TikTok is obsessed with an unsolved murder mystery novel from 1934

TikTok became so obsessed with this murder mystery novel it sold out basically everywhere. Now the publisher is rushing to reprint it. 

It all started when a user posted about her fascination with the 1934 novel Cain’s Jawbone by Edward Powys Mathers. The book is also a puzzle for readers to solve and requires the creation of a “murder board.” Cain’s Jawbone intrigued users so much it quickly sold out on Amazon. By the time it was restocked it had increased in value and was double the price. 

What is Cain’s Jawbone? 

Cain’s Jawbone was published in 1934 by Edward Poys Mathers under the pen name “Torquemada.” In the murder mystery, readers must identify six killers and their victims. They also must rearrange the first 100 pages of the novel in the correct chronological order. Only three people have ever solved the puzzle, two British men in the 1930s and in 2020 British comedy writer John Finnemore. The U.K. publisher Unbound reprinted the book in 2019. 

Unbound is currently hosting a competition that will end on Dec. 31, 2022. Readers who solve the mystery will receive £250 in-store credit at Unbound. 

Why is Cain’s Jawbone popular on TikTok?

@saruuuuuuugh

too early to tell but i fear i may have girlbossed a bit too close to the sun #fyp #mystery #cainsjawbone

♬ Knives Out! (String Quartet in G Minor) – Nathan Johnson

Sarah Scannell posted a TikTok where she purchased the novel at Green Apple Books in San Francisco. 

“I decided to take this nearly impossible task as an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and turn my entire bedroom wall into a murder board,” Scannell said in the video. 

Scannell’s video has since received over 5.5 million views on TikTok. 

@saruuuuuuugh

Reply to @pamboblam just a girl standing on her bed yelling about what “going gay” means #fyp #mystery #cainsjawbone #booktok

♬ original sound – sarah

She said in a follow-up video that the most difficult part about solving the mystery is not that it isn’t in chronological order, but that the 1930s lingo is hard to discern for modern readers. 

The hashtag #cainsjawbone currently has 9.6 million views. People everywhere are trying to solve the mystery. 

TikToker @pocahontashoney created a murder wall in her very own living room

@monarchistbookclub

starting with an analysis of the cover and physical book itself #cainsjawbone

♬ Detective – Gregor Heinze & Philipp Rohmer & Laurids Richter

The user @monarchistbookclub “dusted off” their degree in English and criminal justice studies. They meticulously organized clues and took notes.

What is a “murder board”? 

A murder board is a dedicated space where people post clues, leads and information in order to solve a homicide case. It’s usually a large bulletin board, whiteboard or wall. 

Cain’s Jawbone sold out around the world

After Scannell’s viral video the novel sold out on Amazon and eventually returned at double the price. Unbound addressed the rise in popularity on Instagram

“Last week, a very strange and exciting thing happened. Our murder mystery puzzle book Cain’s Jawbone, first published in 1934 and brought back to life thanks to our amazing pledgers, went viral on TikTok! We are reprinting as quickly as we can, and we are delighted to say that preorders are now available on our site!” the publisher said

According to SFGateUnbound has more than 5,000 open backorders in the U.S., 2,500 in Canada and 3,000 in the U.K for Cain’s Jawbone. 

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