Arsenic and Old Puzzles by Parnell Hall

Arsenic and Old Puzzles by Parnell Hall is a Puzzle Lady Mystery, the 14th in that series. I hadn’t heard of the author at all until I read a review of this one fairly recently by a favourite blogger, crucially I can’t remember which one! Thank you – whoever you are.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. There are quirky characters, the Puzzle Lady/Cora is a sort of cross between Agatha Raisin and Ruth in Louise Penny’s Three Pines series. Cora has the man mad leanings of Agatha and the irreverence and snarkiness of Ruth, minus her swearing.

Two elderly sisters in Bakerhaven CT take in B&B guests and when one of their guests keels over dead at the table it’s originally assumed that it was natural causes because he was no spring chicken, but the autopsy says differently, Cora knew before that anyway. As things develop it’s clear that someone is replicating the storyline of the classic Cary Grant film Arsenic and Old Lace.

Several bodies turn up, all of them with a sudoku or crossword puzzle either on the body or nearby. As Ruth is supposedly a whizz at both of those types of puzzle she’s expected to solve the whole thing. The book contains sudokus and crossword puzzles which I think are supposed to help with solving the murder.

This is a very light-hearted murder mystery with witty dialogue between some of the characters. I’ll definitely read more by the author if possible.