Bookstore “Review”: BookEnds

If you haven’t read my review for Da Shop, check that out! It has some background information in regards to my experience with indie bookstores.

Before I start off this review, I have to first ask myself: how in the world have I lived in Hawaii for 25+ years without any memory of going to Kailua????

Backstory: I was born and raised on the island of Oahu (though I lived on Kauai for two years in elementary school). I am nearly 26 years old and somehow today went my partner drove us to Kailua, I was SHOCKED at how beautiful that place is because for the life of me I cannot remember ever going there. What the heck!?

Sorry, now to the actual review.

The Positives

When I walked into BookEnds I was immediately overjoyed to see that I finally found the type of bookstore where books are basically spilling off of shelves. This is the aesthetic I have been searching for in a bookstore my entire life!

Books were piled on top of bookshelves, on the ground, in the stools, everywhere. It is probably impossible to actually locate every book in the store without spending hours upon hours searching every nook and cranny.

This store is a little far from where I live–especially considering the Pali is closed for reconstruction–but as soon as I stepped in, I knew that I wanted to come back.

My partner actually brought some used books to sell and they gave him a significantly better price than the other used book store on Oahu. We have two boxes of our books to get rid so we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them. He brought 4 books of various conditions and genres as a test run and it looks like this place is the winner!

The Negatives

Unfortunately, this place did have its downfalls for me. Since books were stacked on the stools they have in the isles, there isn’t much room to sit down. Since the overall goal of a business is to sell things this wasn’t a huge downer for me, but rather a mental note for when I return.

The biggest issue I had with BookEnds was that I walked in thinking that it was a place to get books for a bargain. While they do have a good amount of used books, there’s actually a large amount of brand new books occupying the shelves.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that the used books and new books seem to be mixed together in no distinguishable way. Basically the only way to know if a book is used or new is to inspect it. Since the books are in various places all over the store, it becomes very tiring trying to find the books that you don’t have to pay full value for.

Additionally, theres no way of really knowing what versions of a book they have. The bookshelves will hold one copy of the book but they may have a different version sitting on top of the bookshelf hidden, or maybe in one of the stacks on the floor, or maybe even in the back storage room. You can ask a worker if they have what you’re looking for but from conversations I overheard, they can only make their best guess.

Also, as a personal preference, I buy hardcover books and it seems this store favors paperbacks. If I found something interesting on the shelf in paperback, I had no real way of knowing if there was a hardcover copy hidden somewhere in the store.

In particular, my partner and I were looking to find a hardcover version of Cinder today. There was a paperback version in a YA bookshelf and so we started looking in the book piles but didn’t find the hardcover version.

I basically gave up looking and only started again because I was strolling through the children’s section and saw that they had a stash of YA novels hidden in the top shelf of one of the bookcases. One of them was a hardcover version of Cress which is in the same series as Cinder so I decided to ask a worker if they knew whether they had a hardcover of Cinder. That’s when they informed me that they usually return hardcovers once they get the paperback version *insert sad face emoji*. They offered to order it for me but at that point it would have meant me paying full price for a novel that I can order myself online for cheaper.

Summary

BookEnds is truly a store that you can find yourself getting “lost” in. They have a lot of books and the environment is really charming. If you decide to visit, I suggest setting aside a good amount of time to search through the stacks because it will not be an easy task if you’re looking for something specific.

Sleuth Kings Isaac Case 001 Detailed Solutions/Hints

If you’re looking for my (spoilerless) review of this case, click here!

The following information is organized by clue item/puzzle. Any items not listed were simply props. Some people have complained online about Sullivan giving away too much when you ask him for a hint. I have tried to create multiple hints for how to solve each puzzle. I hope that this can provide a better experience for fellow Sleuth King subscribers.

At the end of each puzzle section will be the complete “solution”. If anyone found any additional information (or think my conclusions are wrong) from these clues, please comment and let me know!

I have ordered it in the way that I think is the most enjoyable order of going through each puzzle. Sullivan suggests going through the clues in order so I will start with Clue 1. At the very end I will summarize the entire story of the case as best as I can.

Important disclaimer: I will NOT be posting any detailed pictures of the items that are in this case. If you want to experience this case, you must subscribe to Sleuth Kings.

Clue 1: Goodbye Note

Clue Background

Before Chelsea mysteriously disappeared, she left her roommate Sam a goodbye note. Sullivan doesn’t see anything wrong with the goodbye note except for the fact that Sam says that everything mentioned in the note didn’t actually happen.

Hint 1

The actual content of this note is pretty interesting if you like drama but since the events Chelsea describes didn’t actually happen, reading the note through isn’t very important. You can also ignore the doodles for now.

Hint 2

If you haven’t noticed already, there are a bunch of strange typos in the note.

Ultimate Hint

Write out all of the words that are misspelled in order.

Solution

Once you locate all the typos it should give the following hidden message

Sam, someone is following me. If I disappear, use the mirror and note to find my website. Figure out the password with these words: phobia, opaque, light, smoothie, mexico, super.

Clue 2: Crumpled Paper

Clue Background

Next to Chelsea’s bed Sullivan found this crumpled note along with a small mirror.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 1 yet, do that. Just like with Clue 1, you can ignore the doodles for now.

Hint 2

Like the message from Clue 1 says, you’ll need to use the mirror to solve this clue.

Ultimate Hint

If you haven’t flipped the paper over yet, do that and notice that the two sides are halves of the same message.

