It’s been a couple of years since Cain’s Jawbone returned to print on the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign. The devilish interwar puzzle book—which challenged readers to solve a murder by re-ordering its 100 pages—saw a flood of theories, frustrations, and possible solutions shared on social media.
While some contenders were undoubtedly motivated by the £1000 reward—eventually claimed by British comedy writer John Finnemore, one of only four people known to have solved the puzzle—most of them relished the unusual interactive reading experience, which has been compared to a literary cryptic crossword or long-form riddle.
Cain’s Jawbone has become the most famous example of this genre, but there are plenty of others to tackle. If you prefer to take a more active role in your literary mysteries, read on!
Could You Survive Midsomer?
This one is perfect for those who spent significant portions of the 1980s and 90s flipping back and forth through the pages of Choose Your Own Adventure books, trying to find the best possible ending. Inspired by the seemingly interminable British television phenomenon that is Midsomer Murders, Could You Survive Midsomer? places the reader in the role of a detective on duty in England’s most murder-prone fictional county. All the classic cozy elements are present, from middle-aged women plotting revenge on their bake-sale rivals to improbably domestic murder weapons (a ride-on lawnmower features heavily). If you aren’t bothered by the second-person perspective and don’t fall prey to decision paralysis, there are plenty of chuckles to be had in trying to make your way through this uniquely hazardous idyll.
Who Killed the Robins Family?
A little hard to track down nowadays, this unorthodox murder mystery briefly knocked Stephen King’s Pet Sematary from the top of the New York Times Fiction Best Seller list in 1984. The book (often given the unwieldy, almost-rhyming subtitle ‘And Where, and When, and How, and Why, Did They Die?’) is a classic whodunit filled with plenty of twists, turns and allusions to famous fictional detectives. What sets it apart from similar works is the omission of probably the most vital part of any detective story—the solution. Readers are tasked with piecing together the clues within the text to find the people responsible for the book’s many deaths (which run the gamut from locked-room killings to classic stabbings) and mailing in the answers to receive a $10,000 prize. While the prize is long gone and later paperback editions include the ‘solutions’ in an added section, there’s plenty of fun to be had in letting your creativity run wild with possible suspects and motives.
Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes: 50 Tantalizing Problems of Chess Detection
Mathematician and logician Raymond Smullyan was renowned for his work in making recreational math puzzles appeal to the general public. In between teaching positions at Princeton and Dartmouth, he wrote dozens of puzzle books, but Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes is the one most likely to appeal to fans of the mystery genre, thanks largely to the presence of the eponymous detective (and, of course, his associate Dr. Watson). The pair careen from chess problem to chess problem, exploring the players choices and motivations through Holmes’s trademark deductive—or is it inductive?—logic. You don’t have to know much about the game of chess to enjoy this book; you’ll pick up the fundamentals as you work through the puzzles, honing your logical faculties along the way.
MAZE: Solve the World's Most Challenging Puzzle
This book’s title does a pretty good job of preparing the reader for what’s inside. It’s a maze—or possibly a labyrinth, depending on how finicky you want to get with your definitions—laid out across 45 pages. There isn’t much to read, aside from the odd sign or riddle; instead, the journey is represented by a series of beautiful black-and-white sketches, with the different entrances and exits marked by numbers. Your goal is to get from the first page to the last and back again in only sixteen steps. What the book lacks in traditional story structure, it makes up for in detail and novelty, with plenty of clues hidden in the intricate images adorning the walls of the maze and visual cues nudging you towards the appropriate path. The prize for completing the puzzle—$10,000—has already been claimed, but the publisher has intimated that the book contains a riddle yet to be solved. Could you be the one to crack it?
The Secret: A Treasure Hunt
The Secret is one of the more enduring fixtures of a genre often called the ‘armchair treasure hunt’—books in which the riddles and mysteries point the reader towards real-world rewards. In the case of The Secret, the treasure takes the form of a dozen locked boxes buried throughout North America, only three of which have been uncovered in the four decades since the book’s publication. The sprawling story linking the 12 mystery locations is equal parts folklore, fantasy, and frontier tal—with a touch of classical philosophy thrown in for good measure. Making the puzzles a little more perplexing is the fact that the book’s creator, Byron Preiss, died in 2005. While the definitive knowledge of each treasure’s location was lost with him, a dedicated online community of readers is still sharing theories and interpretations in an effort to locate the remaining boxes. There’s hope yet!
Conceived by Star Wars director J.J. Adams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, this one-of-a-kind book chronicles two readers finding each other and their deadly struggle with forces beyond their understanding.
