PUZZLE LADY MYSTERY SERIES

Have you read the Puzzle Lady Mystery Series? Do you think you would enjoy it? If you have any doubts, hop over to Parnell Hall’s YouTube channel and watch a few of his videos. My personal favorite is King of Kindle. It is pretty much an accepted fact in mystery writer circles that Parnell is the funniest guy in the group.  He has three series, but so far I’ve only read the Puzzle Lady and I am looking forward to the other two. Cora Felton is a much married, heavy drinker who pretends to create puzzles. Because she looks the part, grandmotherly and all. In fact, the real puzzle creator is Cora’s niece, Sherry, who is publicity shy. Cora doesn’t suffer from shyness and is much more into crime solving. I saw one review that described the books as Groucho Marx meets Jessica Fletcher. Yup, pretty much. In fact, Parnell Hall’s plots take you down a road with so many twists and turns you meet yourself coming back – laughing all the way. The mysteries are well written, the books are funny as all get out and to top it off, the books have puzzles in them. Of course, if like me, you got them at the library someone will probably already have filled in a lot of them! This is a series you will want to read. ♥♥♥♥♥+

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

twitter_PHParnell Hall is the author of the Puzzle Lady crossword puzzle mysteries, the Stanley Hastings private eye novels, and the Steve Winslow courtroom dramas. His first novel, DETECTIVE, was nominated for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America, and a Shamus award by the Private Eye Writers of America. His tenth Stanley Hastings novel, MOVIE, was nominated for a Shamus award for Best Private Eye Novel of 1995, and for a Lefty for the funniest mystery novel of 1995. His novel, SCAM, was also a Lefty nominee. Parnell worked for two years as a private detective in New York City. His experiences form the basis for his Stanley Hastings series. He has no courtroom experience, however, and owes his Steve Winslow series to a childhood spent reading Erle Stanley Gardner. He is also a newcomer to the field of crossword puzzle construction, and is learning with each new book. Parnell is an actor, who has done summer stock and regional theater, and appeared in a number of movies, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first movie, Hercules in New York (in which he appeared clad in a leopard skin) and A New Leaf with Elaine May and Walter Matthau. He often acts in interactive dinner theater events for Bogies Mystery Tours. Parnell is a member of the Writers Guild of America East with several screenplays to his credit, including the underground horror movie C.H.U.D., which has been satirized on Saturday Night Live. Parnell’s earliest professional writing was a song he sold to the folk singer Pete Seeger at the age of 15. It was called The Literacy Test Song, and made fun of voting tests in the South. Seeger recorded it on the Folkways album Gazette, Volume 2.

THE BOOKS

Cruciverbalists, rejoice! Pick up a pencil and get ready to solve a puzzling murder-and an actual crossword puzzle-in this sparkling debut of a unique amateur detective: Miss Cora Felton, an eccentric old lady with a syndicated puzzle column, an irresistible urge to poke into unsettling events, and a niece who’s determined to keep her out of trouble.

When the body of an unknown teenage girl turns up in the cemetery in the quiet town of Bakerhaven, Police Chief Dale Harper finds himself investigating his first homicide. A baffling clue leads him to consult Bakerhaven’s resident puzzle expert-his first big mistake. Soon Cora’s meddling, mischief-making behavior 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 wooden box three feet across…and six down.

Wealthy widow Emma Hurley died with only her servants at her side — but after she passes away, her greedy heirs crawl out of the woodwork to stake a claim in Emma’s fortune. To their surprise, Emma was not content to leave behind a simple will. Instead, her final testament includes a clever puzzle … one to be given only to her living heirs.

The first one to solve the puzzle will inherit Emma’s entire estate; everyone else will be left with a pittance. The will also stipulates that Cora Felton — local celebrity and famed author of a popular syndicated crossword puzzle column — must referee the contest.

Unfortunately, it’s Cora’s niece, Sherry Carter, who is the brains behind Cora’s “Puzzle Lady” persona. And it’s up to Sherry to unravel the bizarre riddle Emma Hurley engineered before her death. For soon it’s plain that Emma’s game is one without a clear winner … and that the players could lose far more than they ever imagined!

Bakerhaven, Connecticut, seems like the ideal place to host a charity crossword-puzzle tournament–after all, the town is home to Cora Felton, the beloved puzzle columnist known as the Puzzle Lady. A slew of celebrity contestants are on the way. And the locals have been invited to challenge the veteran puzzlers head-on. But soon the town’s attention is fixated on something far more controversial than crosswords…when the body of the town tart is discovered lying dead on her kitchen floor. Before anyone can stop her, Cora is hot on the trail of the truth, interviewing nosy neighbors, digging up dirt, and drawing out a lonely recluse who just may hold the key to cracking the crime. But will she solve the case before the contest comes to a deadly end? Cora once again proves that sleuthing spells S-U-S-P-E-N-S-E–up, across, and down!

