Cover image for A clue for the puzzle lady
Title:
A clue for the puzzle lady
Author:
Hall, Parnell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
289 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780553800968
Format :
Book

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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Parnell Hall is a part-time actor, a former private detective, singer/songwriter, and full-time writer of novels and screenplays. He writes the Stanley Hastings Mystery series, the Steve Winslow courtroom drama series, and the Puzzle Lady Mystery series. He also writes under the pseudonym J. P. Hailey. He wrote the screenplay to the 1984 movie C.H.U.D.

Hall co-authored New York Times bestseller Smooth Operator with Stuart Woods.

(Bowker Author Biography) Parnell Hall has been nominated for the Edgar, the Shamus, and the Lefty Awards for his mysteries. Bantam will publish his third Puzzle Lady mystery, Puzzled to Death, in Fall 2001. He lives in New York City.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There are plenty of formulaic cozy ingredients here: obvious bad guys; bright, attractive principals; a nice suburban setting. But Hall works with them in such deft ways, with such spiffy dialogue, that we are immediately seduced. Add to that a very clever interweaving of the art and craft of crossword-puzzle construction, and you have a very tidy package indeed. A crossword-puzzle clue on the body of a young runaway sends police chief Harper to the Puzzle Lady, Cora Felton, a local syndicated columnist whose twinkly gray demeanor hides a most incisive mind. Unfortunately, Cora also hides it in a haze of drink and cigarettes, causing her niece Sherry no end of trouble. A second body found in the cemetery with another crossword clue sends Cora and Sherry off to solve the puzzle before more mayhem results. Hall uses a public typewriter in a local library as part of his elaborate clue set, and we can forgive him that bizarre anachronism because the rest of it is so much fun. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido


Publisher's Weekly Review

Hall, best known for his Edgar-nominated Stanley Hastings series, begins a new series with a heroine who provides an interesting variation on the older woman sleuth. Imagine Miss Marple as a promiscuous lush, and you have Cora Felton, known to crossword puzzle buffs around the country as "The Puzzle Lady." Cora and her niece, Sherry Carter, have moved to the small town of Bakerhaven, Conn., hoping to protect Sherry from an abusive ex-husband. The body of a young girl is discovered in the Bakerhaven Cemetery, and Police Chief Dale Harper investigates, though he wishes the body had been found in someone else's jurisdiction. An enigmatic clue in the victim's pockets takes Chief Harper in search of assistance, and he gets more than he needs from Cora, who's determined to help solve the puzzle. A second murder complicates the case, and overly zealous cub reporter Aaron Grant spills the news to the public about the cryptic clues. In addition to his trademark zippy, witty dialogue, Hall provides a dandy puzzle, congenial secondary characters, plenty of laughs and a true original in Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

