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Fair-Play Whodunnit

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"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 Detection 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 whom the reader and the in-universe characters don't particularly mourn.

In 1928, the writer and priest Msgr 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, it turns into what Golden Age writer John Dickson Carr called "The Grandest Game in the World." It can also lead to the work having a fair amount of Rewatch Bonus; particularly if the viewer had missed the clues in the story the first time through.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Kindaichi Case Files shares enough information with the audience to allow you to solve the mystery before The Summation. The translator involved goes to a lot of effort to translate the relevant evidence into English.
  • Case Closed:
  • 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.
  • Defied in Lord El-Melloi II Case Files. One cannot use deductive reasoning to solve mysteries involving mages i.e. the "howdunnit", because how each one operates is based on their individual magical abilities, often to the point of suspending natural law itself in different ways. This is why Lord El-Melloi II focuses on figuring out the "whydunnit" of cases instead.
  • Hyouka: A plot point in the student film arc. Several potential endings to the student film are eliminated because the author of the script was known to have written it according to the rules of fair play.

    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 fiancé, 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.
  • In Grant Morrison's first Justice League arc, all the clues that Batman uses to work out the true identities of the Hyperclan are laid out throughout the comic for the reader. Several fire-based superheroes are mentioned as being absent due to sickness; at one point the Hyperclan all use the same Eye Beams attack despite seemingly having different powers; those powers include shapeshifting and mind control along with the usual strength, toughness, speed, and flight; the Hyperclan don't risk investigating the wreckage of a burning Batplane; and even the issue titles are classic SF movies. In retrospect, it's obvious that they're Martians. There's even an early scene establishing that the Martian Manhunter is vulnerable to fire, for any readers who didn't know the character already.
  • 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.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye
    • Set up, but not revealed to be a mystery until the end of issue #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, who had gone missing earlier on after being presumed fatally wounded.
    • Early on, readers are presented with a question that no one has the answer to: what does resident psychologist Rung transform into? For a long time the official answer was 'ornament' and in one instance, 'beating stick,' but the implied greater mystery is "Who is Rung?" When you notice that Rung is described as a universal constant who has 'always been there' with a unique perfectly round serial number of 100000000, who manages to survive accidentally getting his head blown off and the subsequent coma, who is able to produce photonic crystals. Aware readers will have caught on that The Matrix was once described a photonic crystal. He seems to be a minor, almost comic relief character, yet is set up to be central to, among other things, the overarching plot which involves an Alternate Timeline and Cybertronian mythology, which is unable to firmly establish the most central of mythology tropes, a Creation Myth and an attendant Creator God. Step back, take it all together, and in spite of the sheer ludicrous impossibility of the prospect, you can reach the same conclusion that Nightbeat and later Rung himself did: Rung is an amnesiac Primus returned to live among his people and save them in their Darkest Hour... and his alternate mode is a Matrix creation machine. His serial number isn't one hundred million, he's been looking at it upside down all these millions of years. It's one, as in, the first Cybertronian.
  • Scandinavian Mickey Mouse Comic Universe and Disney Ducks Comic Universe magazines frequently feature Krimgåter (Crime Riddles), which are single-page mysteries that usually play this as straight as they can, usually either relying on minor background details that most readers would overlook, or on characters letting slip information that helps reveal them. For a rather good example, Mickey and the commissioner pursue a blonde, trenchcoat-wearing criminal into a mall, where he disappears. Keen-eyed readers will notice that a man with black hair and the same color pants as the criminal is leaving the hair saloon, and that the hairdresser has black dye on his fingers and a trenchcoat lying under one of his chairs.
  • Italian Mickey Mouse Comic Universe and Disney Ducks Comic Universe magazines sometimes have riddles similar to the Scandinavian ones. When the whodunnit is in the stories themselves, however, their fairness can greatly vary.
    • A Donald Duck story in particular has a field day with this: several multi-billionaires, including Scrooge, are gathered together, and all of them are victims of theft, particularly Scrooge having his number one dime taken. A famous detective is on the case, but on Scrooge's request, Donald tries to solve the case himself before him, trying and failing several times to figure out who did it. In the end, the detective reveals the culprit... a famous international thief, never mentioned or seen before in the story. When Scrooge chastizes Donald for his failure, he asks how he was supposed to know about the thief. However, the rules are then respected when Donald uses clues (or rather, the significant lack of one) that has been evident to the readers throughout the story to deduce that the number one dime was not, in fact, stolen along with everything else and Scrooge just pretended to be a victim out of convenience.
