Cover image for Last puzzle & testament
Last puzzle & testament
Hall, Parnell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
339 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



Pick up your pencil and get ready to solve a puzzle--and a puzzling murder--in the hit series that provides a dandy puzzle, congenial characters, plenty of laughs, and a true original in Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady (Publishers Weekly).

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 2

Booklist Review

In a suburban town in Connecticut, Cora Felton has some small measure of notoriety as the Puzzle Lady, reputed constructor of syndicated crosswords. The much married and generally alcoholic Cora, though, is a front for her niece Sherry, the real cruciverbalist. Sherry keeps up the ruse and tries to keep Cora from trouble, but it's not easy when Cora has just been named judge of a bizarre scheme set up by a wealthy and newly deceased widow. Her heirs--a scurvy lot--stand to inherit only if they can solve the crossword puzzle she left. That puzzle leads to a cryptic scavenger hunt and then to the reddest of herrings, while the murders pile up. Cora, when sober, is feisty and sharp, a foil to the emotionally wounded but diligent Sherry. Heavier on the cruciverbalist angle than A Clue for the Puzzle Lady [BKL O 1 99], this novel's puzzles within puzzles will charm and so will its attractive cast. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

The second puzzle for Cora Felton (following A Clue for the Puzzle Lady) is even better than her clever debut. Although nationally syndicated columnist Cora is known as the "Puzzle Lady" to her Bakerhaven, Conn., neighbors, it's actually her brainy niece, Sherry Carter, who creates the famous crossword puzzles attributed to Cora. With a grandmotherly appearance that belies the oft married, cigarette-smoking, hard-drinking reality beneath, Cora fancies that her forte is solving mysteries. And Sherry's reticence and desire to shun the spotlight hides a puzzle constructor of the first rank. Their respective skills get a real test when wealthy, eccentric Emma Hurley dies and leaves a will that requires her potential heirs to compete in a puzzle-solving contest. She has furthermore appointed Cora final judge and arbiter. The assembled heirs-in-waiting are a motley lotÄfrom obnoxious battling twins, Phyllis and Philip, to hermit-like Chester and disaffected young nephew Daniel. Reporter Aaron Grant returns as a romantic foil for Sherry, though things keep getting in the way of their budding amour. Edgar nominee Hall, a master of wordplay himself, has great fun as bloodletting and other forms of skullduggery complicate the search for clues and answers to a 40-year-old puzzle. The bantering affection between irrepressible Cora and shy Sherry, the antics of Emma's kin and a bit of murder and mayhem allow Hall to mask the puzzle's solution to the very end. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Sherry Carter was happy. She ran her hand through her hair, pushed the bangs off her forehead, tugged at her earlobe, and smiled across the table at Aaron Grant. The young reporter was wearing a sports jacket with his shirt collar unbuttoned and the knot of his tie pulled down. His brown hair was wavy and slightly mussed. And he was clean shaven--it occurred to Sherry he was always clean shaven, very clean shaven, almost as if he was too young to shave. "How's your soup?" Aaron asked. Sherry barely heard him. "Huh?" "How's your gazpacho?" "Oh. It's okay." "I could have warned you," Aaron said. He gestured with his spoon. "Chicken soup you can't go wrong. Anything else you take a chance." "I said it was okay." Aaron smiled. "Yes, you did. But okay is not a word of praise. It is an equivocation, indicating a reluctance to make a value judgment. And implying a less than favorable assessment." Sherry tried to scowl, but made a poor job of it. Her eyes twinkled. "Does everything with you have to be wordplay?" "Not at all," Aaron replied. "Just look me in the eye and tell me the truth--your gazpacho is barely adequate, and you could make much better yourself--which I am quite sure is a fact--and I would do nothing but agree." "Oh, you like women who brag about their accomplishments?" "Who said anything about women? I like people who are straightforward. Sex doesn't enter into it." "That's for sure." "I beg your pardon?" "Does that happen to you often?" "What?" "That sex doesn't enter into it?" "Now who's indulging in wordplay?" "I wasn't," Sherry replied. "I was just looking you in the eye and telling you the truth." Aaron Grant laughed. Sherry laughed back. They found themselves leaning on their elbows, smiling at each other. Aaron and Sherry were having lunch at the Wicker Basket, a small family restaurant on Drury Lane, just off Main Street in Bakerhaven, Connecticut. The restaurant was a step up from the local diner, featuring tables, not booths, with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and linen napkins. It was a quiet, homey place, and while the food was nothing special, on this occasion the atmosphere was more important. It was their first