PuzzleNation Book Review: The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady

Welcome to the third installment of PuzzleNation Book Reviews!

All of the books discussed and/or reviewed in PNBR articles are either directly or indirectly related to the world of puzzling, and hopefully you’ll find something to tickle your literary fancy in this entry or the entries to come.

Let’s get started!

Our book review post this time around features Parnell Hall’s novel The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady.

Cora Felton is known far and wide as the Puzzle Lady, powerhouse puzzlemaker and occasional crimesolver, but her reign may be over. Minami, the Sudoku Lady, has come from Japan to challenge Cora for pride, PR, and puzzle-bragging rights. But when dead bodies start turning up and Minami is fingered as the culprit, it’s up to Cora to clear the competition’s good name.

Now, before I get into the review, it’s confession time. This is the second time around for me with this book. I read it a few years ago, and didn’t particularly enjoy it. But I was also sick as a dog at the time, so I wanted to be sure that my general foul mood at the time didn’t impair my ability to appreciate what I was reading at the time.

Turns out my illness had nothing to do with it.

The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady is part of Parnell Hall’s Puzzle Lady Mystery series — which he’s been publishing at the rate of a book a year since 2000 — and I sincerely hope it’s not indicative of the rest of the series. The reader plows through a needlessly convoluted story, confronted by a population of unpleasant characters and a protagonist who is unlikable in the extreme. She’s more grating than curmudgeonly.

Now, to be fair, that’s not to say that bright spots in the novel don’t exist. Hall has a natural adeptness with wordplay and his nigh-Vaudevillian exchanges of dialogue are engaging. Sadly, however, both are severely undermined by the unsympathetic cast of characters.

The sudoku and crossword puzzles included within are both an interesting gimmick and a pleasant treat; my own penchant for puzzling would not be ignored, and I solved each puzzle as it appeared. Unfortunately, those were calm spots in an otherwise stormy narrative.

I must conclude that The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady is at best an uneven reading experience. (Though I might try another Puzzle Lady Mystery someday, for curiosity’s sake.)

Well, I hope you enjoyed the latest installment of PuzzleNation Book Reviews, and I look forward to more book discussions in the future. In the meantime, keep calm, puzzle on, and I’ll catch you later.

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