Fair-Play Whodunnit

"Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?"
G. K. Chesterton's oath for membership for the British Detective Club

The opposite of a Clueless Mystery; the puzzle of the story is entirely solvable before The Reveal or The Summation, if you've spotted the clues, and not just by various methods as a reader/viewer. The trick, of course, is having it solvable by the reader/viewer, but still difficult enough that they don't all figure it out long before the actual reveal. To avoid the reader/viewer feeling guilt about enjoying the investigation of a murder, and to avoid disturbingly intense emotion among the characters, the victim is often someone who the reader and the in-universe characters don't particularly mourn.

In 1928, the writer Father Ronald Knox created a "Ten Commandments" of plot devices (Knox's Decalogue) that more or less codified the rules of the Fair-play whodunnit:

  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.note 
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable, and such a passage may only be in a house or building for which it is appropriate by age or purpose.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. note 
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.note 
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the "Watson", must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Though increasingly rare in modern mystery literature and non-print media, in the "Golden Age" of mystery, novels were almost entirely of this type, though even then some were better about the "fair" part than others. This trend is kept alive largely through its incorporation in "Dinner Theater", where a short mystery play is acted out while the patrons eat, and the audience is invited to solve it before the answer is played out.

Done badly, this can lead to Conviction by Contradiction. Done correctly, and it turns into what Golden Age writer John Dickson Carr called "The Grandest Game in the World."


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Two manga, The Kindaichi Case Files and Detective Conan, based upon teenagers solving mysteries, give you the information to unveil the killer before the solution is officially "revealed" - Kindaichi much more so, because the translators go through more effort to translate the evidence to English, while to solve the Detective Conan mysteries, once in a while you'll need to know various Japanese references, names, and pronunciations.
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has the mystery episode "Remote Island Syndrome". The first part of the episode seems to be a regular fun-filled day on a private island. That episode secretly contains almost all the clues you need to solve the mystery presented in the second half, although if you don't expect the mystery, you could easily miss them.
    • However, it's heavily implied that Haruhi, despite noticing the clues, never actually solved the crime — she changed the facts of the case to fit the clues.
    • This case was significantly different in the original novels, with Kyon's sister not going on the trip, copious amounts of alcohol being involved, and none of the incidents which implied use of Haruhi's powers (such as her and Kyon going out in the storm and seeing the mysterious shadow). The later story of Snow Mountain Syndrome has Koizumi deliberately set up a similar event on the trip with a detailed script which has given to all the characters to see if they could deduce it. Haruhi and Tsuruya got it before the other characters, but enough clues are given that the reader can solve it even before them.

    Comic Books 
  • Mike W. Barr's The Maze Agency series revolved around a beautiful ex-CIA agent who runs a PI firm, her true crime writer fiance, and the (usually fairly clued) mysteries they run across.
  • A number of Batman comics, particularly during the Denny O'Neill/Neal Adams period in the '70s, provided fair-play mysteries. The narration would even challenge the reader at one point, once all the clues were presented to solve the crime before Batman.
    • A slight example: In The Many Deaths of the Batman, Batman seemingly falls off a roof and into a river while chasing a crook, and his body is fished out of Gotham River. Observant readers will note that the first chase sequence clearly has the Eiffel Tower in the background. Sure enough, Batman's alive and well, just a bit damp.
  • Roger Stern's run on Amazing Spider-Man had several hints as to the Hobgoblin's identity, such as that he was wealthy, upper-class, and was someone who was cunning and ruthless. Although it was revealed that the Hobgoblin did have an identical twin who posed as him whenever he was dressed as the Hobgoblin, there was one tiny hint to this in a single panel. So if someone had found this tiny hint, they likely could have worked out the Hobgoblin's identity, although with various changing writers, the whole thing soon became a confusing mess, which was only really fixed when Stern himself returned to write the Hobgoblin Lives! miniseries, over ten years after the Hobgoblin's first appearance.
  • Subverted in the Tintin story The Castafiore Emerald. The eponymous emerald is stolen, and the book gives the reader various clues implicating several different suspects. In the end we find out the culprit is a thieving magpie. There is a very minor clue pointing towards the identity of the thief, so technically it's possible to guess who it is, but all the major clues are there just to play with the reader's expectations of this being a Fair Play Mystery.
  • In My Little Pony Micro Series Issue #1 all the clues that Twilight picked up on revealing Jade's identity are shown to the reader prior to her explanation - though not explained at that time they are shown. A big clue is a smudged cutie mark. However, some of the clues required a priori knowledge of Jade Singer - like her glasses and love of swing music - which are only brought up in connection to her when Twilight explains them.
    • Similarly, in the main comic #21-22 (the Trixie arc), the reader can figure out Rough Diamond's real identity within the first fifteen pages, and the clue that eventually convinces the protagonists is shown several times in good detail.
  • Set up, but not revealed to be a mystery until the end of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #18. The crew of the Lost Light are holed up in a jail cell with an Autobot named Minimus Ambus, a small-time Energon trader who was accused of smuggling dangerous superfuels, only it's heavily implied that's not the whole truth. The psychologist Rung has his suspicions as to what's going on, and finally calls out Ambus in front of the crew. He points out that careful observation of Ambus' behavior throughout the book revealed, among other things, meticulous focus on order and procedure, an utter lack of mirth, and an immense distaste for filth and mess, as well as various quirks of speech tone and vocal pattern. It's possible to spot the same things Rung did, and come to the same conclusion. Minimus Ambus is in fact Ultra Magnus, stripped of his Ultra Magnus armor and identity.

