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Last week I suggested, while cooking dinner with all the Cluedo character names, that the game’s mystery was solvable using detective work. A couple of people have asked me to explain how, so here we go.

The murder has elements in common with the classic idea of the locked room mystery, embodied by Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue or Leroux’s Mystery of the Yellow Room, in which the crime in its broad strokes appears literally impossible to solve and, therefore, people ignore the more minor details that may provide a resolution.

However, that seeming lack of any evidence is, in itself, evidence. Let’s examine the facts that we do know.

  1. The victim was Dr. Black, an adult man. No other information about him is apparent.
  2. Dr. Black wasn’t killed on the stairs. He was murdered in one of the rooms and dumped there.
  3. He was killed in a fashion so that there was no evidence as to how the murder happened (i.e. no indication of the appropriate weapon, no evidence, blood stains etc., left at the scene of the crime).
  4. The only possible murder weapons are a dagger, revolver, rope, lead pipe, spanner and candlestick.
  5. Apart from the murderer there were five other people in the house at the time of the murder, all of whom could have had equal opportunity to do it.
  6. All six house guests are intimately familiar with Tudor Manor to the extent that they know where there are secret passageways from room to room.
  7. Personal information about the six guests is scarce, but they are: a priest, an academic, a man with some military background and three women, two elderly, one young.

We know all this to be true, it’s the set up of the game, and it’s all the information necessarily to lead to further suppositions. For example, taking facts 3 and 4 into consideration you can make a reasonable guess at cause of death. The lack of any bloodshed, struggle or disturbance and the only overlap in possible usage of the six weapons suggests Dr. Black to have been incapacitated by blunt force trauma, with all injuries internal, likely from a single blow. While the butt of a revolver and a thick piece of rope could plausibly have been used for this rather than their more obvious purpose, it seems extremely unlikely that someone would bludgeon their victim with the handle of a dagger.

As well as hitting the victim with a single blow strong enough to kill him, fact 2 tells us that the murderer then had to carry the body to the staircase. Given the suspect information in fact 7, it may be plausible that any struck the killer blow by chance, just happening to hit the right spot, the man with the military training seems the most capable of this and, especially, the only one who is plausibly strong enough after that adrenalin rush to carry the body to the stairs.

On the subject of fact 2, when it is paired with fact 6, it suggests the corner rooms (the ones with secret passageways) as unlikely sites of the murder as why would the body not be dumped in one of these passages? In fact, it seems likely that even the Colonel wouldn’t want to take Dr. Black too far, suggesting a room close to the stairs. Given the lack of disturbance mentioned in fact 3, no other guest noticed somebody moving a corpse, it must have taken place at a quiet point, probably at night or in the evening. Social spaces like the Ball Room or Billiard Room are probably out then. The only room adjacent to the stairs, not with a secret passage and a likely refuge for someone alone during the night is the Library.

Assuming Colonel Mustard came upon Dr. Black in the Library and hit him with a large, blunt object, what would be to hand? Is a spanner or piece of lead pipe likely to be found in an elegant book repository? Probably not. A candlestick, however, would be very much available.

So, there we have it – Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the Candlestick. Try it next time you play, I can almost guarantee you fail.

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