For decades, Iâve been a passionate fan of mystery books. As a child, I savored the adventures of Nancy Drew. Later I discovered Agatha Christieâs Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, Mary Roberts Rinehartâs heroines driven to untangle family crimes, and Dorothy Sayersâ debonair Lord Peter Wimsey.
These days, I track evil-doers in turn-of-the-century Egypt with Elizabeth Petersâ archaeologist detective Amelia Peabody, and photograph crime scenes in my beloved Key West with Alex Rutledge, the protagonist of former Keys resident Tom Corcoran. When I turn on the TV, itâs to investigate criminal behavior alongside the offbeat âMonkâ or shadow Sherlock Holmes through the cobblestoned streets of London.
Much to my delight, Iâve discovered that a number of really good mystery writers live in Key West. Among them are Kate Collins, whose amateur sleuth owns a flower shop, and Michael Haskins, author of the âMad Mickâ Murphy thrillers.
Even better, the Waterfront Playhouse is staging an event tailor-made for mystery lovers like me â the inaugural Key West Mystery Fest, set for May 4-13 and featuring these stellar authors and more. Its star is one of the most intriguing mystery writers alive today: Hy Conrad, writer/producer of the wonderful crime series âMonk.â
The festivalâs centerpiece is the world premiere of Hyâs mystery play âHome Exchangeâ at the Waterfront Playhouse next to Mallory Square. By the way, this multi-talented Key Wester is not only a successful mystery author and the mastermind behind âMonkâ â he also writes and produces the hit television series âWhite Collar.â
The suspenseful script of âHome Exchangeâ explores what happens when two Americans swap houses with a British couple, and quickly become convinced theyâve stumbled on a murder plot â and that the British husband will soon become a victim.
The delicious drama will be performed through May 26, and its Mystery Fest run includes a May 5 post-performance party at the Historic Key West Sculpture Garden beside the playhouse.
Detective wannabes can also investigate the âCrime Scene Photographerâ interactive solve-it-yourself puzzler set for May 4 at Casa Antigua â a fittingly mysterious structure that was author Ernest Hemingwayâs first Key West address.
Iâm definitely planning to savor the festivalâs three-stage progressive dinner in the elegant Truman Annex enclave. Guests are invited to dress as their favorite character from the board game âClueâ â and the menu features a dastardly murder to solve.
On May 10, Hy Conrad and another âMonkâ celebrity, creator Andy Breckman, will host âMonk Nightâ at the islandâs Tropic Cinema. The duo plans to explain how the Emmy Award-winning show was created, written and produced â AND screen some of their favorite clips.
And on May 12, a special âHome Exchangeâ performance and talkback will be staged at the Waterfront Playhouse. There, through insights from Hy and the playâs cast and crew, theater-goers can solve the mysteries surrounding the intriguing production.
The festivalâs puzzling proceedings also include meet-and-greet receptions, a backstage tour of the âHome Exchangeâ set, a classic mystery movie night, and a final brunch that spotlights the winning entries in a mystery short story contest.
Clearly, no sleuthing skills are needed to understand why it would be a âcrimeâ to miss the inaugural Key West Mystery Fest. So donât be clueless â make plans now to come down and join the suspects. (FYI, Iâll be the one wearing a deerstalker hat and channeling Sherlock Holmes.)