Mystery Story Ideas: 25 Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem Prompts to Inspire Your Story

by Ruthanne Reid | 61 comments

What makes a mystery such a compelling type of story? Maybe it's the puzzle, the details that keep us guessing, or the quirky sleuth or investigator. If you love to read mysteries, too, why not give on of these mystery prompts a try today?

The mystery genre begins with a crime, a puzzle, or other situation that requires solving. Authors leave clues and red herrings that the sleuth (and reader!) follow to solve the case. Some of the most famous authors in this genre include Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, and Dorothy Sayers.

There are a number of sub-genres in the mystery category: cozy mysteries, police procedurals, detective, capers and heists, noir and more.

Need help with a structure to get you started? Take a look at our article on the nine types of stories here. And you might also like our full guide on How to Write Mystery Novel.

Today, let's look at some mystery writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing and your own mystery started!

Five Cozy Mystery Creative Writing Prompts

  1. A librarian happens across a crime scene when they clean the basement archives.
  2. A murder mystery party goes wrong and potential suspects point at each other to avoid arrest. (Especially effective if set in an enclosed location.
  3. A secret society of mystery readers realizes that there is a real killer still on the loose and the clues are hidden in a dead author's books.
  4. A murder scene on a movie set becomes reality when the star is found dead, and the prime suspect discovered missing.
  5. A new restaurant owner in a small town uncovers a long-forgotten mystery from the town's past but the mysterious circumstances unearth a real killer.

Ten Crime Solving Story Ideas

6. Charles McDougall, Scotland Yard's best Inspector, is laid up in the hospital with a badly broken leg, but that doesn't mean he's off the clock! An online news headline describing a tragic gas leak/explosion catches his eye. Four people died: a housewife, a minor politician, a young chemist, and the daughter of a local mobster. Somehow, using only clues from the internet (and what he can worm out of his coworkers), he has to figure out which of those people was the actual target, and why.

7. Agatha Christoph (get it?) is a retired schoolteacher in a beautiful little town in New England. She never married and has no children, so her friends are everything to her. That's why when her best friend, Martha, is blackmailed with vague threats about some risqué photos from Martha's youth, Agatha jumps to the rescue. But Martha's youth was a LONG time ago. Who could have those photos? And what could they possibly want?

8. Mars is colonized, though there's no air outside the domes. Travel from dome to dome is by train. The Eberswalde Express is the “luxury” locomotive, filled with old-timey elegance and charm. It takes a day and a half between stops to give wealthy patrons full time to enjoy the amenities. AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT…THERE'S A MURDER! Weirdly, this murder mimics the plotline of The Orient Express, and Elsa, a librarian and mystery buff, recognizes the details. With a murderer on board and nowhere to go, everyone is in danger. Can Elsa solve this murder before the killer strikes again?

9. Ever heard the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet”? This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Tomoe (who, by the way, was a real female Samurai) serves her general well, but when a fellow soldier dies mysteriously one night after a game of Chō-Han, she can't simply accept that the death had no meaning. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier? And why the subterfuge?

10. Medieval France. Fourteen-year-old Amée is a servant girl with a genius IQ stuck as a scullery maid in her fief lord's castle. She leads a lonely life, with plenty of time to think and analyze, though—and this is important—she can't read. But something strange is happening here. The fief lord keeps bringing new brides home… and within two weeks, those brides disappear. A new one—nearly Amée's age—has just been brought to the castle, and Amée knows the clock for survival has already begun to tick. She has time to figure this out. Will she before it's too late?

11. Omar Yehia is a colonel in Cairo's police department. The government is unstable, and the people are unhappy; he has his hands full with violent cases all the time. Unfortunately, one day, a slain prostitute turns out to have something on her person that no one in Egypt should have at all: Queen Mary's Crown. How on earth did she get that? More importantly, what will Omar do with the 48 hours his superiors give him to crack this case before they report this to foreign authorities?

12. Sandra is a mystery-lover. She sees mysteries and hidden conspiracies everywhere they aren't, and her sister Carrie laughs this off as a silly quirk… until Carrie is framed for the murder of the man in the next apartment. Carrie's DNA is somehow all over the place, though she swears she's never even been in that apartment before. No one thinks Carrie is innocent but Sandra… and she has a limited amount of time to prove her sister is innocent.

13. Twelve-year-old Alexandra is a leader. She runs her school's newspaper, manages three after-school clubs (the book club, the fencing club, and the junior stamp-collector club), and doesn't have time for nonsense. Which is why when she sees a man dressed all in black carrying a manilla folder as he climbs out of her principal's window, her determination to get to the bottom of it knows no bounds. Look out, data-thief. Here comes Alexandra!

14. David is a senior software engineer for a major tech company, and he spends most days knee-deep in other people's databases, trying to figure out what they did wrong.  One day, he happens across a piece of malicious code designed to steal financial information. He reports it and deletes it, but he comes across that same code again—in the database of a completely different company. He finds it again; and again. And the fifth time around, his manager drops a hint that the higher-ups think he's the best person to figure out who's planting it. Undercover, they send him to each of the company's data centers: one in London, one in Boston, one in Dallas, and one in Seattle. It's going to be his job—socially anxious as he is—to interview everyone and find out who's planting that code and why.

15. General March hires Detective Thomas to try to find the person who's been blackmailing March for the past twenty years. Thomas tracks the miscreant down, but finds that the man behind the threats has been dead for the past ten years. So who's carrying on the blackmailing? And is the secret that's held March prisoner this long something that should stay a secret?

10 More Murder Mystery Story Ideas

16. Defense attorney Bob Larson enjoys his job. He likes justice; he likes being right. Usually, he thinks right and wrong are really easy to spot. Then he ends up representing a young Navy Seal who shot and killed an elderly woman—and claims it was in self-defense. Who's really the bad guy?

17. Samuel sleepwalks. He also thinks he loves another man's wife. He's more surprised than anyone when he's arrested for that man's murder. Did he do it? Or is he being set up to take the fall?

18. Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he's ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other mysterious looking thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a small, wrapped package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What's inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?

