Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: Last Puzzle and Testament by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: A wonderful plot with lots of great twists
Cons: Cora's drunkenness in the first part of the book.
The Bottom Line:
More drunken Cora
Before she takes on the case
I like her sober

Nothing Puzzling About Why I Love This Book

Last Puzzle & Testament is the second in the "Puzzle Lady" mystery series starring Cora Felton.

Emma Hurley was the eccentric rich old maid in town before she died of old age. Now her relatives are gathering to hear her last will. And it's a doozy. The first one to solve a puzzle will inherit ten million dollars; the rest will walk away with ten thousand each. Not a bad conciliation prize, but for the greedy family, second place is not good enough. To win, there will be a race to solve a puzzle.

Called on to judge the contest is famed "Puzzle Lady" Cora Felton. Which only makes sense when the puzzle turns out to be a crossword grid with a quarter of the clues. The catch, of course, is the Cora knows nothing about cross word puzzles, so her niece Sherry must work behind the scenes to keep her aunt's public image intact.

Racing to stay ahead of the heirs would be bad enough if it weren't for the murders. First it's the town drunk. But then one of the heirs is found dead. Is the competition getting to be too much? And where will the crossword puzzle lead?

Not being a crossword puzzle fan, I put this series off for way too long. While there is a puzzle the reader is invited to solve from the clues in the book, ignoring the grid doesn't dampen the enjoyment one bit. This is a fast paced story that keeps the reader engaged and guessing from the start to the surprising climax. Honestly, I don't think I'd want to take time out to work the puzzle on my own even if I liked them.

The first book seemed to have four main characters as the reader got the story from multiple viewpoints fairly consistently. This time around, the focus has definitely shifted to Cora, even though the other three characters still play important parts of the book and we occasionally see the action from their eyes. Cora is still a drunk alcoholic at the beginning, but once the story gets going, she sobers up. I must say I prefer watching a sober Cora in action. The word play between characters is cut down a little, too, which is a disappointment to me, although what is in the books is still great. The author does use a lot of dialog and a writing style that flows well, so the book is a surprisingly fast read.

After reading the first in the series, I decided I'd wait and read Last Puzzle & Testament before I decided for sure if I liked the series or not. I'd say it's official. I'm already looking forward to reading the third in this entertaining and original series.

And if you want to continue on, too, check out The Puzzle Lady Mysteries in order.

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