cover image PUZZLED TO DEATH


Parnell Hall, . . Bantam, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80102-6

In this third book of a well-received series (Last Puzzle and Testament, etc.), we have puzzles within puzzles in every sense of the word. Cora Felton, hailed as the "Puzzle Lady" for her prowess in constructing newspaper crossword puzzles, in truth knows nothing about crosswords. She receives the adulation of the puzzle world while her niece, Sherry Carter, does all the work. Cora's real love is solving murder mysteries in the Murder She Wrote vein. When the townspeople of Bakerhaven, Conn., decide to hold a crossword puzzle contest, after much debate over the propriety and usefulness of such a contest, Cora, who's cohost of the event, gets her chance to do some sleuthing. The town tart turns up dead on her kitchen floor, and soon two more murders follow. What ties all the murders together is that a crossword puzzle (or in one case, a doodle) is found with each body. The author provides us with two crosswords from the contest to solve, though these have only a tenuous connection to the murders. Poor Chief Harper of the Bakerhaven Police Department, Cora's foil, is somewhat befuddled ("Tell me again why she couldn't have done it," he asks her). Numerous suspects, both out-of-town contestants and locals, keep the action moving. The dust jacket, depicting a subtly sinister autumnal landscape with a crossword-grid sky, elegantly conveys the novel's contents. (Nov. 6)

FYI:Hall is also the author of Cozy (Forecasts, May 21).