Cain's Jawbone

Exhibitions and events

Cain's Jawbone

2017 - 1st March 18

General event

Can you solve Torquemada’s murder mystery? 
An infamously difficult puzzle book in a custom-made box.

In 1934, The Observer’s crossword writer, Edward Powys Mathers, wrote a unique novel 'Cain’s Jawbone'. 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.

The 100 pages of the book were printed and bound out of order and the reader was invited to re-order the pages, solve the mysteries and reveal the murderer(s). There were over 32 million possible combinations of pages but only one order was correct. The puzzle was extremely difficult and was only solved by two puzzlers whose names were revealed in The Observer - but the solution to the problem remained a secret.

To share the complexities, red-herrings and literary adventures hidden in the puzzle, The Laurence Sterne Trust & Unbound are republishing the book in a custom-made box so that readers can physically reorder the pages for themselves and then get down to identifying the characters behind the fiendish crimes.

To coincide with the re-issuing of Cain’s Jawbone, Unbound are also reviving the competition. The prize of £1,000 (roughly how much £15 was worth in 1934) will be given to the first reader to provide the names of the murderers and the murdered, the correct order of the pages and a short explanation of how the solution was solved. The competition will run for one year from the date of publication.

For more information and to support the book click here