Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady - Book Review

I reserved several books in this series from the library and brought them all home several days ago. So I read the first book in the series - A Clue of the Puzzle Lady.

I dont think I will be reviewing any more books in this series. Apart from all of the books pretty much following the same formula, I was shocked by the messages. It is just not done to have a heroine who drinks until they are drunk and smokes like a chimney. I personally do not drink or smoke and I dont like being around anyone who does smoke. I can handle being around a drinker as long as they are not too sloshed.

But Cora Felton is obviously an alcoholic even though that word is not mentioned at all. She drinks to excess to the point of being refused more drinks at the bar and she falls asleep in the same bar, not to mention she smokes like a chimney. And she frequently wakes up with hangovers. This gives out a bad message to readers.

While it is nice for the heroes and heroines to have their faults, I just think that these two faults together in the same person and mentioned as often as they are, is just not kosher. To make things worse this drunken smoker is also perpetuating a lie - in that she is claiming to be a real puzzle lady. Cora's picture is at the top of the crossword column in the newspapers every day. Her face is also on the TV ads. But she cannot solve a crossword puzzle to save her life. Cora's niece Sherry constructs and solves all the crosswords. For me that's three strikes against this series. I wont be reviewing any other books in this series.

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady
by Parnell Hall
Bantam Books 1999

Anyway the basics of this specific novel is that a runaway girl and a local woman are both found dead in the cemetery (at different times of course). The runaway girl has a piece of paper in her hand on which is written the following 4)D - LINE (5)

A police officer identifies it as a crossword clue >> 4 down, A word for LINE, 5 letters. So the chief of police gets in touch with the puzzle lady and asks for her help. After some discussion, Sherry and Cora decide that the answer seems to be QUEUE.

Two days later the second woman is found murdered in the cemetery. The puzzle on her body reads >> 14)A - Sheep (3) - the answer is EWE.

A third crossword puzzle is left in Cora's mail box - this one says >> 18) - Yes Vote (3) - the answer is AYE

Cora also makes a throw-away comment about how the clues could refer to the cemetery itself - 4 graves down and 5 graves across may be important. When this comment is followed, it pinpoints the grave of a young High school student named Barbara Burnside who was killed back in the 1950s in a car crash while she was drinking and driving.

While Cora works on trying to discover who the graveyard killer is, Sherry is getting to know the local newspaper reporter, Aaron Grant. Aaron receives a letter at the newspaper office. This letter says Stay Away from the Burnside case, which just makes Sherry more determined to find out what really happened. She talks to Barbara's boyfriend who does not co-operate. Sherry also speaks to the man who owned the car that the boyfriend borrowed to follow Barbara that night.

Sherry eventually discovers that the friend who owned the car did not actually give permission, and more to the point, he had the keys in his jacket pocket so when the boyfriend told him that he had borrowed (past tense) the car, the car owner wondered if the car had been hot wired.

Sherry eventually creates a case and speaks to the boyfriend about it. The boyfriend attemnps to kill Sherry but is prevented from doing so by the arrival of Aaron the reporter and the Chief of Police. It turns out that the boyfriend had been the person driving and when he crashed the car, he survived because he was wearing a seatbelt. Barbara had gone through the front windshield, hit her head against a rock and died. Both Barbara and the boyfriend had been drinking. The boyfriend had lied. Since the statute of limitations had long since run out, the boyfriend is arrested for assult on Sherry and for obstruction of justice - he had sent the threatening letter to Aaron.

Meanwhile Cora is cracking the cemetery murders. The police discover that the paper that the runaway girl was holding was NOT a crossword clue - it was the answer to a math test problem - specifically algebra. From this, Cora figures out who the murderer is, entices him to the cemetery and gets him to confess while he attempts to kill Cora. The chief of Police also arrives at an opportune moment to see, hear and arrest.

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