    Fan Works 
  • Turnabout Storm has the protagonists and viewers share the same level of knowledge of the crime most of the time, which means the audience is given all clues necessary to uncover the truth as the case unravels. Before the final confrontation, all the information necessary to deduce the entirety of the events is given.

  • The Last Of Sheila, where not only is the title a clue, but if you pay close attention during the early scenes you will see a vital clue that directly points to the murderer's identity.
  • Played with in Deep Red; an early scene actually shows the face of the murderer, but it's done so quickly - and before you know to look for it - that most people never catch on.
  • The Japanese film The Laughing Policeman plays with this trope. Many clues are given from the outset, but many are so subtle at first that the detectives don't notice them at all until towards the end. It also subverts this by having someone kill the Big Bad offscreen just as the cops plan to arrest him. This is only to reveal the real mastermind, the titular Laughing Policeman who never gets figured out.
  • Hot Fuzz actually follows the rules rather well. The audience sees all of the clues Detective Angel sees, and his partner fits the 'below-average intelligence' requirement. The clues are so plentiful in pointing to a singular culprit, it almost seems like a Reverse Who Dunnit. Then it's all subverted. EVERYONE in town except for the children and a few police are guilty. Better still, the earlier clues could have legitimately indicated this.
  • In Hangman's Curse, all of the clues are provided to the audience, giving them the material to determine the person behind it all by halfway through the film, earlier than it takes for the protagonists to figure it out.

