Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How I Came to Be a Murderer

By Chester Campbell

I participated in a murder mystery party game last Friday night at the Barnes & Noble store in Brentwood, TN. Robbie Bryan, the Community Relations Manager, had asked my help in getting some Sisters in Crime members to take part as suspects. I had never been to one of these events and had no idea what it was like. As it turned out, it was a lot of fun.
I don't recall the title of the game. It was something like Murder in the Vineyard (could have been Sour Grapes in the Vineyard). It took place at a California winery where the owner had disappeared five years before. His body had just been discovered beneath planks in the floor of the winery cellar. Being short on suspects, Robbie played one role along with me and four other mystery writers. Each of us had a booklet that described our character and included sample dialogue for three sets of comments or questions we would direct at one another, along with our replies as we tried to alibi out.

No one knew the identity of the murderer but Robbie and me. He had sent me an email advising that I would be the killer. I was Papa Vito, an old Italian (age 81, a little younger than me) who had been brought over many years ago to work in the vineyard by the victim's grandfather. I was resentful, but that was a clue I could not divulge unless asked directly. We were not supposed to lie  in answering the questions.

Robbie played a DVD that came with the game. On it a "Miss Bordeaux" introduced the game, then commented after each of the three sets of questions. The comments and questions brought out a variety of accusations against the characters, who included a cousin of the dead man and now operator of the winery, his sneaky wife, a rival vineyard owner, a Marilyn Monroe-type  former Hollywood star, and a German involved in shady business dealings.

At various points  in the dialogue, one of the characters would reveal a clue (included with our booklet) that would accuse someone of skullduggery. They included such things as handwritten notes that had been discovered. After the final round of dialogue, the audience was allowed to ask questions. Then Robbie took a vote on who everyone thought was the murderer. Opinions were varied. A couple of people picked me. Then he played the final part of the disk that revealed what had happened to the dead man.

The real purpose of the event was to advertise the interactive murder mystery games that could be purchased at the store. Robbie held a drawing and presented the game set to the winner. Besides all the materials, it included invitations and envelopes that could be sent to invite friends to the party. But as far as that game was concerned, the set given away was the last  one available.

The mystery game was quite entertaining and would be a great idea for a party with friends. Have you ever attended such an event? What did you think of it?


Jean Henry Mead said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, Chester. I've always wanted to attend a dinner theatre where the guests take part in a murder mystery, but your B&N party sounds equally intriguing.

Jaden Terrell said...

I was there as Marilyn Merlot, and Chester's right. It was a lot of fun.

Jean, we have one of those mystery dinner theatres downtown; it's called Miss Marple's Dinner Theatre. I've always wanted to go but haven't gotten around to it yet. I'm putting it on my to-do list.

Chester Campbell said...

I'm not much of an actor, but my fellow suspects did a great job. You should try one sometime, Jean.

Sheila Deeth said...

My brother buys the games and hosts murder evenings, so he introduced us to them. Our sons were so intrigued I ended up writing children's versions for their birthday parties. They were great fun.

Chester Campbell said...

Great idea, Sheila. I might try that for our grandson's birthday next year. Nice twist.