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 identity...until 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!
Parnell's lighthearted eighth installment in her cruciverbalist series (after 2005's Stalking the Puzzle Lady) finds feisty, grandmotherly Cora Felton charged with plagiarism and murderAaccusations she'll have to do some fast talking and sleuthing to defy. But Cora, who poses as the Puzzle Lady while her niece Sherry Carter actually writes the crosswords, prefers solving mysteries to puzzles. So when smalltown crook Benny Southstreet first claims she stole his crossword puzzle (retaining her lawyer in the suit), and then turns up dead, she relishes the challenge. The tangled plot involves stolen antique chairs, incriminating photographs of Cora and her prints on the murder weapon, but the irrepressible heroine emerges unscathed. Hall includes several crossword puzzles that will have fans sharpening their pencils. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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August 27, 2007
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Excerpt from You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled by Parnell Hall
1 "The wedding's off!" Sherry Carter punctuated the remark by slamming the door of the red Toyota in which she had just skidded to a stop at the top of the gravel driveway. Cora Felton, relaxing in a lawn chair, looked up from her Agatha Christie novel and nodded sagely. "Good tactic. I called several of my weddings off before going through with them." She took a drag on her cigarette. Her brow furrowed, as if the nicotine had given her sudden powers of concentration. "At least two or three. Melvin, I called off more than once. I suppose that should have told me something." Sherry was in no mood for her aunt's rambling reminiscences. "Cora, we're talking about me." "Of course, dear. I heard you. You're not going to marry Aaron. I quite agree. Aaron's a worthless cad, and you're better off without him. Particularly after what he's done. What has he done, by the way?" "Don't humor me. I hate it when you humor me." "What can I do that you don't hate?" "Oh, who gives a damn!" Sherry stormed into the house. Cora sighed, heaved herself out of the chair. It was late morning, and Cora was clad in her Wicked Witch of the West dress. Her favorite loose, comfortable, lounge-around-home smock, it bore cigarette burns, liquor stains from her less than sober past, plus the telltale signs of some none-too-accurately ingested, scrumptiously caloric treats, covering all the essential food groups, such as hot fudge, marshmallow, whipped cream, guacamole, onion dip, ice cream, butter, and maple syrup, in any and all combinations. Sherry had given up trying to get her aunt to throw away the dress, but strongly cautioned her against wearing it in public, lest unflattering photos should wind up in the tabloid press. Cora had her reputation to uphold. Her benevolent, grandmotherly face graced a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle column. She also did TV ads as the Puzzle Lady, hawking breakfast cereal to schoolchildren. If any kids actually ate it, the joke was on them, since Cora couldn't do a crossword puzzle to save her life. Sherry constructed the puzzles. Cora was much happier poking her nose into mysteries. Real mysteries, involving real crimes. Cora was good at solving crimes. Not matrimonial affairs. Cora glanced around the yard, hollered, "Buddy!" The toy poodle, snoozing in the shade of his favorite elm, stood up, shook himself awake, and trotted toward the house. Cora opened the door and Buddy bounded in. Sherry wasn't in the living room or the kitchen. Cora pounded down the hall to the office, where her niece was on-line. "EBay?" Cora asked. Sherry didn't answer. "When I break an engagement, I always buy something. To make myself feel better. The expense is directly proportional to the nearness of the wedding and the thickness of the skull of the unintended. Is that the right word? Unintended? Or is it disintended? Come on, you're good with words. Help me out." "Cora. I'm not in the mood." "I noticed." Cora brushed cigarette ash off the sleeve of her smock. "If you weren't so self-absorbed, you might ask why I'm not dressed at eleven in the morning. I haven't been having an easy time myself. If I were drinking, I'd be drunk." She frowned. "That sounds stupid, but you know what I mean." "Cora, have you heard a word I said?" "Yeah. You're not getting married, yada, yada, yada. You think you got troubles. I got this nut Benny Southstreet accusing me of swiping his puzzle. Which is pretty funny, since I wouldn't know how to steal his puzzle. Which means he's actually accusing you of stealing his puzzle. I would think you'd care." "Damn it, Cora! I just broke up with Aaro