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Arsenic and Old Puzzles (Puzzle Lady Series #14)
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Arsenic and Old Puzzles (Puzzle Lady Series #14)

4.7 4
by Parnell Hall

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The Puzzle Lady embarks on another adventure involving one classic movie and featuring new puzzles by Will Shortz

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


The Puzzle Lady embarks on another adventure involving one classic movie and featuring new puzzles by Will Shortz

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.

Arsenic and Old Puzzles is filled with laughs, mayhem, and fun new puzzles by Will Shortz. Mystery and puzzle fans will find much to enjoy in this latest treat from Parnell Hall.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Feisty Cora Felton, who fronts as the Puzzle Lady for niece Sherry Carter, is at her cantankerous, obfuscating, trouble-stirring best in Hall’s delightful 14th Bakerhaven, Conn., romp (after 2012’s ,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles). When the body of an unidentified tourist is found at the bed-and-breakfast of elderly sisters Charlotte and Edith Guilford, police chief Dale Harper calls Cora for help with the sudoku puzzle in the tourist’s pocket. Cora is no good at puzzles, but quickly notices the smell of almonds, which suggests cyanide and thus foul play. As additional puzzles, bodies, and clues pile up, a connection to the 1944 Frank Capra film Arsenic and Old Lace becomes clear. Even more fun than the whodunit is the romantic confusion Cora sows among pretty lawyer Becky Baldwin; the Guilfords’ nephew, Alan; and Alan’s girlfriend, Arlene Winnington. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“Puzzle-master Hall again produces a clever whodunit laced with humor and an amateur sleuth at once endearing and infuriating. Readers will have fun filling in the squares of this rollicking mystery.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Cora's zaniness rubs off on everyone, to the delight of fans old and new.” —Booklist

“Feisty Cora Felton...is at her cantankerous, obfuscating, trouble-stirring best in Hall's delightful 14th Bakerhaven, Conn., romp (after 2012's $10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles).” —Publishers Weekly

“Clever, manipulative Cora provides laughs and an ingenious mystery along with the obligatory puzzles for those who can't figure out whodunit.” —Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Since every murderer in Bakerhaven, Conn., seems to leave a puzzle with the corpse, Police Chief Harper considers himself lucky that the Puzzle Lady is on hand to solve them. If only he knew. Cora Felton, who's been married at least six times, has started a relationship with the unhappily married Dr. Nathan but covered herself by getting people to think he's romancing local attorney Becky Baldwin. The deception would be impossible for anyone but Cora, the face of a syndicated crossword empire who can't construct or solve crosswords--her niece Sherry is the person who actually creates them--though she's a whiz at sudoku. The latest puzzling victim is a tourist staying at a bed and breakfast run by the elderly Guilford sisters. Always looking to help out Becky, Cora has her represent the sisters and their nephew Alan Guilford, who claims to have just arrived from New York. His girlfriend, Arlene, who lives next door, bursts onto the scene with a crossword she found on the doorstep. Once the crossword is solved, all the clues point to Arsenic and Old Lace, including the exact poison used by the fictional sisters in the well-known play and movie. More bodies and more crosswords add to the confusion. The town drunk is found dead in the Guilfords' window seat. He's followed by one of the sisters, then another couple staying at the B&B. Is the logic of the play dictating the killer's actions, or are all the deaths just a coverup for one? Clever, manipulative Cora ($10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles, 2012, etc.) provides laughs and an ingenious mystery along with the obligatory puzzles for those who can't figure out whodunit.
Library Journal
When a number of old men die suddenly, Cora can't help but notice parallels to the movie Arsenic and Old Lace. This is number 14 (after $10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles) for the Puzzle Lady. Sudokus and crosswords included.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Puzzle Lady Series , #14
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt





“So when’s she going to walk?” Cora said.

Sherry Carter shot an amused glance at Aaron Grant. Jennifer Carter Grant was crawling back and forth from Mommy to Daddy on a beach blanket on the front lawn. Cora Felton was sitting on a lawn chair. Not sitting on the ground was one of the privileges accorded a great-aunt, and Cora was taking full advantage.

“She’s nine months old,” Sherry said.

“What’s your point?”

“Babies walk around a year,” Aaron said.

“A whole year? That must tire them out.” Cora cocked her head. “I don’t see why she couldn’t start walking. I mean, look at the size of her. You’d never know she was premature.”

“That’s not the type of thing she needs to grow up hearing all the time,” Sherry said.

“You’re going to withhold it from her?” Cora said. “My God, the kid will grow up with a complex. She’ll have a therapist before she’s five.”

“Did you ever have a therapist?” Sherry said.

“That’s a rather personal question. Particularly in front of a young man. Just because he married into the family doesn’t mean he gets to share our household secrets.”

“Secrets?” Aaron said. “You mean you did have a therapist?”

“You tell me,” Cora said. “Do you think I had a therapist?”

