Meet the computer programmer who started drawing puzzles on napkins before being inspired by success of Wordle to start his own Agatha Christie-themed murder mystery puzzle book – that beat Prince Harry’s Spare to be crowned book of the year

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

 

A computer programmer inspired by the success of Wordle has beaten Prince Harry to the title of book of the year after compiling his own Agatha Christie-themed murder mystery-style puzzle book.

 

Karber Murdle

GT Karber, 37, from Los Angeles, saw off the Duke of Sussex’s Spare as well as works from the likes of Britney Spears and Rory Stewart at last night’s The British Book Awards.

His book Murdle, a collection of puzzles described as a cross between Cluedo, Sudoku and Wordle, topped bestseller charts and sold 300,000 copies in 2023.

Karber sketched his first puzzle on a napkin for a friend at a coffee shop before going on to create a computer code that would automatically generate more and began posting them online.

He soon came up with a host of characters including detective Deductive Logico, who was inspired by Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Now he has beaten Prince Harry’s explosive tell-all memoir to the prestigious award naming his work as the best book of 2023.

Karber’s success has seen his puzzles become fast favourites of amateur sleuths in both the US and across the pond in the UK.

‘Murdle is a love letter to British mysteries, so its success there is like hearing your crush likes you back,’ Karber said.

His editor Cindy Chan, of Souvenir Press, added: ‘I heard about Murdle on a trip to New York and knew I was on to something. When I heard the title, I realised it was a stroke of genius and I had to have it – and before anyone else had heard about it.

‘That night I solved by first Murdle. I immediately wanted more. I was certain others would share my addiction.’

Karber’s win marks the first time that a puzzle book has been named Book of the Year.

Previous non-fiction winners include Davina McCall for her book on the menopause and Marcus Rashford. Fiction authors Sally Rooney, EL James and Dan Brown have also taken the prize in recent years.

After the initial success of his first book, published last June, Karber has already published a sequel, with plans in the works for a children’s version too.

Prince Harry’s memoir Spare was nominated in a non-fiction category, but was beaten by former politician Rory Stewart’s Politics on the Edge. In the same category, Britney Spears’ The Woman In Me was pipped to the post.

The release of the prince’s bombshell memoir at the start of 2023 saw renewed tensions within the royal family, and is understood to have contributed to the breakdown of Harry’s relationship with his brother, the Prince of Wales.

It included salacious details of the young prince’s life, including the story of how he lost his virginity behind a pub, and described his previous drug use.

It also made controversial claims about senior members of the royal family, describing an argument between the Harry and William in which William allegedly shoved his brother to the floor and into a dog bowl at Frogmore Cottage.

Its release followed a Netflix docuseries, Harry and Meghan, in which the prince and his wife described their love story and gave their side of the tale of how they came to leave the royal family as working royals.

In total it sold more than 700,000 copies, and was also turned into an audiobook.

The annual British Book Awards this year was judged by a panel that included Lorraine Kelly and Adrian Chiles.

The panel described Murdle as a ‘genius’ work of non-fiction.

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chair of the judges, said: ‘Readers were spoilt for choice in 2023: our winning authors, illustrators, and the teams behind their books showcase an industry at the height of its game and at the absolute centre of the creative sector.

‘At a time when words and their meaning matter more than ever before, to see the world of books in such excellent health is surely something to celebrate.’