Solution

My partner and I were actually able to do most of this with just one side of the paper and a mirror. Eventually I used an app on my phone to combine the two halves and get the final html since that was hard to read with our original approach. The message in its entirety should read:

Sam, I’m in danger. I hid information about these people in case they come for me. Go to my website to find it: https://siteninja.wixsite.com/help

Website Puzzle:

After you crack Clue 2, it will lead you to Chelsea’s website. Chelsea says that in order to get the password, you’ll need to use a list of words she’s given you. Place these words properly in the diagram she provides and then the password is the person associated to the answer you get.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 1 yet, do that.

Hint 2

At the end of her note in Clue 1, Chelsea gave you the following words: phobia, opaque, light, smoothie, mexico, super.

Hint 3

Like it says, you’ll need to place these words in the rectangular diagram given. To get you started, you can place the words Light and Super since these are both five letter words and the five colored boxes in each row need to have a letter in them. Then you can look at the different choices possible for the two columns needed for the code.

Ultimate Hint

The possibilities for the two columns are:
PH      IA
OP      UE
L         T
MO     HI
ME     CO
S         R

Solution

Once you get the code together it should read

Holmes Author

So the password is: Doyle

Clue 3: Research Notes

Clue Background

Sullivan found this paper labeled “Research Notes” near Chelsea’s laptop. The story doesn’t make much sense and there are strange circles throughout.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 2 yet and the associated website puzzle, do that.

Hint 2

As the website says, you’ll need to place the 6 clear “bookmarks” over the circles. They will block out certain words to make a message.

Hint 3

The inner shapes should not overlap with the inner shapes on the bookmarks when they overlap.

Ultimate Hint

You’ll need to place three horizontally and three vertically. As stated in Hint 3, the inner shapes should not overlap so once you think you have it, check to see that the black shape leaves you with readable words.

Solution

Once you place the bookmarks appropriately it says:

There are three men. Two are in their early thirties and one is in his fifties. I followed them to their new warehouse. It’s in a building on the corner of 2 streets. I won’t go into more detail here. Just know reading art backwards can reveal helpful directions.

Clue 4: Last Diary Entry

Clue Background

Chelsea was keeping an online diary on her computer. This was the entry that was opened so Sullivan printed it out along with the few other entries she made to see if there was anything more to them than meets the eye.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 3 yet, do that.

Hint 2

These doodles should look familiar to you; they are all over the other clues that you had to solve.

Hint 3

Convert each picture to the words that they are associated to (by looking at the other clues and webpages).

Ultimate Hint

Once you convert them, the message will need to be read starting from the bottom right and moving left and up.

Solution

The pictures decode into:

Read diary entry Not Again. Read every third word after like for where I’ve been taken.

Diary Puzzle

There are two additional diary entries that Sullivan printed out from Chelsea’s computer. They talk about Chelsea’s struggles with anxiety after she was almost killed.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 4 yet, do that.

Ultimate Hint

You’ll need to follow the instructions from Clue 4. Each time you see th word like, count three words after and note that word down.

Solution

Writing down the third word after every instance of “like” should get you the following message:

Their base is at the intersection of Ludlow and Monument.

The Full Story (MAJOR Spoilers)

Sullivan King has been a detective for a long time. He has solved many cases for other people but there’s one case that he has yet to crack: the disappearance of his father, Isaac.

Long after his dad disappeared, Sullivan received a mysterious message from someone claiming that Isaac is still alive. Apparently an unnamed woman claims that after Isaac went missing, she was saved by someone matching his description. After tracking this woman down, the informant gives us her name: Chelsea Anderson.

Unfortunately Chelsea vanishes before Sullivan has a chance to talk to her. Known to be paranoid and anxious, Sullivan can’t decide if Chelsea ran away or if she was kidnapped.

Chelsea’s roommate Sam is just as shocked to learn that Chelsea is gone. After learning that Sullivan is a private detective, Sam agrees to let him look around their house.

One of the items that Sullivan finds is a goodbye note written from Chelsea to Sam. In the note, Chelsea talks about how Sam has ruined her life by getting her fired–an event Sam claims has never happened. Upon further investigation, it’s discovered that this note has a hidden message: Chelsea is being followed and she’s left more information on her website in case anything happens.

A note next to Chelsea’s bed contains the website url that they need. On the website, Chelsea explains that she was saved by an older man a few months ago who warned her not to speak of the incident. Suffering from severe anxiety over the near death experience, Chelsea had broken her silence in a support group. Not long after, she noticed she was being followed. She says that if Sam has made her way to this website then something has gone wrong and they’ve taken her.

A document and diary on Chelsea’s computer gives both Sam and Sullivan a description of some of the men along with their location. Sullivan travels there and is able to not only save Chelsea from her kidnappers but also confirm that it was indeed his father that saved her months ago.

Now safe, Chelsea explains that the men kidnapped her and tied her to a chair but didn’t harm her in any other way. Sullivan is also able to get more details about the incident that occurred months ago.

Chelsea was a reporter investigating a potential story. Her investigation accidentally led her to a warehouse of a drug trade run by a group called Cinder. She suspected that they did more than drug dealing but stopped looking into it when she was almost killed.

Sullivan is convinced that Cinder has to be involved in something much more dangerous. His father wouldn’t have disappeared without notice simply over a drug ring. He vows to keep looking and will let you know if he finds anything new.

Regarding My Book Reviews

I wanted to make this post because you might have noticed that I have been publishing a lot of Sleuth Kings reviews and not many book reviews lately.