  • Agatha Christie was a member of the Detection Club, the members of which promised to write their stories like this. However, the rules don't say that the author has to be blatant about it, and she wasn't, having no qualms at all about having the narrator lead the reader down the garden path to the wrong answer by implication or misdirection.
    • In "Hercule Poirot's Christmas", Poirot asks the butler what the date was three days ago; the butler walks over to a wall calendar and reads off 'the 22nd'; and the reader is led to conclude that there is something important about the date. However, during The Summation, Poirot says that the whole point was to find out if the butler had bad eyesight. She also plays fast and loose with the no doubles or hitherto unknown twins rules, by dropping two hitherto unknown illegitimate sons of the victim into the pot although the possibility of their existence was explicitly stated by their father himself).
    • Hercule Poirot's Christmas is also the subject of controversy as to whether having a member of the police investigative team that Poirot helps being the killer is a violation of the commandments.
    • Several of the Miss Marple short stories were the ultimate in fair play. They were told to Miss Marple by guests at a party, so the reader knows exactly what the detective knows. It also helps explain what an elderly woman is doing solving mysteries.
    • The Mysterious Affair at Styles is absolutely a Fair Play Whodunit. The reader knows everything Poirot does. No unknown illegitimate children there.
    • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was intensely controversial at the time (which helped cement Christie's fame) but is now generally recognised as extremely fair. The way Poirot ultimately solves the crime is by reading what Dr. Sheppard wrote down which is exactly what the reader is reading. Which means that an acute reader could actually pick up most of the important clues before Poirot does. The controversy occurs because the novel does violate two of Knox's Commandments ( the First and the Ninth; the Watson-figure of the novel is also the murderer, and he does not write down every thought he had in the journal - he does not actively lie to the reader, but fails to describe what he was doing at the time of the murder in a way that is blatant on a second reading but is easily passed over on the first). This does not keep it from being fair, serving as reminder that rigid adherence to Knox's rules is not what makes a good Fair-play Whodunnit.
  • Michael Connelly's mystery novels are often these; The Poet actually won an award for Fair Play. Make sure you read this before reading its sequel The Narrows, which itself has a fair play Twist Ending.
  • There's a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery where a particular missing item from a painter's setup is an important clue that the painter had been murdered, rather than died accidentally, and the page revealing what it is before The Summation, in a vaguely clever twist, is removed for "the entertainment of the reader". Sayers still plays fair, though. There are three or four other scenes between the missing page and the summation which, taken together, can be used to work out what the object was and what happened to it. In fact you can deduce what's missing in the same way that Lord Peter does, from the description of the scene alone, although a (very) basic knowledge of oil painting may be needed.
    • A subversion is Have His Carcase, where the solution requires on a very elaborate (and accidental on the part of the murderer) trick involving the time of death. The victim has a rare condition known as hemophilia, which prevents the blood from clotting, obscuring the real time of death. If the reader is knowledgeable enough in minor trivia, there are enough clues for a genius to figure out what the trick is - but it requires a very specialized knowledge base that most people simply do not have. For those without the prerequisite knowledge, Lord Peter's revelation seems a bit like an Ass Pull or Deus ex Machina, though the astute reader can generally figure out that something is hinky, because everyone's alibi is too solid, which is what tips Wimsey off that something is hinky. One of the things that tips him off to the identity of the murderer is that that suspect also has a (manufactured) alibi for the real time of death, once he realizes what that is.
  • Most Sherlock Holmes mysteries are not really fair, if only because Dr. Watson (the narrator) is not as observant as his colleague. It bears mentioning that Watson is usually writing these up after the fact. He could give the reader the clues—Holmes himself professed a preference for a didactic style of write-up that would be something like this trope—but arguably intentionally averts the trope in order to play up Holmes's brilliance, as well as for the continuity of the narrative. If Watson's powers of observation had been greater, it might be true that his normal narrative flow might well play the trope straight.
    • "The Lion's Mane" gives the reader enough information to draw a conclusion even before Holmes does (given that "The Lion's Mane" was one of the few stories narrated by Holmes himself, this may or may not be intentional).
    • Silver Blaze is another. All the important clues are shown to the reader, leading to one of the greatest detective fiction quotes ever.
      Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
      Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
      Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
  • All Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are deliberately like this... but some of the "solutions" are less plausible than others.
  • Isaac Asimov:
  • In Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, an entire family was murdered, and the answer to which of the three survivors committed the crime is fairly clued within.
  • The Nero Wolfe stories by Rex Stout sometimes are and sometimes aren't Fair Play, since they're all narrated by Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's dogsbody and legman. Archie reports everything he finds to Wolfe, but Wolfe often doesn't return the favor, leaving both Archie and the readers in the dark. As a result, Archie and the reader usually have about the same chance of solving the mystery. If it is a Fair-play story, Archie will tell the readers at some point that he figured it out, and that they can too.
  • The Ellery Queen novels — the first eight, which contain a nationality in the title, and the ninth, "Halfway House" — were like this, and would actually have a point before the solution where the story would pause and the author would tell the reader that they now have all the facts required to solve the mystery. This "Challenge to the Reader" was carried over to the Ellery Queen radio show and 1970s TV series, where Ellery would make a "Challenge to the Viewer" before the final ad break.
