Award-winning author Karen McCullough has written nearly two dozen novels and novellas in the mystery, romance, suspense, and fantasy genres, including the Market Center Mysteries Series and three books in the No Brides Club series of romance novels. Her short fiction has appeared in a wide variety of anthologies. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website where you can also find links to her blog social media.
A typical trade show
Mysteries Set at a Trade Show – Wait… What is a Trade Show?
The very first time I went to a trade show, as a newly hired editor at a trade publication, I realized it would be a great setting for a murder mystery. It has so many of the needed elements: a closed environment, a group of people with plenty of history with each other, limited time, and high stakes.
What is a trade show you ask?
I’m glad you did, since it’s a world that is unfamiliar to many people.
This is how the heroine of my Market Center Mysteries series describes it: "A trade show is...about manufacturers and importers selling their product to the retailers. They show their latest and greatest product to the retail buyers and hope the buyers decide they can sell a zillion of them to the public. A lot rides on this show for the manufacturers. Retailers sell to the public all the time, so a bad day or even a bad weekend isn’t going to kill them. But the retailers only go shopping for the stuff they sell a few times a year, mostly at these shows. They buy their product in huge lots, at the show or soon after. For the exhibitors, this is when they make the bulk of their sales, and there are only a few big shows a year. So the stakes are really high. A good show can make their business. A bad one can break it.”
A trade show is a huge gathering that is part educational conference, part huge marketplace, part fair, and part circus. It’s all about attracting the interest of buyers, and suppliers will go to great lengths to attract attention. Elaborate, eye-catching displays are expected. Contests and giveaways are essential to collect leads, since entry usually involves dropping a business card in bowl. Many exhibitors arrange product demonstrations, musical events, even playlets to attract attention.
Although Covid-19 has put the squash on some of these and more sales now go online and through reps, they are beginning to gear up again and I doubt they’ll ever stop completely.
Playing at Murder
A Market Center Mystery, Book 3
Dolls, constructions sets, stuffed animals, craft kits, and more are the featured displays in the annual Games and Playthings Trade Show at the Washington D.C. Commerce and Market Center, where vendors seek to convince retail buyers to stock their products. Murder and destruction aren’t supposed to be on the program.
The hit-and-run death of an exhibitor overshadows what should be a fun few days of giveaways, games, and demos. A gun hidden in a bin of stuffed animals, a damaged show car, and a drone knocking over the PlayBlox displays are the opening salvos of chaos created by a clever but unhinged vandal.
Settling disputes and fielding complaints are all in a day’s work for Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Market Center. Sussing out murder suspects to help the police is way beyond her job description, especially while trying to corner a vandal before the damage gets worse. Keeping the show running despite the mayhem will pit her and her allies, particularly Scott Brandon, the Center’s handsome but enigmatic security officer, against someone playing a deadly game.