Most detective stories tend to use puzzle game as a style in the writing of books. The main idea behind use of puzzle games is to ensure the reader is involved in critical thinking thus make the story as interesting as possible. In the detective stories ‘Mysterious Affairs’ and ‘Silver Blaze’ the authors use puzzle game as a style of writing. Some elements of puzzle games in the two stories include: appropriate field settings; various player combinations; plan of goals; barriers and handicaps; clues; and rules of fair play.
First, appropriate field settings are evident in the two stories. The two stories take place in a social environment that is like a normal set up where people live in today. This gives a logical scene of the murder to the reader, making the reader to have familiar settings that are helpful in interpreting the rhymes correctly. In the ‘Silver Blaze’ the murder occurs in a stable where the horse had been locked in (Maida 36). Similarly in ‘Mysterious Affairs ‘the murder occurs in a country estate, where there are relatives, colleagues and travelers.
Secondly, goals are well planned in the two stories. Typically, it is not easy to ascertain the goals in puzzle games. In our case, everyone has the possibility of being a victim of murder. Christie demonstrates that the person to be killed would be vulnerable and that the innocent could suffer by bringing events upon themselves. Conon leaves the reader in a state of dilemma on the main suspect who would have undertaken the murder.
Thirdly, the element of barriers and handicaps is eminent in the two stories. The reader faces lots of difficulties in evaluating who the possible murderer is, as in the case of the renowned hidden identity in the “Silver Blaze”. Conon ensures that the reader cannot know the suspect from either the horse, Holmes or the family members.
Fourthly, clues have been used in the two stories. Clues are usually tricky since they could be false or genuine. However, when given a direct clue, one can easily arrive at an appropriate answer. Christie uses impersonation, hidden, and mistaken identity to makes sure that there is no definite clue which will assist the sleuth to come up with a suitable suspect.
Christie also builds up suspicion that assists the sleuth to uncover information, as exhibited in the act of trying to match cards on the table so as to come up with a solution (27). Moreover, Christie clearly displays a Janus-faced character that confuses everyone when he portrays different pictures thus deceiving the public (24). He does not allow the reader to get a straight forward formula. Instead, he ensures that the reader is able to invent imaginative variations that lead to formulation of a basic formula by use of clues.
Finally, the element of fair play has been used in the two stories. Puzzle games focus on fair play with the reader, ensuring that problem solving is less difficult. A fair game does not involve a lot of participants and must give consistent results. Christie manipulates the reader’s point of view by concealment and ambiguity as a result she gives a false picture (36).
Puzzle games assists the reader to anticipate as the mystery of the story unravels, be able to solve problems and view situations from different perspectives, especially those related to crime whereby out of a group of suspects, one individual turns out to be personally responsible.
Apart from use of puzzle games, another approach that would fit both stories would be use of riddles. This would be appropriate as it does not give direct answers, but allows someone to think wisely like in Ten Little Indians. Riddles also allow one to imagine the true scenario and to evaluate answers correctly.
In conclusion, the elements of puzzle games that are evident in the detective fiction story ensure that the reader gains more interest in the story. Significantly, puzzle game gives the reader a chance to actively participate through critical thinking. Puzzle games can be used to test someone’s thinking capacity.
Christie, Agatha. Witness for the Prosecution: A play in Three Acts. New York: S. French, 1982.
Maida, Patricia. Murder She Wrote: A Study of Agatha Christie’s Detective Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1982.