  • Neil Gaiman says that he tried to make "Murder Mysteries" entirely solvable for acute enough readers — he even made the title a clue (as it implies that more than one murder took place).
    • On the other hand, if you're not an acute reader, you might miss the fact that there were any murders other than the one in Raguel's story, namely that the narrator murdered his female friend and her daughter before encountering Raguel. This is not helped by the fact that even the murderer doesn't remember what he did as Raguel obliterates the memory of it from his mind. The comic book adaptation by P. Craig Russell makes it slightly more obvious.
  • The stories of John Dickson Carr (as well as his pseudonym Carter Dickson) always showed you all the clues. (Even when the supernatural was involved, as in The Devil in Velvet, he always clearly laid out the rules the magic operated by.) The only problem was usually that the murder was impossible to begin with, so you couldn't figure out how, much less who. Carr even lampshaded the tar out of this in The Hollow Man (US: The Three Coffins) when Dr. Gideon Fell stops in the middle of the novel to explain all the ways you can do a locked room mystery, because there was no point in pretending they weren't in such a novel. At the end of the chapter (yes, it's a full chapter of all the ways to pull one off) the other characters tell him that the two murders don't fit into any of his categories. They're really wrong. Carr's essay "The Greatest Game in the World" makes a key point about what makes a Fair-Play Whodunnit really fair, and good when done right: the key to the case isn't just one clue — a random word hidden in chapter six — but a system of interlocking clues that allow the reader to open a tapestry of interpretation that gives a larger picture: that of the truth.
  • Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent delicately scatters its clues amidst character development and the trial plotline — all the reader needs is in the text.
  • The Lord Darcy mysteries are an interesting case, in that they violate Rule #2 (since some of the characters have magical powers) and still manage to play fair with the reader. However, since the universe the stories are set in has consistent magical rules, Rule #2 could be said to be broken in letter but not in spirit. In some of the stories the whole point is that everyone assumes an impossible murder was done by magic, and Lord Darcy explains how it could have been committed in a perfectly mundane way. Magic is mostly used for forensics. Rule #1 is violated in at least one story, where a character whose point-of-view is followed later turns out to be the murderer.
  • The Harry Potter books are like this; the mystery plot is deliberately littered with Red Herrings to lead Harry (and the reader, by extension) down the wrong path at first, but an acute reader can pick up on the actual clues and determine the true culprit before Harry does. For example, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets drops several easily-missable clues about who is the opener of Chamber of Secrets, the most notable being Ginny crying out about having to go back and get her diary long before it becomes a major plot point.
    • In fact, many readers who had become used to Rowling's extensive use of Chekhov's Gun and Chekhov's Gunman were able to figure out a couple of things the sixth book set up before the seventh book confirmed them: the identity of "R.A.B." and that Harry himself is a Horcrux. And even smaller ones, like the barman of the Hog's Head in book 5 being Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth.
  • The Westing Game. Easy enough to follow that any elementary or middle school kid could have a chance of arriving at the correct answer.
  • The Czech writer Josef Škvorecký wrote Sins for Father Knox, a collection of detective stories (later adapted as a TV series), each based on a violation of one of Knox's rules.
    • Whether it does so successfully or not is a different story though. For example, Rule 3 is violated by having two secret passages right next to each other in an acceptable setting and Rule 5 is violated by having the killer's name spelled wrong on a dinner card hiding her "Chinaman" status. The Rule 2 story falls under Deliberate Values Dissonance as the "supernatural" of that case has the killer be gay, which Škvorecký claims the traditionalist Catholic Knox would have viewed as "unnatural". And Rule 8 is arguably not broken at all since an astute reader could figure out the significance of a character having to walk around a car to get into the passenger seat without being outright told that it is a British model.)
  • Willard Wright demanded that all detective fiction be Fair Play Whodunnits. When he wrote the Philo Vance novels (under the pen name S.S. Van Dine), he wrote them to code. Late in The Greene Murder Case, Vance even writes a multi-page summary of the crimes, officially to help focus his thoughts, but it makes sure the reader is up to speed as well.
  • "The Oxford Murders" (no, NOT related to this one) has been termed (citation needed) "the most fair whodunnit of all" - the author reveals the murderer on the first page in open light - if you have eyes to see. If you HAVE to be spoilered: The FIRST page. The poem. Which is not ancient at all, but faked. Which you COULD see simply by the fact that the vain author "signed" it with his name inserted as acrostichon. The victim, a wordplay fan, saw that immediately and was murdered by the author to hide the fake.
  • For that matter, The Oxford Murders (the one that IS this one) is also very fair. All the rules are followed; but aside from that, not only the reader, but the protagonist himself, is almost constantly bombarded with subtle hints inviting him to understand them for what they are, and realize the truth.
  • When Robert van Gulik wrote his novels starring Judge Dee, he deliberately incorporated many of Knox's principles into them (except the Chinaman rule—for obvious reasons). In particular, he had to struggle with the second commandment, as the supernatural elements are omnipresent in traditional Chinese detective fiction (e.g. it's not uncommon for the victim's ghost to appear to the detective ten pages in and give a detailed account of their own murder), due to the genre's cultural purpose being to teach the reader a moral lesson, rather than to challenge their puzzle-solving skills. In fact, the very first novel Celebrated Cases Of Judge Dee (not part of later continuity) was Gulik's only translation from a Chinese original, which attracted his attention primarily because it lacked any supernatural elements relevant to the mystery plot.
  • Though more like logic puzzles or memory tests than traditional mysteries, the short stories in the Clue books by A. E. Parker, by design, always culminated in a specific mystery, for which the reader was given enough information to deduce the answer. Generally this simply involved keeping track of a series of fairly transparent mix-ups earlier in each story.

