What are the best, most fun puzzle mysteries?
May 9, 2014 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm on the hunt for puzzle mysteries, any art form, any style. Details within.

I have always had a deep love for anything built around a puzzle-type mystery. I think the best example would be "The Westing Game," which is perfect all around. I recently watched the movie "Now You See Me," and it pushed all of the same buttons. I know a lot of people were let down by the ending, but I really think it's a sort of spiritual successor to "The Westing Game," when you give it the same level of disbelief-suspension that this kind of story requires. It's not at all realistic by real-world standards, but its internal logic is consistent, and it is fun, and all about the puzzle.

So, I'm looking for any kind of story (movie, book, comic, video game, audiobook, whatever), that is built around a puzzle or set of puzzle-type mysteries. Ideally they would be "plays fair" in that they present all of the clues (a la Ellery Queen), but these are few and far between, I know. Some of the other things I've enjoyed that push the same buttons:

* The BBC series "Sherlock"
* "Masquerade" by Kit Williams
* The "Thinking Machine" stories by Jacques Futrelle
* The book "Chasing Vermeer"
* The "Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective" game by Sleuth Publications

To a lesser extent I enjoy the Encyclopedia Brown/"minute mysteries" genre, but am more looking for things that are in the form of elaborate puzzles.
posted by jbickers to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
The video games Myst and Riven.
posted by mmascolino at 6:55 PM on May 9, 2014

Have you seen the Granada Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett? I bought the DVD's on a whim because they were on sale and watched them all in about a week.
posted by Poldo at 7:51 PM on May 9, 2014

You seem to be the type who might find poking around an old internet forum as entertaining as a decent movie or a good book, so I have little hesitation in suggesting you dig a little into The Mayday Mystery. There's not really a 'solution', per se, or maybe there is?
posted by carsonb at 9:16 PM on May 9, 2014

the forrest fenn treasure hunt. someone did an fpp about it a year ago, a few things have happened since but it has not been updated.
posted by bruce at 9:20 PM on May 9, 2014

It's been around for a while now, but not pr0n.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:22 PM on May 9, 2014

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking for as I've seen none of the above references, but I do love a good mystery (even if you're not aware it is a mystery) that is clue-based or otherwise can be re-watched to see all of the elements missed..

In that vein, I would recommend:
The Game(1997, with very good trailer) with Michael Douglas, about a man who hires a company to surprise him with an adventure scenario..

The Sixth Sense (1999, trailer) with Bruce Willis, who is investigating a boy who has a peculiar ability..

The Mentalist (American TV) about a snarky, well-dressed Sherlock-type genius who helps out police to solve crimes while also looking for a particular murderer that killed his wife and kids.

Cube (1997, trailer) and sequel Hypercube (2002, trailer but has spoilers for Cube), which is mostly a character study on personal interactions, set in a strange logic puzzle-game environment created by unknown villains, from which the characters must attempt to escape.

eXisteZ (1999, trailer) about a video game unit that uses your own mind like a dream as the environment, was a competitor film for the Matrix if that's any hint.

The Thirteenth Floor (1999, trailer) another Matrix-competitor involving a mind-tapping simulator-world and exploring its limits..

Wallander (British TV) about a detective investigating clue-trail mysteries of murders.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 10:52 PM on May 9, 2014

Maze by Christopher Manson
posted by jrobin276 at 2:25 AM on May 10, 2014

Midnight Madness is a movie that inspired scores of real world live action puzzle games. It's the big screen debut for both Michael J. Fox and Paul Rubens, and it's super 80sey and more than a little corny, but it's totally exactly the kind of thing you're looking for.
posted by aubilenon at 2:34 AM on May 10, 2014

Check out the venerable locked room mystery genre.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:48 AM on May 10, 2014

The movie Memento Is definitely a puzzle. I haven't seen it in a longtime but I remember it as being fascinating.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:11 AM on May 10, 2014

Check out the actual mystery puzzles from brands like BePuzzled. There's a short story laying out a mystery, with a solution that can be deduced from the image in the puzzle, which usually doesn't match the picture on the box. Fun way to kill an afternoon at the cottage.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2014

I loved The Westing Game (eta: Also loved Chasing Vermeer). Here are some other things that I liked because they had a mystery...

-Sixth Sense
-The Game
-Enemy of the State

-The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne
-Fletch and the Widow Bradley by Gregory McDonald
-Flynn by Gregory McDonald (if you like this one, try the other ones, there's one where Fletch and Flynn are in the same book)
-Our Man Weston by Gordon Korman (all his early YA stuff is hilarious; I think this is the only mystery, though)
-The Hotel Detective by Alan Russell

Books that are not mysteries but might be something you'd like:
-The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
-The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson (all his stuff is great!)
-Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:29 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I forgot to list From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a novel by E. L. Konigsburg.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 10:07 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

A book I treasured as a kid and still have on my shelf today is MAZE by Christopher Manson.

Edit: Oops. I see I've been beaten in the recommendation. Consider it a second of it, then.
posted by Inkslinger at 10:47 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

- The Ace Attorney video game series is basically all this, and makes The Westing Game look downright staid at times.

- To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is a book of many genres and references, including old-fashioned, excessively intricate cozy mysteries (also historical fiction, sci-fi, and comedy of manners). (Goodreads notes it's part of a series, but it's more of a standalone entry in a loosely cohesive shared universe.)

- The '90s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair started my affection for heist stories, and if you liked Now You See Me should be right up your alley.

- The Lies of Locke Lamora is a riotously fun (though in places violent) heist set in a Renaissance-ish fantasy world. There are two sequels.

- Endeavour is a period mystery/drama series set against the backdrop of 1960s Oxford. It's actually the prequel to Inspector Morse, which I haven't seen. Morse also has a present-day sequel in Lewis, which I have seen if not enjoyed quite as much as Endeavour. Altogether that's like 70 1.5 hour episodes of snippy academics being implicated in excessively complicated murder plots.
posted by bettafish at 11:43 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You sound like somone who would enjoy interactive fiction, a.k.a. text-based adventure games. I can't link at the moment, but the wikipedia article is good as an introduction. Basically, you type in commands to a command line to solve puzzles and make the story progress. IF author Emily Short has a great blog and writes games that are often good for beginners. The game Anchorhead is the classic mystery game, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first game.
posted by Comet Bug at 8:01 PM on May 10, 2014

You might like Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). Take a look at the Wikipedia page to find out more. Also, Perplex City, by Mind Candy. And google Armchair Treasure Hunts.
posted by gonzo_ID at 5:39 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Usual Suspects. One of my favorite movies, ever.
posted by heisenberg at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2014

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