19. Wealthy, unmarried Anne Lamont is murdered, and she leaves her entire fortune to a man she met two weeks before, putting suspicion squarely on him. Detective Arnold thinks the man is innocent. He has a week to make his case before this goes before a jury. But when he digs into Anne's background, he finds the sweet old matron wasn't at all what she seemed.

20. A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.

21. Someone is murdering homeless people in Phoenix, Arizona. Detective Sally Fortnight is determined to get to the bottom of it… but what she uncovers may be more deadly than she could ever guess.

22. On the Lovely Lady riverboat in 1900's Louisiana, professional gambler Lacroix is just doing his thing when a scream startles him and the other players from the  poker table. It turns out the captain of the steamboat has been murdered, and only someone on the boat could've pulled it off. Lacroix already has a record. In two days, the Lady will pull into Shreveport, where he stands a good chance of being arrested… unless he can suss out the killer first.

23. Detective Donna Madison is on a completely routine case (bootleg watches, just so you know) when she stumbles across a ring of jewel thieves. Two murders, a clever fortune-teller, and a stuffed cat filled with clues later, and Donna finds herself uncovering a far bigger mystery than where stolen watches go.

24. It is the Cold War era. Private Eye Charles Nick searches for a missing cryptanalyst, all the while dodging an obsessed FBI agent who thinks Nick is a communist spy. The cryptanalyst, by the way, went missing for a good reason: he might have cracked the latest Russian spy code, and he's running for his life.

25. 1850's England: elderly Doris and her six young wards are caught in a storm and forced to ask for shelter at an enormous manor deep in the English countryside. But all is not well in this home, and before long, Doris faces a bizarre problem: the manor's lord, Sir Geoffrey, claims his estranged wife Alice is going to murder him that evening. Alice, meanwhile, claims that Geoffrey is going to murder her. After dinner, both are found dead, in the library, seated as if having a rational discussion, but dead as mice. There is no obvious murder weapon, and quite possibly, the murderer is loose in the manor. Doris is no detective, but she might as well figure this out. Given that storm, help won't be coming until it's too late.

(This is the fourth in my series of story ideas, by the way.  If you're interested in the others, check out 20 fantasy story ideas20 sci-fi story ideas, and 20 romance story ideas.)

Do any of these story ideas get your inner-criminal devising? Let us know in the comments.


It's time to play with story ideas! Take fifteen minutes and develop one of these story ideas into at least one scene. Don't edit yourself! Set your imagination free, then post your results in the practice box below. Don't forget to leave feedback for other writers! Share your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop, and leave feedback for a few other writers. Not a member? Join us.

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Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.


  1. Sana Damani

    I hate giving presentations.

    I am a software engineer. Or I used to be, until that fateful day my boss called me into his office to figure out who’s been trying to hack into our clients’ code. Now, I am a reluctant detective.

    I got the job purely by chance. I happened to be the only guy working the evening (it was Valentine’s) that the malicious code first showed up. I deleted it and reported it to the higher-ups. I was then tasked with the incredibly boring task of searching through the millions of lines of client code that we had access to in order to ensure there had been no other security breaches. The work may have been tedious and time consuming despite the clever automation I baked in, but it was not as pointless as I’d expected: the same code was present in four other code bases.

    And that is why I was standing there, sweating bullets and trying to keep my hands from visibly shaking as I presented my findings to the CEO of our company.

    “All that’s great, Dave,” said the CEO, calm as ever, “but what are you going to do about it?”

    “Well, we’ll have to find the parties responsible, Mr. Zheng.”

    “And who do you think that could be, Dave?” He sounded mildly curious about the breach that could cost us our entire reputation and millions of dollars in lawsuits.

    “The only people with access to the code bases of all these clients, and I confirmed this with them, is, well, us.” I said.

    “So, what are we going to do about it?”

    “Find the person and turn them in?”

    “Wrong. First, we figure out a way to enhance security of our code base to prevent future attacks, even from within. Jane, put your best engineers on the job.” He said to my manager.

    “And Dave, you have been relieved of all your duties so you can focus on finding me the person responsible. You have one week. You may leave now.”

    I had a meeting with Jane the next day. I’d never seen her so frazzled before. But the CEO had that effect on people. It’s like he sucked the calm out of you. But he was a brilliant man. That’s why he was CEO.

    “So, do you have any ideas, Dave?” she asked.

    “I have one. But it’s risky and it may not work.”

    “Go on…” she said, carefully.

    “A coding competition open to all our employees. An amazing prize besides bragging rights that should draw any hacker in.”

    “Ah, and the problem would be to hack into our system?”

    “No, that would be too obvious. You see, after all these years on the job, I’ve learned that each person has a distinct coding style, a coding signature, so to speak. Code is personal. It tells you how a person thinks, how careful they are, how considerate etc. Even something as simple as formatting or variable declaration becomes ingrained in a person after years of coding. I believe I can find the hacked using this competition.”

    “Well, it’s not like we have any other ideas. Whoever it was used a ghost ip so we cannot track them. This may be our only shot.”

    If this were a novel-length piece, I’d go into the nuances of how I designed a problem that was original and yet challenging enough to entice a brilliant programmer working at the best tech company in the world. But suffice it to say that while solutions are difficult, they’re a piece of cake compared to designing problems.

    The day of the contest came and entries flooded in. Everyone was interested in getting out of a day of work. Even Janice from accounting was there.

    The contestants spent 24 hours hacking up a solution, powered by free pizza. I spent the next 24 hours scouring through thousands of lines of code to find the suspect.

    Finally, I found a match. The aha moment turned into a head scratching one when I realized who had sent it in.

    I couldn’t believe it. The hacker, and the person with the best solution, was Janice from accounting?!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Sana, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what you’ve done with this! You’ve managed to make it interesting, to set up characters, and to have a complete beginning, middle, and end. Terrific practice!

