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As a thriller lover, there is nothing better than a thriller that really excites me. For those new to the mystery genre, it is a mystery that takes place in a seemingly impossible situation – usually in a locked room where there is no obvious exit or entrance. Often times it is murder, but it can also be theft or another crime such as vandalism. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders on Rue Morgue” is not only considered to be the first crime story, but also a riddle about locked rooms. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is probably the most famous crime thriller in a locked room. I’m going to argue here that the subgenre is the best that crime novels have to offer.

Get to know you

Like many readers of the genre, I read for two things: the mystery itself and the characters. Rarely do you have a good puzzle without great characters. Sometimes these characters are exemplified by a detective like a Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey, or a cast of characters without a star detective. In a locked room puzzle, the occupation usually stays together and is limited by circumstances – whether it’s the residents of the house during the theft or a maddened blizzard keeping everyone in check.

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The proximity allows the reader to really focus on the characters. The suspects are specified; Backstories, quirks, hatred, and love really come to the fore in these mysteries. Occasionally, an external character can come in, usually in the form of a detective or a cop, but it’s usually self-contained.

Setting the scene

Part of the benefit of having murder secrets in locked rooms is that the location of the crime is critical. The author really needs to go into the details of the place and sometimes a map will accompany the book. Every room, every detail can be important to the story. Such beautiful evocative descriptions are an essential part of this work.

It doesn’t hurt that many murders take place in locked rooms in palatial houses. This trend is likely a product of the Golden Age of the 1930s, which is where so many secrets come from and are approaching. There is certainly something appealing about watching the High and Powerful when all of their filthy secrets fall out. This is a topic that deserves its own contribution to Book Riot.


The main puzzles about locked rooms need to be clever. Just as I argued in a previous post on poison and murder secrets, writers need to plan a secret around locked rooms so that it is believable and, above all, solvable. Nobody likes to read a riddle where the solution cannot be guessed. The reader will be unhappy to learn that there was a secret door that there was no way he could have known about; It is better if the clues are all in front of you, but you just haven’t really thought about it. While it’s not a book, the BBC show Jonathan Creek does a great job with it. The inventor of a magic trick, Mr. Creek, becomes embroiled in impossible crimes and shows how the crimes, usually murder, were often committed in very secular ways. It’s brilliant for those who are television inclined.

Writers need to think of clever ways to commit the crime in unusual circumstances that affect people’s perceptions. We want things to be magical but actually possible. Instead of Mysteries being Whodunits, we also added the Howdunit element to the mix. It is a mystery implicated in crime in many ways. Which one is perfect.

For people who want some great locked room secrets suggestions, we’ve got classic recommendations for you here and some newer tips here. For people in need of help choosing their next one, check out this Locked Room Mystery Quiz.