Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Puzzle Lady Vs. the Sudoku Lady by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #11)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story with plenty of humor
Cons: Weak characters, formulaic
The Bottom Line:
Familiar story
No puzzle - fans will enjoy
Since book is still fun




The Puzzle Lady Meets Her Japanese Competition

Welcome to the town of Bakerhaven, Connecticut.  It's claim to fame is that Cora Felton, author of the popular Puzzle Lady crossword column lives there.  Also, it happens to be the murder capital of ConnecticutThe Puzzle Lady vs. The Sudoku Lady is the eleventh book in the series, after all.

In previous books, Cora has branched out to Sudoku, and her book of puzzles has been published in Japan.  That sets the stage for this book as Minami, the top creator of Sudoku puzzle books in Japan arrives in Bakerhaven.  She is coming to meet her competition since Cora's book has just topped hers on the Japan best seller list.

But Minami has just arrived in town when a dead body turns up.  The police, and Cora, are quick to call it a tragic accident, but Minami is insisting it is murder.  Since she has occasionally helped the police in Japan, she challenges Cora to a contest to see who can catch the killer first.  Cora isn't inclined to accept until a second body turns up and Minami is arrest for the crime.  Is there a killer on the loose?  Is Minami guilty?

At this point in the series, there is a definite formula to the proceedings, and this book doesn't stray too far from that.  We get a body or two, lots of verbal sparring, a smattering of puzzles you can solve (both crossword and Sudoku), and an over the top finish that would never happen in real life.

The characters are really caricatures.  There is nothing real about them.  In fact, like the story, they are over the top.  But they certainly work for the series, and I have come to care about them.  Well, most of them.  Dennis, the abusive ex-husband of Cora's niece, needs to go.  He's a one note character I got tired of several books ago.  In fact, if he turned up as a murder victim, I would cheer.  (Hint, hint.)

The story seemed to get bogged down in the middle here, as Cora went from person to person trying to get more information and getting stonewalled instead.  Things do pick up for the final 100 pages, which lead to a logical solution.

The writing is fast paced with an emphasis on witty banter.  The chapters are usually only one scene long, so they are often only a few pages.  Combine the two, and I read this book in just a couple of days.

One thing that keeps drawing me back is the wit displayed by the characters.  The word play used at times makes me laugh at out.  There was one comment during the climax that especially made me laugh.  The humor goes a long way toward helping me overlook the flaws.

While I still enjoyed The Puzzle Lady vs. The Sudoku Lady, I can't help but feel like we've done most of this before.   It's not the strongest entry in the series, but it will make the series fans happy.

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

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