It was a glorious Saturday in May, the beginning of a long hot summer seizing the day and infusing the air with a sultry perfume. What better way to spend the day than indoors, solving a murder?
Long and I met at the Royal Ontario Museum for a murder mystery scavenger hunt, hosted by Urban Capers. We both stumbled in the doors looking slightly the worse for wear. Long has a show to perform in a month and is on a challenging diet. I had gone to an early class and had missed my first of what generally promises to be many cups of tea. The side effects of severely calorie restricted eating are fatigue, confusion and dizziness. The side effects of caffeine withdrawal are headaches, fatigue, irritability and difficulty in concentration. We were, perhaps, not in our finest form.
We joined another thirty or so participants in the foyer of the museum and were given the back story by Simon, the tour leader. The chief curator at the museum had been murdered! We were handed a map of the grounds (in French, as they had run out of English versions which did not bode well for our unilingual and somewhat stunned duo) as well as a booklet outlining the seven main suspects and the clues to solving the murder. There were seventeen clues in all and each group was started at a different place in the museum. We had two hours to complete the task and points were awarded for solving the clues, finding the scene of the crime, the weapon and the perpetrator as well as supplying the motive. There was no bonus for finishing quickly and if you needed a lifeline or a clue we were given a number to call. Long and I were determined to finish by our wits, diminished though they may be.
Our little team by chance started at the scene of the murder – the recreation of the inner chapel of the tomb of Kitines in Egypt and the very place I was most fascinated by as a child – the home of the mummy!
We quickly solved the first clue and were off and running.
Ok, off and meandering maybe. Some of the clues came easily, some had us stumped. The hunt took us through all parts of the museum and required wit and attention. We spent an annoying length of time trying to solve one clue about the cloak of a Native American chief which was right in front of us, in a gallery housed the Michael Lee Chin Crystal section of the building.
Opened in 2007 and designed by Daniel Libeskind there was a great deal of controversy about this latest addition to the gallery. Some love the audacity of the design, some hate the severity. It has been declared the 8th ugliest building in the world. I must confess I am not a fan. The original design called for the crystal to look like an actual crystal with the majority of the walls being glass which I suspect I might have loved. Cost overruns forced a change in material and the current structure is 25% glass and 75% aluminum. I find it visually heavy on the exterior, and the interior is extremely difficult to navigate. The galleries in this section are unilaterally dark, the exhibits are hard to make out and the odd layout does not flow. Long and I lost valuable time trying to find our way through to galleries that should have been easy to find. I think the original building, while a little tired, had enough to offer and at least made sense as an exhibition space.
Long and I managed to get back to the starting point within the allotted time and with all the clues sorted. We actually were the third group back which isn’t bad considering the first two groups in had four and five members respectively to comb the galleries for clues and we were but two people in compromised states of awareness. We figured out the who/what/where and how, but we had not really paid attention to the narrative behind the clues. As such, we did not provide the essential “why”? The two winning groups did, and Simon revealed the story to us in whole. Money and jealousy, time honoured motives, were at the heart of the murder.
After two hours of crime solving Long and I were ejected in to the bright sunny day. I bought a restorative tea and dessert which Long eyed with envy and we meandered off. This was a really fun way to spend an afternoon. Urban Capers has several such adventures on weekends throughout the summer including capers in the Distillery, Kensington and Church Street. Perhaps Long and I will fortify ourselves with food and caffeine and embark on another adventure!