  • The second of three conflicts in Trial of the Amazons revolves around this, although to have all the clues one would have to read the Wonder Girl (Infinite Frontier) series before the "Trial" event, and since DC Comic's marketing arm saw fit to completely undermine the mystery, one would also have to ignore the titles announced while it was ongoing to fully enjoy it, unless one enjoys internal reveals.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Turnabout Storm has the protagonists and viewers sharing 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.

    Film — Animated 
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure: Older fans of the movie will clearly hear Owl is spelling "school", not "skull", but given that everyone except Christopher Robin is illiterate, it was intentional.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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 toward 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.
  • Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent delicately scatters its clues amidst character development and the trial plotline — all the reader needs is in the text.
  • Hot Fuzz actually follows the rules rather well. The audience sees all of the clues that Nicholas Angel sees, and his partner Danny 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.
  • Oddly enough, the first Scary Movie is one, despite being a parody of the Slasher Movie genre. The movie does have enough clues to figure out the killer's identity before the reveal at the end, but the audience probably isn't approaching this particular film as a puzzle to be solved.
  • Knives Out is a deliberate revival of the genre that is, in fact, scrupulously fair. The only clue not immediately revealed to the audience is the toxicology report that indicates that Harlan had no morphine in his system, which is still revealed a few minutes later during The Summation and can be intuited by factors like Harlan showing no symptoms of a morphine overdose despite him and Marta thinking he's dying rapidly of one, or the fact that it exculpating Marta was the only reason the culprit could have to attempt to destroy it.
    • On the other hand, the sequel violates Rule 10 by introducing a twin of one of the main suspects without foreshadowing it, and revealing that the twin and the detective were working together the whole time and withholding evidence from the audience about halfway through. From that point on, it's rather fair, though it takes incorporating information from before and after the spoilered reveal to solve it.
  • Subverted as the point of Murder by Death as the final Big Bad rants to the various sleuths on how horribly they tricked readers into making it impossible to solve the crimes just so they could seem like super-geniuses: "You tricked and fooled your readers for years. You've tortured us all with surprise endings that make no sense. You've introduced characters in the last five pages who were never in the book before! You withheld clues and information that made it impossible for us to guess who did it!"

  • 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 plot although the possibility of their existence was explicitly stated by their father himself. The novel 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 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 (something Holmes regularly criticizes Watson for, but in the stories where Holmes is the narrator, he's forced to admit Watson has a point, noting that the collection of facts that Holmes claims is superior is in fact boring as hell and so must hobble himself to present an interesting story). 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. The mysteries also subvert the trope: Encyclopedia nearly always reveals the mystery's solution to the reader—but the challenge isn't (usually) to figure out the solution, it's more often to figure out which clue tipped off Encyclopedia. The question in most mysteries is generally phrased as "How did Encyclopedia know?" However, sometimes the books are accidentally unfair because the clue is a Conviction by Contradiction or (worse) Conviction by Counterfactual Clue.
  • Donald J. Sobol's other series, Two-Minute Mysteries, was similarly deliberately fair-play (and similarly not always plausible).
  • 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, and was the entire basis for ''Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries'', a syndicated series of minute-long mysteries used as radio contests in the 1970s.
  • 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.
  • In the Longmire novel The Dark Horse, there's an offhand mention of a western meadowlark singing in the background while Sheriff Walt is on the phone with the brother of the deceased. If the reader is able to recognize it as a case of Misplaced Wildlife, they'll realize (long before the sheriff does) that the person he's speaking to is in Wyoming where the crime was committed, and not practicing dentistry in Ohio like he's claiming.
  • 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 — although while we learn that the diary is alive and can communicate with people, we don't actually learn that it can possess people until the denouement.
    • 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 by Guillermo Martínez is 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—though he still follows the spirit of the rule, in that all of the perpetrators are ordinary people and not diabolical supervillains). 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.
  • The ultimate early fair whodunnit might be the German novel "Aljechin's Gambit" by Gerhard Josten, about the still mysterious death of World Chess Champion Aljechin. You probably automatically assume that Aljechin's Gambit refers to a chess opening invented by him. But (somewhat astonishingly) there is no chess opening with this name. No, it's ''Aljechin's'' Gambit! The title already gives it away if you have eyes to look!