date. And by Aaron and Sherry's standards, it was going well. Even if they had taken refuge in the safety of wordplay. Both were linguists. Aaron was a writer, Sherry was a crossword-puzzle constructor, and as such they were highly competitive. Sherry loved sparring with Aaron, loved having an intellectual equal who was capable of giving it back as good as he got it. Bantering with Aaron Grant was a treat. It was also safe. It kept Sherry from exposing herself, from opening up, from talking about the things that really mattered. Like their relationship, for instance, and where it was going. There were lots of things unsaid. Sherry was older than Aaron. Just a few years, but with an unsuccessful marriage to her credit. Aaron was only a year out of college and still lived with his parents, which made him seem young on the one hand, and precluded him inviting her up to his room on the other. Or so Sherry imagined. Their relationship hadn't gotten to that point yet. For her part, Sherry lived with her aunt. And while the much-married Cora Felton couldn't have cared less if Sherry had invited Aaron over--on the contrary, from the start Cora had been the one pushing the relationship--Sherry still would have felt inhibited by her presence. So they really had nowhere to go. As if that weren't enough impediment to the relationship, Sherry had one more stumbling block. Sherry's aunt, Cora Felton, was famous. She was known as the Puzzle Lady, both for her national TV ads and for her syndicated crossword-puzzle column. Two hundred and fifty-six newspapers carried that column, including Aaron's paper, the Bakerhaven Gazette. Cora Felton's beaming face appeared in the Gazette every morning. That in itself would not have been a problem, but Cora Felton didn't write the crossword-puzzle column. Sherry did. Cora Felton merely provided the image. Her face was Sherry's conception of what the Puzzle Lady should be. Which apparently was everybody else's, for the Puzzle Lady puzzles were wildly popular. At the moment, this too was complicating Sherry Carter and Aaron Grant's relationship. Aaron knew Sherry was the Puzzle Lady. Sherry didn't know he knew it. Aaron had found out while covering the Graveyard Killings, as the Bakerhaven murders had come to be known, figured it out himself and then finessed a confirmation out of Cora Felton, who couldn't stand up to his cross-examination. Cora had left the task of telling Sherry up to him. So far he hadn't gotten around to it. Though, Aaron realized, that wasn't quite the case. In fact, it wasn't the case at all. It wasn't that he hadn't gotten around to it. Aaron wanted to tell Sherry more than anything. It was one of the reasons he'd invited her to lunch. And yet, he still hadn't told her. Because, more than anything, he wanted her to tell him. It really bothered him that she hadn't. That after all they'd been through together, she didn't trust him enough to let him know. Not that Aaron couldn't make allowances. He knew Sherry had suffered at the hands of her alcoholic ex-husband. But he knew that from Cora, not from Sherry. And he wanted to hear the truth from Sherry badly, so badly he was holding off telling her just to give her the opportunity. But he could not hold out long. Aaron had made up his mind. If Sherry hadn't told him by the end of lunch, that was it. He'd give in and speak first. Not that he thought he'd have to. From her manner, he had a feeling she was about to tell him. And she was. As Sherry Carter sat in the Wicker Basket, smiling across the table at Aaron Grant, she felt at peace with the world. Because she knew she could tell him, and it would be all right. She could tell him about being the real Puzzle Lady. And she could tell him about her abusive ex-husband. And Aaron would understand. In spite of his jovial manner, in spite of his never taking anything seriously, Aaron was basically a good guy, and he would take it the right way. He might joke, sure, but it would be a friendly joke, a supportive joke, an accepting joke. He would put her at her ease. Sherry was sure of it. So why was she hesitating? She wasn't. She would tell him now. Sherry put her hands on the table, opened her mouth to speak, and-- Stopped. Aaron Grant wasn't looking at her. He was looking past her. The expression on his face was hard to read. Surprise, yes, but beyond that. Was it a pleasant surprise? It was hard to tell. But he appeared to be blushing. What was he looking at? A figure appeared in Sherry's peripheral vision and bore down on their table. Sherry looked up, frowned. It was a young woman in a purple pants suit. Her blond hair was sculpted, curling down the side of her head in a casual, careless swoop that Sherry knew took patience to perfect. She was in her mid-twenties, but looked older, without looking old. She also looked sophisticated without looking sharp, stylish without looking styled. She looked intelligent, competent, totally self-assured. A woman who knows precisely what she wants. And knows exactly how to get it. That was Sherry's first impression. Stunning. Totally stunning. Excerpted from Last Puzzle and Testament 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.