Libations in the Library

It’s no mystery that wine makes scavenger hunts more fun

Who knows what lurks between these covers?

“We think it’s the most fun you can have in a library,” declares Lanier librarian Clare O’Sheel, referring to the venue’s 4th Annual Mystery Festival scavenger hunt. This year’s event, “Cocktails & Clues,” pays homage to the 70th anniversary of the Clue board game.

“It’s a murder-mystery scavenger hunt in the library stacks,” O’Sheel says. “The ‘Clue’ overlay, with game personalities played by room monitors and helpers, should add to the cheer.” 

Also contributing to the cheer is this: The bar opens at 4:30pm, half an hour before the game, “with wine and Bloody Marys and all the fixings.” Consider it a mood setter for a talk by forensic psychologist and author Richard Helms. “He is an expert on sex crimes,” O’Sheel reports, “and has 19 crime-based mystery thrillers under his belt. He’ll speak about the writing process and his experience with criminals.”

Then guests will be divided into six teams to search for clues. “You read your lead, which sends you to the first book with a clue inside about a title or author. Then you’re on to find the next book, until at the end you’ve found a clue to solve the murder. The first team to solve it wins, and teams are mildly competitive.”

Last year “mild” may have verged on “wild,” as teams reportedly ran through the library in a race to see who could submit their winning answer first. 

But until the end, the answer to the whodunit remains a closely guarded secret among library staff, who are pros at keeping things quiet. They are also highly skilled at serving up hors d’oeuvres to fuel the competition, which is followed by a celebratory buffet dinner. The meal, bookended by a signature cocktail and a decadent dessert, is served under a candelabra with tablecloths and silver.

In 2020, Lanier Library marks its 130th year as the oldest community organization in Polk County — and one of only 16 private libraries in the nation. “All the others,” notes O’Sheel, “are in major cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago.”

But she emphasizes that although proceeds from the event support the library, “Cocktails & Clues” is more than a fundraiser. “We do it because we want to maintain a community connection, let people know about the library, and give them something above and beyond — more than you would expect in a library. We want the library to be known as a center for fun.”

“Cocktails & Clues” happens Friday, Oct. 4, 5-9 pm at Lanier Library (72 Chestnut St., Tryon). Doors open at 4:30pm and reservations are limited to 50 people. Tickets are $35 per person and are expected to sell out fast. For more information, call 828-859-9535 or see

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