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Puzzled Indemnity: A Puzzle Lady Mystery by Parnell Hall
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250027177
Date: 20 January 2015 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Bakerhaven, Connecticut, Cora Felton is known as the famous Puzzle Lady. She is hired by attorney Becky Baldwin to follow insurance salesman Hank Wells. Hank's wife, Brittany Wells, suspects him of adultery and plotting her demise. Hank bought a double-indemnity life insurance policy; if his wife dies, he receives two million dollars. In order to nail Hank for adultery, Cora convinces her slimy ex-husband, Melvin Crabtree, to blackmail him. Soon afterwards, a car explodes in Bakerhaven's town center, killing its sole passenger. Cora finds herself up to her elbows in deception, lies and red herrings.

More by Parnell Hall:
Puzzle Lady Mysteries:
* The Puzzle Lady vs. The Sudoku Lady
* The KenKen Killings
* $10,000 in Small, Unmarked Puzzles
* Arsenic and Old Puzzles
* NYPD Puzzle
* Puzzled Indemnity

Parnell Hall's Puzzled Indemnity is one of the best Cora Felton novels I've read in a long time. The plot was excellent. Besides having a lot of silly, slapstick humor, the novel has a great mystery that is truly baffling. Based on the classic black-and-white Billy Wilder film, Double Indemnity, this latest Puzzle Lady caper moves at a swift pace. It is chock full of cliff hangers that enticed me to keep reading.

Cora is as hardheaded, overbearing, obnoxious, and lustful as ever. She still pines and whines after Sergeant Crowley of the NYPD. Because Hank Wells works in Manhattan, Cora is able to hook up with the sergeant. Unfortunately, she learns he has a female house guest, Stephanie, who insists she and Crowley are just friends. The paranoid, overly suspicious Cora believes they are 'friends with benefits'. Sometimes, as I'm reading a Puzzle Lady Mystery, I feel like strangling Cora Felton myself. She is extremely annoying, offensive, and opinionated.

One reason that I like the Puzzle Lady Mysteries is because Cora Felton reminds me of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin. Both women, and their respective mystery series, are very zany and hilarious. Always obsessing over liquor and tobacco, Cora and Agatha have been married several times and live in small communities. Agatha, however, doesn't have a family of flesh-and-blood relatives. Cora does. She lives with her niece, Sherry Carter (she constructs the actual puzzles for which Cora is famous); her niece's husband, Aaron Grant, a reporter for the Bakerhaven Gazette; and their baby girl, Jennifer.

Though Parnell Hall's Puzzled Indemnity doesn't have the high body count that I always relish, it does have quite a few plot twists, jolting shocks, and hilarious hijinks. The core mystery is quite intriguing and I never guessed the killer's identity until nearly the very end. This is a cozy that Agatha Christie would have been proud to have written. I hope that future Puzzle Lady Mysteries are as highly entertaining as Puzzled Indemnity.

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