Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Book Review: Puzzling Ink by Becky Clark (Crossword Puzzle Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Quinn, her parents, fun
Cons: Mystery overshadowed at times, needed a bit more to it
The Bottom Line:
When boss arrested
Quinn must puzzle out killer
Uneven but fun

Using Crossword Puzzles to Catch a Killer

I don’t necessarily only stick to cozy themes that align with my hobbies.  For example, I’m not really a fan of crossword puzzles, but I’ve enjoyed mysteries theme around them over the years.  So when I saw that Becky Clark was starting her own crossword themed series, I picked up the debut – Puzzling Ink.

Quinn Carr has had to return to her hometown of Chestnut Station, Colorado, and move back in with her parents.  She’s taken a job at a local diner and is hoping to make enough to find her own place soon.  She also has a secret job of creating the crossword puzzles for the local paper.

However, things take an unexpected turn on the 4th of July when Quinn finds her last customer of the day dead in the corner booth, his dining companion nowhere to be found.  Quinn is even more surprised when she learns the man was actually murdered and Jake, the owner of the diner, has been arrested for the murder.  Now she needs to find a way to clear him while working at the diner alone before the diner, and her job, go out of business.  Can she do it?

What I haven’t mentioned about Quinn so far is that she has recently been diagnosed with OCD.  Outside of Monk, this isn’t something we regularly see in mysteries.  Here, it is treated much more seriously than it was in Monk, and I found the portrayal interesting.  It colored Quinn and set her apart without overshadowing the mystery.

What did overshadow the mystery was Quinn’s attempts to run the diner.  Honestly, if the book didn’t have a crossword hook, this would really be a culinary cozy, and Quinn’s struggles at the diner are an equal plot to the murder.  I was rooting for her to succeed, so I didn’t mind too much, but I always prefer to see a strong mystery.

Now, that isn’t to say there wasn’t a good mystery here.  We are presented with several strong suspects, all of whom have opportunity and motive.  Things were a little rough at times, with a few facts being introduced rather abruptly.  The climax gives us a killer and motive, but one thing that I was waiting to be explained was left open.

One element I truly appreciated was Quinn’s relationship with her parents.  It is obvious that the three of them love each other deeply.  So often, adults have strained relationships with their parents in the books I read, and I get that it provides good fodder for drama, but I loved their relationship here.

In the way of bonuses, we get the crossword puzzle that Quinn creates in the book as a nudge to the police in solving the case.  Plus, there are two fun sounding recipes at the end.

While there are a couple of things I hope get ironed out as the series progresses, there is much to enjoy in this debut.  Whether a crossword puzzle fan or a devourer of culinary cozies, Puzzling Ink is a debut to put on your list.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

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