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Presumed Puzzled (Puzzle Lady Mysteries) by Parnell Hall
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250061232
Date: 19 January 2016 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Bakerhaven, Connecticut, Paula Martindale's stockbroker husband, Roger, is missing. A coworker at Feldspar Investments claims he is having an affair. Paula refuses to believe it. Eventually, Roger is found lying dead on his living room floor, his stomach savagely cut open and Paula holding the knife. Despite her alibi that she was sitting in her car at the mall parking lot, burning a crossword puzzle, Paula is put on trial; the beautiful Becky Baldwin serves as her defense attorney. However, Paula is soon released and Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, finds herself facing manslaughter charges when she confesses that she was the one having an affair with Roger Martindale.

In the past, I have found the Puzzle Lady Mysteries to be sweet, silly, comical diversions; they, along with other cozies, gave my brain a rest whenever I was between reading more somber mysteries that contained tremendous amounts of medical and police procedures. However, I was pleasantly surprised, even shocked, when I read Parnell Hall's latest Puzzle Lady Mystery, Presumed Puzzled. It is a riveting courtroom drama. Fortunately, like the previous novels in his series, it remained full of slapstick humor and bawdy banter. Becky and Cora are a type of modern day Laurel and Hardy. Furthermore, Cora is as adulterous as ever, especially now that she and Sergeant Crowley of NYPD homicide are no longer dating.

Most of the novel transpires in Bakerhaven's crowded courtroom. I was surprised to learn that the beautiful, picture-perfect Becky Baldwin is an excellent defense attorney. She has been well versed in being slick and sly. She is a formidable foe for the crafty prosecuting attorney, Henry Firth (a.k.a. Ratface). The slapstick humor continues even inside the courtroom. Someone, usually Cora, Becky or Henry, is always on the verge of being fined, disbarred, held in contempt of court, declared a hostile witness, escorted out of the courtroom by a bailiff, etc. There are plenty of surprise witnesses and disturbing announcements that keep local reporter, Rick Reed, constantly standing on the courthouse's front steps, like a carnival barker, shouting revelations for everyone to hear.

Presumed Puzzled doesn't have the high body count that I have relished in many of Parnell Hall's previous Puzzle Lady Mysteries. However, this novel focuses on the intricate, brain-stimulating mystery rather than the murderous mayhem that sometimes dominates this comical cozy series.

The regular cast of characters is present. New readers will learn more about Cora Felton's family, especially her nephew, Aaron Grant, who is a reporter for the Bakerhaven Gazette. He plays a vital role in the court case. The only character that is missing is Cora's slimy ex-husband, Melvin; however, he is mentioned in passing. (Hopefully, he'll make an appearance in the next Puzzle Lady Mystery.)

Thanks to Presumed Puzzled, my interest in this wonderful cozy series continues to grow. There is nothing puzzling about that.

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