  • The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base: there is sufficient information in the illustrations for the reader to deduce who the thief is, not even including the many codes and hidden messages.
  • The ''Copper-Colored Cupids'' series' low-stakes mystery story Acquaintanceship-982 and the Missing Mail Mystery doles out all the clues necessary to figure out who stole the mail-bag, why, and even where is it (when the characters visit Philatel's office very early on, they take note of a "cushion" in a corner that seems somewhat plain compared to the rest of the furniture — later revealed to actually be the mailbag draped in a blanket).
  • Most of the novels in The Lady Grace Mysteries follow this style; due to the diary format Grace provides the reader with every new clue and piece of information she's learned, we only know what Grace knows (although sometimes she may take longer to piece something together than the reader if they're savvy enough), the culprit is usually a character who is already known to Grace/the reader, and there's plenty of foreshadowing and subtle hints to the solution that can be picked up on.
  • The Adventures on Trains middle-grade series by MG Leonard and Sam Seligman is a notable example directly inspired by Golden Age fiction. They're illustrated, with the drawings purportedly done by our young detective, Hal; a sharp-eyed reader can pick up on clues in both text and pictures before Hal realises their significance. Most of the rules are kept, though given the age of the audience, only one successful murder has featured as of book five, with most books focusing on different crimes (theft, kidnapping, fraud, sabotage, and theft of intellectual property).
  • Subverted in An Old-Fashioned Mystery, by Runa Fairleigh, which is a Ten Little Indians-style satire of old-school detective fiction deliberately written to break every single one of Knox's Ten Commandments. It ends by revealing the murderer as the writer.
  • As the narrator in Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a how-to-write-crime author, he not only adheres to Knox's commandments throughout the story (using them as the book's epigraph) but spelling out in the prologues exactly what the reader can expect through the book, including the page numbersnote  where someone dies.
  • In The Flower That Bloomed Nowhere, rules are explicitly established by the Playwright and the Director to facilitate this in interludes. Some examples include Utsushikome not withholding information when narrating unless she has an explicitly established reason beforehand, and that a corpse being described in red is guaranteed to be a dead human body. Turns out to be enforced in-universe. The Playwright and Director really do exist, and can influence the events of the story while inside the time loop.

    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. Another favored trick of the series was to have a clue pop up early in the episode, such as before the crime itself, but the information that links the clue to the crime be introduced later — rewarding viewers with a sharp memory.
  • 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 through, a couple can almost be deciphered based on the opening.
  • In several episodes of Monk, it's 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.
  • 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.
  • The Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink" is 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 have 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 until they reveal themselves 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.
    • Notable for when Ellery would address the camera to ask the audience if they had noticed the same clues he did. "Are you with me? You might even be ahead of me, all the clues have been right there."
  • The X-Files: The episode "The Amazing Maleeni" 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.
  • Played with in the Czech series "Hříchy pro pátera Knoxe" (Sins for Father Knox). The series has ten episodes, each of which contains a mystery that breaks one of the rules. In order for the viewers to solve the mystery, they need to be aware of this gimmick. Remembering the past episodes also helps because each rule can be only broken once per series.

  • Zig-zagged in Williams Electronics' WHO dunnit (1995). 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, where each room contains clues for the identity of the murderer, the weapon, or the crime scene.
    • Alibi
    • Mingle And Murder, where the murder is still ongoing.
  • There are exceptions to the Logic Puzzles rule above:
    • Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective attempts to obey Knox's Canon (how well varies) by engaging the players as assistants who run around London attempting to gather the same clues as Holmes.
    • There is a growing trend of murder mystery boxes, usually of the monthly subscription persuasion, where you are either given a standalone case with all the evidence, suspects, and case details you need to solve the case in just one box, or a three-to-sixth month murder mystery serial, complete with twists and turns where you are generally expected to cross off one or more suspects per new box of evidence. Examples of this include Unsolved Case Files, Sleuth Kings, Finders Seekers, Hunt-a-Killer, and Cold Case Crackers.
  • There are games one can purchase where the players play the character in a Fair Play Whodunnit, with costumes encouraged. How To Host a Murder is the most well-known line, but not the only one. It's like a do-it-yourself of the bed and breakfast whodunnits.

  • Agatha Christie was a member of the Detection Club, the members of which promised to write their stories like this.
    • The Mousetrap seems to break the "detective must not himself commit the crime" rule but the twist is that "the killer is only pretending to be a detective, while the real detective is pretending to be a guest".