    Live Action TV 
  • Murder, She Wrote actually had quite a few, given that the killers usually revealed themselves by saying something only the killer would know or assume.
  • The occasional Law & Order spin-off (although not the original, for reasons related to its structure) will do this, probably more or less by accident.
    • Law & Order: Criminal Intent does this more often than the others. Excluding the cases where you know who did it from the very beginning about a third of the shows have enough clues to solve it part way though, a couple can almost be deciphered based on the opening.
  • Some episodes of Monk, before a point where they sometimes stopped caring about the mystery aspect of the show. In the early seasons, what set Monk apart was his ability to notice important clues and details that other detectives didn't see, and he would then point them out. At that point it was often possible to put them together and solve the case along with Monk. Sometimes, clues are revealed to us before Monk even notices them.
  • The British game show Whodunnit? (UK) was based upon this concept.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Arissa asks Odo if he's worked out who the killer in the book was. He says "by the third page." Either he's just that good or the book's just that bad.
  • Jonathan Creek was well liked among those who enjoy fair play mysteries, since even though the solutions to the various mysteries were always unusual and required lateral thinking, you always got to see everything the heroes saw that allowed them to solve the puzzle, and usually even had them highlight the significance of the clues.
  • The short-lived Scene of the Crime, hosted by Orson Welles, was an attempt at a series revolving around a different fair-play mystery or two per episode.
  • Japanese live action series Furuhata Ninzaburou, in addition to being a Reverse Whodunnit, also provides additional clues to show the viewer how Furuhata ends up on the trail of the suspect. Like the Ellery Queen example, he would pause just before the final act to address the viewer and give them hints as to why he believes that the chief suspect did it, and what evidence there is to force a confession. The episode guest-starring baseball player Ichiro goes even further than usual, as Not-Really-Ichiro goes out of his way to leave a clue at the scene because he believes in fair play.
  • "A Study in Pink" on BBC's Sherlock was fair play for the "who" part if not the "how" and "why." The audience knows what all five victims had in common and they are also aware of at least some of Sherlock's thought processes ("Who do we trust, even though we don't know them? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go? Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?"). Viewers had enough information to figure it out before the climax.
  • The Doctor Who story "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances": Enough clues are presented for savvy viewers to solve the riddle before the Doctor does.
  • Most Psych episodes are fair play, especially since clues are highlighted for the viewer as Shawn sees them, plus the viewer sees the opening flashback which always relates to the story at hand. The exceptions are usually cases where Shawn doesn't figure out who the bad guy is, either, like with Yang and Yin.
  • The first season of Remington Steele aimed for fair-play mysteries, with varying degrees of success. Then the network made them dumb down the scripts, so as not to alienate viewers.
  • Ellery Queen: The TV series reflected most of the books in this regard.
  • The episode "The Amazing Maleeni" of The X-Files provides you with all clues needed to solve the mystery. There is at least one unexplained question, befitting the series, but it's not required to solve the mystery.
  • Applies to multiple episodes of Veronica Mars. In terms of the major arc mysteries, all would theoretically qualify, but the first three rely on last-minute clues that ensure that (while astute viewers might have speculatively guessed the culprits) the viewer can only be certain who the murderer/rapist is at the same time that Veronica herself is. The fourth arc is the only one where the viewer might beat Veronica to the punch, as the incriminating evidence is scattered quite early and there's a false resolution halfway through the episode that Veronica falls for. Her Eureka Moment comes not from a new piece of evidence, but from hearing the real killer laying out the 'facts' of how the murders played out; she realises what some viewers will already have picked up on, that the first resolution was a frame job and that only one person could have done that.
  • Every season and version of The Mole contains hidden clues that viewers can spot to figure out who the Mole is before the final episode reveal. Some of these clues are extremely obscure or ambiguous, but others are easier to spot like the host never calling the Mole's name during executions in one U.S. season or even Hidden in Plain Sight like a contestant in season 8 of the Dutch version asking a question that confirmed them to be the Mole but was worded in a way to be easily misheard as them asking if another contestant was the Mole instead.

