There's nothing I love more than a good mystery. Especially real-life ones.
Stop reading here if you dislike unsolved mysteries.
But if you're up for a few clues...read on.
You may be familiar with the feeling. A movie or TV show pops up on your radar and piques your interest. The invention of streaming has made movies and television more accessible than ever before—a fact we often take for granted. Because every once in a while, a piece of entertainment media has everyone buzzing with anticipation, so shrouded in mystery it sends you online—searching for a place to stream it instantly.
When it's not available...anywhere? You become consumed with the search—you must find this film. You search every conceivable nook and cranny of our vast internet, seeking a hidden venue that might be streaming it.
But it's nowhere to be found.
The mystery deepens.
Intriguing international releases that have yet to find their way stateside are a particularly perplexing conundrum. Recently I came across a Chinese television series that debuted this past May. A psychological, borderline surreal, take on the struggling writer and mental illness, How to Kill a Mystery Novel Writer is a series that should be on everybody’s must-watch list.
It has certainly made its way onto mine.
If I could just gain access to it. Doing a deep dive into the show, my search has come up with a few different passages and typical metadata listings for each episode. Yet there are no international streaming services or even a means of buying a physical copy.
The show aired on Tencent’s channels in May 2023 and that’s all I've got to go on. Well, that—and the buzz. In its native country, the show has been a moderate hit, with a 7.4 rating on My Drama List. Enough to have warranted the release of all 26 episodes.
But what exactly is How to Kill a Mystery Novel Writer about?
The show introduces us to a struggling writer named Chen Chao, who specializes in (what you might guess from the title) mystery and suspense. Throw a little horror in to spice things up and you get Chao’s hybrid of literary work.
The thing is, no matter how much he writes and sacrifices to continue honing his craft, none of it is publishable. His work is universally rejected. Seems none of the publishers get his work, nor do they find it saleable.
Bleak for anyone who carries similar creative ambitions, Chao’s life soon unravels when both his fictional world and the real world collide. A requisite arrest and interrogation follows, yet Chao pleads with the police, claiming he hasn't murdered anyone. Rather, it was one of the characters in his book.
It’s kind of like Secret Window multiplied tenfold. How to Kill a Mystery Writer builds up an outlandish yet irresistible premise, one that can easily fall flat—but based on the audience's intoxicating response we see it nails the landing.
The show is an adaptation of a web novel called Xuan Yi Zuo Zhe Qiu Sheng Zhi Nan (悬疑作者求生指南) by Guo Yi Man, which has me—an intrigued would-be viewer—continuing to unravel the mystery of how to gain access to this show. I may go ahead and read the novel—or at the very least, hope there’s a fan translation.
It's truly an insane premise. The characters and stories come to life, revealing multiple analogies and metaphors for a writer’s own stressed and frustrated mental state. The characters are out to get their creator—characters who seemingly have a mind of their own. This world between worlds is uncanny enough to entice anyone who loves a good mystery…
When will How to Kill a Mystery Writer stream in the U.S.?
Yet it remains, for all the hype in its native country, How to Kill a Mystery Novel Writer is simply inaccessible to viewers in other countries. This added layer of mystery surrounding the series is just too enticing, fueling my own desire to experience it.
Will it make it to the States? Perhaps Netflix or some other streaming service will heed the hype and bring it over, allowing for us to dive into the outlandish narrative. Only time will tell.
Regardless, How to Kill a Mystery Novel Writer is a show you should mark as a “must-watch”—if and when it becomes available. You heard it here first. The moment it becomes a thing we can all enjoy, you bet I will binge all 26 episodes.