    • sandy

      I find this interesting 🙂

  2. Amanda J Evans

    Some great ideas in this post Ruthanne, I might have to take some of them with me to my writer’s group tomorrow as I know one of our members loves writing mystery. Number 16 really grabbed my attention and makes for a great paranormal mystery.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      That would be great, Amanda! I hope they really enjoy them! 🙂

      Feel free to turn any of these paranormal. 😉 I tried to keep them largely “normal” for the sake of the audience, but I personally love a little magic in my mystery. 😉

    • lily h

      I was woken up by a loud thunder….
      I shot out of bed, just to look out my large window and find out its pouring rain!!
      “Ping…ping…ping..”. I tun around back to my bed to see what all that noice was. It was my phone. Probably my boyfriend texting me and seeing what im doing, but the thing is, its not that hes not a good boyfriend, its just that im in love with someone else, someone whose name is Anthony… Anthony works with me in English class, were partners. My boyfriend hates when I hang out with him..
      “HAZEL! TIME TO GET UP! SCHOOL STARTS IN 1 HOUR!”. What is she talking about? Whats all the rush? I have 1 hour left. That’s plenty of time! Whatever, im just going to go get ready and not fight about it. I walk to my new grey dresser, and open the handle in which leads me to my make-up and hair stuff, I sit down and look in the mirror while putting foundation on. After doing my makeup, it was time to do my hair, what am I going to even dress my hair up today? A pony tail? A messy hair bun? What would my thick, brown, long hair even look good in? its probably best just to straighten it. In the middle of straightening my hair I burn my hand, and threw the wand. “OW! OW! OW! OW!” I Scream, “ Stupid fucking straightener!” I swear. “EXCUSE ME YOUNG LADY! WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY!” My mom yells from down stairs. “ sorry mom! I burned my self! It wont happen again!”. My mom hates when I swear. She hate when anyone swears. But what was I supposed to do if I got a 3rd degree burn on a hair straightener? which is least likely to happen.
      “ PINGGGG- PINNNNGGGG-…..PINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG…PINGGGGG….PINGGGG.PINGGG” My phone kept on going, and going. And going. “GOD DAMN IT HAZEL ROYAL! JUST PICK UP THAT DAMN PHONE!” Ughhhhh why does she always make me do stuff!!!!!. So I go and grab the stupid phone. “ What? Why do you keep calling me adan?” I said as calm as can be. “ why are you not answering the damn phone babe?” well… PROBABLY CAUSE IVE GOT A LIFE OF MY OWN. But was I going to say that? No. I wasn’t. “sorry, im just in the middle of doing my hair. Can I call you later babe? I don’t want to be late for school, theres only 20 minutes left.” I replied. “okay, but youll make sure to hang out with me instead of Anthony?” adan russed while he spoke, “ yeah, I will, bye babe!” I mimicked his tone. “ bye” adan said. Finally, why does he always have to call me when im in the middle of doing things!?
      (thats what ive got down so far, im still trying to finish it)

  3. Renee

    These are the best by far in your story ideas!!!! I love them SO much, especially #20, #14, and #7. I am a mystery lover (I have all of the old Nancy Drew, some of the Trixie Belden, and several of almost 100 – and over- year old Girl Scout mysteries.) and these really “tickle my storytelling bones”. ;-D

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Awesome, Renee! I grew up on the old Nancy Drew, too! I hope you take these ideas and turn them into something absolutely wicked fun!

  4. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    What a great list. I’ve been skipping the other lists because they aren’t in my genre, but I had to read this. And not only because I’m currently stuck on my current work in progress.

    I confess that I’m especially drawn to Number 7. Can you blame me?

    Thanks for the boost!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      This is awesome, Carrie! I’m so, so glad to hear it! I hope you can take that idea and spin it into something fabulous. 🙂

  5. Carrie Lynn Lewis


    I’ve read all of your ideas and discover that you’ve provided more than just a list of ideas. Far more.

    The ways you’ve played off known people and known characters (Agatha Christie and Nick Charles of Thin Man fame) have opened up a couple of doors to me that I hadn’t previously considered. All a of sudden, every novel I love and every character I admire has the potential to influence my own fiction.

    Thank you!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Carrie, it delights me that you caught those silly references! 🙂 I’m just thrilled.

      I’m also glad this has inspired you. I really believe that creativity is an ocean; if you’re in it, you’ll get wet! We’re all influenced by one another, and that’s the way it should be. 🙂

  6. LaCresha Lawson

    Hey! Those are pretty good! Thanks!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I’m glad you like them, LaCresha! Enjoy! 🙂

  7. Annie

    15. Just the smell of it makes me want to run home and hide under my bed. The sight of it, on the other hand, is enough to make me dizzy and feel as though I was going to pass out and vomit at the same time. All my life and throughout my career as a police chief, I’ve never had to deal with any big cases. Nothing ever happens in small towns in Arkansas. But, now, after fifteen years of being a chief and twenty five years of being a police in general, something interesting was finally happening. It just so happened that this happening happened to be a disturbing, horrific, gut-wrenching homicide.

    When I got the call I could barely believe what I was hearing. Someone had found an uncovered grave, in which was a fresh (yes, fresh) corpse. Oh, and I forgot to mention-the corpse had no head. After years of dealing with petty middle school criminals and rabid cats, there was an actual crime to be had. But the crime seemed completely unbelievable. So, I sent a few men down to the local cemetery to investigate. The news I received about ten minutes later was enough to send shivers down my spine. The men had found the body, just as the eyewitness had described it. And on top of that, a close inspection of the surrounding land revealed various body parts hidden in books and crannies around the cemetery. Body parts! For Pete’s sake, why did this have to happen in my town? I didn’t have time to ask questions, though. There was a killer on the loose, a psychotic, genuinely dark, and horrifying killer.

    • Tanya hipworth

      I already feel sympathy for your character, and your description is very thorough without being overly so. Your pov is consistent throughout, and the revelation of there being more body parts keeps me wanting to read. A very captivating piece. Well done.

    • KatSteve

      I really like how you make this shocking by making the sheriff so shocked! Good stuff. plus your description of the smell made me sick (in a good way ) 🙂

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Great start, Annie! I really hope you continue this. I see characterization and solid voice, and your pacing is great. 🙂 I love what you did!

    • SmartWein

      Can I use this?