Aaron’s mouth fell open. That was a loaded question. Any answer would be wrong.

“Stop teasing Aaron,” Sherry said. “Let the poor guy have some Daddy time.”

“Oh, you want the wicked stepaunt to go away?”

“You’re not a stepaunt. You’re a great-aunt.”

“The best,” Cora said. “Seriously, what are you going to tell the kid when she asks what that scar on your stomach is?”

“You can’t even see it,” Aaron said. “The doctor was right. It’s a bikini cut, and you can’t even tell.”

Sherry wasn’t wearing a bikini, she was wearing shorts and a halter top, but the result was the same. The horizontal scar was below the panty line.

Sherry smiled. “Are you torturing me because you’re bored? Can’t stand it when things are quiet?”

Aaron grinned. “I think that’s it. She’s an action junkie. Hasn’t had a murder in months, and she’s climbing the walls.”

“I am not,” Cora said. “If I never see another murder case, it will be too damn soon.”

Jennifer reached the edge of the blanket and let out an excited whoop. Daddy headed her off.

“Killjoy,” Cora said.

“There’s germs in the grass.”

Cora mentioned another place germs might hang out.

“Cora!” Sherry said. “You are not going to talk that way around the baby.”

“What, she’s going to be offended? She doesn’t look offended. Hey, Jennifer. Are you offended with Auntie?”

Jennifer didn’t answer.

“When’s she going to talk, anyway?”

“She’s nine months old,” Sherry repeated.

“Well, not full sentences, but a good ‘Cora,’ would be nice.”

Aaron picked Jennifer up, put her back in the middle of the blanket. “I think she’s wet.”

Sherry dug in the diaper bag. “Care to change the baby, Auntie Cora?”

“Certainly not. I’m the aunt, not the nanny. My job is to look proud and brag at PTA meetings.”

“Oh, my God,” Sherry said. “It’s not enough you want her walking. You’ve already got her in school.”

“Well, you have to plan ahead,” Cora said. “If you’re not careful, next thing you know she’s bringing home some irresponsible bum.”

Sherry shook her head. “I’m changing her diaper and you’ve got her dating already.”

“And as for you, Mommy, I thought having a kid wasn’t going to change anything?”

“It hasn’t.”

“Oh, no? I’ve had to send in the last five Puzzle Lady columns myself. And I’m no good at it. I keep screwing up. An editor called and asked what’s wrong. I told her I had to send the stuff myself because my secretary had a baby.”

“You’re lucky I don’t make you write them,” Sherry said.

Cora grimaced. While she was the famous Puzzle Lady, whose smiling face graced the nationally syndicated crossword column, in point of fact Cora couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle if you gave her the answers. Sherry Carter actually constructed the puzzles. Cora Felton merely lent her name to the project.

Aaron’s cell phone rang. He flipped it open. “Hello?… Yes, she’s right here.”

Sherry reached for the phone.

Aaron shook his head. “No, her.” He held it out to Cora.

Cora took the phone. “Hello?”

“Cora? Chief Harper.”

“Oh, hi, Chief. What’s up?”

“I’m out at the Guildford sisters’ bed-and-breakfast. Do you know it?”

“Can’t say that I do.”

“Fifty-one Elmwood Circle. About a half mile north of town.”

“What about it?”

“Wanna take a ride out there?”

“How come?”

“Someone died.”


Copyright © 2012 by Parnell Hall

Meet the Author

PARNELL HALL has been an actor, screenwriter, and singer/songwriter. He is a former president of the Private Eye Writers of America and a member of Sisters in Crime. He has been a finalist for an Edgar, two Lefty, and three Shamus Awards. Parnell lives in New York City.

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Arsenic and Old Puzzles: A Puzzle Lady Mystery 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that Parnell Hall wrote the best Puzzle Lady yet. I found myself laughing out loud through the entire book
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
The Cary Grant movie, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” seems to be the basis for this murder mystery, except when it isn’t. And so, the plot is as mixed up as the Puzzle Lady, Cora, and the rest of the characters in this latest addition to the series. When an elderly boarder at a bed and breakfast operated by two ditzy old ladies dies, with a Sudoku puzzle in his pocket, Cora is called in by the chief of police to solve the puzzle and a subsequent crossword that is found. It seems meaningless, but Cora almost immediately detects the smell of almonds, indicating poisoning. It turns out that a combination of three poisons in the exact proportions as in the movie were in a carafe of Elderberry wine that the victim drank. Then the town drunk breaks in and is found in a window seat, dead of the same poisons. Other deaths occur, some according to the movie script, others not even close. Of course, Sudoku and crossword puzzles turn up along with the victims. The novel follows the usual components of a Puzzle Lady mystery: a wacky protagonist, funny dialogue, puzzles created by two leading editors, and a carefully plotted mystery with clues along the way, if one can grasp them without Cora’s help at the end. Some of Cora’s antics can become somewhat tiresome, but on the whole, a fun read, and one that is recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago