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Cain’s Jawbone: Win Money by Solving One of the World’s Most Difficult Literary Puzzles

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

In 1934, Edward Powys Mathers, a crossword puzzle compiler who worked for Britain’s newspaper, the Observer, published a murder mystery novel under the pseudonym Torquemada. The novel, Cain’s Jawbone, is regarded today as one of the most difficult and beguiling literary puzzles of all time. Cain’s Jawbone is a 100-page murder mystery, but the real twist is that the pages were accidentally printed out of order when it was first published in 1934. However, readers were ever more encouraged to read the novel and reorder the pages to solve the six murders committed. To solve the mystery, the reader must figure out the names of all 6 murderers and 6 victims, as well as place the pages in the correct sequence. There are over millions of combinations of pages, but only ONE order is correct. As of 2022, only 3 people have come up with the correct solutions to this murder mystery novel. 

Reasons why you should try to solve Cain’s Jawbone:

  1. If you love the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, this novel will blow your mind!
  2. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie’s detective novels, you will also love the suspects in Cain’s Jawbone.
  3. If you are a book lover but have never hurt a single page of a book, now is the time to pick up Cain’s Jawbone and just start ripping pages out. 
  4. If you are an avid watcher of crime drama TV series like Criminal Minds, CSI: Miami, Bones, NCIS, etc., you will get to experience making your own murder wall!

Check out these links of people who are currently attempting to solve Cain’s Jawbone and their different ways of approaching the mystery!

Kinderegard on YouTube: 

Kinderegard shows us her thought processes of how she tackles the mystery and annotates the book. She also points out major references to William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Walt Whitman. I recommend watching her YouTube video because she organizes her information very well and includes time stamps, so it is easier to figure out what she is talking about. 

TheBooktubeTurtle on YouTube: 

TheBooktubeTurtle shows her wall and how she taped pages of Cain’s Jawbone in groups. She also gives advice, such as looking for snippets of poetry and connecting the poetry when it goes onto another page. There are also pages that have dates on them, so it is easier to order. 

Jack on YouTube:

I recommend this YouTube video because Jack starts the book WITH the viewers, so from the very beginning of the video, you can already see his thought processes and how he begins to solve the mystery. He starts by ripping all the pages out and then proceeds to tape them all on his wall. He also notes that most of the pages end with a full sentence—except for a few that are poems—and that is where he starts. He finds the very next page that contains the rest of the poem.

Avni on Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRamdMcA/

Sarah on Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRam8MyM/

Are you interested in Cain’s Jawbone? If so, purchase a paperback book, and get going! Once you have figured out the mystery, have a go at submitting your answers to the Laurence Sterne Trust, who have the solutions to the novel. In 1934, a prize of €15 was awarded to the first reader who managed to correctly reorder the pages and identify the six different murders in Cain’s Jawbone. Now, Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher, is offering money prizes to any readers who manage to name all the murderers and victims, as well as reorder all the pages correctly. Winners will be awarded around $300 to spend on any other book projects on https://unbound.com/.

Hurry! This competition will close on December 31, 2022. 

Stacey Phung

Rutgers '24

Stacey is a senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick studying psychology with a minor in cognitive science. She enjoys going outside, reading romance and mystery novels, and playing beach volleyball.