How to write a convincing story set on a yacht? How many characters could be accommodated? How big is the yacht? Details, details…

I had planned for this story to be fifth in sequence, but circumstances made me question this placement. So I’ve decided it will appear much later.

But in planning this year’s mystery events, I thought it the perfect time to revisit this story and firm up the ideas I’ve had about it. Most important, I’ve spent a great deal of time (thank God for the internet) searching for the key setting: a yacht. Getting a feel for what the boat looks like will go a long way toward codifying what the story will end up being.  The yacht can’t be too ostentatious, but it needs to be able to hold the requisite victim(s) and suspects.

How will it all turn out? Stay tuned…

In the meantime, share your experiences of participating in murder mystery parties.

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