You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled (Puzzle Lady Series #8)

You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled (Puzzle Lady Series #8)

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by Parnell Hall

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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!

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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!

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 murder--accusations 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.
Kirkus Reviews
When the Puzzle Lady's framed for murder, she needs all her talents-which don't include constructing crossword puzzles-to keep herself out of jail. A nervous housewife asks Cora Felton, who fronts for her publicity-shy niece Sherry, to create a puzzle that will placate her husband over a dent in their car's fender. So Cora sets Sherry to work. But Sherry, beset with problems with her current fianc‚ and her abusive ex, simply modifies a puzzle created by another cruciverbalist. The grateful housewife sends it to the paper as proof of Cora's kindness, only to get her sued by Benny Southstreet, the original constructor. In addition to defending herself, Cora also gets involved in a search for some chairs stolen from Mr. Wilbur, a local antiques dealer. When Cora gets a friend with similar chairs to offer them for sale on eBay, they too are stolen. Discovering them in Benny's motel room, she takes some photos and then the chairs. Right on cue, Benny is shot dead. Because the gun found in the room has her prints on it and her own photos prove she was on the scene, the police arrest Cora. Not one to let herself be pushed around, she goes into action and unmasks the killer at a town meeting. Miss Marple on steroids. Cora (Stalking the Puzzle Lady, 2005, etc.), one tough cookie, provides amusing fodder for crossword fans. Agent: Donald Maass/Donald Maass Literary Agency
From the Publisher
"Lighthearted.... Includes several crossword puzzles that will have fans sharpening their pencils."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Puzzle Lady Series , #8
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Random House
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You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled

By Parnell Hall


Copyright © 2007 Parnell Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0553587641


"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 Aaron!"

"Why? What did Aaron do?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Right, right. Because I know nothing about men. And I've only been married I don't know how many times. I always think of Melvin as my fifth. But when you count the broken engagements . . . There's a fine line between the ones that were broken before they said I do or right after. Of course, legally–"

"Will you shut up!"

Sherry turned from the computer to face her aunt. Her eyes were filled with tears.

"Sherry, what happened?"

There came the sound of tires on gravel.

"If that's Aaron, I'm not here," Sherry said.

"Your car's here."

"It's your car."

"Weren't you just out in it?"

"I don't want to see him!"

"I got it, I got it."

Cora looked out the living room window.

Dennis Pride, Sherry's abusive ex-husband, was on his way up the walk.

Cora uttered a brief comment, indicating she was not thoroughly pleased with the young man's presence, then slammed out the door to intercept him.

Dennis's hair, though parted and greased back, was long. A little shampoo and he would fit right in with the members of his former rock group, Tune Freaks. Cora suspected Dennis of playing with them on the sly.

Cora blocked his path. "Sherry's not here."

"Her car's here."

"That's what I told her. She still insists she's not here. Probably because you're here. Why don't you leave? Then when I tell her you're not here, I'll be telling the truth."

Dennis scowled. "It isn't funny."

"No, it isn't. Your ex-wife is getting married. You're about the last person she needs to see right now."

"I have to talk to her."

"She doesn't have to talk to you. And she's got a restraining order to prove it. Get out of here, or I'll call the cops."

A VW Beetle drove up the driveway. A young woman got out. She was the type college boys would describe as comfortable or pleasingly plump.

Those qualities were not on exhibit now. Brenda was visibly upset. "Damn it, Dennis! I thought you'd learned your lesson."

Dennis wheeled away angrily and almost lost his balance. Cora wondered if he'd been drinking.

Brenda assumed he had. "Dennis, you're drunk. You must be to come here. She's your ex-wife, Dennis. Your first ex-wife. I'll be your second if you keep this up. Is that what you want, Dennis? Is that what you'd like? I don't want to keep you if you want to go. What do you want to do?"

"Just shut up, will you!"

"Oh, nice! That's the way to talk to your wife!"

Sherry Carter stormed out the front door. "Great. The two of you together. Brenda, you're my best friend and I love you, but if you can't control your husband I'm going to lose it. Just because your marriage isn't working is no reason to ruin mine."

"Exactly," Dennis agreed.

"Not to you, damn it. My upcoming marriage. My pending marriage. My marriage that may not come off if you won't leave me alone."

