Creating the perfect mystery
J'Lah Johnson '20

Throughout the semester in Women's Detective Fiction, we read both collaboratively and individually, multiple fiction mystery and detective novels by extraordinary authors such as P.D. James and Agatha Christie. Throughout the semester we not only read these novels and took note of the details of the story lines, we also studied how each author used and incorporated domestic epistemology into their plots and story lines. Domestic epistemology is the study of how one may solve mysteries. In our class capstone project, we emailed adults all around campus to help us set up a mystery for the seventh-period Womens' Detective Fiction class.

We decided that Ms. Deal-LeMay would be our murderer who killed Ms. Bradbury and Ms. McGlohon because she wanted to work with the Saint Mary's Alumnae rather than the student ambassadors in Admission. Everybody in our class contributed in many ways. I personally contributed by contacting Ms. Novia to work with her to create our very own version of the Saint Mary's Buzz which announced the poison outbreak on campus and even had a letter from Head of School Mr. O'Shea, included in it. I also worked hand-in-hand with Ava Blane to write Ms. Deal-LeMay's suicide note and confession letter. I also was a part of the bunch who did a test run around campus to make sure everything would run smoothly, and everything was set in place for seventh period's class to solve.

Completing this capstone project helped me truly understand the difficulty of domestic epistemology and helped me realize truly how talented women's detective fiction writers are. Although we worked as a large team, I recognized how there were many key components that play into creating a mystery. These key components included clues, artwork, and crime scene set-up. I also realized that you not only have to formulate ideas for a murderer, you also have to create possible motives, the true motive, victims, other suspects, clues, and more. I always knew it was very hard to keep up with victims and suspects in stories. A prime example of this difficulty is shown when the class read Shroud by P.D. James and not only as an individual but also as a class we experienced difficulty in organizing who was who. Now as the person who helped create a mystery, I understand that it is even harder for the author to organize these things. Doing the capstone project not only helped me understand the difficulty of domestic epistemology, it also helped my appreciation grow more and more for authors like Agatha Christie and P.D. James who not only face such difficulty when writing their novels, but also make the best out of it to create stories that make it impossible for you to put their books down.