Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge


  1. Can we edit information we have already submitted? Yes, but not how you think. These challenge pages are all on my personal web site, and it is not too sophisticated. When you submit a Death Certificate form for a book, I get the form and just copy/paste the information you submitted into the web page. There's nothing automatic happening. So challengers cannot edit their own submissions directly. If you wish to edit something you have already submitted, you can either 1). describe the edit in an email to me, or 2). just submit the form again; and I will change it. If I see a second form come in for a book you have already submitted, I assume it is a correction. - RM

  2. Can we change our profile/personal info? The only personal info that shows is the name you selected, location, photo, and links to your Goodreads profile or blog. You are in charge. They can be anything you prefer. Just email any change to me, attach any updated photo you wish to use. I do have to crop the photos down to 50 pixels wide to fit, so they can't be too complex. - RM

  3. Do only murders count? - No, that would lead to big time layoffs in the M.E. office. Anyone who winds up in the morgue, whether from murder, accident, natural cause, suicide, old age, or being stuffed up a chimney by an orangutan - and has a name - needs a toe tag.

  4. The form only allows 7 deaths per cause. What if we have more? Just state the number/cause in the Comments box. - RM

  5. Do you generally count thrillers in the tally? For example I just finished Shari Lapena's Someone We Know and there are 2 murder victims in the story and the assailant is unknown until the end- not necessarily what people define as a mystery like Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen but is Thriller a subgenre? Sure, thrillers can count! I am not sure of the definition, but I read some by Edgar Wallace and Leslie Charteris - and the murderer is known all along - it occurs as part of the story. Sometimes the protagonist (such as The Saint) is the killer. As long you have a name and a cause of death, you're good! Enjoy!

  6. What happens at the end of the year? A new challenge page for the new year will be posted. The gurneys and instruments will be cleaned and sterilized. The current year challenge page will remain online for your reference. - RM

  7. How do we handle a book of short stories? If multiple authors, just provide the editor's name as the author. Add up the various deaths for your toe tags. Easy. - RM

  8. Suppose the culprit (or accomplice) is warned by somebody, either in an official or unofficial capacity, that their deeds are known and they are soon to be apprehended (this information might be true or might just be false - in the sense of laying a trap or extracting a confession) and the culprit kills herself, then do we treat it as murder or suicide? Do we issue a toe-tag? The situation you describe (suicide by the killer) does fit, as it is a consequence of the investigation. Select the cause of death in the usual manner. This same situation occurs in the book The Origin of Evil by Ellery Queen. Once the killer is identified, he quickly kills himself. I think this may be the lazy author's way of bringing a book to an end quickly without bothering with the arrest and prosecution of the criminal. It is a common ending in the Philo Vance novels by S. S. Van Dine ( my S. S. Van Dine blog ) as well, you can pretty much expect it to occur at the end. He was criticized for overusing it. - RM

  9. In many mysteries we find a line or two, in the end, regarding the fate of the villains: So and so was given life-imprisonment, So and so was hanged etc. Do we then issue a toe-tag for those hanged too? Certainly, if you have a body and a name, you can issue a Toe Tag. Not for the life imprisoned, though. Patience, grasshopper. - RM

  10. Suppose the death is not intended but the man got involved in a fight, got pushed, hit his head and died, and the other person (the 'accidental' murderer) disposed of his body, or dies in an unrelated accident, do we still make out a death certificate for him? Yes, that counts, it is part of the plot. The body still showed up in your morgue and needs a toe tag. - RM

  11. A murder takes place in the past and has little bearing on the case being investigated in the present, does that count? A robbery took place, a man was shot dead as the robbers escaped, only to be caught and imprisoned. The mystery mainly deals with the recovery of the stolen goods, after a decade. Long-ago deaths are referred to frequently. Use this guide: You need a name and a cause of death to fill out the Toe Tag!

    • Sophia was convicted of shooting her barista, Arabica Simpson, for messing up her coffee order. - COUNTS, NAMED and CAUSE OF DEATH cited

    • While in the Chicago mob, Dwayne Cummerbund drowned 7 guys in the bay for messing up his alibi.- DOES NOT COUNT (CAUSE OF DEATH cited, but victims not named)

    • He murdered his wife's asthmatic lover, Elmont Q. Thorpmeister III for messing up their relationship. - DOES NOT COUNT (NAMED, but no CAUSE OF DEATH cited).

  12. A monkey named Cupid has been poisoned and died. It is quite central to the plot and, in fact, Cupid has had a postmortem done on him. Does Cupid (or any named animal central to a mystery plot) get to have a toe tag for the Medical Examiner Challenge? I would say sure, it gives the M.E.s something to do on slow days! (Is this an Ellery Queen? He wrote one about a dead monkey I believe, also Sunset Boulevard has a dead chimp story line). - RM

Any questions? Email me at Thank you for participating!

Rick MillsThe Mystillery • Revised Jan 8 2021