A Clue for the Puzzle Lady (Puzzle Lady Mysteries)

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9780553800968: A Clue for the Puzzle Lady (Puzzle Lady Mysteries)

Cruciverbalists, rejoice!!! Pick up a pencil and get ready to solve the puzzle--and a puzzling murder--in this lively debut of a unique amateur detective, Miss Cora Felton, the reigning queen of crosswords. Cora's an eccentric old lady with a nationally syndicated puzzle column, an irresistible urge to poke into unsettling events, and a niece who's determined to keep her out of trouble. In a slyly amusing and wickedly suspenseful mystery, this delightful heroine takes her first crack at playing sleuth. Only this isn't fun and games....It's murder.

Violent crime is rare in tiny Bakerhaven. When the body of an unknown teenage girl turns up in the local cemetery, Police Chief Dale Harper finds himself investigating his first homicide. Nothing about this case is straightforward. Even a thorough search of the crime scene fails to reveal who she was, the murder weapon, or why the killer left her body in a graveyard minus her shoes. A cryptic message on a scrap of paper she carried seems to be a crossword puzzle clue. Could it have been left by the killer? If so, what does it mean?

Fortunately for Harper, Bakerhaven is the new home of Miss Cora Felton, the famed "Puzzle Lady" herself, whose popular crossword puzzle column graces newspapers nationwide. Yet bringing Cora Felton into this case could be his most costly mistake. For though she may look like someone's sweet old grandmother, behind those twinkling eyes and that slightly mysterious smile lies a woman with a whopping secret...and some hidden vices. What's worse, one whiff of mystery turns Miss Felton into a modern-day Miss Marple.

Now Cora is snooping through crime scenes, questioning witnesses, and gaining a lot of unwanted attention. It's just the sort of meddling, mischief-making behavior that drives Chief Harper to distraction and inspires many cross words from her long-suffering niece Sherry. But when another body turns up in a murder that hits much closer to home, Cora must find a killer--before she winds up in a black box three feet across...and six down.

A delicious brew of colorful characters, irresistible intrigue, and dazzling plot twists, Parnell Hall's A Clue for the Puzzle Lady is just what a mystery should be--a generous helping of fun and a puzzle that never fails to surprise and entertain.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, February 2000: The versatile Hall is already responsible for two series: under his own name he has written the Stanley Hastings mysteries, a lighthearted series set in Manhattan and featuring a smalltime private eye, while as J.P. Hailey, he's penned the Steve Winslow courtroom mysteries.

Now he's switching course again, this time presenting what can only be termed a disreputable Jessica Fletcher: Miss Cora Felton, famed from coast to coast for her popular crossword puzzle column syndicated in many newspapers. Closer to home, however, Cora's as well known for her hard-drinking, chain-smoking ways. When one starts to look more closely, there's a real possibility that she doesn't even write her own puzzles and that she may be something entirely different from the public's perception of her.

But one will have to read A Clue for the Puzzle Lady to learn the whole truth. In the meantime, readers will also enjoy the small-town Connecticut ambiance and the challenge of trying to figure out what the two female murder victims have in common, aside from the fact that both have been found in the town's cemetery (where the bodies usually come in coffins) and that on their person are what appear to be crossword clues.

What are known in the trade as "cozies" generally are not my cup of tea, as it were, but I'm on record as being a longtime admirer of the author--as well as not being averse to a little-old-lady sleuth with a highball, instead of knitting, in her hand. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

Parnell Hall is the author of the critically acclaimed Stanley Hastings mystery novels and the Steve Winslow courtroom dramas, and has been nominated for the Edgar, the Shamus and the Lefty Awards. This is his first Puzzle Lady mystery. Bantam will publish his second, Last Puzzle & Testament, in Fall 2000.

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