Tuesday, December 06, 2011

the butler, but only once

Title: Whodunits: More Than 100 Mysteries For You To Solve
Author(s): Tom Bullimore, Hy Conrad, Derrick Niederman, Stan Smith
Bookmark: a picture of a deer attacking a police cruiser

The book is split into four sections; it seems like each author did his own thing, because there are pretty obvious stylistic differences between them.  I don't think they all got the same memo describing the collaborative project.

There are big differences in what each of them thinks constitutes a "mystery."  The first does a solid job of laying out a short story, giving you just enough information to solve it, and explaining the answers well (all solutions are in a separate section in the back of the book).  The second also does well, but the stories are more like elaborate logic puzzles, or simple logic puzzles dressed in a new story (lots of variations on "X always tells truth, Y always lies, Z just likes to set fires" kind of puzzles).  The third apparently set up the stories on a website and invited people to ask questions to help them solve the mysteries.  The questions asked and answered are not always very relevant, and certainly not what a real investigator would need to know.  One particularly annoyed me because the solution hinged on obscure sports trivia and the date of the "crime," which was never mentioned until the solution.  The final section was a long parade of simple (in execution and presentation, though not always in solution) logic puzzles.  Several times I encountered one which I didn't think included enough information for pure logic to derive the answer, and at least once it was just flat-out wrong.  Most annoying was that the solutions offered no explanation whatsoever, so that if you weren't clear on how to find the answer, you would always stay that way.

For the most part, it was still a lot of fun.  The first two sections were great, and I think the third offered a neat concept, but the execution was a little bit flawed.  If they ever make Volume II, they will hopefully have the wisdom to not call the fourth guy.

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posted by reyn at 3:40 PM


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