Have you been tearing your hair out, trying to figure it out? Pastey's got the answers.
The h2g2 Murder Mystery Night: Who Dunnit
Last weekend h2g2 had its first Halloween Murder Mystery Night. It was fun.
If you don't know, Tavaron is an actual, real life architect. We chucked a few ideas her way about the rooms that were needed, and then she came back with detailed floor plans and front elevations for the house. These were all immaculately hand drawn (I was lucky enough to see the original sketches when I visited her) and scanned in for us to use. Unfortunately, as I said, I got them upside down and made a bit of a hash of the house, sorry Tav. But we had a house in which to host our event.
We then had to come up with some characters. Lanzababy, Magwitch and Happy Nerd got to work here and gave us the base characters for our soon to be dastardly plot, the ideas soon started to form. I've always been a fan of films like Clue, ones that take the whole murder mystery a little bit less seriously than perhaps they deserve, and I'm a big fan of both Dirk Gently and Jonathan Creek, so warped imagination isn't a problem. Thankfully it turns out that Lanzababy knows about as much about detective novels and ingenious ways to kill people as there is to know so was able to keep everything grounded in reality. Something I often have problems with.
We were also very lucky that role playing nights have happened before on h2g2, so there were people who've got experience of pretending to be others for an evening, and we were able to recruit some of these for our pilot event. Asteroid Lil, Witty Moniker, Psychocandy and Solnuskha were duly roped in to take on roles and play their parts in what we hope is the first of an annual event.
To make it realistic though, we didn't tell anyone who did it, the actors would act out their characters knowing only what they themselves were told beforehand about their characters, and what they themselves saw happening. The actors didn't know that the room descriptions would change during the night, they didn't know what would happen when. This made stage managing the evening a little hectic, and if it wasn't for Lanzababy's calm directions I don't think we'd have pulled it off, and to be honest I'm still a little amazed that we did. It's really down to the effort put in not just by those helping design the scenario, or those acting out the characters, but also by each of you that followed along, that played detective, and that gave us feedback about the event. It sounds like a cliché, but without you all it would not have been the fun night that it was.
So before I gather you all in my virtual library and start revealing what happened, I would like to say thank you to every single one of you. We made some mistakes this time round, it was the first time and we were a little rushed, and we really didn't know if it would work. But thanks to you all, I really believe it did. Thank you.
So, let us look at the characters. Each actor was given a character sheet, giving the background of their character and a motive why they would want Mr. Body dead:
Marisol Fonseca, Mr. Body's ex-wife. Long-time friend, short time wife. An aspirant author whose life work has been stolen by June Somers, Mr. Body's new girlfriend. My Body was paying for June's lawyers, and therefore getting in the way.
June Somers, the girlfriend. A bubble-headed gold digger who stole Marisol's manuscripts and was using Mr Body's wealth to pay for the lawyers. But Mr Body was losing interest and was going to be cutting her off. With him dead though, before he could change the will then she could pay for her own lawyers.
Simon Davies, ex-army buddy of Mr. Body and now running his own security company. Mr. Body's company had a large contract coming up but seemed disinclined to grant it to Simon and his shades of grey ethics. However Maria had hinted before that she wasn't adverse at all. With Mr. Body out of the way, that very lucrative contract would be easier to win.
Maria Morgan. Ruthless businesswoman, the initial money behind the company. Yes, it was earning a lot of money, but could be earning a lot more without such black and white ethics getting in the way.
Between these four characters there were two parallel story lines running, that of the stolen manuscript, and that of the dodgy business deals. But then we also had the staff.
Mrs Biscuit the cook, a drunken sot who had started providing basic food and drinking all the wine.
Harry McLeery the gardener, a hobby of poisonous plants and pilfering the antiques to provide for his pension.
Not exactly the most likeable of characters really, but they brought in that third storyline of selling off the silver. And then there was Jeeves. A gentleman's gentleman about whom nothing is really said. So we had our characters and their motives, and we had our scene. Everything was set to sprinkle with red herrings and to litter with clues. So let's go through them.
Not all rooms held clues or red herrings, so I'll only concentrate on those that did.
The Vegetable Gardens gives up the first clue, albeit a small one, in that Mr Body had such a skilled gardener in Harry but other than that, there is little here. Moving in to the Potting Shed though we have the curious bottles of old chemicals and the box of wrapped objects, which we later find out are silver antiques. Harry claims that the Mrs Biscuit asked him to clean them which she denies, but then she's usually so drunk her word is unreliable. Moving into the Conservatory we get some more clues about Harry, mysterious plants, mostly unlabelled but some with a skull and crossbones motif. We already know that Harry is an excellent gardener, so labelling plants really isn't needed. The motifs therefore are a double warning to anyone who might just be curious. And we find out during the evening that Harry makes his own rat poison, no doubt from these plants. Additionally, in the Cold Store we find out that Harry grows his own mushrooms, and that they were used for the mushroom soup everyone had for starters. So far, it's not looking so good for Harry.
In the Entrance Hall, and the Dining Room there is mention of portraits of people in older styled clothes, but whose faces seem familiar. Later, under questioning it is revealed that these are portraits of ladies of negotiable affection painted by a local artist. I'm afraid that these were a total red herring and had nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.
