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Literature / Murder at Colefax Manor

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Murder at Colefax Manor is a Gamebook written by S.C. Cunningham. Set in the remote southwest of 19th Century England, the reader takes on the role of a police constable who must explore the titular manor and solve the mystery of who committed the grisly deed.

The book features a basic roleplaying system in that the player can collect clues and useful items, along with needing to occasionally tick reference boxes at the end of the book, and possesses several endings, although the author leaves it vague as to which ending they consider to be the best ending.

The book has been released by the author as a free PDF, available here.

Murder at Colefax Manor provides examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Colefax to a 'T'.
  • Bittersweet Ending: If you set off the dynamite with the long fuse in the caverns, it will end up destroying both the cavern and the manor on top of it. While the deadly cult has been stopped and its leader killed, you have no evidence to prove what really happened, and so are unable to get any of the praise deserved for the duty you performed. It is also not made clear if Colefax's innocent maid, Gladys Prismall, managed to escape the manor in time, although she logically died along with the rest of the staff.
  • Black Comedy:
    • If you attempt to re-examine the box of dynamite after just lighting one of the fuses, the book calls you out on how stupid it is to do so.
    • You similarly get criticised if you choose to light the shortest fuse.
  • The Butler Did It: Amazingly, this is played straight and quite literally, although the butler was acting on the behest of his master.
  • Closed Circle: The player can't leave the manor's grounds until they have solved the mystery. Played straight when the player enters the caverns, as they are then unable to return to the manor or its grounds.
  • Dark Secret: The manor is the base of a cult for an Eldritch Abomination and all but one of the manor's staff are in on it.
  • Death Is Cheap: Played With. If you die in the manor or its grounds, you get sent back to in front of the manor, but don't have to erase any clues you've found or items you've acquired. If you die in the caverns under Colefax Manor, you get sent back to the tunnel entrance.
  • Detective Drama: Although PC Barns is not technically a detective.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Averted with the free PDF version of the book, released by the author.
  • Downer Ending: Besides The Many Deaths of You, you can find the cult, report it to your superiors, and conduct a raid, only for the police to come up with no evidence against Lord Colefax, which leads you to get counter-sued, which in turn leads to you ending up jobless and penniless on the street, with no-one believing your story.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Beneath the secret cavern's temple is a chamber contains just such an abomination named Legrys Mor, which is described as having the form of "an amorphous mass of undulating, inky blackness" with "thick, slimy tendrils" supporting it above the heart of a whirlpool. Depending on the ending, it can be seen escaping out to sea if the manor is destroyed.
  • Evidence Scavenger Hunt: A large part of the book.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What befalls Gladys Prismall if she gets sentenced.
  • Gamebook: One that fits in the same sort of genre as Agatha Christie.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Lord Colefax appears to fit the bill, as he always remains polite to the player and dabbles in a mixture of historical, medicinal, and musical studies. Subverted when it is revealed that he runs the cult of Legrys Mor.
  • Golden Ending: If you find the evidence in the caverns and don't set off the dynamite, Lord Colefax and his associates end up arrested, the cult is revealed to the public, you achieve nation-wide fame, and you are promoted to chief inspector!
  • Funetik Aksent: The gamekeeper Warren McFadyen has a strong West Country accent.
  • Historical Detective Fiction: Set in Victorian Britain.
  • Lemony Narrator: Occasionally.
  • The Many Deaths of You: As to be expected from a gamebook. This includes being: absorbed into an Eldritch Abomination, crushed by a collapsing cliff, drowned at sea with an anchor tied to your feet, falling down a long set of stone steps, falling over and splitting your head open, left to starve in a jail cell, pushed off a balcony, pushed off a cliff, shot, stabbed, smashed against rocks in a turbulent sea, and tortured to death.
  • Multiple Endings
  • Mystery Literature
  • Old, Dark House: Colefax Manor, fitting the trope even further by being set on cliffs above the sea.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Legrys Mor, a Lovecraftian Eldritch Abomination inside an otherwise fairly normal murder mystery.
  • Pet the Dog: The player can be quite nice to the poor maid who found the murder victim.
  • Plot Twist: The reveal of Legrys Mor and the cult's plans to bomb the fictional Cornish city of Redford.
  • Point of No Return: Once you enter the caverns, you can't get back out again.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. While the chief inspector is reasonable, the player can decide to be one by deciding to arrest any of the cast without having any evidence or proof as to if they committed or were complicate in the murder.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: None of the Cornish door signs in the caverns are translated.
  • Religion of Evil: In the caverns beneath Colefax Manor, the player can uncover a hedonistic cult centered around an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Scenery Porn: Something noted by the book's lone reviewer on
  • Second-Person Narration
  • Shown Their Work: The period details are remarkably spot-on, including correct forms of address, the featuring of obscure real books, the jails featured, the presence of year-accurate technology, the sentences handed down to convicted suspects, and the use of the historic Cornish County Constabulary and related ranks in place of its modern day equivalents.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The fate of the manor in the Bittersweet Ending.
  • Unwinnable by Design: If you light the dynamite, then the Golden Ending is automatically unobtainable, and you'll have to settle for the Bittersweet Ending at best. If you were mad enough to only light the shortest fuse, then you'll die a short while later.