    • Annie

      Nope! Sorry :/

    • Metruis

      While Wein cannot copy Annie’s writing (which was fab), I doubt anyone can stake a claim to the prompt of “small town police force has to deal with actual real crime” as a plot–it’s been done before, it will be done again. It’s how you write it, the characters, details, twists and locations you craft that will make it your own!

      So, SmartWein, make something originally yours based on the foundational concept. It will be better because it came from your brain and is shaped around the story you create! Find a different crime, or a different protagonist, pick a different setting, write it yourself and you’re golden! Pick a setting that means something to you. Pick a crime that personally horrifies you. Then drop in that bored detective who hasn’t solved anything more complicated than Roe the Regular Drunk, Annie the Irregular Drunk and Jen the Incontinent domestic squabbling, one single “hit and run” that left a sixteen year old with a broken ankle and he saw the license plate number and Matt fessed up straight away, and Laurie’s cat climbing into the rafters of Jo and Ted’s grill… in ten years… but this crime has shocked everyone in this sleepy quiet town down to their ruffled toilet cozies.

      It will be better for it.

      When I can’t think of an idea, I pick a story I consider to have been terrible and think about how I would take its foundational idea and run it to a superior place. In this case, I recommend you took at Annie’s writing and figure out why it appealed to you, what aspects of it worked. Was it the sensory description? The character? The horrific crime? Once you understand why it appealed to you, you will then have an idea of what to tweak in your own ideas! Perhaps now you know you need to describe the crime with more. But will it be the reeking decomposing head covered in wriggling white maggots, the slimy femur covered in slick moss recovered from the dog’s mouth, the red bloodwashed room that tastes of iron when you breathe, or the ear-splitting shriek that comes from the direction of the dock and endless ocean? What twisted, demented ideas can YOU come up with? What a great mystery indeed! Aha! Ahahahhaa!

  8. Christine

    If you’ve come up with all these ideas yourself, I do take my hat off to you. Or doff the old top hat, as P G Wodehouse would say. I could spend a week on these!

    • KatSteve

      Agreed! These were fun and interesting ideas!

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Thank you, Kat! 🙂 I’m so glad you like them.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      Haha! Thank you, Christine! I definitely take inspiration from the stories our world is filled with, but I do my best to make each one unique. 🙂 Enjoy!

    • Christine

      Yesterday I sat down and started with #1, writing an opening scene. Will post it here as a separate comment, but it’s LONG. 🙂

  9. Tanya hipworth

    This is my first time doing a practice exercise.

    20. It was Helen who had found the bodies of their hosts.
    The poor girl had gone into the library after supper at the invitation of Sir
    Geoffrey to find herself a book to read to the younger children. Her scream had
    ricocheted through the eerily empty halls, alerting both Doris and the manors’
    butler Wilfred. That had been a while ago, and Doris was still attempting to
    comfort the girl unsuccessfully. Wilfred also had his hands full attempting to
    keep the younger children from entering the room where the bodies still sat. A
    single look passed between the two adults, followed by a slight incline of both
    their heads. Doris stood up, guiding Helen up the staircase with one arm around
    the girls still shaking shoulders. The other reached out towards the butler as
    they passed, a flask being swiftly stowed away for use on the unsuspecting
    children. As she reached the first floor landing, Doris turned to look back. He
    still stood at the foot of the stairs, watching after them. A silent sentinel,
    a pillar of strength in a time of such uncertainty. She allowed the briefest
    expression of gratitude to cross her face before continuing on. They would have
    time to talk she knew, once the children were asleep.

    • KatSteve

      Intriguing! I like the pace. I feel like you have the beginning of a solid story line.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I LOVE it! Working on the characterization of the butler as well really helps to expand this beautifully. I hope you keep writing it! Great first-time practice. You’ve caught my attention!

  10. KatSteve

    #9 from the top half-this is a really rough draft – 15 minutes is very short. I like this idea a lot and hope to expand it to something real at some point

    David lifted his head from the monitor screen, and pushed
    the thick frame of his glasses so they perched on the bridge of his nose. He stared down at the lines of code. This was
    no ordinary scripting. If allowed to exist in this environment the company
    would be a gateway for any hacker with any know-how at all to abscound with
    sensitive data, financial information, possibly even money itself. Anyone that
    got through that gateway would easily be able find their way to whatever information they desired. He looked over the code once more and checked
    the interface as well to see if there were anything obvious to the end-user. He
    decided the interface looked normal.

    He took screen shots of the code and the interface, and logged the occurrence. Then he notified the
    project manager, Sam Wolfe.

    He used instant message:

    Hey, I found
    some strange scripting while updating the firewall. I sent u screenshots and
    logged the problem Check log h259.

    Wolfe shot back

    I’ll take a
    look and let u know what I think. Thanks 4 the heads up.

    Back to the code. He deleted the miscreant code. Just for good measure he ran a scan on the machine and on the servers as well.

    ~End 4 Now

    • Ruthanne Reid

      *grins* Oooh, I was hoping someone would grab this one! It’s one of my favorites (probably because this IS my husband’s job, haha).

      I think this is a GREAT first draft. Your writing practice is terrific! Thank you for sharing it! I hope you continue it, too.

  11. Christine

    Scotland Yard’s top Inspector, recovering from a fall, has read about an explosion at a chemist’s. (I’m using the English term for drug store in this tale.) Four people died, including the chemist. (Pharmacist over here.) Now McDougall is trying to determine the intended victim and the why.

    “Nasty piece of work, that. I read the account in The Times Online last night.” Charles McDougall shook his head. “Hate to see innocent people killed. Or were they innocent? Which of them was the real target?”

    Tony, his younger colleague reproved him. “Mac, old pal. You’re here to rest, relax, and heal up. You’re not to give a thought to mini bombs and targets right now. And the next time you go flying down some stairs, take a cushion. You could have broken your neck, you know, and Scotland Yard can’t function without you.”

    “Right. The wisdom of my hoary head and all that. So who’s got the case and what has he found out so far?”

    “Are you deaf, Inspector? I just said…” Tony paused as a pretty nurse entered the room. His dark eyes gave her the once-over as she set a small paper cup on McDougall’s bed table.

