Length of Program

1 hour

Program Description

Television programs have made crime fighting and evidence gathering cool. Teens will gather facts and solve problems in this WhoDunIt program. They’ll gather evidence and solve true crimes, participate in a murder mystery scavenger hunt, or a mystery role-playing game.

Developmental Needs and Assets

This program will encourage teens to develop a positive identity. By participating in the activities, teens will experience a greater sense of control over their environments, learn that they can solve problems, and gain self-esteem and a more positive outlook on their personal futures.

Books to Display

  • Blood and DNA Evidence: Crime-Solving Science Experiments by Kenneth G. Rainis.
  • Silent Witness: How Forensic Anthropology Is Used to Solve the World's Toughest by Roxana Ferllini.
  • Classic Whodunits by Tom Bullimore.
  • Crime Scene Investigation: Crack the Case with Real-Life Experts edited by Cyril H. Wecht.
  • Dusted and Busted: The Science of Fingerprinting by D. B. Beres.
  • The Nancy Drew Scrapbook: Sixty Years of America's Favorite Teenage Sleuth by Karen Plunkett-Powell.
  • They Broke the Law, You Be the Judge: True Cases of Teen Crime by Thomas A. Jacobs.
  • Unexplained: An Encyclopedia of Curious Phenomena, Strange Superstitions, and Ancient Mysteries by Judy Allen.

Books to Booktalk

  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
  • Fake ID by Walter Sorrells.
  • Finding Lubchenko by Michael Simmons.
  • Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer.
  • Jude by Kate Morgenroth.
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.


True Crime Scene

Prepare a true crime display. Display books about law, law enforcement, and true crime. Surround the books with props such as plastic handcuffs, manila folders with “Crime Photos” written on them, plastic badges, and handcuffs. The plastic handcuffs and badges may be purchased at Oriental Trading Company at www.orientaltrading.com.

Crime Scene

Make a faux-crime scene by using white masking tape on the floor of your teen area similar to the scene in the attached photo. Shape the masking tape into the outline of a body. Rope off the area with yellow caution tape and/or crime scene tape (you can ask your city departments to use their official tape). Mark the scene with evidence numbers made from yellow and black construction paper.

Bulletin Board

Library’s Most Wanted

Create a “Library’s Most Wanted” board. Display mug shots of library staff members. Take pictures of the staff members in front of a white wall with height measurements on it. Have the staff members hold up a sign with their name and a prisoner number. An example of a sign/rap sheet is included at the end of this chapter. Blow up the pictures for everyone to see. Include a rap sheet with facts about the person, such as their favorite book, movie, or music CD.


Serve food that will go along with your crime scene investigation such as dried cherries or cranberries and call them dried scabs and Little Debbie Zebra Cakes and call them prison biscuits.


Give the teens crime-fighting tools such as small notebooks, pencils, police tape, handcuffs, and other items available from local stores or from web sites such as Oriental Trading Company at www.orientaltrading.com

Games and Activities

Gather the Evidence

Prepare brief outlines of several true crimes. An example of an outline of a true crime is available at the end of this chapter based on a murder investigation. Let groups of teens use library resources, such as books, databases, and the Internet, to search for more information and gather the evidence and proof. The goal is to solve the crime and determine if suspects are guilty or innocent. At the end of the activity, leave time for the teens to discuss the case and whether they would convict the suspects based on the stories of the crime.

Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt

Stage a murder in your library. Find a library staff member to volunteer to be the victim. Another staff member might be the murderer. You might give teens sheets describing personas to play. Every player is a suspect. You can use the name tags provided to help the players take on their new identity. Using a scavenger hunt, the teens would answer simple reference questions to solve this mystery. Clues would be given to solve the mystery when the teens answer the questions correctly. An example scavenger hunt, with answers, is provided. The teen who solves the mystery is the winner. They can accuse each other as much as they want, but only one person will win.

