"It's a cross between a scavenger hunt and a murder weekend," says Stephen Hayes of "Hot Pursuit," the latest variation on the increasingly popular mystery event. Unlike other murder weekends that are confined to hotels and cost participants several hundred dollars, "Hot Pursuit" sends amateur gumshoes operating out of their own homes into the mean streets of Washington to find out whodunit for considerably less -- $89.99.

"We create the scenario and try to steer participants in the direction they have to go," says Hayes, adding the "detectives" will pursue leads to various crime scenes where they will encounter victims, suspects, informants and the murderer, all played by a large cast of local actors. Some of the more zealous participants, says Hayes, will even write themselves into the script.

Why this sudden fascination with mysteries? "The loose ends get tied up, the bad guys are punished, justice triumphs and the world is put to rest," says Hayes. "It's satisfyingly simple in that point of view."

"Hot Pursuit" will commence Friday night at a reception where the first body falls and concludes 40 hours later at a Sunday brunch where the mystery is unraveled; it will be repeated July 11-13. For further information call Partners in Crime Ltd. at 347-8436.