Illustration of Sarah-Kate Lynch with footsteps in the background and a magnifying glass over her eye

Murder, she wrote: Why Sarah-Kate is dreaming up a homicide at a health retreat

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1 January 1970

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Sarah-Kate Lynch clues us in on writing her killer plot in a new episode of local detective series,The Brokenwood Mysteries.

One of the things that kept me sound in mind and body during the worst of the pandemic lockdown last year was writing an episode of the New Zealand detective show The Brokenwood Mysteries.

In real life, the seemingly quiet country town of Brokenwood doesn’t exist – which is just as well because if you go there, you’re likely to end up six feet under.

In fictional life, Brokenwood is home to detectives Mike Shepherd, Kristin Sims and Sam Breen, who are presented at the beginning of each episode with an unexplained death, and by the end they’ve found the killer (although real detectives never say “killer” or “alibi” or “clue” – who knew?).

I was super excited to be asked to write an episode because Brokenwood is popular all around the world – it was recently named the number one crime show on international streaming service Acorn TV. Also, the episodes are feature-length which I’d never done before, and I always wanted to write detective stories.

As a kid, I remember leafing through the Reader’s Digest to find the detective riddles. You know the sort of thing: “Johnny’s in a cell with a ticking bomb, no windows, a nutcracker and a gerbil – how does he escape?”

I used to think I was quite good at solving them, but a half-page riddle solution does not a 125-page TV script several decades later make.

What I quickly discovered writing my first Brokenwood episode is that crime drama is hard because you, the writer, have to be smart enough to commit the crime in the first place. But then you have to be even smarter, like the detectives, to solve it.

I suppose it’s some comfort that dreaming up homicides isn’t second nature?

The homicide I did dream up takes place at a health retreat. Yes, I know, usually you go to a health retreat to feel better, not dead, but I’m obsessed with health retreats so I’d already done a lot of the research.

No one’s ever died at any of the retreats I’ve been to, I hasten to add. Although one lady did break a tooth on some pumpkin seeds, which she wasn’t very happy about.

And you might think an idyllic setting full of ladies lounging in fluffy white robes in between having massages and doing yoga and bush dancing is not conducive to mystery and mayhem, but I beg to differ.

Anywhere a lot of ladies gather is rife with mayhem!

Throw in the different reasons for going to a health retreat in the first place, add some buried feuds, plenty of secrets, lashings of lies, plus a mysterious “Tribal Awakening” ceremony and trust me, anything is possible.

I confess (real detectives do say that) I’ve developed a whole new respect for modern-day policing. It really is hard to get away with murder and I’m not at all tempted to try it in real life.

Why am I telling you this? Because the latest season of The Brokenwood Mysteries arrives this week (Sunday, June 13) at 8.30pm on TVNZ 1, and my episode – “The Witches of Brokenwood” – airs a week later on June 20.

I, for one, will be putting on my fluffy white robe and making a pot of herbal tea to watch what the magic of television has done with my story – but there’ll be no prize for guessing whodunnit because I already know.

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