Murder in the Village

(Adapted from Rules of Mafia at www.princeton.edu/~mafia/oldmafia/rules.htm. Used with permission of Sam Taylor, Treasurer of the Princeton Mafia Society, mafia@Princeton.EDU.)


“Murder in the Village” is a murder mystery card game. Players act as residents of a small village that is terrorized by a group of murderers. During the night, the murderers roam about the village, selecting law-abiding citizens as their victims. During the day, the villagers gather together, seeking justice, and vote to convict one of the citizens of secretly being a murderer.

Number of Players

Thirteen players are ideal for a game. You may accept seven or more players with slight modifications in dealing the cards. See below Player Set-up Modifications.

Equipment Needed

One standard deck of playing cards.

Roles of the Players

Players make themselves comfortable in a circle in order to see one another’s faces. One player is selected each round to be the Narrator. The Narrator does not participate in the game as a player, but manages the game and remains absolutely neutral. The librarian or a teen participant can be the Narrator. Prior to play, the Narrator will choose cards out of the deck representing each of the following.

  • Citizens: Black numbered cards of any suit, # 2-9
  • Murderers: Red numbered cards of any suits, #2-9
  • Sheriff: Jack of Clubs
  • Nurse: The Queen of Hearts

The narrator deals these cards to assign roles so that they are random and confidential. Once a player receives a card, he or she must conceal his or her identity from the other players.

Player set-up modifications based on the number of participants:

  • 1 Sheriff, 1 Nurse, 2 Murderers + 3 Citizens = 7 players
  • 1 Sheriff, 1 Nurse, 2 Murderers + 5 Citizens = 9 players
  • 1 Sheriff, 1 Nurse, 3 Murderers + 6 Citizens = 11 players
  • 1 Sheriff, 1 Nurse, 3 Murderers + 8 Citizens = 13 players
The Goal of the Game

Each player’s goal depends on his or her role. The murderer(s) goal is to kill all the citizens in the game. The citizens’ goal is to kill the murderer to avoid becoming the murderer’s victims. The nurse and sheriff share the same goal as the citizens.

Playing the Game

Each round consists of two phases. The first phase is night; the second phase is day. The narrator will announce when each phase is occurring.

Phase One – Night

The narrator tells the players to close their eyes and lower their heads (“Citizens, go to sleep. It is now night time and the village is quiet.”). All players except the narrator close their eyes and no peeking is allowed. The narrator must not speak in any specific direction lest he or she signals the true identity of a player. All other players should sit as motionless as possible for the same reason. The night phase is divided into three parts:

  1. The narrator announces "Murderers awake." The murderers, and only the murderers, open their eyes. The murderers may kill one citizen per night. The murderers decide among themselves who they will kill, by means of hand gestures. They silently point to the victim to communicate to the narrator who is to be killed. The narrator, once he or she understands who is to be killed, announces "Murderers, go back to sleep" and then the murderers close their eyes.
  2. The moderator announces, "Nurse awake." The narrator asks, "Who do you want to save?" The Nurse should point to one person she thinks the murderers have tried to kill, and the narrator indicates by silently nodding his or her head if the person was killed or shaking it side to side if the person was not killed. The Nurse can point to himself or herself to try to save his or her own life, but not in consecutive rounds. The narrator then asks the Nurse to go back to sleep and the Nurse closes his or her eyes.
  3. A similar process is used for the Sheriff. The moderator announces "Sheriff awake." The narrator asks, "Who do you want to accuse?" The Sheriff points to one person whom he or she believes to be a murderer, and the narrator indicates by nodding or shaking of his or her head (not by speaking) whether the person indicated is a murderer or not. The narrator then asks the Sheriff to go back to sleep and the Sheriff closes his or her eyes.
Phase Two – Day

After this is done, the narrator tells everyone to wake up. Before anyone speaks, the narrator identifies who (if anyone) was killed in the night (“Sadly, There was a death in the night and the person who was killed was…”). Note: This is an opportunity for the Narrator to get creative with the story of the murder scene. The player killed in the night is “dead” and may no longer participate in the game in any way (no speaking or physical gestures), however they are allowed to keep their eyes open at all times. The player killed by the murderers may turn over his or her card and reveal his or her identity to the group. Note: No player should ever show his or her card to anyone else while they are still alive. It is cause for disqualification and known as “suicide”.