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: In part III: 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.
    • Subverted in part VI: Fallen Women. Though the identity and whereabouts of Jack the Ripper is a major issue for the characters, the narrative is less interested in allowing the audience to solve the mystery than in examining what effect the search has on the characters.

    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.
  • 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 that 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.
    • There is one vital clue that helps considerably: 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 three 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 second 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.
    • The third one, Murder on the Border, is a homage to classic quests, and revolves arround a banquet being held at the World Guardian's new fort. During the banquet, one of the guests is poisoned, and as the banquet's host, the World Guardian tasks themselves with figuring out who did it by finding clues and interogating the other guests. It's easy to determine who did once you put all the evidence together, and at the Summation Gathering, your aide corrects you if you make a wrong deduction.
  • 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.
  • L.A. Noire largely obeys this, which can come as a surprise if you thought it was just a Grand Theft Auto clone.
  • Referenced in Nitroplus Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel by Mora due to the fact that the Another Story broke several rules, with the main one being that Mugen, the one who set up the whole recreation of an incident that happened before the events of Demonbane inserted themselves as a detective in the story. Mugen dismisses the complaint by saying that rules are made to be broken.
  • One quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion plays with this. A precious painting is stolen in Castle Chorrol, and the Countess hires the player to track down the thief; a list of four suspects, all members of the castle's staff, is given. While you can solve the crime just by exploring the estate and finding evidence, astute players can crack the case just by talking to the suspects: three of the four's alibis mention a big rainstorm on the night of the theft, while the court wizard, the culprit, claims she was making star charts in the courtyard, which wouldn't be possible because of the storm. If anything, deducing the mystery that way would point players in the right direction re: hunting for clues, but since it's not necessary, it's perfectly possible to simply ransack everyone's quarters until you find the items you need.
  • The May 2018 event storyline in Fate/Grand Order, "Murder at the KOGETSUKAN," featured a murder mystery with ten chapters named after each of Knox's commandments. After enough of the story was published to solve the crime, players were asked to submit their guesses of the killer's identity via an online poll prior to the final reveal. How much the story follows the rules are up to debate, with Holmes, Mash, and Professor M discussing the fifth rule when one of the suspects (Wǔ) turns out to be a foreigner with borderline supernatural powers, ruling him out as being the killer from that alone.
  • An infamous breaking of Knox's rules occurs in Heavy Rain. The Origami Killer is Scott Shelby, one of the player characters, and what seems to be his investigation of the murders is actually him cleaning up evidence. You can view the thoughts of the current character at any time, but Shelby's thoughts never even hint at his identity as the killer. Some elements of the final reveal seem implausible in their timing, which may be related to the game's mystery changing drastically during development.
  • Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue is a slightly odd version of this. The goal is to deduce which of Morty's robots Morty is hiding in, so you can catch him. Technically, all the robots are committing the same crime (painting a school with disappearing paint), but you can only stop them all by figuring out which robot is housing Morty on the first try. Guess the wrong robot, and it's game over. Otherwise, the game plays this trope straight, as the player finds clues and makes deductions at the same time as the Super Solver.
  • Disco Elysium, being a New Weird Deconstruction of the Detective Drama, deliberately subverts or breaks several of Knox's "Ten Commandments" during the course of the story.
    • Most importantly, the first commandment is broken entirely. The culprit turns out to be a former communist revolutionary hiding on a nearby island. While his existence is vaguely foreshadowed at several points, he is otherwise a Stranger Behind the Mask who only appears in the game's finale.
    • When it comes to supernatural elements, the second commandment is similarly broken, with supernatural ambiguities throughout the entire game. Ultimately, the cause of the murder is revealed to be entirely mundane, but supernatural elements are not ruled out 'as a matter of course' — at least not by the Detective himself, though admittedly he's crazy.
    • The third commandment is also repeatedly broken, you stumble on several secret rooms and passages during the game.
    • The sixth commandment is broken with gusto. Not only can failed skill checks actually help to accomplish certain things, certain skills can reveal information that later proves true, although often out of context.
    • The seventh commandment is followed with regard to the actual murder you are investigating, but it is only half the story. A lot of the clues you pick up have nothing to do with the case, and have to do with solving the ontological mystery of who The Detective is and why he is so messed up, which is a direct result of the drunken bender the detective went through.
