Deduction Board Games Murder/Mystery

Suspects: Claire Harper, Eternal Investigator Game Review

I need to read more books

Justin returns to one of his favorite gaming series, Suspects, with the latest adventure featuring detective Claire Harper. Find out if this is a mystery worth solving in his review!

If you’ve been following along here for the last few years, you know how much I adore one-shot mystery / escape-room games. The Suspects series is right near the top. I’ve had the chance to cover two other games in the series: Suspects–The Macguffin Affair and Suspects: Adele and Neville, Investigative Reporters.

The center of my appreciation for these games starts with the system, detailed in my other reviews. Each mystery takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes to work through, longer if you really want to be sure you gather all the evidence you can before trying to solve the puzzle.

Suspects: Claire Harper, Eternal Investigator (2022, Studio H) is my third Suspects game out of the four published thus far. Designed by Guillaume Montiage (the Kemet games as well as some of the Unlock! one-shot games), each Suspects game is aligned with a style derived from the books of Agatha Christie. This is important, because it usually means that you’ll have to deduce some of the facts in each case based on some “guesstimates”…none of the cases is as cut-and-dry as other mystery games I have tried for reviews here at Meeple Mountain.

That works for many people (including me), but not for everyone. If you are looking for a logic puzzle, games like Turing Machine and The Search for Planet X are a better fit because there is usually one specific answer that players will arrive at based on their talent level. With the Suspects games, I’m surprised how often I think I’m on the right path, only to find that I am mostly on the right path, with a twist that I didn’t—and sometimes couldn’t—see coming.

This spoiler-free review will discuss my feelings on the three scenarios of Suspects: Claire Harper, Eternal Investigator. And if you’ve played the game, would love to hear your spoiler-free thoughts on each case!

“Shakespeare’s Tears”

The first case takes place during Claire’s school years in the 1920s. The setup is brief—just after the lunch hour at school one day, the school’s English teacher is found dead in the library. One of the school’s administrators was found standing over the teacher’s body, so police naturally believe that this administrator is the murderer, but that crafty Claire knows that there is more than meets the eye!

The story for this case wasn’t particularly inspiring, but the Suspects system rescues it thanks to the things it does best. Exploring a list of suspects, including other students, teachers and the school’s headmaster, is tight and my wife and I found ourselves constantly trying to determine which suspects to NOT interview, because of the game’s scoring system (using less cards equals scoring more points).

Some of the puzzle here was a bit surprising, and that started with the fact that we never had a chance to examine the body, thanks to a mix of cards we never saw and the fact that the game tries to explain that Claire wouldn’t have had access to the body as a student. As a result, this was the first time it felt like we were shooting in the dark about specific details of the murder. This change was interesting but ultimately not helpful.

We scored 15 points (out of 25) for this case and my wife and I were pretty salty during the read-through of the game’s ending. We missed on a couple facts purely because we didn’t see the cards alluded to in the solution document, which happens if you don’t discover all of a game’s cards. But we were not close to solving one of the final questions and I did not like the reasoning regarding the “why.”

We hit maybe three dead ends during “Shakespeare’s Tears”, normal for a game of Suspects, so no complaints there. The flavor text was still great and kept us as players on our toes throughout.

“Dead on Arrival”

Now it is 1948, and Claire is in London attending the Summer Olympics thanks to a hook-up from a reporter friend from the BBC. While she is enjoying the start of a long marathon race from the stands, the reporter finds Claire and alerts her to a somewhat troubling situation: one of the runners looks a LOT like a man who the reporter interviewed during World War II before dying the very next day! Through the use of Claire’s motorbike, a BBC press pass and a newfangled toy called a “Polaroid camera” (ahh, the 1940s!), Claire and the reporter start an investigation…where is that mysterious man?

“Dead on Arrival” has a great narrative arc, and there’s just enough fluff around the dead ends that this was my favorite of the three cases. This also has more straightforward deduction elements than most of the Suspects cases, a win in my mind because sometimes I don’t want to horse around with Agatha Christie-style loops that require a real stretch of the imagination.

The case elements here, including figuring out the nefarious plot based on clues gathered in and around the Olympic stadium, did the job. I knocked out this case in about an hour, working solo.

“Dead on Arrival” wasn’t perfect, mainly because the ending required a stretch of the imagination while the body of the case did not. I didn’t love that, and some of the suspect dialogue was weaker, not as funny, and/or less interesting in this case than others.

Although “Dead on Arrival” was the second case in the storyline of this box, I would recommend doing this case first for anyone working through their first Suspects case.

“The Mystery of the Lady of the Lake”

Now it’s the 1970s, and Claire is taking in the Swiss countryside during a visit to childhood friend Mei-Lin Schnyder when news arrives courtesy of a local detective. Mei-Lin’s former employee, Alma Gomez, has been found dead in a lake near Mei-Lin’s home. This is quite a surprise, especially because Alma moved to Venezuela more than a month prior to her…ahem, new departure date.

“The Mystery of the Lady of the Lake” was another winner, and had the requisite twists and turns while also throwing a bunch of ideas around for the players to sort through while trying to focus on a pool of suspects, including Mei-Lin herself. Although the artwork by Emile Denis isn’t intended to do this, it felt like the artwork of the characters for this chapter looked a little creepier, in a fun way.

While I liked the storyline a bit more in “Dead on Arrival”, the introduction of a phone mechanic for this scenario provided a few instances of fun dialogue as Claire tries to learn more about Alma’s movements in the period surrounding her disappearance. The overall case proceedings are balanced in this chapter; no particularly high highs nor low lows. Just a solid case that, like “Dead on Arrival”, leans mostly into a logic puzzle instead of a highly ridiculous series of events that would be a stretch for an investigator of Claire’s caliber to solve.

On Average, a One Shot for a Deductionist

The Suspects games usually provide a vanilla setup and then characters and situations that take the twists and turns of an Agatha Christie novel. While this can be entertaining, it can be quite maddening to try and solve the riddle, especially when points are on the line.

Suspects: Claire Harper, Eternal Detective tones the “ridiculous” down a bit, giving us a game with three one-hour cases that might have a small reach or two at the end, but mostly give players an opportunity to score a good amount of points by just using their brain and “listening” to the evidence provided by the suspect pool. If other games are being developed with this in mind, count me in. (Suspects: Adele and Neville, Investigative Reporters went the other direction, and got kind of ridiculous with some of the endings.)

Montiage has done it again with another satisfying entry in the Suspects series. This is one of those systems that never gets old for me, so I can’t wait to see what 2024 brings!

  • Great - Would recommend.

Suspects: Claire Harper, Eternal Investigator details

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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