Cain's Jawbone

By Edward Powys Mathers

A paperback edition of the world's most difficult literary puzzle

Crime | Fiction
Pre-orders open

Publication date: TBC

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$30  + shipping
164 orders

Two Paperbacks

Pre-order two of the infamously difficult puzzles in a pocket-sized paperback for delivery in Feb 2021. Exclusively available from Unbound (in bookshops September 2021).

PLUS:

  • Free Cain's Jawbone pencil
  • Room for notes at the bottom of each page
  • Printed 'cut here' lines for those who want to remove pages
  • Attempted solutions will still be marked
  • All correct answers will receive £250 Unbound credit voucher
Pre-order now

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If James Joyce and Agatha Christie had a literary lovechild, this would be it.  Daily Telegraph 

A unique hybrid of word puzzle and whodunnit.  Literary Review

Cain’s Jawbone is a 100 page whodunnit in which six people die. To find out who killed them, the reader must re-order the book’s pages. There is only one correct solution. To date, only three people have ever found it.

The story so far…

In 1934, The Observer’s crossword writer, Edward Powys Mathers, wrote a unique novel Cain’s Jawbone, published by Gollancz. The title, referring to the first recorded murder weapon, was written under his pen name Torquemada. The story was not only a murder mystery but one of the hardest and most beguiling word puzzles ever published and was only solved by two puzzlers whose names were later revealed in The Observer - but the solution to the problem remained a secret.

In 2017, the Laurence Sterne Trust (who after many months of research and good fortune had managed to unlock the secret of Cain’s Jawbone) partnered with Unbound to revive Torquemada’s challenge and Cain’s Jawbone was reissued as a box of 100 cards. A prize of £1,000 was offered, with a closing date of 19th September 2020. Astonishingly, there was a correct entry and the comedy writer and puzzle fiend John Finnemore claimed the prize.

The paperback

The interest in the puzzle continues to build so Unbound and The Laurence Sterne Trust have decided to keep the solution secret and re-release Cain’s Jawbone in book form.

You can order it now for delivery in February 2021, exclusively through Unbound (it will be available through all UK and US bookshops in September 2021).

And although the main prize has been claimed, we will continue to accept and mark entries.  Space for notes are provided at the bottom of the page, and if you order through Unbound, you’ll even get a free pencil.

Anyone who solves the puzzle before 31st December 2022, will receive £250 to spend supporting other book projects on the Unbound site (details for entry are contained in the book).

Support this project

Quick select rewards

$30  + shipping
164 orders

Two Paperbacks

Pre-order two of the infamously difficult puzzles in a pocket-sized paperback for delivery in Feb 2021. Exclusively available from Unbound (in bookshops September 2021).

PLUS:

  • Free Cain's Jawbone pencil
  • Room for notes at the bottom of each page
  • Printed 'cut here' lines for those who want to remove pages
  • Attempted solutions will still be marked
  • All correct answers will receive £250 Unbound credit voucher
Pre-order now
  • Edward Powys Mathers avatar

    Edward Powys Mathers

    Edward Powys Mathers (1892-1939) - known to his friends as Bill - believed that puzzles should be mind-bendingly difficult but equally rewarding when the solution was found. He introduced the cryptic crossword to this country in 1924 through the pages of The Observer newspaper. The British love a puzzle and grow very attached to crossword compilers, always looking forward to next week’s puzzle, and Torquemada had many loyal supporters. John Dickson Carr (US author of The Hollow Man, voted the finest ‘locked-room’ murder mystery of all time) was a friend. He believed that ‘there has never lived a man with such a wide knowledge of sensational fiction. Torquemada of The Observer read everything that was being written … and was already familiar with everything that had been written. And he never forgot any of it.’


    Powys Mathers was acknowledged as a brilliant translator in the early 1920s and was responsible for an edition ofThe Thousand Nights and One Night, more commonly known as The Arabian Nights; Black Marigolds (a favourite of our present Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy) and other ‘Eastern’ texts; as well as detective stories. He was also a critic specialising in reviewing crime fiction.


    In 1934 he published a selection of his puzzles under the title The Torquemada Puzzle Book. As well as some gloriously difficult crosswords, the book contained spooneristics, verbal games, telacrostics, triple cricket acrostics and anagrams - enough to keep a family occupied for weeks.


    The final 100 pages of the book contained the novel-cum-puzzle Cain’s Jawbone.


     

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