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NYPD Puzzle (Puzzle Lady Mysteries) by Parnell Hall
Cover Artist: Young Jin Lim
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250027153
Date: 21 January 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Trial lawyer Becky Baldwin takes Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, with her when she visits a potential client, Charles Kessington, in Manhattan. In his penthouse suite, Kessington is found shot to death and Cora confronts a masked gunman robbing the bedroom's wall safe. Cora fires her gun but the killer escapes. Cora and Becky are arrested on suspicion of murder. After she is released, Cora is taunted with puzzles and another corpse. The puzzles yield clues but Cora can't guess the killer's identity until it is too late.

I must sadly admit that NYPD Puzzle is probably one of the most disappointing Puzzle Lady mysteries that I have read. I know that its author, Parnell Hall, can do better. The KenKen Killings got me hooked on this hilarious series and Arsenic and Old Puzzles was an excellent homage to the classic Frank Capra film, Arsenic and Old Lace. In NYPD Puzzle, I am glad to see Cora Felton leave quaint, pastoral Brookhaven to visit the riotous Big Apple; however, she spends most of her time being victimized. She is able to locate the clues hidden within the puzzles but they don't make any sense to her. She and the killer simply go around and around in vicious, nonsensical circles.

Because of a lack of suspects, I was able to soon deduce the killer's identity. This novel was missing the twists and turns and high body count that were prevalent in previous Puzzle Lady mysteries such as $10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles. The humor was also lacking. The novel made me chuckle a few times but it had none of the side-splitting laughter that I have experienced in the past. There were long, annoying diatribes of verbal sparring between thick-headed, strong willed Cora and most everyone around her. The author needs to indicate more often who is speaking. Sometimes, I would lose track and have to reread the conversation from the last time it was indicated who spoke.

As I said earlier, it was nice to see Cora Felton and her sleuthing partner, Becky Baldwin, outside of Brookhaven. They are the odd couple of crime; Cora looks like a plump, middle-aged housewife and Becky looks like a teenage supermodel. Thanks to them, the reader is taken on a tour of Manhattan that includes Madison Square Gardens, Pennsylvania Station, and SoHo. The shocks were few except for the ones involving Cora and her extramarital affairs. Readers are going to get the impression, albeit the correct one, that she is a floozy. In other words, in her latest mystery, Cora spends more time working under the covers than she does working undercover.

Despite the lack of a complex mystery and a high body count, Parnell Hall's NYPD Puzzle is a charming romp for fans of this delightful cozy series. All the beloved characters from the series return to help the bumbling Cora solve the mystery. Puzzle fans will also rejoice because the puzzles are numerous, and they include both crossword and sudoku. Solving them is challenging enough without the mystery itself.

Despite the shortcomings of NYPD Puzzle, I look forward to the next installment of the Puzzle Lady series. I hope this one will have a higher body count, hilarious antics and Cora actually solving the mystery without the killer confronting our frightened heroine in the dead of night and removing their mask.

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