    “Here’s your pain meds. Now let’s take your temps, love.” She stuck a thermometer prong in McDougall’s mouth. “Can’t have you getting infection on us.”

    Tony grabbed at his stomach. “Ow! Help! I’ve got this sudden, awful pain. Gall bladder maybe, or appendicitis. Will you stick me in a bed somewhere and nurse me back to health, too, sweetie?” He gave her a big grin.

    With one hand the nurse pulled a wicked-looking hypodermic needle out of her pocket and waved it in Tony’s direction. “See this? We poke everyone who complains of a pain with three of these. Hospital policy. You’d be surprised how many visitors it cures on the spot.” She set the syringe down beside him where he could fully appreciate its size, then turned to record her patient’s temperature on the chart by his bed.

    Tony eyed the needle lying beside him. “Three, eh? I feel so much better already. Fancy dinner some evening — away from these barbaric devices?”

    She laughed. “I’ll see what my boyfriend has to say about that. He’s quite partial to seafood, if that’s what you’re thinking of having.”

    “Oh, well. Another time, then.”

    She picked up the needle, gave him an exaggerated wink and walked out of the room.

    “Some friend you are,” McDougall grumbled. “Here I am at death’s door and all you’re thinking of is running off with my nurse.”

    Tony turned back to his fellow Inspector. “Hey, I’m a lonely guy. No one to come home to; no one to cuddle with in the wee hours. Can’t blame me for trying.”

    McDougall snorted. “Maybe if you’d quit loving them and leaving them you’d have someone to come home to. You get distracted so easily, Weekes. I asked who got the case.”

    “Barrows was asked to take a peek at it. Which he did, and reported the basics to us in a briefing this morning. Scotland Yard hesitates to get involved; minor stuff like this the local police should be able to handle. The only reason we’re looking into it at all is because two of the victims are ‘persons of note’ so there could be a bigger picture.”

    “Adam O’Connor being one.”

    “Right. Even though he’s small potatoes in local politics, it never hurts to take a look.”

    McDougall shifted in his bed and wiggled his broken leg in the brace that held it. The younger man jumped up and stepped toward the bed, extending his arm and a bit of TLC. “Need some help getting settled there, Mac?”

    McDougall grabbed onto Tony’s solid forearm and heaved himself up a bit. “Thanks. I’m good now. Hate this traction business! All because my sister’s grandson dropped his ice cream cone on the top stair step. Anyway, maybe someone didn’t like O’Connor’s particular policies? Or had he some shady involvement that got out of hand?”

    Tony sat back down. “Doubt it. Pretty mild sort. At least not involved in any controversies apt to get him killed. And the other victim ‘of note’ was the daughter of Pierson Rathmore.”

    “The mob boss? So that was the school girl. Rat-tat-tat.”

    “Yeah. Her name wasn’t released in the news, least not as of this morning.” Tony brushed his fingers through his dark hair. “I wouldn’t want to be the bloke who planted that bomb. Not with Pierson Rathmore on my trail — and he will be. He’ll have several of his boys out looking for the fellow. As you say, ‘rat-tat-tat.’ If we don’t get the perp first, he’ll be floating down the stream without a boat.”

    “But she couldn’t have been the target. Someone wanting to settle a score with Rathmore plants a bomb that hits her happenstance at a drug store? Not likely. Rathmore has a couple of sons, too; if this were to hurt him, seems the perp would have aimed for one of them rather. ”

    “Well, the girl — his only daughter— was dear to his heart. Everyone knew it. And maybe not quite as much security clustered round her as around the heirs. Also, apparently, she had this regular habit: every Monday on her way home from school she stopped in at this particular chemist’s to buy a chocolate bar. One of our agents kept tabs of Rathmore’s children for awhile back when we were trying to nail him over some mysterious disappearances.”

    “Every Monday? And she was eleven? Now that is curious.” McDougall’s gaze turned toward the window as he pondered this fact. How many eleven-year-olds would have a regular habit like that?

    “We’re checking out the chemist who was killed, too. Blake Mederach, late twenties. Seems his name’s been mentioned in police notes a time or two. Possible traffic in prescription drugs. Nothing proven, though.”

    “And the unidentified woman? Your average housewife stopped to fill a prescription?” McDougall frowned. “Hand me that glass of water, will you.”

    Tony stood and passed him the glass. “Mrs Annette Reeves. Nothing on her at all. Active in the church ladies, PTA, that sort of thing. Likely an innocent lamb who stayed longer than she intended. A witness who left the drug store a few minutes earlier said they heard O’Connor nattering to her about one of his future projects for the community. Unless something turns up, we’re assuming being there at the time of the explosion was simple happenstance for both of them.”

    “Yeah. A jealous husband or lover may pop in waving a gun, but bombs are a little out of their league. As you say, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. My wife should be dropping by shortly; I’ll get her to attend the lady’s funeral and keep her ears open. She won’t mind doing that.”

    “I’ll mention that at the next brief. Now I’d best be off. Oh… Hello!” Tony’s eyes lit up as a slim young woman stepped into the room and looked around. Her long blond hair was pinned up on her head with a barrette and she was wearing a stethoscope round her neck.

    “Hello, gentlemen. Hope I’m not interrupting something? I was just passing by and thought I’d take a peek in, see how you’re doing, Mr. McDougall.”

    Her bright blue eyes studied him. He could almost hear Tony’s heart rate shooting up.

    “I’m surviving,” he replied, taking note of her bright blue eyes. He could almost feel Tony’s pulse rate shooting up. Right now his visitor’s eyebrows were waggling up and down, signalling frantically for an introduction. McDougall sighed.

    “Sorry, Love,” he said. “I know you’re the Resident for this ward, but I’ve forgotten your name.”

    “Doctor Lundgren. At your service, sir.” She grinned at him, then picked up the patient’s chart. “All vitals well, I see. Much pain.”

    “Not really. One bad one right now. Allow me to introduce my colleague, Anthony Wolf — I mean Weekes.”

