Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny word play and a truly puzzling plot
Cons: Repetitive use of character's full names, Cora's drinking
The Bottom Line:
Cora drinks and smokes
But solves the case in the end
Fabulous word play

Yes, there are Flaws.  But I Enjoyed it Overall

Cora Felton, the famed puzzle lady, and her niece Sherry Carter are hoping a nice quite life in the country will keep them in relative obscurity. But when a body turns up with what the police chief thinks is a crossword puzzle clue, they are suddenly thrust into the limelight when he turns to Cora for help. Did the killer really leave behind a crossword puzzle clue? What does it mean? And how could the solution possibly lead to the killer? Further complicating the case is the fact that Cora knows nothing about cross word puzzles. Will this stay a secret or will this case destroy the column that is their livelihood?

I bought this series debut a couple years back after hearing the author speak, but then started hearing rumors about Cora. I thought I might be put off by the fact that she is a chain smoking alcoholic. While that did bother me, I couldn't help falling in love with all the characters in this book, even her. I've heard in later books that aspect of her character is dropped, and I'll certainly look forward to that. In the mean time, I found her a fun character I could root for. My other problem with the book was the constant use of characters full names. Almost every time a new paragraph started, the author felt the need to refer to Sherry Carter or Cora Felton or who ever the current character was. That got very annoying in a hurry.

Still, this book provided a great puzzle I had a hard time putting down. Nothing made sense until the end when everything falls into logical place. The author spent the majority of the time with four of the characters, and the multiple viewpoints worked well to tell the story and build suspense at the end. As I said, I really liked all four of the characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again in the next book. Another aspect I enjoyed was the word play between characters, especially Sherry and newspaper reporter Aaron Grant. I often found myself laughing out loud at their scenes. Fans of crossword puzzles will enjoy the puzzle at the beginning of the book. There is a solution in the back for those like me who get stuck easily. Just a word of warning, the puzzle is meant to be solved after the book is read since some of the clues have to do with the plot of the book (like the villain) and therefore could spoil it for you.

While A Clue for the Puzzle Lady has some serious flaws that will turn others off, I found the plot and characters engaging enough I could over look them. I will certainly be back to visit the cozy town of Bakerhaven.

And if you enjoy this debut, you'll want to keep reading with The Puzzle Lady Mysteries in order.

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