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Murder By Numbers: A Sudoku Mystery by Kaye Morgan
Review by Paul Haggerty
Berkley Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425219034
Date: 02 January 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Having moved from L.A. to Maiden's Bay, Oregon in order to get away from Hollywood and the rat race that surrounds it, it's rather ironic that ex-publicist, and Sudoku puzzle maven, Liza Kelly is surrounded by a film crew in her quiet little town. The fact that her one and only client, Jenny Robbins, is starring in the film just makes it all the more personal. Still, the film is ahead of schedule and almost ready to wrap, meaning all will go back to the way it should be, and Liza is looking forward to getting back to work making Sudoku puzzles for the local paper. But hoping for peace always brings trouble. Now there's a new director with a new "vision" for the film, a saboteur causing mayhem and delays, and last, but not least, the owner of the studio turning up dead, buried up to his neck on the beach while tide rolled in and out.

Besides just causing a heap of trouble for her client, the problems with the film schedule is stirring up even more trouble for the town. The mayor is trying to get the boardwalk lengthened, which is critical for tourism and the towns long-term survival, but the construction has been halted until filming is completed. The townsfolk have served as extras and are looking forward to the extra pay that entails. Now they're being told they too have to wait until all filming is completed before they'll receive a single penny. But with someone deliberately causing delays, and the director wanting to reshoot almost from the beginning, nobody is sure when or if, the film will ever be finished. And while everyone on both sides is upset, is that any reason to commit murder?

Murder by Numbers is the second in the Sudoku Mystery series. A direct sequel to the original Death by Sudoku, the story features most of the supporting cast of that previous novel as well. The mystery this time is a bit more complex, but the theme is still like the game of Sudoku itself: Eliminate those that couldn't or wouldn't have done it, and see what remains. Who would want to kill Oliver "The Chiseler" Chissel? An easier question might be: who wouldn't? Chissel has spent his life making enemies, and his handling of Mirage Studios has been true to form. Was it one of the locals, upset with the disruption the film has caused and Chissel's high handed manner? Was it an old enemy, seeking opportunistic revenge? Or possibly it's a current target of one of Chissel's schemes, out for financial self-defense?

Liza has it a bit easier this time. At least she's not suspected of doing the deed herself, and she's back in familiar territory where Sheriff Clements sees her as a reliable source of information on things happening back in Tinsel-Town, and not as just a busy body civilian mucking up the works. But there are still divided loyalties. Michelle Markson wants her attention in dealing with the public relations nightmare that's currently brewing. Ava Barnes wants her attention on her Sudoku column, which is on the verge of going into national syndication. Jenny Robbins needs her assistance now that she's dealing with a new director that likes to play sadistic mind games with the actors. Liza's ex-husband Michael is in town and staying with her next door neighbor, and her maybe/maybe-not boyfriend Kevin wants her looking in any direction except Michael's.

With being pulled in a dozen directions at once, somehow Liza is going to have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out the truth behind all the lies and deception that are daily life in the film business. Especially once the random accidents start being aimed directly at her. She's getting close, and someone doesn't like that.

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