Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of fun with plenty of laughs and a decent plot
Cons: Weak "suspect" characters and climax
The Bottom Line:
New characters weak
But a very funny book
That's still fun to read

Can Cora Puzzle Away from an Obsessed Fan?

Cora Felton and Sherry Carter live a lie.  Oh, it's not that bad a lie, really.  Sherry creates the daily "Puzzle Lady" crossword puzzle column, but she was considered too young by the publishers.  Enter her aunt Cora to be the public face, and everyone is happy.  Of course, the trouble comes when Cora is expected to solve a puzzle, something she can't do at all.  Of course, over the course of the Puzzle Lady Mysteries, Cora has found that murder and puzzles seem to go together.  The trend isn't stopping with the seventh in the series, Stalking the Puzzle Lady.

In addition to being the public face of niece Sherry's Puzzle Lady columns, Cora also advertises the breakfast cereal Corn Toasties.  With the new and improved variety about to hit stores, Cora has been tapped to do a multiple city regional promotional tour to come up with enough material for a new national ad campaign.  While she hates the idea, she must go along with it.  The rent must be paid.

But before she can even leave, a crossword puzzle appears at her door with a knife through it.  When Sherry solves it, it looks like either a threat or a love note, they can't decide which.  Very few people know that Sherry writes the columns, but when someone from her past shows up, she might be the target.

Just as the tour is hitting the road, the first body shows up.  Who left the note?  And which lady is in danger next?

This series is a favorite because of the wit the characters show.  And that's still the case here.  Even Cora has gotten into the word play and verbal sparring, not that she will admit it too often.  This humor continues to be a major pull for me.

Not that I dislike the characters.  Ever since Cora "got on the wagon" about the third book, I've really grown to like her.  True, she's no one's idea of a grandmother with her self centered attitude.  But beneath the hard exterior is someone who really does care.

When I realized this book wouldn't be set in Bakerhaven, Connecticut, the first in the series to officially stray from Cora and Sherry's town, I was worried we wouldn't see as much of the many series regulars.  I needed have worried.  Author Parnell Hall manages to bring all of them but the local police chief into the story in believable ways and keep them there.  In fact, this is probably the most we've seen of lawyer Becky and reporter Aaron for a couple books now.  Watching Aaron and Sherry interact more was great.  I love their relationship.

The new cast of characters doesn't fare as well.  I had a hard time keeping them all straight.  They are pretty much one dimensional pieces there for the story.  Still, even they managed to make me laugh as the book progressed.

Which brings us to the story.  This one seems to start a little slower than some of the others as the various parts of the plot are set into motion.  But even at the beginning, I was entertained.

My constant complaint about the series is the weak endings.  That trend continues here as well.  I really wish we could actually watch Cora solve a case upon occasion.

With lots of fast dialogue and short chapters, this book is a fast read.  I flew through it.  It did help that I didn't want to put it down at all.

Ultimately, Stalking the Puzzle Lady is more of the same for the series.  Not that this is a bad thing.  I plan to visit the Puzzle Lady again soon.

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

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