Tis the season to be jolly, but Cora Felton, shanghaied into “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a most reluctant maid-a-milking, has every right to feel like a grinch. When someone steals the partridge from the pear tree and replaces it with a cryptic puzzle she has no hope of solving, it’s almost more than the Puzzle Lady can bear. But then smug crossword creator Harvey Beerbaum solves the acrostic, and it turns out to be a poem promising the death of an actress. This is more like it! Could the threat be aimed at Cora and her thespian debut? Or at Sherry, one of the ladies-dancing? Or at Sherry’s nemesis, the pageant’s predatory lead, Becky Baldwin?

Cora and Sherry barely have time for a mystery, what with trimming Christmas trees and buying Christmas presents, but rehearsals go on, under police protection–until a killer strikes elsewhere in a most unexpected manner.Ordinarily Cora Felton would be delighted to have two murders to solve. But this time she finds herself vying with a visiting Scotland Yard inspector who appears to have an all-too-personal stake in solving the crimes. Cora does too when her own niece becomes a prime suspect and the murderer strikes again.

Is someone trying to shut down the Christmas pageant? Cora would be only too happy if that were the case, but she fears the secrets lie deeper. Now she is interviewing witnesses, breaking into motel rooms, finding evidence, planting evidence, and having a merry old time. In fact, she would be perfectly happy–if this wasn’t turning out to be a Christmas to die for!

It looks like wedding bells again for the much-married Cora Felton when distinguished widower Raymond Harstein III moves into town and makes a play for the Puzzle Lady. That is, it does until the mail brings puzzling cryptograms, which, when deciphered, warn Cora off the match.

Or do they?

As the puzzles keep coming, a killer’s game must be played in earnest, and it’s up to the Puzzle Lady to solve the riddle—if anyone is going to live to make it to the altar!

When nerdy cruciverbalist Harvey Beerbaum throws a birthday bash for Cora Felton at the Bakerhaven Library, it’s no surprise that the centerpiece, a huge cake decorated like a crossword puzzle, is a complete bust–until a corpse thrown from the second floor stacks hits it dead center and fills in 14 down. Cora may hate birthdays almost as much as she hates crossword puzzles–but when it comes to solving crimes, no one can hold a candle to the Puzzle Lady.

Cora Felton may look like everyone’s favorite grandmother. But the white-haired, bespectacled Puzzle Lady swears, smokes, gambles, and is even dodgy on the subject of how many husbands she’s had. So it strikes her long-suffering niece Sherry Carter as amusing when Cora announces, “I’m tired of living a lie!”

The inspiration for this sudden burst of honesty is a promotion by Granville Grains featuring the Puzzle Lady on a bus tour of televised personal appearances. Cora can’t think of anything she’d like to do less–except maybe quit smoking–than travel the supermarkets of I-95 hawking the new and improved Corn Toasties to her legions of fans. And someone else mustn’t want her to go either, because they’ve left a knife planted in her front door with a crossword puzzle attached. But when Sherry solves the puzzle she can’t decide whether the enigmatic message is a threat, a love note, or– creepier still–both.

Like it or not, Cora and Sherry must take their show on the road, along with a makeshift TV crew that includes a smarmy producer with a bad hairpiece, an abrasive director, an overambitious publicist, and two overgrown child-actors with some very adult problems. Throw in a few uninvited guests, including a roly-poly munchkin who’s had an unrequited crush on Cora since high school and Sherry’s abusive ex-husband, and you don’t need to be a puzzle expert to know this trip is going to be murder!

When Benny Southstreet, a small-time hustler with a big-time gift for constructing crosswords, accuses Cora of stealing one of his creations, it’s clearly a case of mistaken identityuntil Cora’s own attorney files a plagiarism suit against her. To add to the enigma, when Benny is found dead, the police charge Cora with his murder!

At the heart of the matter is the not-so-little white lie Cora has been living for years: assuming the grandmotherly public face of her publicity-shy niece Sherry, who designs crossword puzzles and publishes them under Cora’s name—aka the Puzzle Lady. It turns out that Sherry’s and Benny’s cruciverbalist paths had recently crossed, resulting in the current incriminating conundrum.

