Death by Sudoku: A Sudoku Mystery
by Kaye Morgan
Review by Paul Haggerty
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425216408
Date: 03 July 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
They say that the toughest Sudoku puzzles are murder, and in this case it just might be a literal truth. Derrick Robbins is famous in the world of competitive Sudoku, and considered to be one of the best. He's also become a bit of conspiracy nut. Was, that is, until he turned up dead, either the result of a botched robbery, or the result of someone not liking what he knew. Of course the police don't believe in conspiracies, and would much rather pin the murder on the easiest suspect. After all, she had dinner with him just before he fell to his death. Luckily for our heroine, she has a ironclad alibi and a first class lawyer. Not that the police will let that deter them.
Liza Kelly was once a public relations specialist in Hollywood, high-powered and successful. She was also happily married. But now her marriage is on the rocks, and she's left the firm to join a small newspaper in Maiden's Bay, Oregon. Her specialty is Sudoku puzzles, and her job is to create them and explain them to the Sudoku hungry public. She now lives in obscurity, hoping that nobody will connect Liza K., Sudoku puzzler, with Liza Kelly, public relations. Perhaps with some peace and quiet, she'll be able to figure out what to do with her life and her rapidly dissolving marriage.
Taking a brief break from her duties to fly down to L.A. for a Sudoku tournament, Liza meets up again with an old friend, Derrick Robbins. Derrick is an actor whose eight-season smash hit series has just ended, and possibly his career with it. But Derrick holds a number of other talents, Sudoku being only one of them. After the competition he asks Liza if she wouldn't mind coming to see a screen test of a friend of his. He thinks this young lady has talent and would like Liza's opinion. All she has to do is fly up to his mansion in the mountains and watch the film in his private theater. Oh, the tough life some people are forced to lead.
An enjoyable evening is had, the young lady in question turns out to be truly talented, Derrick's niece, and in residence. To avoid any hint of impropriety, Liza retires to a local hotel for the night, with plans to rejoin Derrick for a flight back in the morning. Unfortunately, on the cab ride up, Liza is horrified to find Derrick's body dangling from a tree, the end point of a long fall from his balcony far above. Investigation of Derrick's house proves disturbing. Derrick's niece is missing, there's signs of a scuffle on the balcony, and Derrick's library is in total disarray. While the police investigation aims first at Liza (last person to see him, so she must be the killer), and when that doesn't pan out, a simple robbery gone wrong. But Liza suspects an even darker explanation. Robbers looking for valuables wouldn't have rearranged the books in his library. Some one was looking for something. And where is Derrick's niece? Solving this puzzle involves killers, cryptography, and plenty of people out of Liza's past.
Death By Sudoku is the first novel in a new series by Kaye Morgan. The plot is a bit simple, but that's not unusual for a first novel where the author needs to spend most of her time introducing the setting and supporting characters. There are a couple of computer related snafu's which will make the geekier elements of the audience groan a bit, but I guess we geeks should be use to that by now. But the characters are likable, the writing fairly smooth, and the plot line reasonable, even with the inevitable twists and turns necessary to bring the mystery to a successful conclusion. Sudoku plays an integral role, and puzzles are presented in various places for the reader to solve if they are so inclined.
More intriguing than the mystery itself, at least for hard-core Sudoku puzzlers, are the excerpts from Liza K's sudo-cues; tips and hints and puzzle solving methodologies that just might make that stubborn Sunday puzzle yield it's secrets.