    “Pleased to meet you, Doctor Lundgren. Delighted. Enchanted, even,” Tony held out his hand. Behind her back, McDougall rolled his eyes upward.

    She gave it a firm shake, responding to his smile with one of her own. “Nice meeting you as well, Mr-Wolf-I-mean-Weekes.”

    “Sorry you have to go, Tony,” McDougall said pointedly. “Do come again this evening and bring more news.”

    Dr Lundgren turned back to the patient, replacing his chart. “Well, keep up the good work, then. Get lots of rest.” She chuckled and patted his braced-up leg, then spun around and marched out of the room.

    Tony followed her into the hall and McDougall heard him offering some worried-tone malarkey. “You know, Doctor, I’m quite concerned about my pal. He seems edgy and uptight, letting work issues bother him too much. Could we maybe discuss this over lunch?”

    McDougall didn’t hear her answer. He shook his head. What was that old saying about chasing the butterfly of happiness?

    Then he opened the laptop sitting on the night table in front of him. For now he’d do what he could to puzzle out the drug store bombing. Later, once he had his leg all plastered up with a sturdy walking cast, he’d give Tony a good swift kick in the pants.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      I. LOVE. What you did with this. The humor is just fantastic! The pacing is really fun, and I wanted to keep reading! I hope you want to continue with it. 🙂

    • Christine

      In fact I do. This is one “exercise” where I saw not just the opening scene, but more of the story unfolding and I want to work it all out. When I do, I’ll post it in parts on my fiction blog and leave you the link here.

      And then I’ll start on suggestion #2. 🙂

    • Kim Bertsch

      This is TERRIFIC! Did you ever finish the story?

    • Christine

      Thank you! No, I didn’t — shame on me! It got shoved to the back burner and seems to have fallen off the stove — but I think of it now and then. 🙂

  12. Renee

    Okay, here we go… #3 ( and I have never read The Orient Express either!)—

    Elsa hops on the train and, book in hand, takes a seat. She relaxes and opens her book.
    Elsa looks around before she begins to read.
    She is a librarian and a mystery buff, and she enjoyed anything related
    to mysteries.
    Growing up, she was an only child and found ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in the books she
    read. As Elsa reads, a scream pierces the air.
    Startled, she looks up; half thinking that she imagined it. But this was not true; people are nervously glancing around and an elderly woman had fainted.
    Elsa gets up and closes her book. She steps into the aisle, puts her book on her
    seat, and walks to where she thinks the scream came from.
    ‘In the back of the train… The bedrooms, maybe!’ Elsa thinks. She pushes her auburn hair away from her face and walks to the bedroom hallway. Elsa notices a door is slightly ajar, so she steps closer to it.
    In one movement, she flings the door open and steps inside. She gasps.
    A man lies prostrate on a bed, purple finger marks on his neck. Elsa turns on the light and walks to the man’s side.
    Suddenly, she thinks that she might be blamed for the murder, so she steps away. Almost immediately, a policeman and the conductor appear in the doorway.
    The conductor faints on the spot while the policeman rushes over to the dead
    man. With a quick glance, the policeman compares Elsa’s hands to the marks on the man’s throat.
    “You didn’t do it; I know better than that, anyway,” he assures her. Elsa nods and tells him, “A man did it, judging by those fingerprints.”
    The policeman covers the body with a bed sheet and blanket, and motions for Elsa to
    help him with the conductor.
    The policeman and Elsa drag the conductor from the room and into the hallway. Once
    there, the policeman releases his hold on the conductor and closes the bedroom

    Elsa runs back to her seat in the front half of the train and something strikes her
    as odd.
    She picks up her book and flips to a certain page.
    Elsa finds that the murder (and the setting!) is identical to her book, The Orient Express.
    Elsa again flips through the book to see what happens next. The train crashes into a
    snow bank, the people on board are stuck, and the murderer is on the loose.

    That night, Elsa lies in her bed looking out the window at Mars’ scenery, wide-awake. She tries to banish the bone chilling, fleeting thoughts flying through her head.
    A small thud announces the presence of something… or someone! She turns on the
    bedside lamp. A half-day more on this trip- and more if the train crashes! Elsa thinks wearily. She grabs something from under her pillow.
    Elsa turns the light off, while silently hopping out of bed and pulling on fluffy
    bunny slippers.
    She pads out into the hallway with a penlight and runs over the events in the story
    What was that? She spins around and flashes the light in the direction of the
    cargo/baggage hold. Elsa backs into a corner.
    The blood freezes on her veins when the sound of footsteps – not her own – filter
    through the cargo door.
    Elsa flicks the penlight off and hides behind a large vase nearby. There was just enough room for her to maneuver into a position where she could see the cargo door.
    The door opens and a person clad in black steps out from the shadows. Elsa stifles a gasp when she sees the person’s face.
    But she calms down when she holds the penlight tin one hand- and a gun in the
    She covers the penlight’s small bulb, turns it on, and throws it to the other side
    of the small hallway, creating a spinning light sure to catch the person’s eye.
    The person (or should I say man) quietly speeds to the light and Elsa courageously steps out with the gun pointed at the man.
    “Hands up!” she orders calmly. The man, startled, spins around. By the look on his face he is shocked… and amused.
    Elsa sure was a sight to behold: pink-and-red pajamas, bunny slippers, and tangled
    hair. The man slowly laughed and sped down the corridor only to be stopped by the policeman.
    The man gives; he puts his hands up. The policeman closes in on him and handcuffs the man. Elsa takes a breath. “Why, conductor?” she asks incredulously. The murderer was the conductor.
    “I’m a retired actor and I needed fame again, even if people didn’t know who I
    really was. The stupid movies makers thought I was getting useless, so they kicked me out with a coulpla’ hundred dollars in payment!” he shouted. “I was going to be the star in the movie production of The Orient Express, but they traded me in for some guy five years my senior. And plus, I knew how the plot went!” Elsa nodded.

    Then, she explained her part: “I went to the policeman here and told him how it fitted tight along with the plotline of The Orient Express, and my suspicion of what was to happen. He agreed and he gave me one of his guns. Thankfully, I was right and now you are caught, the people are safe, and I can sleep.”
    Elsa handed the gun to the policeman and padded back to her room, where she
    collapsed on her bed and fell asleep.