Jennifer and Eric are a college senior and a disgraced grad student. The book they're reading is called Ship of Theseus, written by an author named Straka, who the world knows nothing about other than the rumors that swirl about him…
Follow along as Jennifer and Eric discover how much they're willing to trust a stranger with their passions, hurts, and fears.
Daring. Complex. Strange. Discover life, loss, and the use of memory's nebulous nature in making sense of the world. This book consists of 27 chapters that are individually bound. You can read them in the order they arrive or randomize the order of the 25 chapters between the first and the last. The writing style mimics a train of thought, with lines that end mid-sentence, run-on, rambling phrases, and large spaces on the page where a thought process was interrupted.
The Cypher Files
You are an agent of C.Y.P.H.E.R., the secret international agency working on "unsolvable" code-based cases, called upon to investigate cryptic clues regarding mysterious disappearances.
This book contains puzzles on every page, and to move forward, you must submit the correct answer online. To escape this book, you must draw, cut, fold certain pages, and explore virtual rooms to solve the mystery.… before it's too late!
Tachyon: Interactive Puzzle Book
A brilliant scientist has discovered how to harness the power of the tachyon, a particle that can travel faster than the speed of light. He has since disappeared, and no one can find out where he went. As you work through the clues he left behind in his notes, submit the correct answer online and receive a codeword that allows you to move on to the next puzzle. Fold, search, draw, tear, and work through number, language, and pattern recognition challenges as you travel through space and time to find out what happened to the scientist.
The Paper Labyrinth
This book is a maze of interconnected puzzles and riddles. Each page contains a mystery that will either send you to another page or give you the missing piece to a puzzle you are already solving. When you've completed all the challenges, you will receive a five-digit code–which will come in handy when the elusive new sequel is released.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
This dark exploration into the human psyche has readers uncover puzzles with clues and codes as they question consciousness, free will, and the limitations of loneliness. Dive deep into the protagonist's mind as they battle their unwavering desire to end their life. I'm Thinking of Ending Things is as haunting as it is compelling, edgy, and unpredictable.
While not exactly a book of puzzles, it is strange and compelling. And when you get to the last line, you’ll be tempted to re-read the whole thing immediately to search for all the clues you missed along the way.
Udexia: Interactive Escape Room Book
Perfect for fans of escape rooms and Harry Potter, Udexia contains 52 exciting puzzles and riddles you must solve to free the Udexia Academy, a beautiful and magical school. Submit the answers online using your "magic wand" and collect the keys to move forward until you complete the adventure.
404: Interactive Puzzle Book
With no direct instructions, 65 puzzles, bonus hidden challenges, and a meta puzzle that spans the entire book, 404 is sure to keep readers occupied. The story is revealed as you solve each puzzle, and each page has a hidden message, with visual and written messages to help you crack the code.
If you get stuck, the book's dedicated website uses smart technology to let you know you're on the right path!
Imagine you wake up in a strange place, where you must make your way through a series of numbered doors to escape: that's the premise behind Daedalian Depths. The clues are embedded in the text and enigmatic illustrations, and the reader must go back and forth between pages to tie the puzzles together. Will you go around and around and let the maze swallow you whole, or do you have what it takes to discover the way out?
Puzzling Escapes: Trapped in the Bookstore
You and your friend David decide to duck into Athena Booksellers when you get caught in a sudden downpour. Only a few minutes later, you realize everyone has left the store, and the doors are locked! You can only get out by solving the puzzles scattered around the bookstore. Tackle the puzzles in any order, and if you get stuck, ask your friend David for help.
When you're lost in a dark alley in Brazil, you stumble upon a dead woman's body and witness a man fleeing the scene. Laying on top of her is a revolver with a grisly note that says, "PICK ME UP." You must work alongside the U.S. Diplomatic Security Agents and Brazilian Police officers in the lawless slums of Rio de Janeiro, where no one is who they seem, in this choose-your-destiny book where each choice will lead you to a different page and, ultimately, a different ending.
The Mysterious Mansion
A young girl enters a mysterious mansion while playing in the countryside and must solve various puzzles and riddles to get out. From dot-to-dot drawings, intricate mazes, and coloring pages, this book is as captivating as it is relaxing.
On the 29th week of a fruitless, top-secret excavation project, something unexpected happened: the team completely disappeared, and the only thing they left behind was a journal. Each page contains a different puzzle where you must write, draw, search, fold pages, and combine different methods to solve the riddle. Can you make it through all 63 riddles before it's too late to save the team?