Monday, July 28, 2008

Murder at a Family Reunion

by Julia Buckley

This weekend we attended a family reunion in Michigan. The weather was perfect, the food was far too delicious (I ruined my diet), and the people were friendly. I got to thinking, though, that a family reunion is a potentially great setting for a mystery.

First of all, there are some people at reunions that one hasn't seen for years. Some of my cousins looked drastically different. I recalled that in at least two Agatha Christie novels, a person was believed to be one identity just because everyone EXPECTED that they were who they said they were. So I guess, if someone had a motive, they could show up at a family reunion as a long-lost something or other, and people might believe them, assuming they bore a passing resemblance to the long lost relative in question.

Another potential plot point can come from emotion: certain conflicts can simmer in families for years. Our reunion was remarkably tension-free, but there have been times that certain members of the family have not been speaking to certain other members. I suppose a creative mystery writer could bend one of these issues into a life-threatening sort of anger, an anger that comes out full force at the reunion, potentially right next to the buffet table.

However, in our case, we had 20 acres of woods at our disposal, and I guess if you're going to dispatch someone, you should do it out there, where a person wouldn't be found for a while. :)

I hope it doesn't sound as though I was contemplating killing my family members, who are all terrific people. As a writer, though, I'm always considering setting and plot. And here's a final idea for consideration: what would be the best way to dispatch a character at an event like this? Can you harm someone with a badminton racket? Put hornets in the tire swing? (they actually had a nest in there, and stung an unsuspecting three-year-old, who labeled them "bad bugs" while he pressed the ice bag to his head). Poison the potato salad? Ambush someone on the path? Call it a "hunting accident?"

Share your creative ideas--maybe one of us will go on to write the novel.


Lonnie Cruse said...

Bahwhahahahaha! Love it, Julia. I recently finished a manuscript featuring a murder at a family reunion. So many suspects, so many motives! PERFECT setting.

Of course you'd never consider killing off a relative. Would you?

Julia Buckley said...

No, of course not, Lonnie. :) And who is it that gets bumped off at YOUR fictional family reunion?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Julia, I was very interested in your blog about family reunions and people who claim to be relatives. That actually happened at the last family reunion I attended. My cousin introduced us all to a man as our long lost cousin from Poland. Everyone welcomed him with hugs and kisses only to find out later he was not a relative, he just claimed to be.

Julia Buckley said...

Oh my gosh! That is bizarre! Do you think he just wanted free food, or was his reason more insidious? Thanks for sharing that, CC!