Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review: Lights! Camera! Puzzles! by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #20)


Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Enjoyable for series fans
Cons: Weak on plot and humor
The Bottom Line:
Movie set murder
Weak entry in the series
Only for the fans




Puzzling Murder on a Movie Set

I was so pleased to see that the Puzzle Lady series was continuing this year with Lights! Camera! Puzzles!  When this series is on, the plots are fun and the antics of the characters make me laugh.  Sadly, this book didn’t live up to the potential of the premise or the best books in the series.

Cora Felton, famed Puzzle Lady, is having her worst nightmare come true.  Not only has Melvin’s tell all book about their disastrous marriage hit the bestseller lists, but now it is being made into a movie.  She agrees to become an associate producer on the film in hopes of control some of the damage even if it means she has to spend time with her least favorite ex-husband on a daily basis.

Before things can even get started, however, tragedy visits the set when a production assistant is killed.  The police aren’t sure what to make of it, but Cora isn’t that concerned since it has nothing to do with her.  However, as things continue to go wrong on the film, she begins to take a more active interest.  Can she figure out who is behind everything happening?

The best entries in this series can be a lot of fun.  The mysteries might not be the most intricately plotted, but the laughs as the characters banter back and forth more than make up for it.  The emphasis on dialogue usually makes the pages fly by.

Unfortunately, the banter wasn’t working here.  Yes, I did get some laughs at Cora’s word play with various characters, but it wasn’t consistent and some of the interactions became repetitive and felt forced.  Since that’s the star of the books, it was disappointing.  This is especially the case since Cora and Melvin have some epic battles of wits at times, so I expected so much knowing Melvin would be featured in this book.

Much of this book takes place on locations the film is using around New York City as it is filming.  While Cora does head home to Bakerhaven, Connecticut, each night, we don’t see much of the series regulars beyond her immediate family.  I missed some of the other regulars, and the new characters didn’t make up for their absence.  I’ll admit that the characters in this series are on the thin side, something that has always been the case, but over time we’ve gotten to know the regulars.  New characters just can’t pick up the slack in the same way in one book.

In the early books, Cora was the anti-cozy lead character since she drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney.  That was slowly gone away, but she still swears.  I’m sure her vocabulary is quite colorful, but we only get the mild swear words here, although there are a few more than normal in this entry.

And the mystery itself?  It is more a series of events that Cora suddenly figures out in the end.  I was happy to see that Cora received an actual clue that helped her put everything together, but there weren’t a lot of clues or red herrings along the way, just events.

Fans of puzzles will be happy to learn we get a crossword puzzle and a Sudoku over the course of the book.

I know this all sounds like the book is bad, and it is easy to point out the book’s short comings.  However, I was entertained as I read it, and I found it a fast read.  Fans who want to catch Cora’s latest adventures will want to pick it up, but this is not a book for the casual fan to read.

So, I’m not sorry I picked up Lights! Camera! Puzzles!  But I certainly hope that our next visit with Cora is better thought out.

Looking for more puzzling mysteries?  Here are the rest of the Puzzle Lady Mysteries.

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