Amateur sleuths to get a shot at solving “crimes” at Sept. 21 murder mystery



By Ron Giofu


SamsungAmateur detectives will not only get a chance to solve one upcoming mystery, they will get a crack at possibly solving two.

“The Diary of Death – A Mystery 200 Years in the Making” will be this year’s murder mystery presented Sept. 21. The event is a fundraiser for Amherstburg Museums and Galleries (AMG) with the script being written by local mystery author John Schlarbaum.

“There’s actually two mysteries in one this year,” said Schlarbaum. “They are related.”

The scenarios participants will be interacting with will see one set in the present while the other is set 200 years ago. The latter involves the murder of Dr. Samuel Smith 200 years ago and theft of a box of gold coins. A diary is kept by an officer at Fort Malden that outlines the murder of the doctor with that diary being discovered in a strong box found in the present near the Park House. The modern-day scenario sees a gala being held with “families whose lineage also goes back 200 years” with the last page of the diary being found to have been ripped out. The final page of the diary would, if revealed, change the history of one Amherstburg family on how they became so prominent,” said Schlarbaum.

“There’s two full mysteries here,” he added. “It doubled my work and doubled all the complications on how to tie the past into the present and vice versa.”

While last year’s murder mystery had seven or eight viable suspects, this year’s mystery has the historical scenario to solve a present day mystery to figure out as well. It is noted that solving one mystery may solve the other.

“The added bonus this year is you also have a present day mystery of who had the means and the motive to rip out the final page of the diary to save the family’s reputation,” said Schlarbaum.

Schlarbaum noted that while writing the murder mystery, he was essentially writing a pair of fully interactive mysteries. He noted all characters will have their own background stories with participants allowed to grill them based on what they know and what their backgrounds are. Characters have to answer the questions truthfully based on the backgrounds they’ve been given and only the murderer will know who he or she is.

The local mystery author was finishing off his latest book “Off the Beaten Path” in March when he went to dinner with friends. It was suggested there about the dual timeline concept and Schlarbaum took it from there and penned what he calls “an unpublished novel come to life.

“Unlike other murder mystery-type plays, there is a set suspect in each of these scenarios,” said Schlarbaum. “The way I write the plays is the same way I write my mystery novels. At the end of the day, there is a logical solution. It is a solvable mystery just like reading a book would be.”

Actors will be dressed in appropriate attire, with those portraying 1813 characters being dressed in period garb while others will have the appearance that they just came from a formal gala. Schlarbaum noted the “roving gossips” are back this year as they were a popular part of last year’s murder mystery.

Participants will have to walk the downtown core with stops including the Dalhousie Bistro, Park House, the Commissariat, and King’s Navy Yard Park. Some characters will be moving around so they can be encountered between stops.

“This year we’ve compressed the area that participants have to walk to the downtown core between Richmond St. and Toddy Jones Park,” said Schlarbaum.

Schlarbaum hopes it attracts new people to town and helps places like the Park House gain more notoriety in the future.

Advance tickets are $8 and are available at Fort Malden National Historic Site, the Park House Museum, the Gibson Gallery, and North American Black Historical Museum.  Tickets are $10 at the door and can be purchased the night of the event at the Park House Museum, 214 Dalhousie Street.  This event runs from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and involves walking through downtown Amherstburg, rain or shine. It is recommended for ages 14 and over.

There were just over 100 people at last year’s murder mystery with organizers hoping to increase that number. There are 18 actors and several volunteers involved with this year’s event, many being returnees from last year. This year’s murder mystery is being sponsored by Gibb Insurance.

For information 519-736-2826 or  Proceeds to Amherstburg Museums & Galleries. Participants are recommended to bring their own notebooks and writing utensils to help keep track of the characters, what they say and questions they’d like to ask, although a program will be distributed with some information.

Schlarbaum is also soon releasing “Off the Beaten Path” with a book launch party planned for the Dalhousie Bistro between 7-10 p.m. Sept. 27. Schlarbaum said it will be an informal “meet and greet” type event where people can meet him and talk about the new book, which is the third in a series based around the “Steve Cassidy” character. Schlarbaum said the new book is devoted more to “what Steve does best” as he “solves a cold case murder in his own sort of unique way.”


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