Winning participant of Murder in the Bookshop

By Ava Straw | Posted: Tuesday July 1, 2014

The following is Ava Straw's winning writing from the 'Murder in the Bookshop' event for the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival 2014. The writing had to be 150 words, based on 'found' objects at UBS (including a dead body!).

He escaped out the window. Fled like a sparrow’s shadow in the depths of the night. The inspector squad arrived minutes later. A mangled body lay on the floor, a mutated blackbird caught in the aftermath of a cat’s play. She looked 25, though she wasn’t looking at anything. Not anymore. Her raven hair tumbled down her clavicle, like Niagara Falls in pitch black. Inspectors Rick and Henry were sent to check the scene of the crime. They found some sparse possessions on the floor by the body. Clues. Hints. Crinkled and worried lines creased across their broad foreheads. A soft music spread across the bookshop, capturing the officers’ attention. It was hot. There was a drinking fountain by the dead corpse of poor old Angelina Johnson. Poisoned water. They were dead in the hour. Smart one, this murderer. He left one clue. On a note above Ms Johnson, there read



Ava's account of the evening

Murder in the Bookshop Workshop Friday night. The doors were open, but I sneakily snuck in, quietly telling the teller I was expected. 

I was directed to the back of the bookshop, through dark shelves and different sized books, hiding who knows what in the shadows. A light had been turned on, and a group of people had gathered to this point. This was it. I stood in the corner, observing the outcomes. A lady introduced herself and what we were doing there that night. We were investigating the unexpected and curious murder case of a body recently found in the bookshop. They’d called us there to have us hand in reports on the matter. The introductory lady then introduced us to two other women, experts on the area of murder reports. They were introduced as West and Symon. Of course, these may have been code names. After all, what can one not expect in a bookshop in the middle of the night, where a murder has taken place? Instructions as to how one writes a murder report were given. Half an hour of time, 150 words maximum were the basic rules and guidelines. Our job was to write the punchiest report. 

It was given the genre ‘flash fiction.’ Then, some little time later, we were handed the equipment we needed for the task at hand. A notebook and pencil was all we were given. We were ordered not to touch a single thing, as this may affect the medical that needed to follow once the police force arrived. Now was time. Back down the aisles of claustrophobic shelves, back past the teller, and into the corner of the shop. The body was certainly dead. Female, strangled with a whistle. Her bag had been split open; all of the contents were sparse on the floor. The group of us were given solely ten minutes to jot down everything we could. It was possibly the most gruesome moment of the night. I could not dare to look into the lady’s glazed porcelain eyes. I turned away as soon as possible. After we were to hand in the reports, West gave a lecture of how to write a good piece of writing, regardless of it being flash fiction of not. We listened intently, waiting to hear the judgement of Symon and the Introductory Woman. Who had won the best work of murder report/flash fiction? 

I had been awarded first prize and a handful of books written by West, part of a series she had written. The final farewell speech was given, and my mother was waiting for me. But I did not run to her. I lagged behind, waited after everyone had left the bookshop and waited in the shadows, waited, No one suspected anything. I was free. I checked that I had cleaned all surfaces. My mother would drive me away quickly and safely from the sirens of the police. I had covered everything. I had an alibi. 

After all, no one ever knows a dead body better if it is your own victim.