The results of the 2022 Six-Word Mystery Contest sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA) have been announced.

Overall winner:


Magician escapes gallows when witness vanishes


This entry, written by Rita Popp of Fort Collins, Colorado, was voted the winner over 25 final entries voted on by RMMWA’s members and announced at the chapter’s Mystery and Mistletoe holiday party held December 8th.


This year’s contest attracted 266 entries from 19 states. Writers submitted entries in five mystery categories including Hard Boiled or Noir; Cozy Mystery; Thriller Mystery; Police Procedural Mystery; and/or a Romance or Lust. Four contestants made the finals in more than one category.


According to legend, the first six-word novel was born in the 1920s when Ernest Hemingway at New York’s Algonquin Hotel or Luchow’s restaurant (depending on whom you ask) won a $10 bet by writing a six-word story. His dark and dramatic submission was: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Urban legend or no, memorable, heart-breaking and sublime six-word stories have been penned ever since.


RMMWA Chapter President Lori Lacefield said, “This year’s creative entries on the fine art of whodunnit and how ranged from kissing to cat poison, to a folded fitted sheet, and to a prized blueberry pie. The entries made our judges laugh and groan. This year’s contest was great fun all the way around.”


Judges for this year’s contest included Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Editor Linda Landrigan; New York Times best-selling author Anne Hillerman; award-winning author, lawyer and activist Manuel Ramos; literary agent Terrie Wolf, owner of AKA Literary Management, and John Charles of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Popp won $100 for her winning entry and all category finalists received $25. All finalists will have their six-word stories featured on the RMMWA website and published in both Deadlines, RMMWA’s newsletter, and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.


Read on for the finalists and winners in all five categories. Category winners are indicated in bold:


Born triplets. But three’s a crowd.  (Twist Phelan)

Everyone looks the same inside out. (Dara Carr)

His daily picks weren’t lottery numbers. (KD Horton)

It looked like an innocent package. (Sue Hinkin)

She opened the door. Never again. (Cindy Martin)


Romance & Lust/Noir

Too many husbands. Just enough funerals. (Matthew Porter)

A kiss to die for. Done. (Erika Jakubassa)

Close shave nearly nicks private dick. (James A. Hearn)

She killed to remain a mystery. (Seth Pilevsky)

Tennis Killer’s lament: “All for love.” (Rita A. Popp)



Cause of death: folding fitted sheet. (KD Horton)

Bookstore cat was really a rat. (Sue Hinkin)

Cat poisons librarian reading by fireplace? (Tia Karelson)

Every mousy victim disemboweled—a hoo-hoo-hoodunit. (Jeffrey Lockwood)

Possible weapon, a prized blueberry pie. (Elaine B Johnson)


Noir & Hard-boiled

Trouble finds me. Redhead, this time. (Eric Yoder).

Embezzling mortician uses corpse as bank. (KD Horton)

Hungover with a gun and corpse. (Kristen Gibson)

Plotting his comeuppance dragged her down. (KD Horton)

The Bolognese perfectly disguised the blood. (Barbara Nicholson)


Police Procedural

Magician escapes gallows when witness vanishes. (Rita A. Popp) (Over-all contest winner)

Beat cop murders to make detective. (Tia Karelson)

Identify them. Catch them. Incarcerate them. (Barbara Nicholson)

Sheriff cries, dismembered corpse, his wife. (Elaine B Johnson)

The suicide’s hands lacked gunshot residue. (Daniel Royer)