    • The ninth commandment is broken with your partner, Detective Kim Kitsuragi. He plays a central role as a The Straight Man to your Defective Detective and is a heroic and competent detective capable of several deductions (and has a level of common sense) the Player Character isn't capable of. He also frequently and repeatedly keeps some of his own thoughts and conclusions from you, but only in regards to your amnesia and even then mostly because he's trying to protect the Detective's already fragile psyche. That said, being a By-the-Book Cop does keep him from breaking the sixth commandment the way the Detective can (and likely will), and it's implied Kim would not have been able to solve the case on his own. Kim is also is the son of immigrants from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Korea, but he does not count as a 'Chinaman' for the purposes of the fifth commandment because he's a born Revacholian, and serves neither as a suspect, nor a Red Herring, nor as a way to introduce foreign or exotic components to the mystery. Bringing up his race is in fact one of the fastest way to get on Kim's bad side.
  • The Interactive Fiction piece Who Shot Gum E. Bear? takes place in a literally candy-coated Crapsack World, where you play as a hard-boiled Film Noir-style detective trying to figure out who murdered someone. You are free to explore the town and ask questions. The solution is something you can deduce beforehand, taking into account what the characters say and what they're capable of doing.
  • Master Detective Archives: Rain Code has you investigate cases while the protagonist is just as unaware of the truth, but the clues provided by the Solution Keys help to reach the answer before the protagonist, and the protagonist is never the culprit for any of the cases, abiding Rule 1. However, the entire game breaks Rule 2, due to Master Detectives having Forensic Fortes, which are inherently supernatural, alongside the existence of Shinigami, a death god possessing the protagonist able to summon Mystery Labyrinths, which are essentially a Deus ex Machina in the form of an Eldritch Location, which also breaks Rule 6, something the Big Bad abuses with his supernatural powers to try and kill the protagonist near the end of the story. As well as this, the entire game breaks Rule 10, as the Big Bad is the protagonist's Evil Twin, something that isn't obvious from the start unless you're actively picking up on Makoto's hints.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Ace Attorney games, since you play as a lawyer whose job is to take clues found during investigation and use those to argue your point, most trials are these. The ones that aren't either give you more information than Phoenix gets or involve the player using the first court segments to provide probable cause to investigate something or someone that wasn't part of the investigation previously, allowing them to get more clues for later court days. For example, the presence of case 1-3's murderer is only established at the end of the first court day when you're able to corner Wendy Oldbag into admitting that several people (including the murderer) were present close to the crime scene, a fact which she'd previously concealed at their request and which can't be discovered during the investigation phase.
    • It gets ridiculous in the last case of Ace Attorney Investigations. Edgeworth figures out the culprit and Big Bad easily, but cornering the bastard is a marathon because the crime took place at an embassy and extraterritorial rights make it incredibly difficult to prove Edgeworth is even within his jurisdiction to catch the Big Bad.
    • Justice for All plays with breaking Rule 2 in its second case, which revolves around a murder that occurred during a spirit channeling session. It's entirely plausible, given what's already been established about spirit channeling, that the spirit Maya channeled did it, since the client, Dr. Turner Grey, was involved in ruining Mimi Miney's life before she died in a car crash, and prosecutor Franziska von Karma bases her case around this happening. Phoenix argues that while spirit channeling is a thing, it wasn't happening during this particular murder. Which, of course, turns out to be the truth. The killer, a not-really-dead Mimi Miney, knocked Maya out and impersonated her to fake a channeling gone wrong with the help of Maya's evil aunt.
    • The final case of Trials and Tribulations does break Rule 2, but spirit channeling has been a non-mystery plot point for three games by that point and the player can be expected to be familiar with its rules and limitations. It also plays hard and fast with Rule 10 — while the player is told upfront that Iris and Dahlia look alike, and can easily figure out that they're twins, the latter character turns out to be dead, so a Twin Switch should have been impossible. It's only by combining these two bits of information that the player can arrive at the solution.
    • Spirit of Justice more blatantly breaks Rule 2, since half of the game takes place in a country that revolves around the supernatural powers introduced in the previous games. In particular, Rayfa is able to use her channeling powers to show the court what the victim saw in their last moments as 'divination seances', and during case 3, the victim is channeled to testify about his own death, which he lies about since he killed himself in order to frame Maya. However, all such powers are well-explained for the audience (and Phoenix's) benefit, and their limits are plot points in trials. The solution to the final puzzle in the game is to ask Queen Ga'ran to use her spirit channeling powers to channel the Holy Mother... which will prove that she can't, and is thus ineligible for the throne by Khura'inese law.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney, specifically the third case of the second game, the victim is killed during an experiment to test a teleporter and is found dead at his destination. The possibility of the victim having a twin brother is brought up, but Prosecutor van Zieks rules it out. The actual explanation is more complicated but does not break the rule.
