Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: With This Puzzle, I Thee Kill by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story and characters
Cons: Weak but satisfying ending
The Bottom Line:
The ending is weak
But characters and humor
More than compensate

The Puzzle Lady Faces Marriage (Again) and Murder

With This Puzzle, I Thee Kill is the fifth entry in the fun Puzzle Lady Mysteries. Cora Felton is our detective. She is well known across the country for her daily cross word puzzle column syndicated across the country. What most people don't know is that her niece Sherry Carter is actually responsible for creating those puzzles every day. Cora is remarkably good at solving murders, however, and their small town of Bakerhaven, Connecticut seems to have more then its fair share. Each murder seems to have a different kind of puzzle attached, and puzzle fans are invited to solve it right along with the characters.

Cora Felton is getting married. Again. She may have lost track of how many times she's walked down the aisle, but this time it will work out. Really.

Her niece Sherry Carter isn't happy about the arrangement, convinced that her aunt is making a mistake again.

Unfortunately, Cora's nuptials aren't the only ones pending. Sherry's best friend has just announced her engagement - to Sherry's abusive ex Dennis.

Between the two weddings, there was enough drama even before the first cryptogram shows up. It's a warning to Cora to abandon her plans to wed. More and more follow before the first dead body appears. Now Cora needs to set aside her wedding veil and pick up her sleuthing hat to find the cryptic killer. Can she succeed?

This series is nothing heavy or dark, but lots of light fun. Cora started out the series a chain smoking drunk. She's still a chain smoker here, but she has finally given up the drinking, something she's been working on with every book. It's a nice change. Sherry's reaction to the events is quite believable. In fact, I felt quite sorry for her at some points in the story. Readers had never met Brenda or Dennis before this book, although we'd heard plenty about him. And he lived down to everything we'd heard. Even with his multiple faults, he wasn't a one dimensional character. In fact, none of them are.

The writing is smart and fast. Much of the dialog is snappy, which is fun to read. I love it when the characters descend into work play, which happens a couple times in this book. The chapters are short as well. I fairly flew through this book.

The only weak part of the story is the plot. It's a little while before we find the first body, but the suspense was building nicely, so I really didn't mind. My problem was the climax. As with the other books in the series, the ending was a little abrupt. Several of the important clues are sprung on us as Cora is explaining events. That's not to say the ending isn't satisfying or logical. I just wish the clues were planted better earlier in the book.

A weak ending is hardly a reason to pass on With This Puzzle, I Thee Kill or this fun series. It may not "play fair" with the reader like I normally prefer, but the ride to the end is entertaining anyway.

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

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