What do you call "guess the answer" mysteries?

There are a bunch of non-software mystery stories where the story ends with a question that the reader is meant to answer by deduction. Typically the reader then flips to the back of the book or flips the page upside down to see if they were right. The Encyclopedia Brown series of books is a popular example.

I’d distinguish these from more traditional mystery stories where the reader could guess the ending, but there’s no “stopping point” where the story poses a question and asks the reader to flip ahead. So, for example, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is not an example of what I’m talking about.

Is there a name for the type of mystery story I’m talking about?

(I would say these mysteries are a type of interactive fiction, though I don’t particularly want to start a debate about that.)


Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams books are like that, I had some long ago.
Google says its a solve-it-yourself mystery.



Your post reminded me of this article about the work of eccentric crime writer Harry Stephen Keeler:


The author of the website mentions that Keeler’s publisher, Dutton, was in the habit of inserting a coupon into all of their mystery novels, a few pages from the end. On this coupon the reader was invited to write their guess as to the guilty party in the novel and return it to the publisher.

In the case of Keeler’s novels, with their labyrinthine plots, endless digressions and red herrings, the reader’s guess would have been as good as anybody’s. In his 19th novel, X. Jones - of Scotland Yard, the killer isn’t even introduced until the final line.

Reading Keeler is a guilty, and rather masochistic pleasure of mine.


I don’t really have a succinct answer, but I think that “solve-it-yourself mystery”, as said by James above, leads to some good search results.
It seems that Alfred Hitchcock also wrote some: “Alfred Hitchcock’s Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries”.

I just wanted to say thanks for bringing this up, because I enjoy that type of story from time to time and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

I think the genre was unfortunately never so popular as to get a widely recognized, definitive short name of its own. Actually, I recently asked myself how it’s called in German, because I fondly remembered reading some nice examples, and wanted to find more. I’ve seen them described as “Ratekrimi” (could be translated as “guessing mystery”) or “Rätselkrimi” (“puzzle mystery”) or “Kurzkrimi zum Mitraten” (“short mystery for guessing along”).

H.P. Karr, who wrote hundreds of very short versions of such mysteries (in German) for newspaper syndication, says on his website that the concept derives from the English format “Catch the Criminal”, where the story was combined with a small illustration which provided a further clue. I found one episode of the series online in an Irish magazine.

Karr also notes Lawrence Treat (“Crime and Puzzlement”) and John Sladek (“The Book of Clues”) as American examples.

Since the newspaper-style mysteries are very short, they provide a nice diversion, which is of course fine, and which is all they aim for. But in such a brief format, there is not much room for descriptions, red herrings, characterization and so on. I’d like to see slightly longer variants of the genre. The Encyclopedia Brown stories and the Hitchcock ones seem to go more in that direction (even though they are for young readers).

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I have seen something similar in some old Ellery Queen mysteries. Quoting Wikipedia:

What became the best known part of the early Ellery Queen books was the “Challenge to the Reader.” This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and that only one solution was possible. According to novelist/critic Julian Symons, “The rare distinction of the books is that this claim is accurate. There are problems in deduction that do really permit of only one answer, and there are few crime stories indeed of which this can be said.”