As the General Secretary of the Hollywood Mystery Society, G T Karber has staged more than 30 immersive whodunnits in and around Los Angeles. Now he’s turned his hand to a book of puzzles in which the reader joins forces with Deductive Logico to crack a series of captivating cases...
What is Murdle?
Murdle is a kind of murder-mystery logic puzzle. Anybody can learn to solve the easy ones in a couple of minutes, but the hard ones might take a lot longer! Given a set of clues, weapons, and locations, you have to figure out who had what where, and then, which of them is the murderer.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was in a coffee shop, and I was supposed to be working on a book, when instead, I sketched out a puzzle for a friend on a napkin. He loved it, and so I made a computer program to generate them. Talking with him, I decided to release it as a daily online game, hence the name Murdle!
How is a Murdle created? Is it an exact science?
On the website at Murdle.com, they are created by an algorithm that I am continuously improving. However, for the books, I use this algorithm to help generate the bones of a puzzle, and then I rewrite and revise them to make the puzzles better and the jokes funnier. Far from being an exact science, I try to be very improvisational in writing them: I'll base stories around randomly-generated elements, and always try to build on previous decisions. My theory is that if I have a lot of fun writing the puzzles, you'll have a lot of fun solving them.
What got you started on your puzzle-solving path?
I've always enjoyed puzzles and brainteasers. As a kid I loved lateral thinking puzzles, and the kind of problems that Martin Gardner was famous for sharing. I've always liked logical puzzles more than word puzzles, but crosswords are fun, too. I can't really remember when it started, though. I think I've always been on the path!
You’re clearly a fan of whodunnits. Which would you recommend to the uninitiated from literature, screen or stage?
Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd are both great initiations into the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. In movies, I definitely recommend Knives Out, but I also recommend two classic Michael Caine movies, Sleuth and Deathtrap. Finally, on stage, well, you can still go see The Mousetrap, right? But in case there's a local performance or a revival, I also recommend Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott and Accomplice by Rupert Holmes (the guy that did the Pina Colada Song, hilariously).
Plenty of characters appear in the book. Who holds a special place in your heart?
I really like Dame Obsidian and Silverton the Legend, so I've incorporated them into the daily Murdle, as well. Dame Obsidian is a murder-mystery writer who performs, let's say, extensive research for her books. And I had a lot of fun writing her descriptions, and I'd love to do more with her as a character.
When you’re not the one making them, which are your favourite puzzles to solve?
I like solving puzzles with people more than alone. So I'll go to the annual Magic Castle puzzle night with some friends, or attend a puzzle hunt organised by David Kwong. I really like when you're stuck and you can hand it over to someone else.
You’re no stranger to appearing in live murder mystery shows, some of which don’t have a script. What’s it like figuring things out on the fly?
It's fun. It's nerve-wracking! We do a monthly murder-mystery dinner theatre at Tara's Himalayan Cuisine in LA, and there's a part where the audience asks questions based on a clue packet that they have. The actors are so good at coming up with witty replies to these questions, but it's definitely a high-wire act.
What skills are required to become a Murdle super sleuth?
The absolute best skill you can have for solving a Murdle is meticulousness. Often, when people mess up on a Murdle, it's because they accidentally confused two suspects or two locations, or because they misread a clue. I'm not a very meticulous person, so it happens to me sometimes! But that's the best skill.
What should fans of volume one expect from volumes two and three?
More story! The first one was definitely my attempt to take the world of the daily Murdle and expand upon it, but for the two sequels, I've tried to take the reader/solver to totally different worlds that they may have never seen before. Volume 2 is going to take you to the Free Republic of Drakonia, a country that's a cross between the Transylvanian region of Bram Stoker's Dracula and a newly post-revolutionary Soviet state. By combining these tropes in fun ways, I think I've found an exciting setting for murders! The third book satirizes tech bros, UFOs, and finally gets to the bottom of why so many people are being murdered. Logico, you know, he will have solved 300 murders by the end of this: more than Columbo and Poirot put together!
Murdle: Solve 100 Devilishly Devious Murder Mystery Logic Puzzles and Murdle: More Killer Puzzles by G T Karber are both available now from Souvenir Press, £14.99.