  • Zig-zagged in Williams Electronics' WHO dunnit. The clues for each case are just illustrations on the playfield and don't have any specific relevance to a particular case. On the other hand, interrogating a suspect always provides a clue to the killer's identity, allowing attentive players to easily solve it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There have been many attempts to make a Tabletop simulation of a Fair Play Mystery, although many are closer to Logic Puzzles than actual Mysteries. We'll divide them into two subcategories. First, the randomly generated "Logic Puzzle" games:
    • Clue, most notably.
    • Alibi and Mingle And Murder are slightly different takes on the same idea (in Alibi, the murder has already happened, in Murder & Mingle, the murder is still ongoing).
  • There are exceptions to the Logic Puzzles rule above:

  • The Mrs Hawking play series: In part three, Base Instruments the audience is provided with all the same information and suspects the lead characters are and may make the same deductions to solve the murder.

    Video Games 
  • The two mystery subquests in Knights of the Old Republic play completely fair, given that it's up to you to solve them. There are a LOT of Red Herrings to make it look more difficult than it is—especially given the black and white morality of the rest of the game.
  • In the Ace Attorney games, since the focus is entirely on the clues and how they fit together, it is occasionally entirely possible to figure out who the killer is before The Reveal. This is, of course, when the mystery isn't already a Reverse Whodunnit, or Clueless Mystery. The hard part, of course, is proving it.
    • It gets ridiculous in the last case of Ace Attorney Investigations. Edgeworth figures out the culprit easily, but proving exactly what happened and how it was done is such a laborious process that you're given a save point in the middle of the interrogation.
    • The final case of Trials and Tribulations does break rule 2, but by that point the player is already familiar with the supernatural power in question and its efficacy.
  • The mystery in the second chapter of The Witcher is done fairly, perhaps even generously, giving the player multiple opportunities to gather all clues. The best rewards are for solving it through questioning suspects and studying books before even looking at physical evidence. Failing to solve it leaves the player with reduced experience gains and a disadvantage in the confrontation with the real culprit.
  • Persona 4 counts. The player is given all the information, and the culprit is someone they know. In the endgame, the player is given a list of all the characters (s)he has met so far, and a set of clues which should narrow it down to one person. They must then select the culprit correctly within three guesses, or be foisted off with a bad ending. Unfortunately, there's 80 hours of dungeon crawling between those vital clues and the event when it becomes crucial to remember them.
    • The list of suspects given is also easily narrowed down from, since it can't be anyone in the party, any social links, or the guy that was just established as not being the culprit. Although, the "social link" part doesn't work in the process of elimination in the Updated Re-release...
    • There is still one vital clue that the player needs to remember. The killer left the player a threatening note in their own house while they weren't there, and they didn't break in. The killer must be someone that Dojima and Nanako trust.
  • The Eagle Eye Mysteries PC game series eventually becomes this for older and more seasoned and experienced players.
  • RuneScape has two murder mystery side quests, and both of these whodunnits are easily of the fair variety:
    • The oldest, which is appropriately titled Murder Mystery, is essentially Clue; the master of an estate has been murdered and the local lawmen are turning to you because they're stumped, and one of his six or so children did it, but the culprit is different for each player. Pay attention to the clues you find, and it should be easy to deduce who did it.
    • The other one, One Piercing Note, was one of the first quests to feature real instrumentation and voice acting. It's a lot more story-heavy than Murder Mystery and it has a higher death toll. While the supernatural explanation can't be completely ruled out due to the setting, it's pretty obviously the least probable explanation for the murder mystery itself, and the murders are committed through mundane, if not normal, means.
  • Borderlands 2 has one of these. A man is murdered in Sanctuary and there is a confirmed description of the killer... only he's one of four quadruplets. Interviewing everyone will reveal vital clues, however.