This is because of two main things:

  1. I have worked through around 6 Sleuth Kings cases with my partner so I’m trying to catch up on those. (I also have one being delivered to me tomorrow so RIP my backlog.)
  2. I am currently reading House of Leaves which is proving to be an extremely daunting task. In fact, I have heard from someone on my bookstagram that they have tried to finish this book over the course 10 years and have not yet succeeded. Further, they actually don’t know anyone who has finished it. I’m still truckin’ tho.

Now you might be like hey Jenny what the heck it says you’re also reading The Raven King but I don’t actually plan on reviewing TRK just yet. The Raven Cycle is one of my favorite series and I want to do it justice. Once I complete the series I’m going to read it all the way through before any reviews.

I’m currently toying with the idea of starting another YA book that I can hopefully finish quickly and post a review soon. If I do decide to take this course I’ll be reading 3 books at once so wish me luck!

Sleuth Kings Isaac Case 001 Review

If you are looking for my complete walkthrough with hints and solutions, they will be posted soon! If not, please continue to the review.

Rating: 5/5 (Time Spent: 1 hour)

Subscription Description

Sleuth Kings is a monthly subscription that delivers fictional detective stories to your door. The premise for each case is that you have been contacted by Detective Sullivan King about a recent case that he has been hired for in which he needs your help. Each month you receive a manila envelope that contains:

  • Instructions on where to go to begin email interactions with Sullivan regarding the case
  • A list of the cases contents (so that you can check that you’ve received everything)
  • A case overview written by Sullivan
  • Approximately 4 clues (there is also a list describing the clues that you can read to help you get started or choose to ignore for an extra challenge)
  • Some additional material/props

Each case is its own story so unlike certain mystery subscriptions (like Hunt A Killer), you can solve the entire case in one sitting. Soon you will begin to receive emails from Sullivan involving his search for his missing father Isaac King and after completing 4 cases you will receive a bonus case regarding Isaac’s disappearance.

The clues come in the large envelope and the epilogue envelope is for after you solve the case.

Isaac Case 001: Find Chelsea Anderson (Premise)

By the time you receive this case in the mail, you should have already received several emails from Sullivan regarding his missing father. It all started when an anonymous informant left Sullivan a message that his father may still be alive.

This informant bases their information on the story of a woman named Chelsea Anderson. Chelsea claims that after Isaac King went missing, a man matching his description saved her life when she happened upon an illegal drug ring.

The informant successfully tracks Chelsea down but before they can ask her any questions she vanishes. Sullivan needs your help finding out Chelsea’s location so that he can (1) verify if his father is in fact still alive and (2) make sure she’s okay.

The items inside the case file.

Review (No Spoilers)

I cannot tell you how happy I was to discover that this case wasn’t a myth. When deciding on a mystery subscription package many of the reviews mentioned this bonus case. The reason I was skeptical was because no one bothered to mention that the package would be preceded by emails. As a result, I had started to wonder if the package had simply been replaced by bonus emails instead.

First off, a really nice thing about this bonus package and the emails is that at every step you are given a chance to refresh yourself on what has already been established. I have a bad memory so this was a particularly useful tool. If you have a better memory then you can just simply skip this part.

Okay! Let’s get to the actual case content. As usual, you are given a description of the case and a clear objective. My partner and I worked through this case in around an hour which is shorter than I would have liked but I actually thought the difficulty of the clues was pretty on point. In fact, I think that this might have been my favorite Sleuth Kings case so far!

I do want to be transparent and say that this might have to do with the fact that the last case I did (Case 005) had an error in one of the clues which left me very frustrated. That’s also the reason why I have been procrastinating on posting any blog posts about that case. I can happily announce that this case didn’t have any major flaws (there was a small typo in one of the letters that Sullivan wrote but like whatever).

Overall I was very satisfied with this case and I hope that the search for Sullivan’s father continues to be just as enjoyable. (Side Note: After we worked through this case, my partner also mentioned that he really liked this one in particular so A+ to Sleuth Kings!)

Sleuth Kings Introduction Case Review

Rating: 5/5

This small introduction is a lovely surprise for any new Sleuth King subscriber as long as you don’t expect too much from it.

Subscription Description

Sleuth Kings is a monthly subscription that delivers fictional detective stories to your door. The premise for each case is that you have been contacted by Detective Sullivan King about a recent case that he has been hired for in which he needs your help. Each month you receive a manila envelope that contains:

  • Instructions on where to go to begin email interactions with Sullivan regarding the case
  • A list of the cases contents (so that you can check that you’ve received everything)
  • A case overview written by Sullivan
  • Approximately 4 clues
  • A Clue Analysis that describes the clues and how to approach each one. (Ignore this paper for an extra challenge)
  • Some additional material/props

Each case is its own story so unlike certain mystery subscriptions (like Hunt A Killer), you can solve the entire case in one sitting. I am told that every 4 cases you receive a bonus case about finding Sullivan’s missing father. (So far I have not received this but I have received several bonus emails regarding his father.)

Case 000: Introduction (Premise)

When you first sign up to receive your Sleuth Kings subscription boxes, you should receive a small envelope in the mail before your first case arrives. Inside is a small card from Sullivan welcoming you to Sleuth Kings. In this card, he presents you with a link to a free introductory case designed to give you a sample of what your first case will hold.

Review (No Spoilers)

First of all I’d like to apologize for doing this out of order. I had honestly forgotten that we received this card until it fell out of the place I was storing all of our Sleuth Kings packages. Considering how short the case is, I do not plan on doing a walkthrough for this one (sorry!).

