Considering the universality of word puzzles, humans have likely been challenging, confounding, and entertaining each other with riddles since the earliest days of human speech. Today, riddles have become ubiquitous, popping up in everything from children's nursery rhymes to Batman comics. Many of literature's greatest fictional detectives have encountered their fair share of riddles, as well, and mystery fans are spending a great deal of money to play detective at home with subscription mystery boxes and bundles.
But you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get your mystery fix - just dive into our list of murder mystery riddles and become a puzzle master in the comfort of your own home. Here are some mysteries and detective riddles to stretch your mind.
'Murder,' Quoth The Bible
Sean Donovin was found deceased in his hotel room bed at 3:15 PM on January 4 by the hotel maid. There were no apparent signs of foul play, and a cryptic note was left behind, so police initially assumed that Sean had taken his own life. However, a detective was called in just to be safe, and he immediately suspected foul play. Sean was a young man in his 20s, was engaged to be married, and was a successful businessman who also taught Sunday school. On the surface, he seemingly had no reason to commit such an act.
Since Sean passed in his hotel room and there was no sign of forced entry, the detective theorized that if he had been slain, it had to be one of the three people closest to him, as he didn't trust people easily. The three people closest to him were his sister, Hannah, who often assisted him with teaching Sunday school; his brother, John, who ran a small, semi-successful business; and, Sean's fiancee, Jenna.
Finding no obvious motive among the three, the detective held off on declaring Sean's end a suicide until after the medical examiner performed an autopsy. Sean had apparently perished from a lethal injection that killed him instantly. He was found approximately 11 hours after he passed.
Still confounded by the evidence, the detective then began scouring the note for clues. It read:
Jan 04/2009 4:10 AM
My loved ones,
Jenna, Sis, John, I would just like to tell you how sorry I am. Blame God for why I am to die today. Blame Him. Seek Him if you want to know why I did leave you. Do not mourn my death. Please move on.
The detective found it strange that a seemingly pious and devout man would take his own life and then blaspheme against God, but the handwriting was verified to be Sean's. After some thought, the detective deduced that Sean had been slain and arrested one of the three suspects. How did he know this, and who was the culprit?
The detective arrested Sean's brother, John. He deduced that Sean had suspected his brother of being jealous of him and his business and written the note to point the authorities in his brother's direction in case anything happened to him.
The first clue was the passage, "Seek Him if you want to know why I did leave you," which pointed the detective towards the Bible. He then surmised that "4:10" might actually be referring to a specific Bible passage and not a time, and that "AM" might be referring to the Old Testament. He then needed to know which book of the Bible to check and deduced that "Jenna, Sis" might refer to the book of Genesis. When he checked the passage, he found that it was the story of the very first murder, in which Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.Head-scratcher?
The Murdering Type
Famous columnist Max Worthington was found deceased at his manual typewriter, fatally stabbed in the back. His agent, Roger, found his body when he went to check on Max to see why he hadn't submitted his latest column. He then called the police, and the dispatcher sent Detective Sing to investigate. Detective Sing noticed that Max had apparently been writing his column when he was killed and that the last thing typed was "49t34 w5qgg3e j3," apparently a random string of numbers and letters created when his lifeless body slumped forward onto the typewriter.
Detective Sing questioned the people closest to Worthington and found several suspects: Max's ex-wife, Marisa, had been feuding with him over alimony payments she felt entitled to, despite his offer of the mansion they had shared, plus a generous lump-sum payment; Max's current girlfriend, Jillian, was a beautiful young woman but was seemingly high maintenance and seemed to miss his money more than him; and Max's brother, Gerald, was happy his brother was dead, as Max had stolen Marisa away from him, and Gerald was intent on winning her back.
Detective Sing concluded his investigation and quickly made an arrest - who did he take into custody?
Max's agent, Roger, was arrested. Detective Sing had looked at Max's last written message again and discovered that the columnist had typed out the identity of his murderer, but his fingers had been one line up on the keys from where they should have been. Instead of writing "Roger stabbed me," he had written "49t34 w5qgg3e j3."Head-scratcher?
Sound The Alarm
Edward thought he had committed the perfect crime. He broke into a woman's house, strangled her in her bed, and staged the scene to look like an interrupted burglary. He ransacked the house, scattered the woman's possessions everywhere, and then smashed the patio door glass from the outside to stage a point of entry. Finally, he rigged the alarm and left to join his friends for a game of golf to establish an alibi.
Two hours later, while Edward was still walking the links, the alarm at the woman's house was triggered, and the police were alerted. When they arrived at the house, they found the scene just as Edward had staged it. There were no other people present, such as relatives or staff, and no animals that could have set off the alarm, which appeared to be functioning normally. They concluded that the woman was indeed slain during a botched burglary.
One detective was suspicious of Edward, who was the woman's known enemy, but she couldn't figure out how he had rigged the alarm to go off hours after he left. How did he do it?
Edward set a tray on the edge of a table. He placed heavy pans on one side and counterbalanced them with blocks of ice on the other. When the ice eventually melted after several hours, the weight of the pans sent the tray crashing to the floor, tripping the alarm. The police had initially dismissed the pans, tray, and puddle of water as simply more clutter from the ransacking.Head-scratcher?
Stone Cold Killer
The body of a hunter named Adrian was discovered at the bottom of a cliff, beneath the site where his girlfriend's dead body was found. He was still fully clothed in cold-weather apparel befitting of the season, including hiking boots, mittens, several layered jackets, and thick trousers made of wool. A member of Adrian's hunting party named James was questioned, and he told the police that he had overheard Adrian having a heated argument with his girlfriend, Lulo. According to James, the argument became aggressive - Adrian picked up a rock and bashed Lulo over the head, killing her. After delivering the blow, Adrian looked up to see James watching him and was so startled that he turned and ran right off of the cliff to his demise.
James pointed out the rock that he believed Adrian had used to hit Lulo, and it was sent in for forensic analysis. After testing it, the lab discovered that Adrian's fingerprints were indeed on the rock that supposedly killed Lulo. The police immediately arrested James for Adrian's murder. How did they conclude Adrian was slain and that James was the culprit when forensics seemed to corroborate James's story?
Adrian's body was still wearing mittens when he was found, so he could not have left fingerprints on the rock that James claimed killed Lulo. They concluded that James must have ended them both and planted Adrian's fingerprints to cover his tracks.Head-scratcher?