Be a Sleuth with Detective Riddles!


Brain teasers come in many forms. Riddles, logic problems, math puzzles, and deduction games all fall under the umbrella of brain teasers.

One variety of brain teasers that has always appealed to me is the detective riddle. It’s probably because, deep down, who wouldn’t want to glance at a crime scene and deduce what happened, a la Sherlock Holmes?

While brain teasers can consist of all sorts of scenarios, detective riddles usually center around a crime committed or a police investigation to be completed.

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Here’s an example of a detective riddle:

A dead female body lies at the bottom of a multistory building. It looks as though she committed suicide by jumping from one of the floors.

When the detective arrives, he goes to the first floor of the building, opens the closed window, and flips a coin towards the floor. He goes to the second floor and does the exact same thing. He continues to do this until he gets to the top floor of the building.

When he comes back down, he states that it was a murder and not a suicide. How does he know that?

This is a good example of the detective riddle, because you’re given all of the information you need in the writeup. Some detective riddles involve making strange, unlikely assumptions, which are a sign of a poorly constructed brain teaser. This one is fair, but not ideal.

The solution, of course, is that the window was closed on every floor, meaning that someone shut the window after the person’s body went out the window. (We ARE told that the body fell from “one of the floors,” but doesn’t that necessarily preclude the roof? That little question mark keeps this riddle from being an ideal example of the form.)


Now, here’s an example of a bad detective riddle:

Nicole went to the police to report that someone had stolen her vintage ring. When the police got to her house they notice that the window was broken, there was a total mess inside, and there were dirty footprints on the carpet. But, there were no other signs of a break-in.

The next day, the police arrested Nicole for fraud. Why?

The solution? Well, according to the source I found: As soon as the police got to the “crime scene,” they knew that Nicole has most likely staged the break-in. The glass from the broken window was all outside of the house, meaning that it had been broken from the inside.

But the riddle doesn’t mention any glass. In fact, it says there were “no other signs of a break-in,” which would include the glass on the OUTSIDE.

See? This one is full of holes.

Now that you have a sense of how detective riddles work, let’s test your puzzly skills with a few!


A Japanese ship was leaving the port and on its way to open sea. The captain went to oil some parts of the ship and took his ring off so it wouldn’t get damaged. He left it on the table next to his bunk. When he returned, it was missing. He suspected three crew members could be guilty and asked them what they had been doing for the ten minutes that he had been gone.

The cook said, “I was in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner.”

The engineer said, “I was working in the engine room making sure everything was running smoothly.”

The seaman said, “I was on the mast correcting the flag because someone had attached it upside down by mistake.”

The captain immediately knew who it was. How?



A chemist was murdered in his own lab. The only evidence was a piece of paper that had the names of chemical substances written on it. The substances were nickel, carbon, oxygen, lanthanum, and sulfur. The chemist only had four people come by his lab on the day of the murder: fellow scientist Claire, his nephew Nicolas, his wife, and his friend Marc.

The police arrested the murderer right away. How did they know who it was?


A man was found on the floor dead with a cassette recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. When the police arrived at the scene they pressed play on the recorder. It was the man’s voice. He said, “I have nothing else to live for. I can’t go on,” followed by the sound of a gunshot.

After listening, the police knew that this was a murder, not a suicide. How?

Did you unravel these detective riddles? Let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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