How To Play Dear Holmes

There are three popular ways to play Dear Holmes:

Below are more detailed instructions for playing Dear Holmes in these three ways.

Playing Dear Holmes Solo

1. Gather Materials & Set The Mood

Each detective likes to solve in a different way, but before you begin your first mystery, we advise finding a cozy space in your home or apartment to solve from. Gather pens, pencils, paper, notecards, a bulletin board, or whatever else you’d like to use to keep track of clues and suspects. When your first letter arrives, dim the light, brew a pot of tea (or prepare a snifter of your drink of choice), and settle in to start solving.

Helpful Hint: If you ever lose track of which envelope contains your next letter, find the number printed on the lower-right corner of your envelope (on the addressed side). “#1” will be the first letter of a mystery, “#2” the 2nd, and so on.

2. Read & Analyze Your Clue Letters

When your first clue letter arrives, read it carefully and take note (or take a mental note) of the persons involved, the crime or mystery to be solved, and any initial theories you might have. As new clue letters arrive (you’ll receive 3-4 per case), update your theory of the case, add and eliminate suspects, and interrogate motives. If there is a secret code or visual puzzle (some mysteries include these), start theorizing solutions.

Helpful Hint: No outside research is required to solve a Dear Holmes mystery, but outside knowledge can be useful in helping you solve the case faster. Some detectives find it helpful to have a dictionary, atlas, or encyclopedia handy as they solve.

3. Write Holmes With Your Solution

After reading your last clue letter, finalize your theory of the case and write a letter to Holmes with your solution. You can save this letter to compare with Holmes’s, when it arrives, or send it in to us via USPS or online for your chance to be named Featured Detective and win a prize and recognition on our blog.

Helpful Hint: We generally advise reading each letter as it arrives, but if you’d prefer to solve the case all at once, just gather your letter and wait until your last clue letter arrives.

4. Read Holmes’s Solution & Compare:

At the end of each mystery, you’ll receive a letter from Sherlock Holmes explaining how he solved your latest case. Compare his solution to yours to see where you erred (or, if you’re successful, where you could have erred if you weren’t so clever).

If you sent in your solution to us, keep an eye on Dearholmes.com/blog in the weeks that follow to see who our judges name “Featured detective”.

Playing Dear Holmes As A Team

1. Prepare For Your Mystery Night

First, choose a location to host your mystery night and invite your fellow detectives. Some Dear Holmes teams play in a home or apartment, while others meet at a local bar or a coffee shop.

Next, gather supplies. If you’re playing at home, set up a whiteboard, bulletin board, or chalkboard to keep track of your clues. If you’re playing somewhere else, gather some paper, notecards, pens, and pencils for your team.

Helpful Hint: If you ever lose track of which envelope contains your next letter, find the number printed on the lower-right corner of your envelope (on the addressed side). “#1” will be the first letter of a mystery, “#2” the 2nd, and so on.

2. Read & Discuss Your Letters

One-by-one, open your clue letters and read them aloud. You can read them all in one sitting or meet with your group once a week, but either way, come to a consensus on a theory of the case before moving on to the next letter.

3. Debate the Evidence & Devise a Solution

Debate your solution as a group until you’ve come to an agreement as to the facts of the case, then write out a letter to Holmes explaining your solution, or an outline if you’d prefer.

If you’d like to submit it to the Featured Detective competition (We accept group submissions), devise a name for your detective agency and send in your letter online or via USPS.

4. Read Holmes’s Solution & Compare

As a group, read Holmes’s solution letter to see how you fared. If you got everything right, congratulations. If you got a few things wrong, laugh it off, share a drink with your fellow detectives, and plan your strategy for how you’ll get the next one right. Your next clue letter is only days away!

Using Dear Holmes For Game Night

1. Get Ready For Your Game Night

First, choose a location to host your game night and invite your detectives. Next, gather supplies. Provide each detective with a pen or pencil and paper or notecards. You’ll also need a letter opener and the five letters of the mystery your detectives will solve. Do not open the envelopes.

When your detectives arrive, distribute the pens or pencils and paper.

(Optional: If you’d like a copy of each letter for each detective, we do offer group packages)

Helpful Hint: If you ever lose track of which envelope contains your next letter, find the number printed on the lower-right corner of your envelope (on the addressed side). “#1” will be the first letter of a mystery, “#2” the 2nd, and so on.

2. Read Each Letter One-By-One

As host, you will be the keeper of letters. One-by-one, open each envelope, remove the clue letter, and read it aloud to the group (or play the audio narration from your Dear Holmes private podcast feed).

After each letter is read (for all except the last clue letter), allow your detectives 10 minutes to formulate their theories, review their notes, and examine the letter on paper.

After your last clue letter, allow your detectives 15 minutes to write down their theory of the case.

3. Present Your Solutions

Gather your group and collect their written theories of the case. Assign each theory a number, then select one member of the group to read them aloud to the group. Do not reveal who wrote which solution.

4. Eliminate The Impossible & Select a Winner

Have all detectives but the host close their eyes and raise the number of fingers corresponding to the theory they think is the least plausible. Tally the votes and eliminate that theory from voting. Repeat this process until a winning theory of the case is selected, then ask the winning detective to reveal themself.

5. Read Holmes’s Solution

As a group, read Holmes’s solution letter to see how you fared and where you erred. If you correctly deduced the solution, celebrate a job well done. If you didn’t, herald your champion detective, and plot your strategy for winning next month.