Part 2 - Crime scene investigations at the library

Linlithgow librarian Chris Morrison follows up last week's blog with a fantastic idea to develop information literacy skills. Murder most horrid has occurred again, and the pupils will need a whole range of skills to nab the killer!

The French Blue Mystery is an information literacy program run in Linlithgow Academy library aimed at first year pupils. It follows up the Murder at Grim Marsh House program which introduces the library. French Blue is designed to build on the skills introduced in Grim Marsh and consequently, is more challenging. Run in conjunction with the Modern Languages Department, pupils have four non consecutive 50 minute periods to solve the mystery.

The scenario is that the detectives who successfully solved the mystery at Grim Marsh House are sent to Paris to study French methods of crime detection. While there, they are taken along to observe a crime scene at the University of the Sorbonne where a professor has been found murdered. An examination of her computer reveals she was about to discover the whereabouts of the priceless French Blue, a real diamond, which was stolen from the Royal Treasury during the French Revolution. Someone obviously wanted the professor’s research.

The detectives find on her computer -

  • A map of Paris with five locations circled and linkedtogether in a rough diamond pattern.

  • A cipher which will crack a secret code.


The detectives realise from the professor’s notes that they must visit each of the circled locations in turn and gather evidence. This evidence, in the form of questions about that location, will reveal part of a message which is in code. They will have to crack this code to make sense of the message. Once they have visited all five locations and worked out what the message really says, it will reveal a final location where the French Blue diamond is hidden.

All the detectives have at their disposal is:

  • The diamond map
  • The code cracking cipher
  • A map of Paris
  • A map of the Metro system
  • Information on how to use the metro
  • A French dictionary
  • Various guide books to Paris.

The information to help them is in the form of an intranet site which details the story and the first five items listed above. Although all this information is stored electronically for them, the internet plays no part in helping them find answers which will help them solve this mystery.

The project begins with a presentation about the French Revolution and a short video about the theft of the French Blue diamond. The pupils are split, ideally, into teams of three.

To identify the final location where the diamond is hidden before time runs out, each group has to work effectively as a team. They have to plan the quickest metro route between locations, answer questions about the places they visit and also crack the code.

When they do find the sixth and final location, Notre Dame, the task is slightly different. They are given multiple choice answers to questions about the Cathedral. Beside each answer is a direction, e.g. walk two boxes down and four boxes left. They have a floor plan of the building with a grid superimposed on it. By following the directions beside the correct answers, they will eventually find where the diamond is hidden. However, they still have to contend with the murderer who is not going to be captured easily!

The pupils enjoy this more challenging mystery. They acknowledge not just the key skills they are learning but also how much they are finding out about Paris and France in general. All the questions at each location are cultural, historical, geographical or linguistic so in the process of solving the mystery they learn a lot of background knowledge at the same time.


Let us know your thoughts on Chris's blog by commenting below!

You can follow Chris on Twitter @LinlithgowL, and read his previous blog in which pupils develop library skills by going on the trail of a cold-blooded killer!

In the coming weeks, librarian Kateri Wilson will be giving us more library-related food for thought - subscribe to the Learning blog to be kept up to date!