$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles (Puzzle Lady Series #13)

$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles (Puzzle Lady Series #13)

4.5 4
by Parnell Hall

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"Groucho Marx meets Jessica Fletcher!"--RT Book Reviews

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,


"Groucho Marx meets Jessica Fletcher!"--RT Book Reviews

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.

$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles is another delightful entry in Parnell Hall's entertaining Puzzle Lady series, featuring new puzzles by Will Shortz that help readers solve the mystery!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Hall’s well-plotted if padded 13th mystery featuring PI and puzzle lady Cora Felton (after 2011’s The KenKen Killings), lawyer Becky Baldwin persuades Cora to deliver a blackmail payment, in the amount stated in the book’s title, on behalf of an unnamed client. When Cora opens the lid of the Dumpster at the abandoned gas station where she’s to make the drop, she finds a man inside, shot in the temple. A piece of paper protruding from the dead man’s pocket turns out to be, no surprise for this puzzle-themed cozy series, a sudoku. In the subsequent murder investigation, Cora and friends rehash events at length and bicker to the point where the reader has to wonder if they really care about solving the crime. At one point Brookhaven, Conn., police chief Dale Harper asks Cora to answer “in simple, declarative sentences.” Cora’s evasive, bantering replies may exasperate those who aren’t already Hall fans. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“One of the Puzzle Lady's finest hours, faster paced than most, with the obligatory puzzles to help solve the case.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Fun, two words, 11 letters: P-A-R-N-E-L-L H-A-L-L. Hall, a master of the comic mystery, brings back Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady....Cora faces numerous situations, including blackmail, murder, the return of an ex-husband–and her niece and nephew-in-law's new baby. Add Hall's wit and razor-sharp dialogue, and '10,000 in Small Unmarked Puzzles' is another winner in an amusing series. Complete with crossword and Sudoku puzzles, Hall's latest is sure to appeal to anyone who likes brainteasers, whether of the crime or the riddle variety.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Great fun for series fans.” —Booklist

Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, is in a tizzy as she drives her niece, Sherry, and her husband to the Bakerhaven, Connecticut, hospital to have their first baby. There is good reason for the tizzy. Sherry, as fans of this series' know, is the real genius behind Cora's crossword puzzles, and if Sherry can't write them, will Cora be outed as a fraud? Complicating matters further, the town's lawyer, Becky Baldwin, seeks Cora's assistance with a blackmail case. Following the first clue, which comes in the form of a Sudoku (Cora knows her Sudoku better than she does her crosswords), the Puzzle Lady sets off to do the drop of $10,000 in blackmail money. Simple task, it would seem, until Cora finds a body in the dumpster. What follows is a farcical romp involving after-hours hospital visits to get Sherry's assistance with crossword-puzzle clues, snatching the Sudoku and crossword clues before the police find them, and dealing with the arrival of an ex-husband, judicial threats, and nighttime wa
Kirkus Reviews
One of the Puzzle Lady's former husbands comes back to haunt her yet again. While Cora Felton waits for her niece Sherry, who actually constructs the crossword puzzles attributed to Cora, to give birth, she's reluctant to take on a job offered her by the stunning young attorney Becky Baldwin. But when she does agree to deliver a blackmail payment, she finds herself in the soup. Inside the dumpster at a deserted service station she finds a dead body and a sudoku, just the type of puzzle she happens to excel at solving. She hides the money in an old gas pump just before the arrival of Police Chief Harper, with whom Cora's meddling in earlier cases (The KenKen Killings, 2011, etc.) has led to quite the love/hate relationship. Anxious to get to the hospital where Sherry's about to deliver her premature baby, Cora must call her lawyer to get away from the police. Becky refuses to reveal her client, but it appears to be Cora's least-liked ex-husband Melvin, who claims that he's being framed by an enemy with a grudge. Since the first $10,000 in blackmail money has disappeared, Cora agrees to make another drop, this time at a cemetery where she discovers a second corpse. It puts no damper on Cora's curiosity when the police arrest Melvin. Instead, she continues to look for the killer, putting herself and family in danger. One of the Puzzle Lady's finest hours, faster paced than most, with the obligatory puzzles to help solve the case.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Puzzle Lady Series , #13
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles

A Puzzle Lady Mystery
By Parnell Hall

Minotaur Books

Copyright © 2012 Parnell Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312602475