This case was overall a very nice and interesting introduction to the Sleuth Kings universe. Starting off with an email from Sullivan, you are presented with a list of tasks that you have to complete in a specific order in order to move on. Kind of like a scavenger hunt.

Now that I’ve completed several cases, I can say that this is NOT really how Sleuth Kings packages work. In full cases, you can work in whatever order you want but nevertheless I really enjoyed solving this introductory case.

The case probably took my partner and I around 15 minutes to complete so don’t expect too much of a challenge from it. It is really just intended to be a free sample rather than a full complementary package. As long as you don’t start this card with big expectations, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the little treat that it provides as much as I did!

Sleuth Kings Case 006 Review

If you are looking for my complete walkthrough with hints and solutions, click here! If not, please continue to the review.

Rating: 4/5

Subscription Description

Sleuth Kings is a monthly subscription that delivers fictional detective stories to your door. The premise for each case is that you have been contacted by Detective Sullivan King about a recent case that he has been hired for in which he needs your help. Each month you receive a manila envelope that contains:

  • Instructions on where to go to begin email interactions with Sullivan regarding the case
  • A list of the cases contents (so that you can check that you’ve received everything)
  • A case overview written by Sullivan
  • Approximately 4 clues (there is also a list describing the clues that you can read to help you get started or choose to ignore for an extra challenge)
  • Some additional material/props

Each case is its own story so unlike certain mystery subscriptions (like Hunt A Killer), you can solve the entire case in one sitting. I am told that every 4 cases you receive a bonus case about finding Sullivan’s missing father. (So far I have not received this but I have received several bonus emails regarding his father.)

Case 006: The Show Must Go On (Premise)

Sullivan is contacted by Eva Verde, who is putting on a play about a few kids who go to a cabin in the woods and accidentally conjure the spirit of a violent ghost named Smilin’ Jack.

The reason Eva has asked Sullivan for help is that her cast and crew are threatening to quit the show because they believe that the set is being haunted by the real Smilin’ Jack. Several props, posters, and photos have been defaced and threats have been made via letters and mysterious voices.

Eva (and Sullivan) do not believe the set is haunted and need your help in finding out who is behind the sabotage.

Review (No Spoilers)

I have done several Sleuth King cases with my partner (see other reviews) and this was probably the hardest one so far. My partner and I can normally solve these cases in 1 hour without referring to the Clue Sheet. For this case, we ended up using the Clue Sheet more than once and it took us an extra half hour.

One of the things that I had wanted for Case 004 was more of a challenge so it was a pleasant surprise that this one was harder. Unfortunately we hadn’t prepared for this so we although we were both pretty tired, we opened the case around 11:11PM (make a wish!) expecting to go to sleep at midnight. In reality, we ended up going to sleep around 1AM.

I enjoyed this case and its challenge, even if it made me very sleepy. The only complaint I have about it was that one of the clues required us to stare at a bunch of letters and perform a particularly annoying guess and check to get a password. As far as I know there was no better method of doing this.

Oh, I also almost forgot that there is a typo on the defaced script (Clue 3). At some point it should say STACY but it says ABBY. This didn’t effect anything other than our ability to understand what was happening in the scene.

I do have to say though. I was laughing throughout the entire case over the phrase “Fried Emo Vegans”. It still gets to me.

Stay tuned for more reviews of Sleuth Kings!

Sleuth Kings Case 006 Detailed Solutions/Hints

Note: Sleuth Kings is discontinuing this case as soon as the current supply runs out. If you are unable to purchase it from them, the only way to get it would be secondhand.

The following information is organized by clue item/puzzle. Any items not listed were simply props. Some people have complained online about Sullivan giving away too much when you ask him for a hint. I have tried to create multiple hints for how to solve each puzzle. I hope that this can provide a better experience for fellow Sleuth King subscribers.

At the end of each puzzle section will be the complete “solution”. If anyone found any additional information (or think my conclusions are wrong) from these clues, please comment and let me know!

I have ordered it in the way that I think is the most enjoyable order of going through each puzzle. Sullivan suggests going through the clues in order so I will start with Clue 1. At the very end I will summarize the entire story of the case as best as I can.

Important disclaimer: I will NOT be posting any pictures of the items that are in this case. If you want to experience this case, you must subscribe to Sleuth Kings.

Clue 1: Smilin’ Jack’s Letter (First Puzzle)

Clue Background

The cast agrees that the haunting of Smilin’ Jack began with this letter from him left at the theater. It seems to have two different codes that need to be cracked. I’ll admit that in order to solve this clue, my partner and I had to look at the Clue Analysis paper.

Hint 1

You can totally ignore the actual message that the letter has written, it doesn’t help you in solving the puzzles. As far as I know the shapes to the left of the first puzzle mean nothing as well.

Hint 2

The checks indicate that the letter is in the correct space. The X’s indicate that the letters (and spaces) in that column have to be rearranged. Here is what it looks like with the check marked columns in place. Note that words continue to the next row unless there is a blank.

Ultimate Hint

Here is what it looks like with the blanks in place for every column and the question mark.

Solution

Once you place all of the letters the message reads:

Not ready to die? Find the poster’s nine hidden words to read the code.

Clue 2: Ruined Poster

Clue Background

Eva created promotional posters to advertise her show. She found that a bunch of them were vandalized and covered in nonsensical phrases.

Hint 1

If you haven’t done the first puzzle in Clue 1 yet, do that.

Hint 2

The phrases themselves are hilarious but also nonsense. You’ll need to only read part of each phrase.