On the Upper Floors we find that there is a guest bathroom with some prescription drugs in the name of June Somers, Mr Body's girlfriend. Later on we find out that these are Warfarin and that the packet is now empty. Under questioning we discover that she was taking them for some Deep Vein Thrombosis that she got on a book tour. So that explains that then. Except, why were they in the guest bathroom and not whichever bathroom Mr Body used? It would appear that when June stayed over, she didn't stay in the same room as Mr Body, seems he really was losing interest in her. Unfortunately, that was another red herring. And the missing brass rod on the staircase? That was another one I'm afraid.
Which leads us to the Drawing Room and the scene of the crime. The first thing we're drawn to in the Drawing Room is the drinks cabinet, and when the characters arrive there's lots of elaborate drinks pouring and handing around. Plenty of opportunity to spike a drink. Later on we find My Body's body. Being a fan of Clue I'm afraid I couldn't pass up the opportunity for that. Laying face down on the floor, a large candlestick from the mantelpiece beside him and a wound in his skull. The obvious conclusion is that he's been hit on the head, but the crooked mirror suggests that there was a struggle, or at the very least some flailing arms. His left hand was underneath on his stomach, and under questioning one of the characters said it looked like he was clutching it, which leads us back to the poisoning prospect. Which really makes Harry look like he's about to be carried away.
But was it Harry?
Now we've gone through the clues, and the red herrings let's find out Who Dunnit…
WARNING SPOLIER ALERT, but that's why we're here!
I feel like I should apologise, but I couldn't resist the old cliché of "The Butler did it". So it was Jeeves.
How did they do it?
All the food was brought up from the kitchen by Harry, who left it in the Pantry for Jeeves to then take to the table. It was a simple matter for Jeeves to then slip some poison into Mr Body's soup. If you look at Harry's personal space you can see that he is subscribed to the Guide entry on Mushrooms that Kill Humans, another red herring I'm afraid but he's also subscribed to Classic Poisons, the first of which is Aconite. Reading up on this, as I'm sure we've all read this wonderfully educational Guide entry, the victim suffers "a loss of power in the legs" sometime "between eight minutes and four hours after the symptoms begin". Harry may well have been making the poison to kill off rats, but Jeeves used it for something else. When Mr. Body lost power in his legs and was no longer able to stand, he collapsed against the fireplace knocking the mirror to a crook, and unbalancing a candlestick which once he'd already fallen to the floor then fell on top of him. Death was by poisoning, but the classic old blunt instrument covered it up initially.
Why did they do it?
Again I feel that I should apologise for using the tried and possibly tired motive of blackmail. Jeeves knew that June Somers stole the manuscript, he knew that Maria Morgan wanted to do some less than ethical business deals, and he knew that Simon Davies was happy to help her there. Mr Body arranged the evening to get everybody together, wine and dine them, and then try and get everything out in the open and sorted out. Jeeves however thought he could make some money blackmailing them instead, so bye bye Body.
During writing this I've had cause to go back through the clues and the red herrings, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how well it all came together. There's been things that I didn't realise fitted so neatly as we wrote it. Yes, there were mistakes. Apparently the trees in the driveway don't have leaves that colour, but hey.
Which now brings us to the detectives, did you guess? No. Although one of you got very close, and those that didn't have given us some ideas for next year!
It seems that nobody really liked Maria, Coelacanth believed her the murderer using the missing stair rod and citing an affair between her and Simon who is actually Mr Body's brother. Unfortunately I don't think I watch enough daytime soap operas for this to have crossed my mind when concocting the who and why. Z also believed that it was Maria, with a Warfarin overdose. You guys really didn't like her did you? Vip was also of the belief that it was down to the arms business, and Mr Body's ethics were getting in the way of making money. Magwitch also believed that Maria did the deed, with the cadlestick, in the Drawing Room, so I must extend further congratulations to Witty for her acting skills.
June wasn't short of a pointing finger. Solnuskha believed that the paintings were in fact a clue, and that June was a former prostitute that Mr Body met while having the paintings done. That sounds like something directly out of an Eastenders storyline, and I wish I'd thought of that!
One person did guess that the Butler did it was Psychocandy, she didn't get the why or the how right, but she was positive it was Jeeves "Because this is h2g2, and that would be the logical solution to the warped minds that created this project." Thank you, I think.
And now onto possibly the most ingenious piece of detecting that I've seen for a while, from Mr X. He worked out the reason for the dinner party, that Mr Body was going to reveal everything into the open. He also worked out that Jeeves did the actual poisoning. Although believing it to be June Somers blackmailing him into it, and with paracetamol into the red wine at dinner affecting Mr Body's chronic alcoholism and leading to liver failure. Mr X also picked up on the fact that Mr Body was clutching his stomach, and that he fell and knocked the candlestick off. Also picked up on was the fact that Harry was stealing the silver, but that it had nothing to do with the murder, although there was also the belief that the cook was in on it.
So whilst I'm afraid that no-one got the who, the how and the why, I would like to congratulate Mr X on being so, so very close. I tip my fedora to you sir.
Everyone who took part acting this out had a great time, and I think everyone who watched and tried to guess also seemed to enjoy it. And I would like once more to say thank you to those involved. To Lanzababy for helping me write it, to Happy Nerd, Tavaron, Magwitch, Asteroid Lil and Lanzababy for coming up with the characters and to Solnuska, Psychocandy, Witty Moniker, Asteroid Lil, Magwitch and Lanzababy for acting the roles, and to each of you in the peanut gallery watching and commenting, playing the roles of detectives and having a guess at Who Dunnit. Thank you all.