"Then you do still have feelings for Dennis," Brenda charged.

Sherry took a deep breath. Her eyes blazed. "Yes, I have feelings for Dennis. And, believe me, they aren't love. I am so angry I am about to explode. I'm yelling at Cora. I'm yelling at Aaron. I'm yelling at you. I don't want to yell at you. I just want to be left alone."

A car rattled up the driveway.

"Oh, what is this–Times Square?" Sherry exclaimed.

A young woman in a beige business suit climbed out. Her blond hair was piled up on her head. Her earrings were simple gold studs. Her subtle makeup set off a fashion model face.

Becky Baldwin looked around at the gathering on the lawn. "Did I come at a bad time?"

Sherry, Brenda, and Dennis glared at her.

Only Cora Felton smiled. "Join the fun, Becky. We were just discussing the wedding plans. Or lack of them. I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it."

"Actually, I came to see you." Becky looked Cora up and down. "But if you're not well . . ."

"I'm just fine, thank you," Cora said. "What could you possibly want?"

"Whatever it is, could you take it somewhere else," Dennis snarled. "We're having a serious conversation."

"We're having nothing of the kind," Sherry said. "The sooner these people leave, the better. Stick around, Becky. I want to talk to you anyway."

"Oh? What about?"

"Here he comes now," Cora said, pointing to the Honda skidding up the driveway.

Aaron Grant vaulted out of the car, snagging the pocket of his sports jacket on the door. The young reporter didn't notice. He glared at Dennis, set his lips in a firm line.

Sherry Carter threw her hands up in the air.

Cora waved Aaron over. "Come on in, Aaron. It's a fraternity stunt. We're trying to see how many cars we can fit in the driveway."

Aaron was in no mood to joke. Aside from Cora, that made it unanimous.

"Sherry," Aaron said.

Sherry turned her back.

"She doesn't want to talk to you," Dennis said.

Aaron wheeled, pointed his finger. "You keep out of this!"

"Says who?" Dennis challenged.

Brenda grabbed his arm. "Dennis!"

He brushed her off like a fly. "Wanna make something out of it, paperboy?"

"Sherry's a big girl. If she wants you here, fine. If she doesn't, I suggest you leave."

"Oh, now you're telling me what Sherry wants?"

"No, she can speak for herself. Sherry, you want this 'gentleman' here?"

"That's right," Sherry said. "Throw it all on me."

"Well, if you won't say what you want . . ."

"Are you enjoying this, Sherry?" Brenda asked. "Having them fight over you?"

"Yeah, Bren, it's a real blast."

Cora raised her eyebrows at Becky Baldwin. "Before World War III breaks out, you wanna tell me what's up?"

Becky swung into conciliatory mode. She put her hand on Cora's shoulder, led her aside. "I came in person because I wanted to warn you."

Cora's eyes narrowed. "Warn me about what?"

Becky took a breath. "Benny Southstreet."

"That twerp!"

"Just a friendly hint. In legal proceedings, it's generally unwise to refer to the opposing party as a twerp."

"Opposing party?"

"Benny has retained my services."


"He's accusing you of plagiarism. He's suing you for damages."

"You're suing me?" Cora said incredulously.

"I'm not suing you, Cora. Benny is."

"And you're helping him?"

"He retained me."

"But you're my attorney. There's a conflict of interest."

"I'm not your attorney at the moment."

"But you have been in the past."

"That's no bar to my present employment."

"What about your conscience? Do you have to take every case that comes along?"

"My portfolio's a little thin. I happen to need the work."

"You can't need it that bad."

"It's a small town, Cora. I have two clients. One's Benny. The other's a speeder who hopes to avoid getting points on her license. I don't see her as a cash cow."

"So you wanna get rich suing me? Whaddya get? A third of whatever you bilk me out of?"

"You must have insurance."

"I have homeowner's insurance. I'm not sure it covers plagiarism."

"Maybe not, but Granville Grains has deep pockets."

Cora's eyes widened. "How in the world can you sue them?"

"You're the Puzzle Lady. They use your image to sell their cereal. If that image is built on an unfounded premise, they're guilty of false advertising."

"Oh, for Christ's sake!"