Ultimate Hint

I suggest writing down the phrases without the spaces and trying to find any word that can be made with a portion of the letters (do not reorder any of the letters). Eventually you should be able to get a phrase.

Solution

Here is the message from the poster:

Code: Move all forward one and use the program.

Clue 1: Smilin’ Jack’s Letter (Second Puzzle)

Hint 1

If you haven’t done Clue 2 yet, do that.

Hint 2

Clue 2 says to move all forward one. Move all letters forward one in the alphabet (Z goes to A). Move all numbers forward 1 numerically as well.

Hint 3

Once you move the title of the table properly, it should read “Songs Page”. Open the program to the Songs page. Can you figure out what the code is referring to on this page?

Ultimate Hint

DN stands for Director’s Note. A stands for Act. L stands for Line. W stands for Word. Use these to find the words that corresponds to each cell.

Solution

Once you find the corresponding words the message should read:

Can you feel the heat from my gaze? Try adding your own.

Clue 3: Defaced Script

Clue Background

One of the lead actresses in the show, Sam Miller, found her script open to this page with . a giant smiling face drawn across it.

Hint 1

You may notice that you can see some words through the smiling face. Can you make it out?

Hint 2

If you haven’t solved Clue 1’s second puzzle do that.

Ultimate Hint

You’ll need to literally apply Clue 1’s second message to this clue. We used a candle to do the job.

Solution

Once you apply heat to the smiling face it should review two messages and the line said by Smilin’ Jack in the play. The three things should be:

This is your last warning.
Quit now to live. Ignore me and die.
I ate your friends. I’m a bloodthirsty ghoul, you know.

Clue 4: Discarded Note

Clue Background

Two of the cast members, Kelly Rice and Rue Neil, overheard Jack’s voice while locked in the supply room. Upon investigation, Sullivan found a password protected cell phone hidden in the vent of the room. He also found a crumpled piece of paper that he assumes will give him a clue on how to unlock the phone.

Hint 1

There are two questions you’ll need to answer to solve this problem. If you haven’t done Clue 3, do that.

Hint 2

If you haven’t read the interview with Kelly Rice and Rue Neil, read (or skim) that.

Ultimate Hint

The above two hints should give you your answers. They are ghoul and stage. From here it’s basically a guess and check. Try to think of words that have to deal with the case.

Solution

We first guessed ghost and that didn’t work. Eventually we got that it is haunt.

After Finding The Phone Password (Audio Puzzle)

After you email Sullivan the code to get into the phone, he’ll send you to a site where you can listen to the audio that was played from it. He asks that you figure out exactly what the audio is trying to say.

Hint 1

The message mentions all of them being “marked”. Does that remind you of anything?

Hint 2

You’ll need to use the three photos that came along with the case.

Hint 3

The message says to look for what is not there. What letters of the alphabet are missing from these photos?

Ultimate Hint

The letters missing are A,E,I,L,N,R,W. You’ll need to figure out who in the cast these letters refer to. The program might be helpful.

Solution

Rearranging the letters you get the name

Erin Law

The Full Story (MAJOR Spoilers)

Eva Verde is the director of an upcoming musical comedy at The Victoria. The musical, Smilin’ Jack, is about a group of friends who travel to a secluded cabin in the woods and somehow (no idea how) accidentally summon an evil ghost (Smilin’ Jack) who possesses one of the friends named Abby and begins killing them.

All is set to go well UNTIL a mysterious and threatening letter is left on set by someone–or something–claiming to be Smilin’ Jack. Jack tells them (in a serious of hilariously ridiculous sentences and puns) that they were foolish to think this was just a musical. He’s here and they are all going to die…one…by…one.

He’s not completely ruthless though; he’ll give them a chance to save themselves in the form of two coded puzzles.

Never mind the puzzles, the cast and crew are terrified. The Victoria is known for being haunted and now the stories are proving to be true! To avoid certain death, they all quit the show. Eva, who doesn’t believe in this ghost story, contacts Detective Sullivan King to help her get to the bottom of what’s happening.

The first puzzle in Jack’s letter leads them to several defaced promotional posters that have nine random phrases graffitied across them. In each of these phrases is one hidden word that tells them how to solve the second of the two puzzles in the letter. This second hidden message directs them to a defaced script of one of the cast members.

Applying heat to this script reveals two more hidden messages (and a line in the script). The messages relay that everyone must quit the play or die. (Sorry Jack you’re too late they already quit before your message was decoded!)

Sullivan, convinced one of the cast members is “Smilin’ Jack”, interviews two of them. The two claim to have heard Jack’s voice telling them something after being locked in a room with the lights turned off. They don’t know what he said, but they know that it sure was scary.

Sullivan searches the room and discovers a cell phone hidden in one of the air ducts. He cracks the cell phone’s password and listens to the Jack’s message himself. The recording eludes to three cast photos that were taken during a cast outing. On each cast member there is a smiling face and a letter. Putting together the letters that don’t appear on any of these photos leads Sullivan to the real Smilin’ Jack: Erin Law.

Once the case is solved, Erin eventually admits to the sabotage. It was her first time having a starring role in a performance and she cracked under the pressure. Being cast as Smilin’ Jack in her first big role meant that she might never be taken seriously by the industry. Afraid of being blacklisted if she dropped out of the play, she decided that sabotaging it was her only option. (Too bad sabotaging the performance will effectively end her career.)

The rest of the cast and crew return to work and the role of Smilin’ Jack goes to Erin’s understudy. Eva is sure the play will be a hit, even after everything that’s happened. In fact, you’re invited!