  • 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.
      • Half of Episode 5 is about weaponizing Knox's Decalogue, with Battler figuring out not how to solve the mystery from his experience with Beatrice's riddle, but by thinking of the solution first then justifying it with the Decalogue.
      • Though by the end of the visual novel a full answer is never explicitly given, the viewer can still check if their theories are correct by matching it with Willard's answers during Episode 7, where he uses flowery and symbolic language to provide answers to the Who and How of the first four Episodes. Episode 5 and the events in the real world go largely unanswered, however, though the latter is arguably never presented as a solvable mystery. The manga is less coy about the answers, visually depicting the Who, How and Why of every Episode in details in Episode 7 and 8.
      • This entire trope is deconstructed during the Question Arcs. The Anti-Mystery perspective, championed by Beatrice, is that fair-play mystery is inherently unrealistic. Only a fictional detective has a guarantee from god that the mystery is solvable and all the necessary clues to reach it are attainable. In the real world, there is no such thing. Perhaps testimonies and confessions are simply false. Perhaps the culprit was meticulous enough to not leave evidence anyway. Perhaps the necessary evidence is never recovered by the detective. To expect a solvable mystery is inherently illogical, as no such guarantee exists for any living breathing detective. The Answer Arcs reconstruct all this by saying that because the reader is never really given this guarantee, they must be able to have faith in the writer and tackle the puzzle anyway because, without this baseless belief, the mystery cannot be solved. Only with the trust that this question was crafted to be answered can they begin to find that answer. Without love, the truth cannot be seen.
    • 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 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 fictional pseudoscientific, 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 than 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. Alternatively, the facility itself is filled with doors with rules tied to the Deadly Game everyone's playing, and full of puzzles and one-way-until-unlocked-from-the-right-side doors. However, the doors with rules are explained at the start of the game, and characters are given a map (with one-way doors annotated) upon completion of a puzzle.
    • Rule 4: The reason some things are given long scientific explanations in game is that 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. The game's updated Rule 5 (No one with extra-sensory perception or similar powers may appear) is also technically not broken; none of the time travel abilities are described as ESP, and while Clover does have some abilities, they are never once relevant.
    • 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, Sigma never once knows more than the player. In fact, on 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. In addition, since you pair up with different characters, and follow different character routes, most of the characters end up as the "Watson" at some point. For one example, Tenmyouji and Quark keep quiet about the Facility being on the moon, and being set 45 years later than most players expect. They've been told if they talk, they'll be killed, but due to the game's copious amounts of foreshadowing, it's possible (though difficult) to guess/work out some details ahead of time.
    • 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. Further, the specific wording of "unless we have been duly prepared for them" is followed too. Depending on the order you get endings, either Luna route or Dio's ending provides a reasonable explanation for K looking exactly like Sigma. That is, K is either a robot or a clone respectively.
  • Zero Time Dilemma, the sequel game to Virtue's Last Reward, also plays with the rules, especially Rule 1: Zero II is Q — but the name Q isn't referring to the little robot boy, but the elderly, allegedly disabled man who's been sitting just out of frame the entire game. This character's existence is foreshadowed, and really perceptive players can pick up on it, but the game doesn't introduce this character to the audience, making it incredibly difficult to guess who Zero is.
  • Danganronpa usually follows these rules, as the protagonist is deeply involved in the investigation, and you use evidence discovered during investigation in the trial, so if you're quick on the uptake, you can probably solve most cases before the protagonist does. Rule 5 is somewhat broken in 2 and V3, each of which includes one "gaijin" character (Sonia, who's European, and Angie, who's implied to be Polynesian), but neither ends up being a culprit. There's also a mechanic where the player can turn weak points into Truth Bullets, which essentially means the player has to manually catch the killers' mistakes during trials and use it against them. For example, in THH's second trial, you'll be put in a Nonstop Debate about tracksuit colors. None of it actually matters, but the killer will accidentally reveal they know something they really shouldn't with their initial statement, which the player must catch and confront them with.
