Murder mysteries provide the perfect balance of mystery and suspense. The killer is most certainly one of the suspects our brave detective has encountered in the story. Despite the danger, our hero marches forward to bring the killer to justice. Being right there in the thick of it with the detective and testing your skills against theirs is exciting. Murder Mystery Box provides you with the opportunity to help solve a murder using your wit and deduction skills.
Murder Mystery Box is a quarterly subscription that sends you a box full of contents needed to solve a murder. Each box contains a journal that a witness or detective wrote during the events surrounding the murder. Also included are seven bags of evidence which can vary from newspaper clippings, receipts, and small objects. Everything you need is contained within the box so there is no online elements or websites. There are also no hints or clues provided so you’ll be on your own to solve the murder.
The story is written in a first-person journal format. As you progress through the story you will be told when to open evidence bags. After opening the last evidence bag, you will have a warning page that explains that you now have everything you need to make your deductions. At this point you should go through all the evidence and come to a conclusion on the identity of the murderer. After that, the journal continues where they gather the suspects and go over the evidence. The writer then reveals the murderer and all the evidence that points to them. In the traditional fashion, the murderer fesses up and usually says something along the lines of “…and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” The journal is roughly one hundred pages and the whole game takes around 1-2 hours to solve depending on your reading speed and how much time you spend going over the evidence.
The journal provides the narrative for the main story. The writer typically starts with an excuse of why they are writing down their thoughts and conversations. I think this is unnecessary considering there wouldn’t be a story without the journal. Despite this attempt at realism, the journal doesn’t read perfectly like a journal. It doesn’t break the first-person narrative, but it goes into detail all the conversations and reactions from the other people and suspects in the case. Sometimes it’s written in the past tense and sometimes written as if the events are occurring real time. Sometimes it’s written down immediately after interviews and events when it might not be appropriate for the character to write. It’s a little nitpicky but it’s not really written how a journal should be written.
The evidence bags are the only thing that separate this box from being just a murder mystery novella. As you progress through the story, it will instruct you when to open an evidence bag. The first evidence bag almost always contains some cards with images of the characters. This is helpful considering you don’t get much distinction between characters in the narrative. The rest of the evidence bags contain photos, newspaper clippings, maps, and anything else you might need to help you along the way. They are usually designed so that you are collecting and seeing the evidence at the same time as the writer. This is the strongest part of the box.
Unfortunately, almost all the evidence could be a photo in the book rather than a separate piece of paper. There is a lack of objects that you would find in other similar subscription companies. It’s true that most of the other companies include useless trinkets that aren’t always related to the story. But when charging $27.50 for a very short murder mystery, there needs to be something extra. The only box I tried that had something like this was the Masquerade Murder which included a masquerade mask. Just a little something that people can keep on a shelf to remember the game and justify the cost.
The characters always feel a little flat and don’t stand out. The story is short, so character development is pretty much out the window. Instead the writer just explains people and their history. On top of that, this is another box that is in desperate need of some diversity. I haven’t played the more recent boxes, but I have played six boxes and almost all the characters were younger white people. All the characters images look like stock photos if they aren’t stock photos. It might be a lack of diversity in stock photos but for the price they could take some original pictures. Any other photos included are not stock photos especially if they depict the murder scene.
The stories vary in quality as much as any other murder mystery series might. Even Agatha Christie wasn’t popping out masterpieces every single time. It’s true with this series as well. Some of them can be really well thought out mysteries with just the right amount of evidence to make the reveal a great one. Some of the stories are lack luster and fall short or have large logic leaps that make little sense. Sometimes there will be a fun cameo from pop culture that I really enjoyed. I’m pretty sure that Dean and Sam Winchester from Supernatural showed up in one of the stories. Though they didn’t really add to the story, I thought it was funny.
Despite some of the growing pains this company might have, I still had fun with the stories. It’s always a bit more immersive when there’s items included such as evidence bags. Unlike many mystery novels, you are invited to help solve the mystery in this game. Mystery novels tend to drag you along on this wild ride, only to reveal it was some stranger that was never introduced in the story. In this box, the killer is for sure one of the characters the writer interacting with. One idea they could use is providing a link to a digital copy of the journal with the box. This way you can read the journal at the same time as your significant other or family or friends and work together on the evidence. As is, there’s a little too much reading to read aloud the whole story or pass the journal around.
So if you have the funds and want to try out a murder mystery novella with some physical evidence, give this box a shot. It might be a great way to get a young teenager to start reading more or add a little more excitement than a normal book. It would also make an excellent gift to the murder mystery lover in your life. We all know one, and if you don’t, it’s probably you! And remember, never leave a murder mystery unsolved! Especially when they might be one of the six suspects sitting in the same room as you!
-J.C. Mystery Detective