Monday 13 February 2023

"Untitled Mystery", the untitled mystery.

I briefly interrupt this parade of elephants and bears (not usually a wise thing to do) to bring you news of a new project of mine. 

It's a murder mystery. But really, it's a set of very difficult, interconnected puzzles. But really... it's a box of one hundred picture postcards. I mean, if that's all you need to hear, by all means go straight here to buy it. But for a little more explanation, read on.

In 2020, I spent some of my lockdown trying to solve the newly republished murder mystery / puzzle Cain's Jawbone, written by the famous cryptic crossword setter Torquemada in 1934. The puzzle consisted of a box of one hundred pages of a novel, in a random order. The solver had to work out the correct order of the pages, and then interpret the strange and allusive narrative so as to deduce the killers and victims in the six murders in the story. It turned out to be ridiculously difficult, as it was meant to be; but if the spring of 2020 was good for anything, it was for spending far too long on almost impossible puzzles. Eventually, I submitted a solution, which to my enormous surprise turned out not only to be right, but also the only correct one submitted.  I won a thousand pounds, bought a piano, and thought that was that.  

But then, two things happened. The first was, thanks in part to TikTok, Cain's Jawbone took off in a surprisingly big way. And the second was, I found I missed it. I really wanted to try solving another puzzle in that style. But Torquemada never wrote another one, and nor did anyone else. So it seemed the only thing to do was to try to create one myself.

So this year Unbound, the publishers of Cain's Jawbone, are publishing a new mystery puzzle box by me, the title of which is still secret for now. This time, solvers will receive a box of one hundred picture postcards. As with Cain's Jawbone, they will need to arrange the text sides in the correct order, and understand the story told there, in order to identify the killer and victim in a series of ten murders; as well as a certain crucial address. But in order to do this, they will also need to solve the various puzzles presented by the picture sides.

The picture side puzzles allow me to do two things: firstly, compensate for the arrival of the internet since 1934. You may now be able to google an obscure Walt Whitman quotation, but you can't google 'How on earth is this picture of a tree a puzzle?' Secondly, if Cain's Jawbone had a flaw (which I don't admit) it's that it's a little off-putting and seemingly impenetrable until you make a certain breakthrough. I think a lot of people had a brief look through the cards, thought 'Well, that's impossible' and gave up. I certainly did, before lockdown came along and invited me to have another go. So the picture puzzles - which are also, to be clear, ridiculously difficult - give the solver something they can immediately get their teeth into, while they're grappling with the madness on the other side.

Lastly, they're there because they have to be. There is, within the story, a reason why these cards exist, why they have puzzles embedded in them... and why one of the murderers now keeps them safely locked in a drawer. I hope you enjoy trying to work out what it is. 

For more information, to pre-order a copy, and to gaze in wonder at some exhilaratingly expensive pencils... step this way.  

Oh, and the postcards shown here are not solvable with the information given, so don't torture yourself. Yet. 



Robert Zara said...

Delighted to see that it is already 81% funded. Does this mean that it might be published sooner rather than later? Perhaps this year?

Yerushalmi said...

So, this piano you bought. Was it previously owned by a maths professor, a vicar, and a chef?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I have never needed any less convincing to support a project. Never finished CJ, don’t care, pre-ordered, let’s goooo

Alex C said...

Ordered - prepare to lock wits Finnemore! (I never stood a chance...)

Alex C said...

Quick question as you approach your 100% (94 at the moment) - is this sufficiently dastardly that only 4 people in a century are likely to get it or do you think there's a reasonable chance a good few people will get it? Might you, after a suitable amount of time, consider revealing some hints?

slepkane said...

Bear? No such fish as a... bear! A bear did it!

Eclectic Man said...

I did wonder whether you considered solving 'Cain's Jawbone' to have been worth the effort (not counting the £1000 prize). As in, once you have the pages in the correct order, is it a good read?

Personally, I have no chance of solving tiers your puzzle or 'Torquemada's', I rarely even complete the 5-Clue cryptic crossword in the I newspaper :o(

The Manic Whale said...

I am confident that I stand 0 chance of solving this puzzle.
Nevertheless I will be buying this puzzle and having a dash at it.

v.edgy said...

I briefly interrupt some important pencil gazing to say:

Sidmouth looks really appealing... I should probably buy a hat.

Anonymous said...

This is the best thing since the demise of Perplex City! Pledged immediately.

Tim said...