The remaining survivors may vote to convict someone of being a murderer. The survivors may freely discuss the situation. The Nurse, Sheriff, and Murderers may reveal themselves publicly if they feel that it is in their best interest to do so, which it usually is not, provided that they never reveal their actual cards. The narrator, after allowing for a period of discussion will ask for accusations. Any player may accuse any other player of being a murderer. If an accusation is lodged, the accuser may explain the reason for his accusation. Then, the narrator will ask for a second to the accusation that the named player is the murderer. If the accusation is seconded, then the accused may state a defense. Other players may comment briefly on one side or the other. Then, the narrator will take a vote. If a majority of the surviving members vote to convict, then the convicted player turns their card face up to signify that they have been put to death and may no longer participate in the game. If there is no majority in favor of conviction, the accused is acquitted and may not be accused again in the same turn. The day phrase ends when:

(a) Someone has been convicted and killed, OR

(b) The narrator determines that no more accusations are going to be (or can be) made.

In case (b), no one is killed during the daytime. The moderator allows sufficient time for accusations to be made, but does not allow the game to drag on unnecessarily. At the end of the day, the moderator terminates all discussion immediately. Then, night falls, and the moderator asks all players to close their eyes.

Winning the Game

The game is won by the murderers if there are no more citizens left, or if the number of citizens left is less than or equal to the number of murderers. In this case, the citizens will never be able to get a majority to kill one of the murderers. The citizens win if all of the murderers are convicted and killed.


(Adapted from 101+ Teen Programs that Work by RoseMary Honnold.)

Laminate photos of celebrities and tape them to a poster. Mask their eyes with black rectangles of paper, and number each photo. The object is for the teens to identify the “masked” celebrity. Teens can have a ballot to tally their guesses. Post the names of the celebrities after every teen has guessed. To vary the game, include several categories of celebrities, such as expose the author, rock-star, sports star, or even librarian.

Who Am I?

(Adapted from Books Appeal: Get Teenagers Into the School Library by Karen Cornell Gomberg.)

Materials needed: Self-Adhesive Name Tags and Permanent Markers.

Who Am I? can be used as an activity or as an icebreaker. Have each teen secretly write the name of a famous person on a self-adhesive nametag. For variety, they can write the name of a famous author, musician, athlete, etc. Keeping the name hidden, each teen sticks the nametag to onto another player’s back. The teens mingle and ask each other questions to figure out whose name is on their back. The players can only ask questions with yes or no answers. “Am I alive?” or “Am I male?” are examples of appropriate questions. Teens continue playing until each player guesses the name of the famous person on his or her back. Sample Who am I? Name tags can be found at the end of this chapter.

Murder Mystery Role-Playing Game

Conduct the murder mystery role-playing game, “The Body in the Billiard Room” by Lisa Youngblood, in No Limits: READ! Young Adult Reading Club and Programming Manual on the Texas State Library web site at www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/pubs/yareadingclub/body.html .

Guest Speakers

Invite local police officers or detectives to talk about their work. Ask them to tell stories about their work and discuss the skills needed for the job. Ask them to talk about gathering evidence from crime scenes.

Web sites

DNA Forensics


An informational website on how forensics using DNA works.


  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Forensics. (26 minutes)
  • Dick Tracy. (103 minutes)
  • The Last Mimzy. (90 minutes)
  • The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. (90 minutes)
  • Nancy Drew. (99 minutes)
  • National Treasure. (131 minutes)
  • Stormbreaker. (93 minutes)

Professional Resources

  • 101+ Teen Programs that Work by RoseMary Honnold.
  • Books Appeal: Get Teenagers into the School Library by Karen Cornell Gomberg.
Crime Scene Investigations Booklist
An on-line booklist that includes both fiction and non-fiction titles about forensic science, forensic psychology, forensic anthropology, medical examiners, crime scene investigations, etc.
Forensics in the Classroom
This web site for teachers and instructors, provided by CourtTV, includes information and activities for teens.
Oriental Trading Company
An online business that has party favors and interesting gifts.
Rules of Mafia
Consult this web site when planning the Murder in the Village game.
The Body in the Billiard Room
The murder mystery role-playing game, “The Body in the Billiard Room”, is included in No Limits: READ! Young Adult Reading Club and Programming Manual by Lisa Youngblood, published by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in 2002.
Ultimate Mystery/Detective Web Guide
Contains over 3,000 mystery/detective online resources.
Who Dunnit?
Provides history and activities for modern crime fighting and forensic investigations.

WhoDunIt Chapter

True Crime Scene Displays

Chalk outline on ground surrounded by crime scene caution tape

Closer view of crime scene above.

Library’s Most Wanted

Library's most wanted poster with blanks for name, prisoner number, alias, favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite CD.

True Crime Outline

Gather the Evidence sheet.  See Long description.

Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt

Go to the library catalog. Look up The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers. Where is this book located? Go to this section of the library and find the book. Your next clue will be there.
Clue: The murderer has dark brown hair.
Answer: The Children’s Biographies.
Find the area of the library where there are books on weather. Look for a book called Storm Warning. What is this book about? You will find you next clue inside the book.
Next Clue: The murderer works in the library.
Answer: Tornados
Find the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Name one character in the play. You will find your next clue at the end of the shelf.
Next Clue: The murderer likes to make the bulletin boards in the library.
Possible Answers: Blanche, Stella, Stanley, Harold, Eunice, or Steve.
Go to the library catalog and find the Research Databases. Go to the The Handbook Texas database and search for Texas State Library and Archives Commission. What year was it founded? Find your next clue at the reference desk.
Next Clue: The murderer is a man.
Answer: 1909. It was called the Texas Library and Historical Commission.
Go to the section of the library where the CDs. Write down the name, artist, and call number of the first CD you see. Find your next clue on the front of the bin where the CDs are stored.
Next Clue: The murderer wears glasses.
Go to the periodicals. Who is on the cover of Wired for April 2008? Find the next clue on top of the magazines.
Next Clue: The Murderer is taller than the display rack in the teen area.
Go to the teen area and look for the graphic novels. Find the manga, Boys Over Flowers. Who is the author of this series? Find your next clue at the end of this row.
Next Clue: The murderer likes to read the Dallas Morning News.
Answer: Yoko Kamio
Go to the periodicals. Find the newspaper called IBD. What does “IBD” stand for? Find you next clue there.
Next Clue: The murderer works closely with the person who was murdered.
Answer: “IBD” stands for Investor’s Business Daily.
Go to the section for books about different languages. Find the Spanish/English Dictionary. What is the Spanish word for library? Find your next clue at the end of the row.
Next Clue: The murderer has blue eyes.
Answer: Biblioteca
Go to the front of the building where the circulation desk is located. Find the large, glass display case. Name one thing in the display. Find your next clue in the bottom right corner of the case.
Next Clue: The murderer’s favorite book is Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Who is in the painting hanging in library? Find your next clue on the easel next to the painting.
Next Clue: The murderer’s favorite color is green.
Name one book on the Coretta Scott King Award book display. Find your next clue near the sign that says “Coretta Scott King.”
Next Clue: The murderer dislikes people who bring back books late.
Answer: The murderer is Bob who works in circulation.

Who Am I? Name Tags

Who Am I? Name tags. See long description.

Who Am I? Nametags.  See long description.

Page last modified: August 12, 2011