What Murder Mysteries Teach Us About Modern Life 

Kira Symington, General Reporter

The dried blood on the edge of the mahogany desk, the dark hair strand in contrast to the crisp white suit, and the pieces of a letter in the ashes of the fireplace become clues of immense importance when solving a mystery. For the detective, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. They focus on each detail with the same attention; the sock drawer is inspected as thoroughly as the murder weapon. Then, as these clues stack up, the detective dramatically reveals how these fragments of everyday life led to some villainous plot.   

This is how the world of mystery works. There is no difference between the mundane and the momentous; everything is a matter of suspicion. I propose an interesting twist, that this is how our modern world works as well. That is not to say that everything is under suspicion, but rather that we simply cannot distinguish between the superficial and the serious.   

Take a look at your “news feed” on your device. Curated specifically for your likes and interests, the realm of what you perceive to be “news” is already decided for you. From this limited and perfectly tailored selection, you can read stories or, if you prefer, just headlines about subjects varying from the war in Ukraine to VICE’s review of a new squishy baguette pillow. We divide our attention equally between the ads breaking up our broadcasts and the broadcasts themselves. We begin to treat the mundane the same as the momentous.   

Like the detective examines the half-burnt piece of toast in the event it might hold traces of some poison, we examine the superficial stories on our feed in search of something meaningful. But too often we find nothing more than, to quote the Gorillaz, “pools of momentary bliss.” The detective too shares this plight. During their search for clues that lead to truth, they are often misled by irrelevant facts. The blood on the desk was merely due to an overzealous attempt to open a letter with a pen knife. The dark hair strand was from the maid cleaning the closet. The letter fragments were simply an embarrassing first try at some romantic poetry.   

We are led astray by these trifling tales on Reddit, TikTok, Twitter, or your media of choice. Soon Jenna Ortega’s dance from Netflix’s “Wednesday” seems just as important as the shooting in LA. Celebrity gossip is discussed in the same breath as the presidential debates. An article on Julia Fox’s apartment is featured next to one about the pandemic. All these clues, all these stories, and all this “news” that we comb through daily offer us nothing more than incoherence. 

We need a detective’s discernment. Like the finale of the mystery, what is important ought to be illuminated. The trivial and the essential were never the same; not everything deserves undivided attention. The fact of the matter is, for both the detective and the modern person, the things that mattered were there all along. It was just a matter of seeing them and sorting through the chaos and confusion of life to find the truth buried beneath. If we can no longer depend on our curated feeds to give us the clues to living a good life, who do we look to?  

Perhaps it is not a matter of looking to anyone. If we want to find what is important, we should take responsibility. The solution to the mystery of what makes a meaningful life may just be something we need to discover ourselves. 


Kira Symington is a Dakota Student General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected]