$10,000 IN SMALL, UNMARKED PUZZLES
Hall’s delightful Puzzle Lady returns to do battle with the usual suspects — including her least favorite ex-husband Melvin — in a very puzzling case. Hall’s trademark humor is intact, but what is most notable in this outing is the plot, which writhes like a snake grasped in the middle. Just when the reader thinks the solution is evident, the snake twists in some new, unexpected way. Readers who like to solve along will find their skills challenged as a result, but only in the best way possible.
When Cora Felton, aka The Puzzle Lady, accepts a commission from attorney Becky Baldwin to drop off a blackmail payment at an abandoned gas station, the discovery of a corpse in the dumpster leads to trouble. A crossword on the body provides directions to another body, and when Cora’s ex-husband Melvin is arrested, the sleuth is in a pretty predicament — Melvin claims he’s been framed by a psychopath, and proving his innocence may get him killed. (MINOTAUR, Jan., 288 pp., $24.99)