Who killed Werner von Tanner?
That’s the central question behind this year’s Langley Mystery Weekend, which runs Feb. 25-26 in the Village by the Sea.
The annual event, now in its 38th year, still finds ways to deliver crime-solving fun for all ages wrapped up in a zany plot. The theme for 2023’s mystery is “The Herd Shot Round the World,” a clever play on words.
The story involves a herd of miniature, genetically modified cattle which will be launched in a rocket by fictional Texas A & R University – A & R stands for “Animal and Rocketry” – in partnership with the South Whidbey High School Rocketeer Club. The course of the cattle-laden projectile, however, is being disputed by delegates from two different areas – pirates from the United Islands of the Kithless Archipelago and the duke and duchess of Freedomskia. Tension arises among the delegates from Freedomskia, half of which are meat-eaters and the other half which are vegetarians.
But Langley Mystery Weekend wouldn’t be complete without a murder. Somewhere along the line, Werner von Tanner, who oversees the “Orbital Animal Delivery Project,” gets done in during a scuffle at the pagoda in Langley Park. It will be up to sleuths to figure out who killed the promising young man responsible for developing a revolutionary delivery system associated with the rocket project.
Michael Hill, who has been involved with Langley Mystery Weekend since 2000, took the reins this year as the mystery’s main writer. “The Herd Shot Round the World” was originally intended to be a secondary plotline in last year’s mystery, but took on a world of its own.
“The mystery is designed to be fun and crazy, but believable,” Hill said. “In this mystery I have tried to create a world that is odd, but believable. Zeppelins? Trips to Santa’s Workshop in June? Hybrid Longhorn cattle with sheep’s wool? Pirates from the Kithless Archipelago between Australia and South Africa? It’s Mystery Weekend. Anything is possible.”
Hill plays one of two characters that are not suspects in the murder – Riley Rhodes, a gadget sales rep trying to sell a Texas Ranger a device to tell who is the guilty party. The cast of costumed characters numbers 24 in this year’s caper. Many actors are Mystery Weekend veterans, such as Moonraker Books owner Josh Hauser, who has been a character in 36 mysteries and plays the esteemed role of the mayor this year.
Assistant writers Loretta Martin and Rachel McDougald devised clues for the “The Herd Shot Round the World.” Martin, McDougald and Hill come up with a mystery plot every year.
“It’s very creative and it’s very silly and I think it’s going to be a very fun mystery this year,” Martin said.
As long as she can stand the cold and rain of February in Langley, she said, she plans to continue playing her character of Officer Polly Graph.
Just like every year, sleuths will receive the coroner’s report, biographies of the characters, a map of clues and a form to fill out with the name of whodunnit. They will be able to freely question suspects, gathering clues along the way from local businesses.
Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Inge Morascini said that this year, participants can opt to scan clues in the form of a QR code with their phones instead of entering buildings to receive a paper clue.
The event runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m on Sunday, Feb. 26. At 4 p.m. on the last day, the identity of the murderer will be revealed.
Tickets are available online at visitlangley.com/store. They are $15 for regular admission and $12 for seniors over 65, youth 10 and under and military service members. Tickets must be picked up from the chamber of commerce office on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. To date, nearly 175 tickets have been sold.
“I think it’s a more detailed mystery than usual. The imagination of the writer is incredible,” Morascini said. “It’s just a fun time for everyone, of all ages, from the most junior sleuth to the most seasoned veteran of Mystery Weekend, I’m sure there will be something new to discover.”