Hello again John. I love all of your radio work. Being blind, I just feel 1% miffed that I can't participate in this murder mystery style game. I am just hoping to read everyone else's reviews of it, and I wish you all the success with it. I think my sister since she likes Escape Rooms might find this interesting. Kind Regards.

v.edgy said...

Hi Tim. If you'd like and if it's ok for me to do so, I would gladly describe the picture side of each postcard for you. When the time comes I could probably manage, on average, about one per day, as some look like they'd take a lot of describing, and others less so. Don't spend that £1,000 prize money just yet, though (smiling, winking face emoji). All the best.

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Tim said...

Hello V.Edgy, thanks so much for your offer, not sure how we are going to connect. Always in search of a new Finnemore following friend!! have Reddit that I use most often as MattMurdock30. if you maybe wanted to contact me there we could chat some and could debate about giving you my personal email. hope you see this????

v.edgy said...

Hello Tim. I'm not on Reddit, but I am on Twitter. If you are too, please feel free to DM me @vdotedgy. If you're not, or if it's easier for you, I'll wrestle my way onto Reddit and get in touch with you there. All the best.

v.edgy said...


Alt text (for the first image in this post): Viewed from above are six postcards scattered on top of two unopened pieces of mail on what could be a writing pad, which is on a wooden surface - possibly a desk.

Five of the postcards are picture side up and one is text side up. One of the pieces of mail is in a brown envelope and from HM Revenue & Customs. The other is in a white envelope and has a first class stamp on it. The writing pad is rectangular, dark reddy brown, and has an ornate gold border.

The desk is made of dark brown wood, has an ornate brass hinge in the top left corner of the photo, and something else made of brass at the bottom and just to the right of centre - possibly a lock.

The topmost postcard has the head and shoulders of a man who's staring straight at us. Behind the man and to our left is a circle containing a geometric pattern. Underneath and to the left of the circle are three markings, which could be letters of some sort. (I'll wager a mysterious pencil that John drew this one.)

The next card has a large mythical-looking creature in a sea bay, and a few people. One person is attacking the poor creature with a bladed weapon, others are on the beach, and another appears to be flying.

The next one has lots of lovely penguins with black backs and heads, white fronts, and yellow throats, beaks and ear patches. They're all upright and standing in snow.

The next is a glorious view of a bay with a beach basking in various shades of orange. A few silhouetted people are walking on the beach. The bay is surrounded by silhouetted hills. It's probably around sunset or possibly sunrise. 'Greetings From' is written in the top left corner, and towards the centre, and in an art deco style font, is the word SIDMOUTH.

The final picture is a colourful map of what could be an ancient walled settlement. Half of this card is covered by the Sidmouth card, but I happen to know from a GIF on the 'about' tab of the project's funding website that the settlement is called Knottbourne. In the top right corner, half covered by the next card, is a compass rose.

The final card, which is the same card that's in the second image in this post, is text side up and is the, as John says, madness. However, I'm not sure it's appropriate for me to include the text here.

(Hope that helps.)

Eclectic Man said...

I have just watched the real life documentary 'Uncharted' where the character played by Tom Holland (current 'Spider Man') solves a problem of postcards sent to him by his older brother by heating one to reveal a hidden message*. I do hope that Mr Finnemore is not using invisible ink in his puzzle.

*They are clues to where Magellan left two of his ships in the Philippines with about US$5 billion in gold and gems. Strangely they are not yet on display anywhere ...

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Ithillion said...

Mr Finnemore,

I love your work! I have listened to almost everything you have ever made/done. I am not a nut-case super-fan or anything. I just love your humour, it appeals to me. It has brought me a lot of joy over many years now since I was doing my Masters degree. Nothing creepy.

I can't email you, because naturally you are public figure and its naturally concealed. I just would like you to know, as a fan, I can hear in your voice that you suffered during the pandemic. And I can hear now in your voice, that you are still rebuilding yourself.

I wish you well! Be well and be happy! And keep on being awesome!

John O'Toole

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Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Finnemore,
I just wanted to thank you beforehand for the book you are preparing. And also to tell you that I was thrilled to learn that you were sharing the writing credits in Good Omens 2. Not wishing to write any spoilers: I really enjoyed when I I the impression that I could feel your hand in this series (a few more plays on words, and a literary pastiche at one point!), and I especially loved the minisode about Job (I'll just say that Douglas Richardson would have been rather pleased - and that I found there was a wonderful leitmotiv perfectly reflected in the last words).
Please carry on writing magnificent stuff - there and everywhere else.
Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Hello John. Thank you for having Aziraphale drive a yellow car in Good Omens. I was thrilled.

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