    Visual Novels 
  • The When They Cry mysteries have Fair Play solutions, but apparent violations are used to misdirect the viewer, and either come from unreliable sources, or they're irrelevant to the who- and howdunnit.
    • Umineko: When They Cry starts out rather questionably if it's a mystery or a fantasy, and it's the main conflict of the first four arcs—as in the characters actually argue over the genre: Beatrice insists that she killed everyone with magic while Battler refuses to believe that magic exists at all, though he also handicaps himself by refusing to admit that this means someone he knows committed the murders. As the story progresses, we're first shown Beatrice killing everyone with magic, which makes Battler despair until it's explained that anything not seen from the personal perspective of his piece on the "game board" is unreliable information. In the fifth arc, the reader is presented with the Knox's Decalogue as a hint to solving the mysteries presented, with a further hint being that if it's possible for Battler to be right, then the story must by definition be a Fair-Play Whodunnit. The only question is whether he can figure out how it was actually done or, more importantly, the real meaning of the game and what magic actually is. While some of the individual mystery stories can be solved, there is ultimately no solution given for the broader question of what happened in the "real" mystery, or indeed what exactly that was, making the broader plot closer to a Clueless Mystery. Although literal clues abound, there is no way to confirm anything.
    • Higurashi: When They Cry, Umineko's predecessor, also has the same theme running much more quietly in the background. It is possible to figure out how things are occurring by the end end of the first half of the story, though perhaps not why. Of course, the crime may not be exactly what you've been led to believe, which may trick you into believing there has been a rules violation when Keiichi goes crazy and kills his friends.
  • Discussed in Virtue's Last Reward, but also immediately dismissed by Sigma, who due to his more or less Ripple Effect-Proof Memory is able to bypass Rule 6. Even though the game violently smashes every rule, it still manages to encompass the SPIRIT of the rules, unlike most examples of this, by having the very spirit of why every rule exists being intact, while still breaking the fundamental rules themselves. This is done through a mixture of ways:
    • Rule 1 is broken in the same way as Rule 7: by revealing Sigma to be Zero. However, since it was his future self, the Sigma we follow is not privy to this information, and is as surprised as the player when he finds out himself.
    • Rule 2 is broken by, of course, the constant mind leaping, and time stuff. But the essence of why the rule is included; so that supernatural stuff can't just be used as an Ass Pull, is respected and never broken. Every element of the supernatural abilities is explained with actual scientific, if hard to believe, explanations, and the entire thing is laid on a plate for the player at the start. There's never a single moment where the supernatural elements are treated as anything other then established points, as normal to the in-game universe as, say, jet-travel is in the real world.
    • Rule 3: The facility everyone is trapped in does not seem like the kind of place a secret passage would be expected to be found. Despite this, the big door in the Floor B warehouse serves as one. This is justified in that it's not "secret"; it just can't be opened from the inside.
    • Rule 4: The reason some things are given long scientific explanations in game are because those explanations become vital later on, and are used for a number of "loop-hole" breakages, once again making sure that the reason the rule exists; to prevent pointlessly confusing dialogue and banter, is not broken.
    • The presence of Alice breaks Rule 5, but she is never treated any differently than all the other characters based on her ethnicity, which is the reason the rule exists in the first place.
    • Sigma himself is called out on this by Luna, who uses Rule 6 to discount his argument, when he used information from another timeline. Sigma uses this example as to why he didn't do anything wrong: The two timelines, timeline A and B, both stream from timeline P. Since timeline A and B both run of the same "time", one that came from timeline P, and since he himself can timeline jump, him taking information from timeline A and using it in timeline B isn't breaking any rules. He also goes on to say that if he had taken info from timeline A then gone back to timeline P and used the info to change the branches, then she would have a point. But as he never actually used information he couldn't otherwise know to change the OUTCOME of the timelines, which is the fundamental reason why Rule 6 exists, he's not doing anything wrong.
    • Rule 7 is MASSIVELY broken. Sigma himself is Zero. But once again, the game pays homage and never breaks the reason for the rule existing: It never has the 'detective' turn out to be "the bad guy", therefore breaking the entire point of the story. Sigma himself is just as shocked as anyone to learn that he was the 'criminal' all along.
