Work + Pandemic = Fun

Some of you know I’m a librarian to support the garden and the critters. Since the pandemic hit, the library building has been closed to the public, but we’ve been doing curbside pickups of books and other things, like personal shopping, “Blind Date with a Book” and craft kits. A few months back, my boss said, “We should do a mystery game, something like Clue”. I’m still not sure exactly what she originally envisioned, but man-o-man are we ever doing a mystery game!

It began with a invitation to our patrons, followed up by this letter from a private detective:

Hello.


Thank you for responding to my plea for help in solving this mystery. As you already know, I am
a private detective and my name is—well, actually, I would feel more comfortable remaining
anonymous until I know you are someone I can trust. There are dangerous people searching for
me and I cannot risk my name being spoken carelessly in conversation. I will only say that I have
been retained by Todd Pearson, a Mount Vernon local, to clear his name and recover his family’s
stolen jewels.

For those same reasons, I have been forced to abandon my usual office and the librarians have
been kind enough to allow me to set up a temporary residence in the library, and here I sit,
surrounded by books, while you, dear reader and puzzle-solver extraordinaire, must be my
associate detective.


As the clues come into my hands, I will pass them on to you through my friends here at the
library, either through curbside pickup or by email. In each packet I give you, there will be one
critical clue that you must solve and return to me in order to remain eligible for a share of the
reward. Please return these promptly – lives might hang in the balance! There may also be other
puzzles included – if you solve these, you will win more immediate rewards.
I have determined that the library book drop is a secure location so you may drop your
completed clues inside—or else email them to me directly.
I look forward to continuing our association.


Yrs,

The Library Detective

P.S: If you choose not to aid me after all, please destroy this letter immediately. It must not fall
into the wrong hands. If it should, something far more catastrophic than a theft may result.

P.P.S: Beware of anyone with the initials JHM.

What followed after that was four weeks (to date, with three more weeks to go) of letters from the detective, interviews with various suspects and witnesses, and lots and lots of faked documents – everything from autopsy reports to arrest warrants, to boarding passes, to historical letters, to postcards from India.

Each week, there is a primary puzzle to be solved: a crossword that proves an alibi, a sudoku that reveals an address, a cryptic coded message that must be solved. One of those coded messages revealed an entire website, that I built for one of the suspects! Each week also has one or more bonus puzzles to be solved, and these were purposely designed around trying to drive business to the Downtown Mount Vernon stores. We had a few snotty store owners who refused to participate (names will not be named!), but most were delighted to play their part, and a few even donated some great prizes!

This week was particularly fun, because we staged a murder in front of the Lincoln Theater, and took crime scene photos.

And, for a bonus play, as our murdered victim had a pet squirrel, we made our players chase the squirrel the entire length of 1st Street, following squirrel prints that a co-worker and I spent two hours one Monday afternoon carefully applying to store windows, and sign posts.

The reaction from the public has been amazing. We weren’t at all sure how it would go, or if anyone would even want to play, but we had 75 sign up and have about 30 that are VERY devoted players, solving all our puzzles and sending extremely fun emails and photos to the Library Detective (we set up his own email account!). Some are playing solo, some are playing in husband/wife teams, and some are playing as an entire family group. One such family group even left us candy and flowers as a thank you, and raved for probably three minutes straight about how much fun they were having…and said it was exactly what they needed right now.

It’s been such fun for us, too. It’s me, my boss Laura, and my co-worker Reina who is running it – although Andrea in Youth Services was kind enough to play our murder victim! Laura is discovering a real talent for making the documents I write look genuine, Reina is primarily our continuity editor, proofreader, idea generator, and enthusiastic partner-in-fictional-crime – and I am the writer. It is great fun to create all these little stories told through snatches of interviews and letters, and it’s also fun to research all the details for things like arrest warrants in order to have them be at least passably correct.

It’s also a lot of stress, lol. None of us imagined it was going to turn into this massive thing, with so many moving parts, and as a result, we are just barely able to get each packet written, fabricated, and ready to go before it’s time to send it out!

But we’re already planning to do it again in the Fall…and Reina already has the plot.

3 responses to “Work + Pandemic = Fun

  1. Susan Hunnicutt

    I just discovered you on Pinterest! I have been binging on your blogs. I got 6 Coturnix Quail about a month ago and live all the info you have supplied. I did have 2 questions: how did you add your rooftop squash garden to the coop? And where did you find Millet seed? ❤️ Your garden

    • Thanks so much! For the rooftop garden, I basically just built a raised bed frame out of wood, and anchored it in place with metal brackets. I bought a pool liner to line it before adding dirt. I loved the look of it, but I did end up removing it after a few years…I found it difficult to keep watered. For Miller seed, there are a number of online sources, Baker Creek is one. You could also look on etsy.com. I find a lot of seed there!

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