A crossword puzzle left at the site of a gruesome crime is the only clue available to Bakerhaven's police chief, so he turns to the famed Puzzle Lady for help. Trouble is, she's got some secrets of her own. A new series from an author who's frequently nominated for the big mystery awards. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The first clue came with a corpse. The body lay next to a gravestone in the Bakerhaven Cemetery. Police Chief Dale Harper stood in the pouring rain and looked down at it with displeasure. What was a corpse doing in the cemetery? Chief Harper was not unaware of the humor in the question. A body in the cemetery--the press would have a field day. Chief Harper frowned and wiped the water off his face. The body was that of a young girl in her late teens or early twenties. She was lying facedown with her head twisted to the side. Her left eye was open. Chief Harper wished he could close it. It was eight in the morning, he had barely had his coffee, and the sight of her made him queasy. What in the world was she doing there? And why was she in the cemetery? If she'd only been on the other side of the fence, not a hundred yards away, she'd have been in the township of Clarksonville, and he wouldn't have gotten the call that dragged him away from the breakfast table before his toast had even popped, on a rainy Monday morning the last day in May. But, no, this corpse fell under his jurisdiction. The good citizens of Bakerhaven would expect him, as chief of police, to do something about it. It was up to him to find out who killed her and why. At the moment, he didn't even know who she was. "Never seen her before," the caretaker said. It was the fourth or fifth time he'd said so. A shriveled little man with a somewhat belligerent nature, Fred Lloyd had found the body when he'd arrived for work this morning. He'd driven in the gate, and his headlights had picked up the girl's silhouette. He'd called the police station, the cop on duty had called the chief, and now Lloyd and Harper were standing together in the cemetery in a drenching rain. "So you said." Chief Harper knew he should interview Mr. Lloyd, but at the moment he couldn't think of a thing to ask him. The guy had found the body, he'd never seen the girl before, and what else was there? Chief Harper wasn't entirely up on procedure because murders just didn't happen in Bakerhaven, Connecticut. Waterbury or Danbury, sure, those were big cities, they had their share of crime. Bakerhaven was one of those small, quiet, respectable towns where nothing much happened. There had not been a murder in Bakerhaven in the year and a half that Dale Harper had been chief. So he was not entirely sure what to do. One thing he knew was he couldn't touch the body until the medical examiner got there. The ambulance he'd called for had arrived, and the paramedics had confirmed what he already knew, that the girl was dead. But they couldn't take her away until the medical examiner saw her, and Barney Nathan, the notorious stick-in-the-mud who served that function, was undoubtedly taking his own sweet time finishing up his breakfast before venturing out on a morning like this to stand in the cemetery in the rain. The paramedics had gone back to the shelter of their ambulance. Chief Harper hunched his orange slicker up over his neck, wished he were somewhere else. The phone bleeped. Chief Harper reached under his slicker, fished out the cellular phone, flipped it open, said, "Hello?" "Dale?" Chief Harper sighed. His wife. "Yes, dear." "You ran out on breakfast. Is everything all right?" "I can't talk now. I'm out in the rain." "Clara's upset. She doesn't want to go to school." "I can't deal with that now." "What shall I tell her?" "Tell her to go to school." "Dale." "Ellen. I'm in the cemetery. A young girl is dead." "Oh, my God. Who?" "It's no one we know. I can't talk now. Tell Clara if she doesn't go to school she'll miss all the gossip. The phone's getting wet. I gotta go." A car drove through the cemetery gate, stopped behind the police car. An umbrella popped out from the driver's door, mushroomed open. The trim figure of Barney Nathan emerged. Despite the early hour and the rain, Dr. Nathan was nattily dressed in a blue suit, white shirt, and red bow tie. He would have looked more in place on the dais of a medical convention than at the scene of a homicide. If this was a homicide. Dr. Nathan stepped carefully through the streams of water up to the two men. "What do we have here?" "You tell me," Chief Harper said. "You mean you haven't touched it yet?" "Just to make sure she's dead. Aside from that, we've all been waiting for you." If Dr. Nathan took that as a pointed remark, he didn't acknowledge it. He went over to the grave, bent down beside the body. Examined it with one hand, while holding the umbrella with the other. After a few moments he straightened up. "Okay. Let's get her out of here." "So what do you think?" Dr. Nathan's smile was superior. "Much too soon to tell. I'll have to do a postmortem." "Any idea when she died?" "That's what I'll be trying to determine. Okay, that's all I need here. They can take her away." "In other words, I can touch the body," Chief Harper said. "With all due care. I still have to determine the cause of death." "Yes, of course. I'd also like to know who she is." Chief Harper rolled the body over. The girl was wearing a cotton pullover and blue jeans. No shoes or socks. Harper felt in the hip pockets, looking for an ID, but they were empty. The right front pocket had some cash. Eight dollars in bills and some change. He put it back. The left front pocket appeared empty, but proved to contain a folded piece of paper. Chief Harper slid it out in his cupped hand, and looked up to see Barney Nathan standing there watching him. Which irritated him. Granted, Chief Harper had never liked the man, but it was more than that. Chief Harper had waited for the doctor, held everyone off, shown him the proper respect for his office. In return, Dr. Nathan had not given him the time of day, and was now looking over his shoulder, poking his nose into police business, as if insinuating he didn't trust him to do his job. This particularly grated since Chief Harper wasn't all that confident about doing his job in the first place. Which is why, instead of opening the paper, Chief Harper palmed it and casually slid it into his pants pocket as he straightened up. "Okay, you can take her," he said. "You find anything?" Dr. Nathan said. "She's got no ID on her." "That should make it more difficult." Dr. Nathan gestured to the two medics in the ambulance to bundle up the body. "Where they taking her? The hospital?" "No. My office. I have one of the rooms set up for autopsies." "Uh huh," Chief Harper said. As he watched Barney Nathan walk off, he couldn't help wondering how much the good doctor charged the town for the service. With the umbrella gone, Chief Harper was getting soaked. He gave way for the paramedics, nodded to the caretaker, and plodded through the mud over to his police cruiser. He hopped in the front seat, started the car, turned the heater up. He snuffled, found a tissue, blew his nose. It occurred to him it would be just his luck to catch a cold. Dr. Nathan had already driven off. Watching him go, Chief Harper reached in his pocket, and pulled out the piece of paper he'd taken from the pocket of the girl. He knew it was probably nothing. And he was not entirely sure why he had concealed it from the doctor. With low expectations, he unfolded the paper. It was an ordinary piece of lined notebook paper. Chief Harper looked at it and blinked. On it was written in ballpoint pen: 4) d - line (5). Chief Harper shook his head. Just his luck. A dead body in the graveyard wasn't enough. He had to get an enigmatic clue. Chief Harper sighed, wondered what it meant. Excerpted from A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.