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc breaks Rule 3 (there are hidden rooms and corridors in Hope's Peak, several of whom the game master hides from you though none of the murders make any use of them), Rule 4 (though only in the Ontological Mystery of how the students were trapped in the first place, not the murders) as their memories were wiped by previously-unmentioned technology), and toes Rule 6 as Makoto's good luck is the reason he attended Hope's Peak in the first place, and it occasionally tosses him a bone. Kyoko really likes breaking rule 8 and investigating on her lonesome (she usually produces the clues she finds for murders at least). The fifth case is a temporary subversion as you're not given access to the necessary clues until it's re-tried in the next chapter, [[spoiler: as it's impossible to solve the case without knowing that bodies were preserved in the biology lab. And of course, it completely breaks rule 10; the "Junko Enoshima" who got killed early on was actually the unmentioned twin sister of the real Junko; while the notion that there was an extra student was introduced early, it was never hinted that the extra was Junko's twin. Junko even complains about how cliche the secret twin trope is when she's explaining what happened to the other students.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair gleefully breaks Rule 6 to bits with Nagito Komaeda, whose Ultimate Good Luck means that 'wander around and hope to stumble over evidence' is a completely legitimate strategy. Protagonist Hajime Hinata doesn't get these lucky breaks. Rule 2 is also broken in Case 5, where Nagito's supernatural luck is outright incorporated into his plan to have The Mole unintentionally kill him while leaving it impossible for the survivors to determine who the actual culprit could be.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the first case brutally breaks Rules 1 and 7. Player Character Kaede did it, and you switch to controlling the Deuteragonist Shuichi up to that point once you figure it out. You even get to recount several scenes linking apparently innocuous things Kaede did that link her to the crime. The sixth case is a retrial of the first, in which Shuichi proves that Kaede didn't do it, retroactively passing the rules after all, though the use of a secret passage from the girls' bathroom to the library toes the edge of Rule 3.
  • 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 
  • The Letters of the Devil is structured as a fair-play whodunit, and Word of God is that it will be entirely solvable prior to the big reveal.
  • Oddity Woods:
    • "The Cat Manor Mystery", the prologue chapter, is set up as an easy case with a simple solution... which is interrupted when protagonist Marietta barges into the crime scene and tries to uncover the culprit through supernatural means. Hilarity Ensues.
    • "The Demon of Labyrinth Inn" plays by the rules aside from Rule 2: a consequence of the Woods, which are filled with all sorts of ghosts and monsters. It also skirts Rule 3: while the Labyrinth Inn is filled with shifting walls and secret rooms, they're only a hindrance to the characters in the present day and didn't factor into the murder itself.

    Web Original 
  • Though The Reveal of the true nature of The Entity abducting people in Atop the Fourth Wall is shocking, Linkara points out that there have been numerous clues spelling out what's been happening all along, and the true identity of the culprit: It's Nineties Kid... or rather, Missingno, the glitch Pokemon, masquerading as Nineties Kid. Lewis later notes some people actually figured out the mystery and correctly guessed the nature of The Entity using some of the below clues before he published the Spider-Man: Planet of the Symbiotes video.
    • Nineties Kid has been strangely out of character, being substantially creepier and weirder than usual for months. Because Missingno can never perfectly copy a Pokemon, being full of errors and impossible stats.
    • Nineties Kid, as a huge fan of Nirvana, should never have made a creepy joke about propping up Kurt Cobain's corpse for a set... because he would have known that Cobain was cremated. note 
    • The Entity seems to taunt Linkara by going "Huuumaaan!" at him during videos. Except because Missingno is a Pokemon, it says its species name... or in this case, the species of what it imitates.
    • Nineties Kid showed up every time one of the other characters went missing, including a few otherwise impossible abductions.
    • Visual and audio glitches showed up all throughout Linkara's previous videos, particularly in the credits sequences. Triggering the Missingno glitch causes the credits of a game to become incredibly corrupted and distorted.
    • Statements slipped in the videos hint at subtler aspects of the Entity's true form, such as "Its voice is not its own" because Missingno doesn't have its own cry and "You've seen my bones before" because using the name "Lewis" to trigger the glitch causes a skeletal Kabutops to spawn.
    • The poem associated with the Entity gives away the whole game if thought through properly. Linkara admonishes himself for not taking time to consider it better.