    • Ruthanne Reid

      WOO! What an exciting ride! I love that you chose present-tense for this; it made all the action more immediate, like I was walking alongside her.

      The bunny slippers were a great touch, too! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  13. Damilola

    As the president of the drama club and debating society, a member of the music club and the vice-president of the Leaders Book Club, Tolu had a lot on her plate. She was also the Student Head of the junior school where she had only just enrolled at the beginning of the school term despite being a transfer student. She had had to turn down the position of class president when she turned Student Head.

    She knew her classmates snickered behind her back everyday but there was nothing she could do about it. She was called an over acheiver and all sorts of names that made her ire rise but she turned a blind eye.

    With just one more term to go before the end of the session, her parents were quite worried that she had not invited any friends home nor had she mentioned any. They had tried to broach the matter with her but it was futile.

    Meanwhile, her studies did not suffer and she was the school’s darling. She was very organised and precise. But when the school decided to set up a chess club and make Tolu the president, without any votes, other children began to plot. The taunts became more obvious. The jeers became louder.

    And so on a certain sunny afternoon when she left her class to make her way to the teachers office for a meeting with one of her tutors, she decided to take the long route in order to avoid some of her enemies. In her thirteen year old mind, she was plotting moves using an imaginary chess board. She was winning the chess game when a shadow momentarily blocked out the light. It lasted only for a few seconds but her curiosity overtook her. She was walking behind the windows and it seems that someone had just risked the principals wrath by sneaking into his office.

    Worse yet, that person was holding a file, the kind opened in every students name when they join the school. The files that have details of students lives and the things that teachers observe without wanting the student to find out. As Tolu saw this, she decided to investigate. Still carrying her heavy school bag on her back, she decided to find out who it was and who was coward enough to steal students file. She resolved that she would investigate and inform the principal, afterwards.

    Crouching, she stole closer to the principals window and peeped into the office.

  14. Nimisha

    Hi, is it alright if I use some parts of the ideas listed here in my own stories, rather than following the prompt word by word? I’ve been working on an episodic detective series for my college portfolio and I’m out of ideas. I really like a few of the mysteries presented here and would like my teen detective to solve them.

  15. Sasha

    This isn’t any of the above just another story idea:

    21. Cody is a casual teenager who wants to fulfil his dream of being hypnotised; when hypnotist David finally comes to town Cody pays a visit. David’s attempt to hypnotise Cody ha gone wrong; Cody is stuck in an unbreakable trance which has made a connection between his and David’s mind. Whatever David thinks, Cody does. Will David’s biggest desire of vengeance succed or will it fail….

  16. athoifss

    This is the first time in years thats im trynna write fiction. This is #13 here, i forgot the name so came up with Mark.

    It was a typical Sunday in the metro station, deserted. On any other day, the platform would be swarming with daily office commuters but on the weekends and especially Sundays there would be but handful. As Mark entered the platform, he was pleased to see the emptiness. Travelling in the stuffed metros was always a pain. He checked the clock hanging over head, 10 minutes for the next train. Less people meant lesser frequency of trains. He stationed himself right where he always stood , beside the first of many pillows along the length of the platform. A train hustled itself behind him on the opposite route. Among the people coming out were couples, families on a holiday trip and few other men and women. But one particular person caught Mike’s attention. He wore an old discoloured shirt and shorts, not what people wear when travelling. He looked sort of in his 30’s, physically well built but of stout height. He bad bruises on his cheeks, clear sign of being on the receiving end of punches. Walking hurriedly on the platform, he kept watching backwards. Suddenly he started running, tripped and collided with Mark sending both men on the ground. Before Mark could react, the man was up and away. It did not take Mark long to figure out why the man had started running, he saw a group of men coming towards him, apparently chasing that guy. They did not give him a second look and kept running.

    Mark was surprised at the happenings. In his 3 years of travel though the metro, he had never witnessed anything like this. He was still coming back to his senses when another train pulled up. This time, it was on his desired route. He quickly walked to the edge of platform waiting for the train to stop. At that moment, he heard a loud bang ricochetting in the underground. He froze right where he stood. Unmistakably, that was a gun shot!

    • katey


  17. Ashley

    I just

  18. Ashley

    I just read these mystery ideas. I love them all so much. I was planning on writing a mystery for my first Nanowrimo novel in November. Idea #7 gave me so many great ideas for my novel! Do you mind if I use it?

  19. Shawn

    I loved the ideas. I was looking for an idea to apply to a bunch of background material I have, but couldn’t find anything that fit, so I thought I’d mention it here and see if you have thoughts. In short, I’ve been in contact with the descendants of the mutineer’s on the HMS Bounty. If you recall, after taking the ship, they found an uncharted island in the Pacific called Pitcairn where the 30 descendants live today. I just happen to have tons of material on how they live, celebrate Christmas – many colorful stories for background color. I was trying to think of a cozy mystery idea on, or off, the island with a hypothetical descendant. They are visited by supply ships every other month and small cruise ships three times a year. Not much to go on. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Note – I’m a maritime history writer that’s looking to move the the Mystery genre.

  20. Iris

    16. Running though streets, abandoned, was something he had never seen himself doing in his mind’s eye. The steady rhythm of his feet was echoed by the equal rhythm of his attacker’s footsteps. Blood mixed with sweat ran down the lean, wrinkled face of the victim, his heart pumping as he realized that his fate would be the same as Melissa’s: death. He had reached a dead end in the street…and his life. His attacker grabbed him, threw him on the ground, then took his time in creating pain for the victim.

    Sally Fortnight put her brick-red hair into a neat french braid as she remembered how nearly she had lost her head earlier on that year. She was tired of sitting at home on leave. Being a cop in the police department of Phoenix, Arizona, was her life, her being, and a psychopath cutting a careful line along her collarbone and a cut starting at her ear and making its way to halfway along her cheek, intended to go to her mouth, slow and painful without anesthetic. She touched her scars on her hands and looked down at similar scars on her bare feet where she had been drilled into a metal table. Her green eyes teared up as she remembered the look on his face as he went about his work. She had loved him, and she never knew what had hit her. Her daze was interrupted by a ring on the doorbell. She quickly grabbed her 9 millimeter and looked through her oaken door’s eye hole. A Phoenix detective badge was held up at the hole, and a female voice called out, “Detective James, Phoenix Police Department, Homicide!” Sally opened her door and embrace her best friend, her partner, and her confident in everything.

  21. Twisted

    Could i take number 7 and turn it into a story and publish on Wattpad? Would that be okay?

    • Jackie Houchin

      Why not?

    • Creativity_Obsessed

      Thank you very much!

    • Ghost?

      You use Wattpad too?

  22. Matt H.

    My timer went off right as I was finishing up the last sentence… how ironic! I used #13 for this story.

    Daniel Rodriguez – Dan to his few friends – was a simple man. He took the subway in the mornings to his day job, he always wore a hoodie (the train was cold, thank you very much), and he had to have his music. The swaying train coupled with the complete separation from outside noise made the perfect environment for him to write. He hadn’t been published yet, but he wrote nonetheless. He loved mysteries – he wanted to be famous for them some day.
    “Hey! Watch it!”
    “Look where you’re going!”
    Annoyed exclamations and shouts that Dan could actually hear over his music made him snap out of his thoughts. With a scowl on his face, he took out his earbuds, and looked up to see what the commotion was about. He saw a man, shoving past people and trying his hardest to run. The man had dark, tanned skin and intense features, but he couldn’t make out much else besides that and his clothes, which were distinctly middle-eastern. He stood to get a better look, but as soon as he had, the man nearly ran him over. With an ‘ooph!’ and a loss of breath, he was practically slammed back into his seat. Dan couldn’t even find the will to react; he only gave an incredulous look and shook his head. Whatever, it wasn’t his problem. By the time the middle-eastern man was out of sight, however, another strange occurrence happened. A group of men in dark-colored suits and sunglasses pursued him, moving equally as fast, if not faster. Saying nothing to anyone – and ignoring the cries of the people they pushed over in their pursuit – Dan watched them go by with intrigue.
    “Is it the feds? Are they chasing that guy?” he asked the woman sitting next to him, who seemed equally as intrigued as he was. She only shrugged.
    “No idea. Oh, hey, I think you dropped your notebook.” She pointed to Dan’s composition journal, which he wrote down all of his ideas and character designs. He mumbled a ‘thank you’ to the woman, embarrassed, but leaned down to pick it up. When he did, something small fell out of the pocket of his hoodie. His eyebrows furrowed and he looked at it for a second. It was a small package, neatly wrapped in newspaper and tied with string. He had no idea what it was or where it had come from. He picked up his journal and the package, but before he had much time to think about it, there was a gunshot. Startled, he shoved both of them in his bag and stood. Everyone in the train car went deadly silent, waiting for what happened next. With a squeal, the train slowed to a halt. Police bombarded the subway when it stopped, and when the door to the next car opened, Dan could see what happened.
    “Oh my god… that guy was…” he choked out. The middle-eastern man from before was clutching a bloody stomach wound, barely holding on. The men in suits were nowhere to be found. With the last of his strength, the man looked Dan dead in the eye. Dan gulped, feeling a chill run down his spine. The man gave a short nod, and then his eyes slid closed and did not open again. Dan felt frozen in place – he could hardly process what was going on. Then, suddenly, he remembered the package. With trepidation, he pulled it out of his bag.
    “What in the world have I gotten myself into…?” he murmured, eying the package. And yet, even as he thought this, he knew he shouldn’t turn it in to the police. The man’s nod was one of trust, one that said he was depending on Dan. He couldn’t just give it up so easily. There was only one problem nagging at his mind: what was in the package?

  23. Jules

    I need a murder mystery escape room idea. U see, the group I was working with kicked me out but kept my idea as the purge. So I have to start all over, so I decided to start all over. I’m not sure what kind of clues I need AND materials. HELP!!

  24. Hailie Spiker

    Hi! I’m 14 years old and I’m writing a story that is about a murder of a 14 year old girl’s boyfriend. I need some more ideas about how I should continue… Please help me!

    • Rachel A.

      Make it interesting by making the girlfriend murder him

    • Hailie Spiker

      Ahh… I should make her have a demon that controlled her that night and have her remember she killed him! Great idea! Thanks so much!

  25. JW

    I’m thinking of using #18 (and adapting it, maybe for NaNoWriMo). Maybe the watch is a time machine.

  26. James Smith

    Thank for sharing your crime Solving Idea’s.
    NeedAssignmentHelp provides the best python assignment help, python homework help in the US, Australia & UK at a pocket friendly price.

  27. Tanushri

    I like the ideas. They catch your attention and let your imagination free. It helps a lot for the young ones who want to take up writing in the future. Thanks. Waiting for a lot more ideas to help me become an author.

  28. Melody Martin

    I spent nearly a year on my first book. It was easy because I inserted myself into the story line. It’s published and I am now working on a private detective novel. The ideas here are great but after 38,000 words I hit a brick wall. I have been stalled for 2 days now. thanks for the article

  29. LeianneW

    Charles’ eyes riveted around the unfamiliar room. He stared at his leg, feeling perturbed. This had to be the WORST time to be a clumsy detective. He folded his arms and gave a sulky pout, like a five year old. Then, Christina, his lowly nurse, burst in with a large food tray. She gave Charles a big smile. “Looks like today’s full of mystery.” She set the food tray down. Charles’ eyebrows flew up. “What?” She looked around the room to see if anyone else was up. “Some gas leak caused an “explosion that killed 4 people.” Charles’ eyeballs almost bulged out of his head. “Killed who?”
    “There was the housewife, a minor politician, a young chemist, about twenty or so, and… oh yeah! Damian’s daughter.” Damian was THE worst mobster Scotland Yard had ever seen. Charles realized there was a mystery to solve. He smirked.
    I am a preteen so I know my little paragraph wasn’t the best. Any feedback on how to improve and polish my story will be great, thanks.



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