I wanted to ask your advice about that tricksiest of murder-mystery staples: The Parlour Scene. (In which, for the uninitiated, the sleuth traditionally sits down with all the suspects and essentially proves how clever he/she is, by revealing thought processes, discarded red-herrings, incidental guilty-parties, and - ultimately - the killer.) If you've ever read an Agatha Christie novel, or watched a classic detective mystery film, you know the drill.
And yet it's killing me.
I made a rod for my own back, slightly, by sculpting my novel around a "classic" model (to whit: a) six or seven eccentric characters bottled-up together in a single place, b) one is killed, c) summon the detective!). But I did so deliberately, planning to be a bit self-aware and self-referential about it: my burnt out P.I.-alike is constantly referring to what he "should" be doing according to sleuthing-tradition. It's therefore important that the Parlour Scene be played as straight and sincere as possible, if only so he can keep checking he's Doing It Right.
So. As far as I can see, having read a few classic mysteries, watched some movies, etc, the ideal way of playing this stuff goes like this:
1. The suspects are assembled at the request of the Sleuth.
2. The Sleuth welcomes them and - on the grounds of some conceit or other - proceeds to dissemble all his findings.
3. Red-herrings are traditionally presented as Genuine Solutions (often with a direct accusation towards a suspect) -- only for the Sleuth to reveal he/she wasn't fooled for an instant, and the accused is innocent after all.
4. The Sleuth eventually begins telling the "true" version of events. Even then, it's often insinuated until the VERY LAST INSTANT that the culprit is someone other than it really is.
5. The real killer is finally fingered. Generally there's an altercation, denial or tantrum before guilt is proven, often by the killer inadvertently shooting themselves in the foot by revealing some hitherto unknown detail in anger.
6. The killer soliloquises briefly - either to steal-back a fraction of the reader's sympathy, or simply to give a rendition of "and I woulda gotten away with it too, if not for you pesky kids..."
And that's that, bar the fat lady having a warble.
But, as I'm quickly discovering, the REAL horror of writing one of these bastards is the linkage between each of those points. How does the sleuth seamlessly glide from one red-herring to the next, without boring his listeners or making it sound like he's reading from a list? IThe whole thing has to be smooth; organic, yet without looking like twenty pages of solid block speech. It is, for want a better phrase, Doing My Nut. Earlier today I found myself unconsciously making one of the assembled suspects roll his eyes and tell the P.I. to get to the bloody point.
Worse, it was the murderer himself.
So I'm wondering if any of you fine righteous writernauts have any advice, anecdotes, or helpful methods of committing literary suicide. In other words:
The PARLOUR SCENE: *HELP*!