“Just keep calm,” Cora said as she piloted the Toyota around the curve.
“Keep calm?” Sherry said from the backseat. “You’re the one driving like a maniac.”
“Don’t distract her,” Aaron said. He had his arm around Sherry and was squeezing her hand.
“Distract her from what?” Sherry said. “Skidding off the road?”
“Hold on,” Cora said. “I’ll get you there.”
Cora was driving Sherry to the hospital. Sherry had just gone into labor, which seemed to panic the expectant great-aunt more than it did the expectant mother. Cora had fallen all over herself bustling Sherry into the car. Aaron had been lucky not to be left behind.
The expectant parents were headed for the new hospital, a two-story structure of stone and steel built in 1978. The old hospital had closed in 1984, so there was only a six-year span during which Bakerhaven had two hospitals. Nonetheless, the residents still referred to the hospital by the mall as the new hospital.
“How are the contractions?” Cora asked.
“Wonderful,” Sherry said. “I have a deep, abiding love for all of you. Do you have any more dumb questions?”
“I’ll think of some. Aaron, did you bring her something to bite on?”
“Bite on?”
“Like in the movies when they’re digging out the bullet without anesthesia.”
“I’m fine,” Sherry said. “Cora. I need you to focus. The Puzzle Lady column.”
“What about it?”
“You have to turn in the puzzles so people think you write the damn thing.”
“They’re not going to be impressed if I turn them in wrong.”
“It’s not a problem. I’m your secretary. I send out the crossword puzzles you create. I’m on maternity leave, so you have to send them out yourself. You’re somewhat spooked by the technology. You hope you get everything right.”
“You can say that again.”
“No, I don’t mean it. That’s the part you’re playing. It’s your excuse for any problem with the puzzles that you can’t deal with. Anything you have to ask me about. Any technical, secretarial problem having to do with the functions of the computer programs. You’re the genius who scrawls crossword puzzles on the backs of napkins. I’m the functionary who deciphers your handwriting and prints the things out.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself. Could I actually hire a functionary while you’re in the hospital?”
“Why not?”
“Because I write the puzzles. Because you couldn’t construct one if your life depended on it.”
“That’s cruel and hurtful. I’ll put that down to labor pains. You’re clearly delirious.”
“Will you watch the road?”
“I’m watching the road. It hasn’t moved since I’ve been on it.”
“You just missed the turn for the hospital.”
“Come on, Cora. I’m not the first person in the world to have a baby.”
“Yeah, well, you’re early,” Cora said.
The baby was premature. Sherry going into labor had caught everyone off guard.
“Five weeks,” Sherry said. “That’s nothing these days.”
“Easy for you to say. They’ll knock you out with drugs; you won’t feel a thing. They won’t even give me a valium.”
Cora hung a U-turn, headed back the other way.
The telephone rang.
“Is that your phone?” Sherry said.
“If it is, I’m not answering,” Aaron said. “No, not mine.”
“Well, it’s not mine,” Cora said. “I don’t have one.”
It continued to ring.
“You wanna look in my bag?” Sherry said.
“You don’t have to answer,” Aaron told her.
“Yeah, but I can if I want to, right? I mean, having a baby doesn’t cut you off from the world.” Sherry snapped open the phone. “Hello … oh, hi, Becky … yeah, Cora’s here. She can’t talk, she’s driving … yeah, she’s driving me to the hospital.… No, nothing’s wrong, I’m just having a baby.… Thank you, but I haven’t had it yet. I’m not sure of the protocol, but I think you’re supposed to wait until there’s an actual infant. So, what do you want with Cora?… No, she’s driving. You tell me, I’ll relay the message … You’re in trouble and you need her help.” Sherry looked up from the cell phone. “Becky’s in trouble and she needs your help.”
“Tell her I’m busy,” Cora said.
“She’ll be right there,” Sherry said, and hung up.
Cora’s mouth fell open. “Didn’t you hear me? I said no.”
Sherry scrunched on the edge of her seat. “Cora Felton. If you let my having a baby make you give up the things you love, you’ll end up hating me and the baby. A sharp, young attorney at law wants your help. You’re not going to blow her off just so you can run around the hospital driving everybody crazy. Aaron and I can handle the baby thing just fine. You drop us off, and go help Becky Baldwin.” Sherry looked out the window. “Assuming you ever get us to the hospital.”
“You just missed the turn again.”

Copyright © 2012 by Parnell Hall


Excerpted from $10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles by Parnell Hall Copyright © 2012 by Parnell Hall. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Parnell Hall has been a finalist for Edgar, Lefty, and Shamus Awards. He is a former President of PWA and a member of Sisters in Crime. Parnell competes each year in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He lives in New York City.

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$10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles: A Puzzle Lady Mystery 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Similar to many authors, Mr. Hall seems to be tossing off new books. The first couple were much better. It may not be worthwhile to continue the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago