How to have a murder mystery dinner

Sep 12, 2011 at 3:00 a.m. ET

A murder mystery dinner isn’t just for fancy adult social events. With these easy tips, you can treat your family to one tonight.

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How it works

First, you'll need a mystery. Write one yourself, or download one inexpensively from a mystery game website (such as It's best if the murder itself (or jewel heist, if you have young children) has taken place before dinner starts so everyone can dive right in.

Each family member is assigned a role. Typically, each gets one clue she's allowed to (and should) tell people freely, and one she's supposed to hide. If she's asked about it, she can change the subject or refocus the conversation, but she's never allowed to lie.

It helps if you set the stage. Theme-appropriate lighting, decorations and food makes it more fun for everyone. You can even let family members know who they're playing ahead of time so they can dress up.

Start the show at dinnertime

At dinner, everyone stays in character. They can talk about anything they'd like, but as their characters. The only rule is that they should tell their OK-to-reveal clues to at least one person.

Serve dessert, solve the case

At dessert, ask each family member what he thinks happened. After everyone has weighed in, discuss the case until everyone's in agreement. Then you, as the inspector, can tell them if they've managed to figure out whodunnit.

More family fun ideas

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How to plan an educational game night
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