"This is a no-brainer, Cora. Did you steal a crossword puzzle from this guy?"

"You're asking me to incriminate myself?"

"Off the record."

"Off the record, on the record, I can't begin to tell you how I didn't."

"So, what's the big deal? Guy says you did, you say you didn't, he can't prove it, end of case."

"Does your client know what you think of his chances?"

"I didn't say his chances are bad. I just said he can't prove anything. That doesn't mean Granville Grains won't pay him off to make him go away."

"And you wonder why there are lawyer jokes," Cora grumbled.

There came the sound of more tires on gravel. Cora looked up to see two police cars swinging into the drive.

"Ah! Excellent!" Cora clapped her hands together, strode back to the unhappy throng. "Dennis! Good news! The cops are here. I hope they have a tape measure. What is it, a hundred yards you're supposed to keep away from Sherry? I think you might be a little close."

Dennis's face twisted in rage. "Damn it, Sherry! You called the cops?"

"Don't be silly," Brenda said. "How could she call? She's been right here the whole time."

"He wasn't!" Dennis stabbed an accusing finger at Aaron. "He called 'em from his car!"

Aaron stuck out his chin. "I don't need anybody's help to deal with you."

Dennis sneered. "Like hell! Big man! Called for backup!"

Two cops came up the drive. Dan Finley, an impressionable young officer, and actually a Puzzle Lady fan. And Dale Harper, the Bakerhaven chief of police.

Cora knew both men well. She had cooperated with the police on several occasions, though cooperated was perhaps the wrong word.

The two officers seemed somewhat taken aback by the crowd on the lawn.

Cora pressed forward. "Hi, Chief. Hi, Dan. Good to see you." She jerked her thumb at Dennis. "Unless you're blocking this son of a bitch's car. He was just leaving."

Chief Harper didn't crack a smile. In fact, he looked rather unhappy. "Cora Felton," he began.

"My, my, how formal," Cora said.

Chief Harper pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. "I have a warrant for your arrest."

Dan Finley took out his handcuffs, snapped one around Cora's wrist. "Sorry. Just doing my job. Cora Felton, you are under arrest for the murder of Benny Southstreet."

Cora's mouth fell open. "What!?"

"You have the right to remain silent. Should you give up the right to remain silent–"

Cora gave up the right to remain silent. Neighbors down the road could attest to the fact, as well as to the colorful metaphors and similes and malapropisms with which she congratulated the officers on their chosen profession, and suggested truly ingenious uses they might find for their warrant.

From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled by Parnell Hall Copyright © 2007 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Nominated for the prestigious Edgar, Shamus, and Lefty awards, Parnell Hall is the author of seven previous Puzzle Lady mysteries. He lives in New York City, where he is at work on his next mystery.

From the Hardcover edition.

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You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled (Puzzle Lady Series #8) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
One day at the coffee shop, puzzle lady Cora Feldon is asked to construct a puzzle for Mimi Dillinger so that¿s she can give it to her husband Chuck when she tells him she crashed the car. She hopes he will forgive her, which he does. Mimi publicly thanks Cora for the role her puzzle played and the note and puzzle appearin the newspaper. However there is one minor problem. Cora did not create the puzzle her niece Sherry Carter did and she purloined it from a book of puzzles though she changed the clues.------------------ The actual puzzle creator Benny Southstreet is livid that Cora plagiarized his work and when he challenged her she blew him off because she refuses to believe that Sherry would do such a deed. Benny plans to sue Cora so he breaks into her home and that of the Dillingers seeking proof. Earlier that day Mimi notices fifteen hundred dollars lying loose at her husband¿s desk so she puts the cash away. Chick calls the police to report a break-in, which leads to a series of events resulting in someone murdering Benny and Cora arrested for the homicide as all evidence leads to her.------------------- The latest puzzle lady mystery is a delightful whodunit complete with crossword puzzles that entertain and stimulate the readers with clues to the mystery. Cora is the star as she seeks to clear her name even while every clue she finds proves her guilt. There are many red herrings that the audience will not know across from down as Cora looks guilty. Parnell Hall provides his fans with a solid murder mystery that only by finishing the book can a reader uncover the identity of the culprit.------------- Harriet Klausner