Tuesday, April 21

Last Puzzle & Testament - Parnell Hall

Cora Felton, everyone's favourite grandmother figure, is America's Puzzle Lady, the creator of a syndicated daily crossword puzzle. Well, more accurately she's the face of the Puzzle Lady - the real title belongs to Cora's niece Sherry Carter, who finds reigning in the irrepressible, crossword-averse, Bloody Mary-loving figurehead more work than creating the puzzles.
When wealthy Emma Hurley dies her will is formulated as a combined puzzle and treasure hunt. Of her long-estranged family only the first to solve the puzzle will inherit her fortune. Emma has stipulated that Cora is the arbiter and ring master of the hunt, but as Sherry 'assists' her aunt she becomes increasingly concerned that all is not as it appears.
And as local reporter, and Sherry's boyfriend, Aaron Grant becomes involved, Sherry's increasingly concerned he'll discover the truth - a truth she wants to tell him but can't. If only she knew he already knows. As if she doesn't have enough to worry about, beautiful and intelligent Becky Baldwin arrives in town - a lawyer, Becky and Aaron know each other, and Becky seems interested in Sherry's man.
My enjoyment of Last Puzzle and Testament was marred a little by the fact that it's the second in the series, and so the reasons for Sherry's secrecy are unknown to me. This did not, however, diminish my investment in Sherry maintaining her secret, which is a skill in itself. Compared to the captivating plot and (more importantly) the interesting characters, this knowledge gap was only a minor irritation. Multiply-married Cora is a delight, and watching Sherry drag her back to the point could in lesser hands been repetitive but Hall makes it tense and interesting every time.
I fear that the crossword angle will become a little Murder She Wrote-esque over a series, but there are half a dozen or more Puzzle Lady novels at the library, one of which I plan on reading this week. - Alex

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