Murder in the (Locked) Library

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

(On an island, of course…!)


This writing exercise challenges students to try their hand at a classic Agatha Christy style story. The murderer seems to have committed  perfect crime, because their host is found dead, locked into his own library, with no indication of how anyone else could have gotten in or out.

The only clue seems to be an old-fashioned Barlow pocket knife on a side table.


That’s it! Take it from there…


Here are the instructions. They are also on the PDF handout if that’s easier:


Writing Prompt

You’re writing a story involving a mysterious murder at a summer house on a remote island in a large lake. The only way onto the island is by boat. In the morning of the second day of their visit, the guests discover their host dead in the library (which has moose heads mounted on high walls and bookcases full of musty old leather books).  They call the police. An inspector arrives by motorboat. He has them assemble in the library. The corpse is still slumped on a desk in the corner. He’s quizzing each of them.


 Everyone says their host was in the library by himself with the door locked when they went to bed. They broke the door down in the morning when he didn’t answer.


 The inspector is growing frustrated. There don’t seem to be any clues.


 “Wait, what’s this?” someone says. On a table in the far corner of the room there is a partly open pocket knife. It’s an old Barlow.


“Don’t touch it!” the inspector says. “And no one’s leaving here until the forensic team arrives to take charge of the scene!”


WRITE a short scene in which the pocket knife is used to move the plot ahead in an interesting, exciting, or surprising way.


Alex Hiam

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