Posted by: nancycurteman | April 22, 2012

Murder That Looks Like Suicide

Bookmark and Share

Mystery writers are always searching for new or different approaches to make their stories more interesting. Try this one. In your murder mystery, your sleuth finds a body. Did the victim commit suicide or was there foul play? Or—did the villain murder the victim and make it look like suicide to challenge your protagonist? If you choose this strategy, here’s what you need to know about suicide.

When you write a murder that is supposed to look like suicide, have your villain choose the right kind of weapon:

• The most common weapon of choice for suicide is a gun because it’s quick and pretty painless.

• Poison is the second most popular choice for the same reason with the added advantage that it’s far less messy. No blood.

• Hanging is a distant third because it’s more complex—there’s the bother of the rope and the scaffold (a chair might work).

• Stabbing, though quite dramatic, is rather inefficient, sloppy and often ineffective.

• The least popular method is drowning because it is slow and painful and the victim has time to change her mind and save herself. This would be very frustrating to the murderer.

So, your story murderer should choose a gun or poison as the weapon to use if she wants to make the murder look like suicide.

After your villain chooses the appropriate weapon she needs to use a murder method that looks like suicide. Let’s use a gun as an example:

• Shoot the victim in the side of the head or in the front of the chest because these locations are usually favored by suicide victims. Well, so is the mouth but it would be hard for the murderer to hold the victim’s mouth open while he fired the gun.

• Shoot the victim at close range in order to leave gunpowder residue by the wound. Placing the gun in the hand of the victim after the shooting is also a nice touch and it could transfer some gunpowder residue.

• Make the first shot count because a suicide victim will only shoot himself one time.

• Forge or force the victim to write a suicide note. Most victims opt for a last word to those who survive him.

• Leave the weapon at the scene of the crime. Suicide victims do not hide weapons after they’ve finished using them.

Using these tips for making murder look like suicide should provide a challenge to your sleuth in her effort to solve the murder mystery.

More Tips:

7 Murder Weapons That Will Challenge The Cleverest Sleuth


  1. I guess carbon monoxide in the car in the garage is too hard to set up, but might be good. Trouble is, Forensics would probably be able to tell if carbon monoxide did it or something else. Good tips, Nancy.


    • For a murderer to choose to make his murder look like the victim committed suicide I think one of his main considerations would be ease and speed of managing the scene. Carbon monoxide would be a good choice for a person who wants to commit suicide but it might be a little clumsy for a murderer.


  2. A point I would add: poisoning would typically suggest a female culprit. Yeah, I know, profiling… but when you look at the stats… ))


    • You’re right. Poison is one of the primary murder weapons chosen by women along with a gun. Knives are way down the list for women because it brings them in close contact with the victim who might overpower them.


  3. Interesting thoughts, it’s amusing all the things we have to research as writers, isn’t it 😉


    • Since I’ve started writing, I’ve learned so much about so many things I would never have even thought about researching.


      • I know, it makes for interesting conversation with friends 🙂


  4. Thanks for the article! It help me with my murder mystery. 🙂


    • Tiffany, I’m delighted to hear my post was helpful to you. Good luck on your mystery.


  5. Interesting… Any thoughts about the opposite angle, the ultimate revenge: making a suicide to be mistaken as a murder?


    • Bill, That’s a really interesting idea. If I were to pursue it, I’d first review the strategies that make a murder look like suicide then avoid them or do the opposite.


  6. i’m a newbie mystery writer, and i’m glad i found this article. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: