Whodunit 2.0: How Technology Is Changing the Classic Murder Mystery

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The classic murder mystery genre is truly a timeless form of entertainment. From the earliest whodunit murder mystery books to murder mystery-themed television shows and films, there’s no denying its lasting popularity. 

This type of story has been around for centuries and is still seen as one of the most recognizable and stable genres in fiction today. As murder mysteries give readers insight into the criminal mind while keeping them on the edge of their seats, it’s easy to understand why this genre continues to entice readers generation after generation.

Just like creating a puzzle, the challenge of writing murder mysteries lies in how the author reveals certain information. Too little can turn away potential readers — but be too obvious, and you take away the readers’ enjoyment of “whodunit” and detract from the intended suspense or shock factor. 

As readership interests continuously change with new generations and trends, authors work to keep murder mysteries fresh by using timeless conventions as well as modern-day storytelling devices. And that’s where technology comes in.

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Technology and the Whodunit

The murder mystery and thriller genre continually evolves with technology and innovation. While classic murder mysteries — or whodunits — may always remain popular, the way murder mysteries are written and how they are solved continuously evolves as technology changes. Technological advancements, such as forensic science, digital tools, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, have allowed murder investigations to become increasingly more sophisticated. 

With access to new kinds of evidence and technologies allowing for greater accuracy during an investigation, old-fashioned detective work is still necessary. But a new wave of mystery stories can be created from this collision of classic literature and advanced technologies. Regardless of the type of murder mystery you enjoy watching or reading most, technology is undoubtedly playing a role in changing how murder mysteries are written.

The Evolution of Tech in Murder Mysteries

The murder mystery genre has come a long way since the classic whodunit murder mysteries of the early 20th century. Technology has had an incredible effect on murder mysteries, and it’s been fascinating to witness this evolution as we look at popular examples such as the decades-spanning Midsomer Murders series

From their clever use of surveillance techniques to the increasing prevalence of DNA and digital footprint evidence in their plots, modern murder mysteries now utilize many new technologies to craft satisfying cases for viewers to solve. The application of technology has helped murder mystery writers create plots with greater depth, suspense, and intrigue than ever before, which only serves to enhance our collective appreciation for the murder mystery genre.

The Impact of Technology on the Whodunit Plot

Authors must consider the role of technology when constructing their murder mysteries. Modern readers will expect certain technical elements that help create an immersive experience. By incorporating technology into novel settings, authors can craft stories that are both thrilling and believable. 

The use of technology also helps writers construct intricate plot lines as characters are increasingly connected through complicated networks of tech. Technology continues to shape not only how we write fiction but how readers digest it as well. For example, in my Thomas Shepherd mystery series, multiple mysteries plague the protagonists, and readers find themselves swept along by the pace of the plot.

With groundbreaking advances in police procedures and technology over the last five decades, murder mysteries have had to adapt. Where once a classic murder mystery or whodunit relied upon sleuthing and the protagonist’s wits, authors now have to maneuver around the fact that law enforcement has come quite a bit further than fingerprint evidence. 

New tools like huge databases and drone surveillance offer an exciting challenge for murder mystery writers looking to set their stories in the present. How can they keep readers guessing when facts are just a few clicks away? We may no longer live in the golden age of crime-solving, but murder mysteries can still be thrilling and engaging if the story is powerful enough. 

By leaning into the genre’s classic tropes such as misdirection, surprise turns, and suspenseful cliffhangers — combined with some creative problem-solving abilities on the part of their main characters — writers can keep readers hooked regardless of how advanced our detective methods are in real life.

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Going Back in Time

Many whodunit writers are going back in time to produce captivating murder mysteries. It is easy to see the appeal of the classic murder mystery format, which emphasizes human intelligence and wit over today’s sophisticated detection methods. These stories deliver the thrill of using your brainpower to outwit the killer, relying more heavily on carefully crafted storylines and intriguing characters rather than forensic science. 

It’s no surprise that these crime-solving stories provide hours of entertainment as you try to figure out who among the suspects committed the murder.  As more murder mysteries continue to be set in the past, readers are sure to enjoy hashed-out cases and satisfying endings without any help from DNA or other advanced detection methods.

For murder mystery writers, a classic whodunit murder scene can be even more exciting when modern investigative processes are removed from the equation. Crime solving becomes a true test of the detective’s deductions rather than relying on the instantaneous data delivered by cellphones, computer science, and forensics. 

black and white image of old school detective investigating murder crime scene

Stripping these elements away can create an edgier murder mystery tale, one that pushes detectives to show their wit and expertise in more creative ways. 

Whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, murder mysteries featuring narratives where a detective’s deductive genius can shine have been entertaining audiences for hundreds of years. So even with modern devices and technology out of the picture, clever murder mysteries can still tantalize readers today!

Murder mystery writers using historical settings get to play with props and situations that transport their characters to a world without interruptions. No texts, no phones, no Instagram to give away their every move. Instead, they get to craft daring situations where their characters can freely plot, scheme and hide without any pesky tech getting in the way. 

And let’s be real, making characters disappear in today’s world requires some overused tropes and tricks like dead batteries, phone-free zones, or sending them on a wild goose chase to a place where the only signal is a shrug emoji.

Will Your Detective Use Tech?

As murder mystery novels have evolved over the years, technology has played a huge role in bringing new life to the classic whodunit stories. With the introduction of cutting-edge technology and gadgets, many murder mystery authors are using modern tools to help solve crimes, offering readers a new layer of suspense and excitement. 

On the other hand, some murder mystery writers are taking a step back in time and avoiding modern technology completely by utilizing historical settings that take readers on an entirely different journey. Whether murder mysteries provide readers with a game of mental deduction or solve mysteries with technology, there’s no question this beloved genre has come far since its inception.

You can find out more about genres by checking out my mystery and thriller book reviews! Or check out my advice for writers, and get some tips on creating compelling characters, how to end your story, and much more!

Looking for another thrilling and mysterious read? I’ve made the prequel to my bestselling Darkwater Cove psychological horror series, Dead and Buried, free to download

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