As if Sherry’s wedding engagement jitters and a nasty battle over missing antique chairs weren’t enough to deal with, now Cora has to solve the ultimate mystery: how to keep the secret of her identity without losing her life. Because not only does all evidence point to Cora, but someone seems to want her dead. It looks like a riddle with no answer. Luckily for Cora and Sherry, that’s their favorite kind!

Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady (who actually couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle to save her life), is surprisingly good at sudoku, so it’s no problem when a Japanese publisher asks her to write a sudoku book. But when two Japanese publishers show up in Bakerhaven to vie for her services, Cora is a little confused. Which one did she actually sign with? Which one has the stunning geisha wife? And which one is about to be arrested for murder? The two men are archenemies and will go to great lengths to ace out each other. But would they stoop to murder? Someone is littering the town with sudoku, crossword puzzles, and dead private eyes. It’s up to Cora, with the help of her niece, Sherry, to solve the puzzle, the sudoku, and the murder, before the killer strikes again.

Sherry is off on her honeymoon when Chief Harper comes to Cora Felton, asking her to solve a crossword puzzle found on the body of Old Man Overmeyer. Small problem. Cora is the Milli Vanilli of cruciverbalists. Her niece, Sherry, writes the crossword puzzle column for her.

Cora pokes into Overmeyer’s death, hoping to prove he died of natural causes. She learns the cranky hermit was the sole surviving member of a forty-year-old stock pooling agreement, and before she can say “capital gain,” the town is full of heirs. Complicating things is Sherry’s ex-husband, Dennis, who is playing detective in the hopes of impressing his ex-wife. With Sherry out of town, her restraining order against him is moot, and he is taking full advantage of the fact.

It’s the battle of the century when Minami, the Sudoku Lady, shows up in Bakerhaven, Connecticut, to meet Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, whose sudoku books have just edged Minami’s off of the Japanese bestseller list. Before the rivals have a chance to square off, a killer strikes, and a sudoku puzzle is found at the scene of the murder. Now it’s a fight to the finish to see who can unmask the killer.

Cora is eager to undo her Japanese counterpart—at least until the poor woman is arrested for murder and Cora realizes that she accidentally framed her for the crime. As if that weren’t frustrating enough, the publicity of her arrest drives Minami’s sales through the roof!

Now it’s up to Cora to clear her rival’s name, get her off the bestseller list, and trap the real killer, but she’d better do it fast, before the cops find out what Cora did, and she winds up facing more jail time than Minami.

The Puzzle Lady just can’t stay out of trouble. When the late Chester T. Markowitz, a man she never met, leaves $10,000 to his beloved wife, Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady can’t help cashing the check. Quicker than you can say legal proceedings, Cora’s least favorite ex-husband, Melvin, shows up in Bakerhaven with an attorney and a young bimbo, demanding that her alimony be terminated on the grounds she remarried.

When a key witness in the alimony hearing gets murdered, a KenKen puzzle is left at the scene of the crime. Is someone trying to tell Cora something? Before she can find out, she runs into more murders, more puzzles (both KenKen and crossword) and a murder weapon that seems to point to Melvin as the killer! At least it might have, if Cora hadn’t suppressed it.

When young attorney Becky Baldwin hires Cora Felton to make a blackmail payment drop, it couldn’t go worse: she stumbles over a corpse and a puzzle, and someone steals the money. Becky
won’t tell her who the client is, but the most likely suspect is Cora’s least favorite ex-husband, Melvin, who claims he’s being framed by a psychopath with a grudge. Soon Cora finds herself in a no-win situation. Solving the murder will either put Melvin’s neck in the noose, or incur the wrath of a cunning, cold-blooded killer who delights in playing deadly mind games and may be targeting her niece Sherry and Sherry’s new baby girl.

When an elderly boarder at a Bakerhaven bed-and-breakfast drops dead during afternoon tea, there’s nothing particularly suspicious about it—except for the Sudoku in his jacket pocket. But when a second body turns up in the window seat and an autopsy shows both men were poisoned with elderberry wine, the Puzzle Lady suspects she’s dealing with a cold-blooded killer who for some reason is copying the Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace, in which two old ladies who run a boarding house poison elderly widowers and bury them in the basement. More murders, more puzzles, and a grave dug in the cellar seem to cement the theory.

Ordinarily, Cora would eat a case like this for breakfast, but for once she can’t figure it out. And she’s not sure if the clues don’t add up, or if the much-married Puzzle Lady is just distracted by being involved in her first romantic entanglement in years.

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