Sleuth Kings Case 004 Detailed Solutions/Hints

Note: Sleuth Kings is discontinuing this case as soon as the current supply runs out. If you are unable to purchase it from them, the only way to get it would be secondhand.

The following information is organized by clue item/puzzle. Any items not listed were simply props. Some people have complained online about Sullivan giving away too much when you ask him for a hint. I have tried to create multiple hints for how to solve each puzzle. I hope that this can provide a better experience for fellow Sleuth King subscribers.

At the end of each puzzle section will be the complete “solution”. If anyone found any additional information (or think my conclusions are wrong) from these clues, please comment and let me know!

I have ordered it in the way that I think is the most enjoyable order of going through each puzzle. Sullivan suggests going through the clues in order so I will start with Clue 1. At the very end I will summarize the entire story of the case as best as I can.

Important disclaimer: I will NOT be posting any pictures of the items that are in this case. If you want to experience this case, you must subscribe to Sleuth Kings.

Clue 1: Letter & Note

Clue Background

After Rich’s disappearance, Debra found this letter and note on her kitchen counter along with 4 playing cards (5, 6, 7, 8 of spades).

Hint 1

There is a hidden message in the note. Pay attention to each of the shapes. Do they look familiar?

Hint 2

Look at the small white paper that came with the note, particularly the question. This should give you a hint on what the symbols mean and how to read them.

Ultimate Hint (basically the solution)

Each symbol is a normal letter written over its reflection.

Solution

You can cover up the left half of each column if you’re having trouble with this. The text reads (from left to right):

HELLO DEBRA
I KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING.
HOW DARE YOU TRY TO STEAL HIM.
JUST WAIT.
YOU AND RICH WILL PAY.
BEV

Clue 2: Letter in Rich’s Office

Clue Background

Following instructions given by Debra, Sullivan went to Rich’s secret office and found a threatening letter on top of the desk.

Hint 1

The letter doesn’t make much sense. Try to view it as not at face value to find a hidden message. Note: The crossed out words don’t matter.

Hint 2

Notice that there are several different types of font throughout the letter. Some words share the same style as others.

Ultimate Hint

Write down all the words of a particular font for each font style. They’ll need to be moved around to make sentences that makes sense.

Solution

Here are the words you get from each font style. There are several sizes of bold words. I will call them “medium bold words” (I see you), “small bold words” (the bookshelves), and “large bold words” (None of it matters now).

  Medium bold words:
    I, SEE, YOU, I, FOUND, NOTE, YOU, OFFICE, KNEW, WOULD, IN, MY, THE
  How we rearranged them:
   I SEE YOU FOUND MY NOTE IN THE OFFICE. I KNEW YOU WOULD.
  (Alternatively: I SEE YOU FOUND THE NOTE IN MY OFFICE. I KNEW YOU WOULD.)

  Larger capitalized words:
    ARE, SURPRISED, YOU, THIS, PLACE, I, KNEW, ABOUT
  How we rearranged them:
   ARE YOU SURPRISED I KNEW ABOUT THIS PLACE?

  Large italicized words:
    I, KNOW, EVERYTHING, ALL, TOO, WELL
  How we rearranged them:
   We didn’t. It reads fine.

  Small cursive words:
   ABOUT, PLAN, THE, CLOSET, CHECK, IF, YOU, WANT, TO, MORE, KNOW, MY
  How we rearranged them:
   CHECK THE CLOSET IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY PLAN.

  Underlined words:
   DONT, BE
  How we rearranged them:
    We didn’t. It reads fine.

  Small bold words:
   THE, BOOKSHELVES, THE, PAINTINGS, THE, DESK, THE, CHAIR, I, KNOW
  How we rearranged them:
   We had no idea how to. I’m not sure this one is supposed to make sense.

  Large bold words:
   NONE, OF, IT, MATTERS, NOW
  How we rearranged them:
   We didn’t. It makes sense as is.

  Written words:
   Bev

Putting this together gives something like the following:

I see you found my note in the office. I knew you would. Are you surprised I knew about this place? Don’t be. I know everything all too well. Check the closet if you want to know more about my plan. Bev.

Clue 3: Note in Rich’s Closet

Clue Background

After opening the closet (and having a surprise picture of him taken), Sullivan noticed this paper taped to the wall under the camera. It must say something but he doesn’t know what.

Hint 1

Notice that the note has a picture of a spade at the bottom. The cards should help you with this one.

Hint 2

Notice that on the note, all of the pairs of numbers begin with either a 5, 6, 7, or 8. All end with a number between 1 and 8.

Hint 3

On the 5 of spades there is an A in the top left corner and on the 8 of spades there is a Z in the bottom right corner. (Hopefully your cards were made properly to determine the orientation because my 8 of spades wasn’t. Your card should be right side up in a way that makes the back of it also right side up). Use this to fill in the rest of the alphabet.

Ultimate Hint

After filling out the missing letters on the cards from left to right, use the numbers to find the corresponding letter. For example, 81 would be the letter that corresponds to the first spade on the 8 of spades.

Solution

After matching the numbers with the letter on the corresponding spade, the message reads:

Smile Debra. You have one hour to stop the email by looking diagonally.

Clue 4: Clue to Rich’s Email

Clue Background

Sullivan can’t get into the computer that was in Rich’s office because it is password protected. He does, however, find a reminder note that Rich left himself about his password.

Hint 1

Recall that an hour after Sullivan had his picture taken, the police received an email of the photograph.

