Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Parnell Hall, Presumed Puzzled

Parnell Hall, Presumed Puzzled
St. Martin’s Press/A Minotaur Book, 2016
ISBN 9781259061232
Also available as an ebook

The 17th book featuring Clara Fenton. a/k/s The Puzzle Lady, famous for her syndicated series of crossword puzzles and, lately sudoku puzzles.  And frequently, she has found herself involved in murder, always involving either crossword puzzles or sudoku, or both.  And, of course, any mystery fan will immediately see the reference made in the title.

In this case, a participant  in Clara's occasional bridge foursome, Paula Martindale, becomes concerned because her husband (Roger) failed to come home (to a small Connecticut town) from work (in NYC),  She tries to file a missing persons report, which the chief of police won't accept because he hasn't been missing long enough.  He does, however, ask Clara to see if she can discover anything of interest.  The next day, following up, the chief and Clara go to the Martindale house, find the door open, and Clara enters while the chies is ringing the doorbell, to discover Roger on the living room rug, bleeding.  Paula stumbles in, clutching a bloody knife.  Not surprisingly, she is arrested for murder. 

Local lawyer Becky Baldwin, defending her, also Clara (who has a rep) to do some investigation.  One thing follows another before we get to a fairly convoluted conclusion.  Hall usually does courtroom scenes very well; here, I think he falls below his normal standard.  Also, for most of the book, I had the impression that the Martindales were considerably younger than Clara, which turns out to be incorrect, and important to the plot.  As we get to the denouement, there were a couple of developments that I thought were obvious points for investigation, or at least mention, which are ignored.  One of these does, in fact, feature in Clara’s solution of the crime.

Hall writes well, the book moves smoothly along, and is an easy afternoon or evening read.  Not, perhaps, one of his best books in what is not (for me) his best series, but worth the time.

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