    • Rule 8 is broken by Sigma revealing information that he shouldn't yet know, confusing other characters and having the timelines you go down have moments of Sigma sporadically pulling information from timelines the player most likely hasn't gone down yet. However, the player never once knows more then Sigma. In fact, in many occasions, it's the OTHER WAY AROUND. The game also makes you play down a timeline that Sigma has pulled information from first, before you can see the moment in the other timeline where Sigma states the info' he pulled [this is achieved by using "path blocks" that cuts the scene whenever Sigma is about to say something the player shouldn't yet know].
    • Rule 9: This game's Deuteragonist, Phi, appears to regularly keep important information from Sigma. However, it's eventually revealed that this is not the case, as Phi shares any pertinent info she may have, and any time she dismisses how she got this info with "I Just Knew", she really did just know.
    • Rule 10 is broken when K's mask is removed to reveal Sigma's face. However, the fact that they look identical never plays into the story and is explained at the end.
  • Danganronpa generally follows the decalogue, although rule 6 (and 10 later on) is broken in a number of scenes. However, one of the cases is unpredictable before the trial happens, and in another case, there's not enough information to conclusively answer it at all.
  • Hanai's route in Metro PD: Close to You provides the audience with all of the facts needed to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, combined with the Law of Conservation of Detail and the fact that the VN's focus is more on romance than on mystery, this means that the reader will probably have it figured out well before any of the detectives do.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Big Idea of the Whateley Universe is a Fair-Play Whodunnit, even though the superpowers of the characters add complications over the usual detective story. The reader even has more information than Reach, the character who plays the detective in the story.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the theme song to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which was, at least in the beginning of its run, quite a bit more fair than the Clueless Mystery-type escapades of the previous series. A lot of later episodes became more fair when it came to mysteries, though some would return to the Clueless Mystery route (but they would usually at least try to lampshade it).
  • The Simpsons:
    • The first few Sideshow Bob episodes were this kind of story. Later on, the writers abandoned the mystery angle because coming up with them proved too difficult.
    • The 2-part Season 6 closer/Season 7 opener "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" Even though the culprit did seem to come out of the blue, the clues were indeed all there, with the mystery even being drummed up as a contest to see who could figure it out. In fact, the culprit was actually properly identified by a fan of the show, legitimately using the clues presented, in the summer between the two episodes. Sadly, he didn't actually win anything. [[note:The reason the fan didn't win was because the contest was so poorly designed. The way it worked was that of all the entries, the producers would choose a thousand, out of which they would pick whoever sent in the correct answer. Unfortunately, from the thousand that they picked, no one actually had the correct answer. You would assume that they would just start again with another thousand, but the rules specifically stated that the winner had to be out of the first thousand picked. So, they just chose someone randomly. Of course, this meant that any number of people could have sent in the correct culprit, just were unlucky to not wind up in the final thousand.]] The writers lampshade this by ending the first part with Dr. Hibbert turning to the viewer and saying "Well, I couldn't possibly solve this mystery...can YOU?" Then the camera pans back and we realize he's actually talking to Chief Wiggum.
  • Pops up in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in several episodes.
    • The episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well". There are deliberate clues throughout the episode to Mare Do Well's identity, though it does require some knowledge of the series continuity to puzzle out correctly.
    • The episode "Mystery on the Friendship Express" kinda follows the rules for the first half (the introduction and crime), but then throws them away and conceals all the clues discovered during the investigation proper.
    • The episode "Rarity Investigates!" plays the trope far more straight when Rarity, well, investigates a crime Rainbow Dash is accused of committing. Every clue is shown to the audience as Rarity finds them, even when there aren't any lines calling attention to them until the end:

Alternative Title(s): Fair Play Whodunit, Fair Play Mystery