Murder accusations flew in the Columbia Valley Community Centre on Wednesday, April 18th as four suspects attempted to clear their names in a heinous crime that left their friend Harry dead.

Everyone seemed guilty, especially the man nearest to the bloody dagger discarded on the table.

Each of the suspects had secrets. They had motives, means and opportunities to carry out the deadly deed. But only one had all three: the motive, the means and the opportunity.

Find all three, and you can book the perp, said Juanita Rose Violini, the mastermind and author who has been offing characters for 30 years. At least that’s how it works in a fair-play mystery, one where the author leaves sufficient clues for an astute reader to solve the case, she said.

Ms. Violini has penned her share of mysteries and wrote a book on authoring them – Clue Trail: From Whodunnit to Solution.

She shared the best of her tips during a writing course at the centre. As her PowerPoint presentation wound down, she had audience members volunteer to become her characters. Reading their lines, participants transformed into suspects.

Ms. Violini brought the crime scene and all the evidence along with her, which she spread across a series of tables for her investigators to examine.

While the detectives gathered evidence, they missed a pivotal clue, one which Ms. Violini brandished over her head as the evening drew to a close.

She smiled like a villain when she revealed the real murderer.

When she shared the clues that her detectives hadn’t quite caught, the audience was surprised at first and then reminded of what they had already known.

That’s the best way to present a mystery, Ms. Violini said.

“If you watch or read mysteries, pay extra attention right at the beginning because that’s usually where the important clue is,” she said.

When writing a mystery, she said it’s best to figure out all the clues in advance, to understand the characters’ relationships to each other and to know their secrets. Her book is full of instructions on how to plot a mystery.

“You do all your arranging of the story before you start writing,” she said, adding that her experience has taught her that spending a little time planning will save a lot of time editing later on.

Ms. Violini’s mysteries and party games are available at She also offers villainous apprenticeships for authors looking to add intrigue to their stories.