Sunday May 7, 2006

A 6-Letter Word For Murder

Murder Can Be Puzzling

At least two "cozy" mystery series use crossword puzzles as a unifying theme.

Nero Blanc

Crosswords puzzles play an important and central part in Nero Blanc's Crossword Mysteries series. Nero Blanc is the nom de plume of a husband and wife writing team (Steve Zettler and Cordelia Frances Biddle).

Each book includes half a dozen puzzles, containing major clues to the mystery at hand. The good news, for people like me (who don't "do" crossword puzzles) is that the series protagonist, Belle Graham, is happy to do them for me.

Belle is the crossword puzzle editor of the Newcastle, MA Daily Crier. Unusual as it might be in "real life", people in Belle's world send her specially constructed, hand-drawn crossword puzzles, rife with clues to the current mystery. Belle works the puzzles in red ink, then proceeds to share her discoveries with friends (and the reader).

The series started out a bit rough but the writing and story are considerably better in the second book. The protagonists are well realized people whom I wouldn't mind having as friends. Start with The Crossword Murder.

Parnell Hall

Crosswords also figure in Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady series, although to a different degree. Cora Felton is the nationally-known "Puzzle Lady" of the title, with her face in 256 newspaper columns and a TV commercial.

What isn't widely known is that Cora actually "couldn't do a crossword puzzle if her life depended on it". Her niece, Sherry Carter, constructs the puzzles.

Nevertheless, Cora can't resist a good puzzle — of the standard mystery clue variety! As everyone else tries to unravel what might be crossword clues, Cora sleuths for bloodstains, dumpster-dives for physical evidence, and generally snoops.

The books are fast-paced. The writing is lively, replete with dry wit, sharp-edged descriptions, and snappy wordplay. Each book contains an actual puzzle (not always of the crossword variety) for the reader to solve as desired. Start with A Clue for the Puzzle Lady.

p.s. If there are similar "cozy" mystery series I don't know about, that you enjoy, please send me a note!

A 6-Letter Word For Murder ( in category Books, Movies, Music ) - posted at Sun, 07 May, 18:30 Pacific | «e»