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Founders of the Hamptons Whodunit Festival: Mayor Jerry Larsen, Lisa Larsen, Jackie Dunphy and Carrie Doyle. (Photo credit: Durell Godfrey/The East Hampton Star)

When it comes to a genre that’s been on a continuous upward trajectory among the general public, the true crime movement may be first to come to mind.

Now in its second year, Hamptons Whodunit, aka the Hamptons Mystery & Crime Festival, comes to town starting next week, bringing storytellers from all over the world to the streets of East Hampton Village. Kicking off next Thursday, April 11, the festival will span across three days, with this year’s events occurring mostly within walking distance throughout the village center.

Venues for this year’s festival will be located predominantly throughout East Hampton village and will include the library, BookHampton, Hedges Inn and Kumiso. (Photo credit: Florence Buchanan)

Originally founded by Mayor Jerry Larsen, Lisa Larsen, Jackie Dunphy and East Hampton Village trustee Carrie Doyle, the “Hamptons Whodunit’s mission is to be a festival for the residents of East Hampton, and not a festival that merely takes place in East Hampton,” says a press release from the nonprofit. “The goal is to bring exciting, affordable, and educational off-season programming to the whole community, while bringing traffic to local businesses, restaurants and hotels during the shoulder season.”

Over 1,000 people will travel from across the globe to participate in more than two dozen panels and interactive events for this year’s festival, the release says, offering in-person discussions, book signings and panels featuring 22 bestselling fiction authors and 15 internationally renowned true-crime experts, including but not limited to cops, investigators and attorneys. Hands-on, interactive events for this year will include graveyard tours led by town crier Hugh King, escape rooms at the East Hampton Library, a special wine and crime event, and a day-long simulated crime scene/solve the murder mystery event. To view the schedule for the entire festival, click here.

Fittingly bearing the slogan “Where Mystery & True Crime Meet the Sea!” this year’s festival features a new “Forensics World” event slated to occur at East Hampton’s Seaspray Cottages during the day on Saturday, April 13. Starting at 9 a.m., crime enthusiasts will get an opportunity to play forensic detective, using creative thinking, deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills to conduct a criminal investigation while working with a cast of memorable characters bringing the scenario to life. Open to the public for the first time in over 40 years, the cottages were formerly part of the now non-existent Sea Spray Inn, a 19th-century boarding house popular with artists that mysteriously burned to the ground in 1978.

Events will include a trivia night, book signings, panels and in-person discussions and graveyard tours. (Photo credit: Richard Lewin)

New to the list of happenings for this year’s festival is a true crime lunch at the newly opened Kumiso, East Hampton’s first izakaya, on Friday, April 12 starting at 1 p.m.. This sold-out dining event will see attendees reviewing real cold cases with the help from actual, real-life investigators, cops and medical examiners including Sheryl McCollum, Barbara Butcher, Joe Giacalone and Joseph Scott Morgan. Later on there’ll be a Whodunit Trivia Night at Hedges Inn, hosted by the festival’s honorary co-chair Alafair Burke and Abby Endler. Mystery buffs can test their knowledge of all things thriller while enjoying sips and snacks from the luxury bed and breakfast. Tickets for trivia, which is from 6 to 8 p.m., are $50.

Fiction guests of honor for this year’s festival will include S.A. Cosby, an award-winning writer from Virginia, Ruth Ware, an English writer, former waitress and bookseller, thriller novelist and Chicago native Brad Thor, and Ashley Flowers, an Indiana born and bred New York Times bestseller who in 2020 established the nonprofit Season of Justice to provide financial resources in order to help solve cold cases.  

While some events are sold out, there are still tickets (starting at $125) available for the kick-off cocktail party at The Maidstone (50 Old Beach Lane) on April 11. Individual passes for each day are $50 and provide ticketholders with access to all panel discussions for that day, while weekend-long passes are $100. Click here to save your spot. If an event is fully booked, email [email protected] to be put on the wait list.