Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: And a Puzzle to Die On by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #6)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, witty word play
Cons: Climax too convoluted
The Bottom Line:
Convoluted end
To another fun puzzle
You'll laugh your way through




Happy Puzzle to You

And a Puzzle to Die On is the sixth Puzzle Lady mystery by Parnell Hall. Over the course of the books, we've watched world famous cross word puzzle constructor Cora Felton solve murders that managed to involve puzzles of some kind. She has the time to do that because her niece, Sherry Carter, is the real puzzle expert. In fact, Sherry actually makes the puzzles that have made Cora famous. But there's no behind the scenes slight of hand when it comes to solving mysteries. Cora is wonderful and putting things together and puzzling out the solution. And she'll need all of her skills to solve this one.

Cora's birthday is coming, and the citizens of Bakerhaven are going to give their most famous citizen a party whether she wants it or not. Bur Cora's focus isn't on avoiding her birthday (she doesn't celebrate any more). Instead, it's on the old case she's be hired to investigate.

Lawyer Becky Baldwin has asked Cora to look into a 20 year old murder case. Darryl Daigue was convicted of the crime but still says he's innocent. Darryl's sister has hired the lawyer to see if there is reasonable doubt about his guilt.

Cora has barely started investigating before she is told to drop the case. Considering she didn't think there was any evidence worth pursuing, that intrigues her. A little more poking around produces a suspicious accident. Then, someone starts following her. Why all this interest in a case that is so old?

Since this is the sixth entry in the series, most fans will know what to expect here. And they'd be right. While I would classify the series as cozy, it definitely walks the line. Cora is hardly a sweet old lady. While she has given up drinking, she still smokes like a chimney. In fact, the smoking seemed to be worse in this book. She's also prickly and pushy. And yet somehow, she's lovable, too.

In previous books, Cora has shared the page with Sherry and the other residents of Bakerhaven. While those characters are still around, they take a bit of a back seat to Cora and the mystery. When they are around, they are the lovable gang we've come to know. There are plenty of new characters to make up for it, and they are all quite interesting with hidden motives and agendas all their own. Translation - they make perfect suspects in a mystery.

And the mystery is a dozy. There are so many twists, all you can do is hang on for the wild ride. The ending was abrupt and very weak, a charge I've made on more then one occasion against this series. Everything is explained, but I had to read the last couple chapters twice to make sure I caught everything. And, frankly, I was having so much fun that I didn't care that much about the weak ending.

I'm not a cross word puzzle person, so for me the draw of the series is the wit. Each book contains rapid fire dialogue and plenty of word play that makes me laugh out loud. This book was no exception. As always, the writing itself is smooth and flawless. I flew through the pages.

As with previous books, there are a couple cross word puzzles scattered through out. This time, however, they don't relate to the main plot but the sub-plot of Cora's birthday.

This series is absolutely fantastic when I am looking to laugh along with my murder. If only the ending were stronger, I'd give a full five stars to And a Puzzle to Die On.

Looking for the rest of the series?  Here's The Puzzle Lady Mysteries in order.

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