When a body of a woman was found in Portsmouth Central Library, on the evening of 25 July 2008, I and fellow crime writer,June Hampson were on hand to help solve the puzzle, but we were banned from doing so. Why? Because this was a murder mystery evening organised by library staff. And a hugely successful event it was too.
Over sixty guests were asked to follow a trail of clues scattered around the three floors of the library to uncover the murderer, before being rewarded with a glass of Pimms.
The library closed to the public at its normal Friday evening time of 5pm. Guests arrived at 6.30pm for a 7pm kick off. June and I were asked to give a two minute talk on the effective use of locality in writing crime. I had just finished my talk when a scream rang out and we ushered the audience from the conference room to discover the body of a woman lying on the floor in the library café. It transpired that she’d been hit over the head with a hefty tome of War and Peace.
Before June and I had given our little talk the audience had witnessed a row between Jackie Frost, the dead woman, and Elivra Morsel over an affair that Jackie was supposedly having. Jackie stormed out of the conference room and two late arrivals entered, Shirley Holmes, who had just published a best selling crime novel and Louise Laney, a local reporter, played by the effervescent Heather James who hosts a popular chat programme on local radio, Express FM, and also writes a column for the Portsmouth News. She interviewed me and June before the event for her Saturday morning programme.
The audience then scattered over the library’s three floor following a trail of clues. They reconvened in the café on the third floor, and whilst their score sheets were check by library staff, they enjoyed a glass of Pimms on a very hot evening and talked to me and June. I sold some novels and signed copies.
It was great fun and highly enjoyable. I was pleased to see so many people across all the ages. The library was buzzing with activity and enthusiasm with a real sense of community. A tremendous amount of work went into this on the part of the library staff, all unpaid. We undervalue their contribution to our communities and more resources should be devoted to our libraries development and upkeep. I am a huge fan of libraries because without them as a child I would never have discovered the joy of reading.’
I presented a copy of my latest Inspector Horton Marine Mystery in hardback called, The Suffocating Sea, to the team leader of the winning team called, ‘Where are the biscuits?’ Sunjai Arif. In Sunjai’s team were Liz Haigh and Alison Arif. Can't wait for the next one.