      • "Beneath the sea beside the flame" — Cinnabar Island, a volcano island and the area associated with the Missingno glitch.
      • "Off the coast where the lost beast came" - Cinnabar Island's east coast, the specific glitch location. Missingno, as a misplaced code call for a Pokemon, is a 'lost beast.'
      • "To bring the world misery and shame" - Triggering the glitch risks doing terrible things to your game, like corrupting or crashing it. It also makes it more evident you were trying to cheat for something.
      • "A piece of the world is missing" - It's not saying that something is gone, but that a piece of the world is "Missing". It's The Entity's name.
      • "The path you should have never crossed" - It is very hard to accidentally trigger the Missingno glitch. You have to do it purposefully.
      • "The beast exacts a heavy cost" - Missingno glitches can corrupt a game or even crash it.
      • "The number of the beast is lost" - Missingno not only has no Pokedex entry number, but is itself literally named "Missing Number."
      • "You will know it by its hissing" - Missingno makes a distinctively flat, staticky hiss when it appears.
      • "The bones of Hell you cannot tame" - Two possible glitch Pokemon which can spawn alongside Missingno manifest as skeletal Aerodactyl and Kabutops fossils, which cannot be properly used as Pokemon.
      • "Devour your life and all your fame" - Per above, the audiovisual glitches and game corruption are likely to occur if the glitch is triggered, particularly affecting the Pokemon Hall of Fame.
      • "That is the price to play its game" - A hint that the Entity comes from a video game.
      • "And all while you're reminiscing" - A further hint that its source would be something people would be nostalgic for. The first generation of Pokemon games would land precisely in the year ranges to constitute a fond childhood experience for much of Linkara's audience.
  • 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.
  • In Ted's Human Cannonball riddle video, the narrator challenges you to solve both the main riddle (compensating for your cannon's sabotage), and figure out who sabotaged the cannon. The narrator introduces the three suspects — the Clown, the Lion Tamer, and the Ringmaster — beforehand and gives potential motives for each (the clown is in love with the trapezist partnered with the protagonist for the act, the Lion Tamer is jealous of your position as the star attraction, and the Ringmaster wants more money and publicity), but says nothing about which one it actually was; you have to use logic and clues hidden throughout the video to figure it out.
    • For the record, the culprit is the Lion Tamer. One of his shoulder tassels was torn off and can be found in the canon, and he looks noticeably angry when the Human Cannonball manages to survive by solving the riddle. The Ringmaster didn't do it because killing his star attractions isn't worth getting shock value. The Clown didn't do it because he isn't going to risk his love's life to sabotage his rival, and he can be seen waiting with gifts for the Trapezist, who would've been severely injured if the Human Cannonball hadn't been able to do his part properly. He did know about the sabotage, but tried to stop it, as indicated by the splash of the yellow liquid in his squirting flower next to the Lion Tamer.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the theme song to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which was, at least at 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, with the second, "Black Widower," even written with assistance from the head of Mystery Writers of America. 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 ( It was the baby, Maggie Simpson), 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 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.
  • Mira, Royal Detective: Any episode that features the bandits Manish and Poonam would have the viewer immediately realize they're the answer to the mystery of the day, given their obvious disguises and seemingly innocent tones.
  • 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.
  • The mystery portion of Hoodwinked! is designed with the intention of little kids being able to feel triumphant for figuring out who the villain is. The character appears in all four stories during the film's "Rashomon"-Style first two acts; the third story, in which he turns up completely unexpectedly at the scene of a crime and drops a few lines of dialogue that hint at his motivation, is the point at which most viewers, both child and adult, figure it out, with his largely throwaway recurrence in the fourth story being there just to confirm suspicions.
  • In The Owl House, one of the main mysteries of the first season is the identity of the person who cursed Eda. It is possible to eliminate and narrow down the suspects and figure out who it is. The main clue is that she was cursed when she was a child, so it has to be an adult character who knew her as a child.
  • Done in the Wonder Pets! episode "Save the Puppy" — as the team meets the puppy who has a Potty Emergency, the doggy door can be seen in the backyard door long before they even realize it.
  • Garfield's Babes and Bullets: A viewer can figure out the mystery with some thinking once Kitty gives Sam some important information. Kitty mentions that O'Tabby was an insomniac so, in addition to her making coffee for him, she would also fill out his prescriptions for sleeping pills. It contradicts O'Felix and the police saying he fell asleep at the wheel due to exhaustion.

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