Teen Read Week: International Murder Mystery

Stephanie Chadwick August 19, 2016, 3 comments

It has become a yearly tradition for our Teen Advisory Board to put on an interactive Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre for Teens and Tweens. This year, we are incorporating the Teen Read Week theme to have an International Murder Mystery in October! And of course, with Halloween, what better than a Murder Mystery to celebrate?

Each year, I write a murder mystery with the assistance of the Teen Writing Club. There is a setting, the suspects, and the final interrogation. The Teen Advisory Board members and other additional teen volunteers (as needed) put on the show! They each play a character, memorize all of the information about who their character is, and then improvise based on the information given. All of our guests will dine on international cuisine while watching and interacting with the suspects. They will need to discover who the murderer is before the end of the night! Whichever team guesses correctly wins a prize.

This year I will be tying the murder mystery into our Teen Read Week reading challenge. Teens will be challenged to read 1 multicultural book during the month of October. Once they finish their book, they will get an invitation to the murder mystery!

Type: Active
Age: High school
Optimal size: 20+
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: 5+ hours
Frequency: One-time

Learning outcomes

Teens will learn in a variety of ways, at various points of putting on this production.

  • All participating teens will be reading 1 multicultural book for the month of October. They will be given a bookmark with suggested titles. Teens will gain literacy skills.
  • The Teen Advisory Board and other volunteers will be playing the suspects in the show. They will gain public speaking skills, improvisation abilities, critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and the ability to think on their feet.
  • The Teen Writing Club will be assisting me with the writing of the murder mystery. They will gain writing skills, critical thinking skills, and teamwork skills.  
  • The teens and tweens who will be attending the event will gain critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and deductive reasoning skills.


Part 1: The Reading Challenge

-I will be setting up a reading program through Wandoo Reader. Teens can sign up online. They will enter the title of the book they completed for the project and receive an invitation to the murder mystery.

-You will need to create an invitation for the event, and have it ready at your information desk. You will have to let the other members of your department know about it, and get them involved in the prize distribution process.

-Create publicity for your reading challenge. Send it to your local schools and community centers, as well as local newspapers and online news sources. You should also put publicity for the event throughout your library, on calendars, posters, and hand-outs. I will also be making a multicultural book display in the Teen Room.

Part 2: Writing the Play

-You should have the play written at least 2 months in advance. If you don't have a Teen Writing Club, you could ask if any teen volunteers would be interested in helping you write it, or you could even make the play writing it's own program!! You can also just write it yourself.

-Create a setting for your play.

-Write a list of all of the suspects. Give them each a name, special characteristics, how they are related to the other suspects, their motive for murdering the victim, and an alibi. It's fun to give each character unique traits to give your volunteer actors something fun to work with. They will be improvising (no need to memorize or write lines!) so give them some interesting details about their character. Finally, write an interrogation scene: how will the show end, how will the murderer be discovered?

Part 3: Getting your actors

-Let your Teen Advisory Board know in advance that your are planning this event. Get an idea of how many are interested in playing characters. If you don't have enough board members, reach out to your teen volunteers to see if they would like to participate.

-Allow your volunteers to select which character they would like to play or assign them a role. Give them the script and let them read it and memorize their character at home.

-Schedule at least 2 practice sessions for your actors. Run through the show, and give them tips on improvement.

Part 4: Putting on the Show

-Decide what food you will be serving for the event. Make sure their aren't any food allergies you should know about. Get utensils, decorations, and beverages. Make sure to either pick up the food in advance, ask a co-worker, or have it delivered to your library.

-Create programs for your guests. I like to have the programs serve 3 purposes: 1 as a program, 2 I place everyones team # on the front page (I break the guests up into teams and have them sit together at the same dinner table), 3 the programs will have example interrogation questions for the teams to ask the suspects and space for them to write their notes and final answer. I collect the programs at the end of the show to see which teams guessed correctly, and to award prizes. Make sure you have pencils and a hard surface for the teams to write with and on.

-Invite your guests in! Everyone is encouraged to dress up to fit the evening's theme. Suspects will be wearing name tags, in costume, and already in the room. They will interact with the 'guests' before dinner begins, sit at their tables, and build up their characters until dinner is over. Then the real fun begins! Our Inspector (a teen volunteer) will ask all of the guests to help him solve the murder. The guests will then get the chance to interrogate every suspect. Once they've spoken with everyone, they can give me their answers to who they think the murderer is.

-Finally, have the Inspector interrogate the suspects in a dramatic fashion and reveal the true murderer. The murderer will be apprehended, and the winning team(s) will be announced. Give the winning teams a fun prize! I like to give Applebee's Ice Cream Sundae coupons (you can apply to the company to get them, they are very generous to give these out!) so the kids can get ice cream after their dinner :)



This program requires a LOT of organization, pre-planning, and teen volunteer involvement. It is so much fun though, and completely worth it!! Kids remember it all year, and will ask me when the next one will be.

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