Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Excuse Me, Is That a Dead Body Floating in the Pool?" - A Great Gatsby-Style New Year's Eve Murder Mystery Party

My friends and I really like getting together and having a party. We are not the going-out-clubbing-until-dawn types, rather the throwing-a-fabulous-soiree kind. And the perfect occasion to have fun is  New Year's Eve. This has been a tradition in the making: for the last few years, we have put together an elaborate event for this special last night of the year. One year we had a group cooking contest, another time an Amazing Race style dash around Kailua town. Last year we did a progressive dinner where we the party migrated between four different homes.  

The roaring 20s have come back to Kailua

If you follow this blog, you might have read about the Downton Abbey themed murder mystery dinner we did about a year and a half ago (you can read about it here). We had so much fun at that dinner, it was time to do another one! First on the list: pick out a script. I went to Shot In The Dark Mysteries, the premier murder mystery portal, and looked at all the different offerings they have.  We knew we wanted a dressy costume party (it is NYE after all), and ended up picking "The Sly Mr Foxx", a roaring 20s flapper mystery - a'la The Great Gatsby.

The tables are set for dinner, the scene is set for murder!

Next on the to do list was to determine the exact head count. In order to be able to distribute roles in the mystery, we needed RSVPs confirming the number of ladies and gents attending. We had 22 confirmed guests (everyone was excited to come!), so we got the package with the maximum number of characters - 18 - plus an expansion pack of two more.  Our hosts, Kathy and Keith graciously decided to forgo having roles, and spent their energies making sure all guests were happy while also taking part in solving the mystery. 

Two weeks before the party, each attendee received an email with his or her character. It included background information, tips on what to wear and how to act, and blueprints of Land's End, Mr. Foxx's lavish mansion. Leigh Clements, AKA the "Mystery Maiden" over at Shot In The Dark Mysteries gives wonderfully detailed instructions not only for the hosts of the party, but for each guest attending. Steve and I practiced our characters on a plane ride home. To give you a little sampler of the mystery, here is the trailer to "The Sly Mr. Foxx".

Party like it's 1925!

Because of the numerous guests needed to be seated, we decided to rent tables and chairs, as well as place settings. The pretty white floral centerpieces were brought by my friend Jodi - the cute blonde on the photo above.

Kathy and Keith put together a fabulous 1920s menu for the evening: Old Fashioneds and Gin Ricky cocktails, and champagne and oysters for starters, and then for dinner Waldorf salad on endive, poached salmon, grilled flank steak, roasted brussels sprouts and green beans, and pasta bolognese. Dessert in a decadent "Gatsbyesque" style was of course a chocolate fountain with fruits and other follies to dip.

Everyone arrived in character. Everyone looked fabulous. Since there were over twenty of us, it took a little while to figure out who was which character. We chatted and mingled, some people took written and others mental notes, and drank champagne and cocktails. By the time we sat down to dinner we all had an idea of everyone's character. No murder yet, however...

Oysters and champagne, the perfect NYE combo
Some time after the oysters and cocktails, a guest noticed there was a body floating in the pool. Oh no! It was a young woman named Dahlia Sparrow. Who could have killed her? The mystery was on! We all sat down to dinner and started questioning each other in earnest. All the while poor Dahlia kept floating in the pool.

Oh no! is that poor Dahlia's lifeless body floating in the pool? Like an Energizer bunny, all night she just kept floating and floating and floating...
After the first course we traded places and mixed up the tables to make it easier to talk to different characters.  We also played the recording of a phone call that was instrumental to the plot. Though dinner soon finished, the sleuthing went on for a while longer. Suspicions grew.  Soon we were ready to fill out the accusation slips. Once those were collected, it was time for the big reveal.  Shot In The Dark Mysteries has audio files for all their reveals. Eagerly we gathered around, and listened as the whole sordid story unfolded. 

Trying to solve the mystery during and after dinner

So that was who did it! I had my suspicions about that character... After all was revealed, Kathy tallied up the accusation slips and announced the results. Five or six of us guessed correctly - great job! The rest of us can continue to improve our detective skills - there is always next time.

Oh, wait. I never told you who the killer was. It was.... drumroll.... ah, never mind. You will just have to zip over to Shot In The Dark Mysteries and play the mystery yourself!

Keith and Kathy: our hosts with the mosts

After the big reveal, it was time to put on our dancing shoes and shake to those 20s tunes. Yes, we did the Charleston, we shimmied and twirled until the clock struck midnight. 

Debbie's got moves!

Another fabulous New Year's Eve experience! Mahalo to Kathy and Keith for hosting, and for the fantastic food; to all who helped with organizing and setup; and to Leigh of Shot In The Dark Mysteries for another phenomenal mystery.

It is indeed very lucky that we have the entire 2015 ahead of us to figure out what to do for next New Year's Eve. This one will be hard to top! Ideas, anyone?


  1. did you like the Downton Abbey one or the Sly Mr. Foxx better? trying to pick a great one with fun characters for my 30th birthday.

  2. Both were great. Since then we did an Oscars night theme too. My favorite is still the Downton Abbey one, the characters are just so much fun in that. Make sure you go all out in the setting and the dress up! Happy birthday!