Come next weekend Langley will transform from the quaint Village by the Sea to a city filled with intrigue as a fictional murder takes place and visitors are eager to get to the bottom of it.
It’s Langley Mystery Weekend Feb. 22-23, and this year’s theme is “The Deadly Deed.” 2014 is also the 30th anniversary of what some believe to be the longest-running murder mystery weekend in the country, said Betty Freeman, visitor center representative of the Langley Chamber of Commerce.
The weekend-long event also serves as a way to benefit the town, Freeman said, by aiming to attract visitors, bring in business to shop at Langley stores, eat at restaurants and stay at inns.
“It’s really a wonderful way to promote the town and have the town work together,” Freeman said.
Last year, the event had 827 people registered to participate, including 125 from Whidbey and the rest from off-island. Mystery Weekend 2013 drew in people from as far away as South Carolina and Hawaii, she added.
“If we can do a thing like this that’s fun and brings people in, then we’re doing our job,” she said.
The rules are straightforward. At the visitor center, grab a map and notebook. Gather clues found around the city during event hours from participating businesses, the yearly publication Langley Gazette, or even from characters roaming the sidewalks. Analyze the data, and submit your best guess for the chance to win prizes, from mystery books to weekend vacations donated by local businesses. The game is played from Living Green to Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
After a handsome stranger visits town to claim his inheritance and is found dead, the people of Langley search to find who has committed the deadly deed. The story unfolds and many characters are revealed to have an interest in the stranger’s inheritance.
The story includes puns and plays on life in Langley by writer Loretta Martin.
Martin has been involved in the mystery event for 15 years. When she started as the chamber’s director, it was just a storyline, map and a few characters. But she wanted to take it further and developed a newspaper to connect with the participants.
“It really added to the mystery, people just loved it,” she said.
She also began to really develop the characters and gave them each their own biography.
“When I start writing the mystery, I think of the individual people and what they play well,” she said. “And then they start doing all these things in my brain.”
Martin has had several returning cast members play characters, including groups from out of the area hat make “crazy costumes” based on the theme each year.
“My favorite part is watching the costumes each character comes up with,” she said. “My characters come to life. A lot of writers don’t get to see that, unless they sign a movie deal.”