Hint 2

You’ll need to use the message from Clue 3.

Ultimate Hint

Start from the bottom right corner and read diagonally upwards.

Solution

Starting from P and working diagonally upwards, the reminder reads

Password is rabbit.

After Finding Rich’s Password (Email Puzzle)

After you email Sullivan the correct password to Rich’s email, he will respond telling you to give him some time to go through the computer. After a few minutes you should get another email from Sullivan. On the computer he found a strange email that he believes has a hidden message. He asks you to figure out what it is.

Hint 1

The message basically makes no sense. Take notice of how the message is formatted. Sentences are chopped strangely.

Hint 2

Take note of the capitalized words. The first sentence should give you a hint.

Ultimate Hint

The first sentence has the capitalized words “First” and “Last. It wants you to pay attention to the first and last words of each line.

Solution

If you read the first and last words of each line, (ignoring the first line) the message reads:

I’m ready to fake my death. Have my new identity finished in one week.

The Back of the Playing Cards

Clue” Background

Though the playing cards are not actually labeled as a clue, you may notice that there are strange symbols on the back of them.

Hint 1

If you haven’t solved Clue 1 yet, do that.

Hint 2

If you haven’t solved Clue 3 yet, do that.

Ultimate Hint

After reading the right half of each symbol, you should get numbers that look like those in Clue 3. Solve this puzzle the same way. The cards should be in numerical order from left to right. The message should read from left to right (across all cards).

Solution Part 1: Decoding the Symbols

Using the same method as Clue 1 of looking at the right half of each symbol you should get.

64 51 72 51 82 82 63 55 61 71 87 55 77 72 74 82 55 71 85 51 64 82 64 73 62 74 73 72 87 73 55 85 64 54 55 73 82 64 82 87

Solution Part 2: Decoding the Message

Using the same method as Clue 3 to convert these numbers to letters, the message says:

I am at the flyer motel waiting on my new identity.

The Full Story (MAJOR Spoilers)

Rich Daughtry worked as a magician (Rich the Magnificent) with his assistant and girlfriend Debra Hartfield. They dated for three years but after finding out that Rich had cheated on her and impregnated a woman named Beverly, Debra left.

Determined that the best revenge was her own success, Debra set out to create her own act, purchasing a feathery costume that she would use for it.

Some time later Rich went missing and after 3 days the police presumed him dead. On top of that, Debra’s costume went missing and in their investigation the police found a bloody feather from her outfit along with several threatening notes addressed to Rich from Debra.

A panicking Debra contacts Detective Sullivan to prove her innocence. Her costume was stolen and she did not send those notes! Further, someone has broken into her apartment and left cryptic notes and playing cards. Originally convinced that Debra was guilty, Sullivan eventually takes the case after interviewing her.

First, Sullivan decodes the note left in Debra’s apartment. It is a message from Beverly (Bev) threatening both Debra and Rich!

After decoding this note, Debra gives Sullivan the location to Rich’s secret office. Upon entering, Sullivan finds another strange note on the desk. This is decoded to be yet another note from Bev to Debra telling her to check the closet if she wants to know more about Bev’s evil plan.

Once he enters the closet however, Sullivan is splashed with fake blood and a picture of him is taken. Under the camera is a coded note that tells Debra that she must hack into Rich’s computer in an hour before that picture of hers gets emailed to the police!

In order to get into Rich’s computer, Sullivan decodes a note next to it that tells him the correct password. Inside, Sullivan discovers a strange coded email that Rich sent to someone telling them that he is about to fake his death and needs a new identity in one week!

Now knowing that Rich is still alive, Sullivan just has to find out where Rich is hiding. On the back of the playing cards that were left in Debra’s apartment is a message that reveals that Rich is waiting at the Flyer Motel. Sullivan travels there to confront Rich and upon successfully finding him, turns him over to the police. Debra is cleared!

So the questions we have now are: Why did Rich fake his death? Who framed Debra? Was it Rich or Beverly?

Turns out, Beverly wasn’t in on the plan. Rich faked his death and wanted Debra to go to jail for it. As a Plan B, Rich planted more documents around his office to frame Beverly in case Debra didn’t go down easily. A remaining question you might have is: why the heck did Rich leave Debra a coded message about his location?

The answer is simple: he got too greedy. He wanted Debra (or worst case scenario: Beverly) to go to jail for his murder BUT he wanted Debra to know that he had gotten the best of her. He left his location on those cards because he HOPED that after he fled with his shiny new identity that she would figure out that he was the one who did this to her.

Okay, sure, but why did he want to fake his death in the first place? Just to figuratively slap Debra in the face?

Well, no one knows for sure, but Debra is convinced that Rich has no idea how to be a father nor how to run a successful magician act with Debra as his competition. She thinks he wanted to run away because he was scared about what his future held.

Anyways, now that she’s been cleared of murder, Debra is ecstatic. Who wouldn’t want to see the amazing act of a woman who “escaped prison”?

And with that Debra leaves you with a mathematical magic trick:

Choose a number
Multiply your number by 2
Add 14 to the answer
Divide the total by 2
Subtract your original number

If you did this properly, your number should be 7 (which is the number on the back of a playing card included in the letter). Magic right!?

Well, no–not really. Sorry to ruin the magic (oops) but this is basically just a roundabout way of dividing 14 by 2. As a fake mathematician I will prove it. Here are the instructions again but this time next to them in red will be what is happening mathematically.

