Tips for Hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner:
While the murder mystery dinner in the book is a large-scale event, a smaller, more intimate gathering can be just as much fun. And themes can be selected to make the dinners perfect any time of the year—not just at Halloween.
One of the pluses of a murder mystery dinner is that it ensures guests are engaged throughout the evening, even if they don’t know each other. This helps eliminate awkward silences and the all-too-common scenario in which some guests become wallflowers because they don’t dance, for example.
Step 1: Planning the “Murder”
The simplest way to put together a murder mystery is to buy a kit. Most of these kits, which can be purchased online or in department stores, include the script, instructions for running the mystery, clues, costume ideas, and even invitations.
These may be used as is, or, with a little effort, may be customized for specific groups.
For instance, a murder mystery in which the victim is an unpopular CEO of a company could easily be adapted for a party of coworkers to make the boss their “victim.” If the boss is a likable, good-natured sort he or she might even be included on the guest list and play victim at the party!
Really ambitious hosts can even opt to write their own scripts.
Step 2: Sending out Invitations
Send out invitations at least a month before the party to give guests time to look over their character descriptions and backstory. (Over the course of the dinner, characters will receive additional clues about their character and details about the murder to reveal). If it’s a costume party, guests will also need ample time to assemble their outfits. And be sure that guests RSVP so that you know all the roles for the mystery are covered.
Step 3: Planning the Dinner
Most murder mystery dinners are arranged in “scenes” that happen between courses. If hiring a caterer, the host will need to ensure that the courses are served in concert with the progress f the mystery. If hosts are making and serving the dinner themselves, even more careful planning is needed.
Keep it simple. Have appetizers ready before guests arrive. Let guests pour their own drinks. Serve the main course as a buffet, and if possible have desserts already arranged on a table. Having as much of the dinner ready ahead of time allows the hosts to enjoy the party.
If the group comprises close friends, hosts may even decide to make it potluck.
Step 4: Setting the Stage
For most people, a murder mystery dinner at home will likely mean limiting the guest list to between six and ten people. This is also the number of characters in most murder mystery kits.
Dinner guests must be at a table or tables in the same room or in adjoining rooms that open to each other, so everyone can be in on the action. Use table decorations that fit the theme of the script, which can be anything form The Great Gatsby to a 1970s disco. The host may stage the crime scene in a different room and have the guests “commute” between dinner courses to view evidence at the appropriate point in the story. White masking tape can be used to create a chalk body outline, and shoes pressed into flour or baby powder can be pressed onto a dark rug to provide footprints.
Step 5: Let the Play Begin
After the guests have arrived and had a few minutes to greet each other, get things rolling. It’s the hosts’ job to prompt the next scene, keep the action moving, and keep the story on track.
But above all, relax and have fun. Unless you hire actors for the evening, some of the characters will inevitably forget or flub their lines. Make sure all the necessary clues to solve the murder are revealed, and laugh together at any missteps.
After the murderer is revealed, guests will want to look back over the way things unfolded and whom they suspected at various points of the story, so allow time for this, perhaps over coffee or cordials.
About the book:
Between a riverboat gambler-theme engagement party and a murder mystery dinner for charity, Dixie, Tennessee, party planner Liv McKay is far too frenzied to feel festive. Add to the mix her duties at the annual businesswomen’s retreat and the antics of a celebrity ghost-hunting diva, and Liv’s schedule is turning out to be the scariest thing about this Halloween—especially when the ladies stumble across a dead body in a cemetery…
Morgan Robison was a party girl with a penchant for married men and stirring up a cauldron of drama. Any number of scorned wives or frightened philanderers could be behind her death. As Liv and her best friend, Di, set out to dig up the truth, they’ll face the unexpected and find their efforts hampered by a killer with one seriously haunting vendetta…
About the author:
Vickie Fee is a past president of the Malice in Memphis chapter of Sisters in Crime and current member of the Wisconsin Sisters in Crime. She has a degree in journalism and spent many years as a newspaper reporter, covering small Southern towns populated with colorful characters, much like those in the fictional town of Dixie. She now lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her husband, John. She grew up in the South on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and iced tea, and when she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading mysteries and watching B movies from the 1930s and ‘40s.