Choose a number   n
Multiply your number by 2   2n
Add 14 to the answer   2n+14
Divide the total by 2   (2n+14)/2 = 2(n+7)/2 = n+7
Subtract your original number   n+7-n = 7

And that’s the end of Case 004: Abraca-Debra! My actual review of this case will be posted sometime tomorrow (hopefully)!

Book Review: Pop Apocalypse by Lee Konstantinou

I recently started reading more frequently as a result of missing it and feeling guilty about not progressing in my Goodreads 2019 Book Challenge. I was suggested Pop Apocalypse by Lee Konstantinou.

Book CW/TW:

  •  There are I believe 2 date-rapey scenes. The main character is in fact introduced via one of them.
  • MC expresses sexual interest in a 16 year old girl, despite being 27/28 in the book.

Rating: 2/5 stars

I found this book incredibly boring for the first half. Once I got to the start of the main arc, I regained interested for a short while before losing it once again. There are certain instances of hilarity but as someone who prefers YA novels and stays away from political/religious news, this book wasn’t for me. 

Premise

The book takes place in the near future (around the year 2028). Several religious factions and powers exist throughout the world, some allied and some at odds. The world seems like it may be on the brink of a huge religious war. 

The story follows Eliot Vanderthorpe Jr., the 27 year old son of and heir to Omni Science, a corporation that from my understanding has created a sort of future capitalistic google where people can search footage from all over the world and purchase premium footage/photos for a price. Eliot is a major screw up party boy who left his family to go on a major drug binge, isolating himself from his friends and ex-girlfriend Sarah. 

After returning home and being put to work by his father, Eliot uses a super search in his father’s office and discovers that there is a man who looks exactly like him in California, in an area that regular Omni searches don’t pick up. He embarks on a search to discover who this person is and why he exists. All while trying to fix his negative reputation and relationship with those he cares about. 

Review (Mild Spoilers)

This was the first “adult book” that I’ve completed in a long time. I mostly enjoy reading YA novels because I don’t really look to books as intellectual exercise machines but rather as fun ways to pass the time. After reading this book I realized why I don’t like adult books. 

First of all, I felt like over half the time I had no idea what was going on. Even after finishing the book I didn’t have a complete picture of what the state of the world was and what exactly what going on with the waring religions. This was partly because my vocabulary isn’t as big as this book needed it to be, especially with it’s religious undertones, but also because I found myself getting bored when reading and skimmed certain passages. 

Something that I complained about in the first half of the book was the fact that I felt as though most of the things being said to me as a reader weren’t actually important to the story. There were many “weird” scenes mentioned in the book that were in fact very entertaining but also not vital to the story. So when I got to scenes or paragraphs of text that weren’t entertaining in their weirdness, I got annoyed at being forced to read things that I didn’t actually care about. 

I finished the book and had NO idea how I was supposed to feel. Though it might have been a result of me basically hating the protagonist the entire time.

Book Review: When You Read This by Mary Adkins (My First Real Post!)

Rating: 4.5/5

A fast an enjoyable read told through nonconventional means. Not much else to say. I didn’t give it a 5 simply because I wanted more from the ending but I’m not exactly sure what. 

Book CW: character death, cancer, profanity

Premise

The book is a compilation of emails, text messages, and blog posts. 

Iris Massey is a young woman who finds out she is dying of cancer. To cope with her condition, she joins a blogging community of people like her and begins to write. After she dies, her family and friends struggle to come to terms with what is the right thing to do to honor her wishes. 

Before her death, Iris worked for a PR company created and run by Smith Simonyi. As a result of several business failures, the company is losing money fast. Smith’s only financial security comes from secretly “borrowing” money from his biggest client.

After Iris passes, Smith’s assistant Carl discovers a note left behind from Iris in which she tells Smith about her blog and expresses her wish that he publish it. In order to do so, Smith must request permission from Iris’ sister Jade, who is adamant that it is not only a terrible idea but also a scheme to exploit her sister’s death for profit. 

Will they be able to come to an agreement? 

Review (Mild Spoilers)

I read this book over the course of 2 days and it was surprisingly hilarious. I would have probably read it in one sitting if I weren’t as busy with my job.  It was like a novel made specifically to make fun of the way technology has become. I was laughing while reading as early as page 3. 

There are no real chapters, instead there are simply shifts in media. The general format is that there are several email exchanges (after Iris’ death) intermixed with occasion blog posts written by Iris before she died. 

Although I found all the characters unlikeable, they were unlikeable in kind of the best ways (if that makes sense).

  • Smith was maybe the most likeable(?) but he had a lot of problems. From sketch business practices to maybe not the best family ties I was unsure whether to like him or not.
  • Jade was probably my least favorite character. She was extremely go-getting (which I can admire) but in a way where she didn’t care at all about what she was doing to other people. I found myself annoyed with her inflated idea of self-importance and her constant asserting of herself into other people’s lives. Even after Iris died, Jade was convinced that she knew exactly what was best for her sister. 
  • Carl…what can I say about Carl? He was a complete hot mess the entire book and a total plot device. Reading interactions to/from Carl was probably the highlight of the book for me because of how ridiculous he is.

I’m not sure I would have found the story interesting had it not been told the way it was. A plot revolving around a sketchy business owner and a self-absorbed sister not getting along doesn’t sound as fun when I think about it not being told through passive aggressive (and straight up aggressive) email exchanges, so I’m very happy that the book was written the way it was. The only qualm I really had was that at the very end of the book I felt as if the story didn’t really wrap up. I found myself missing the feeling of closure that a book normally would give me. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick and enjoyable read.