New Puzzly Mystery Series? Parnell Hall’s Puzzle Lady Headed to TV!


Some exciting news broke recently if you’re a fan of puzzle-fueled mysteries on television.

A few days ago, it was announced that a team of production companies have acquired the rights to Parnell Hall’s Puzzle Lady mystery series and are looking to develop it into a new mystery drama series.

The series centers around the grumpy Cora Felton, a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle editor who prefers to spend her time investigating crimes and nosing around police investigations than worrying about grid fill or witty cluing.

And, of course, each novel includes crosswords from Will Shortz that are woven into the narrative.

Although there are a host of colorful supporting characters to fill out the cast — one that will adapt nicely to the screen, in fact — the other major player worth noting is Cora’s long-suffering niece Sherry, a clever young woman who both handles the crossword side of things and tries to keep her aunt’s detective shenanigans in line.

Most of the press releases refer to Cora as “Miss Marple on steroids.” Personally, I don’t see it, unless they’re referring to Cora’s penchant to ignore social niceties in order to solve the case. I suspect that her combination of hardheadedness, determination, and keen observation skills will make her a favorite of mystery fans.

After all, who can’t get behind a sharp-tongued older woman who tolerates no guff and happily sidesteps the authorities in order to make sure justice is done?

two more options

As for the production side of things, they’ve assembled a solid team. ZDF Enterprises, which is headlining the project, recently sold crime drama The Bridge to the BBC. (One production company involved, Canada’s December Films, is a relatively new entity.)

The other production company, North Yorkshire’s Factual Fiction, already has several successful projects to their credit, producing The Curse of Ishtar and Agatha and the Midnight Murders. (Another entry in the Agatha series, Agatha and the Truth of Murder, was produced by the founding members of Factual Fiction for Channel 5 in the UK.)

Although they have acquired the rights to all twenty books in the series, the plan right now is for a six-episode run, and members of the production staff, including top execs and screenwriter Dominique Moloney, are already in place.

There’s no word yet on casting or when production will start, but we’ll keep you posted as soon as we know more.

Naturally, this makes one wonder about the OTHER crossword mystery series we’ve come to enjoy over the last year or two: the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries’ series The Crossword Mysteries.

A fourth film is still listed as forthcoming on IMDb, but the latest updates (posted back in June, as far as I can tell) show no movement on that front.

Astonishingly, the last one (Abracadaver) aired only back in January. It feels like it was a hundred years ago in 2020 time, doesn’t it?

Well, it sounds like cruciverbalist Tess Harper and detective Logan O’Connor might soon have some stiff competition in the puzzly sleuthing market.

Are you excited about the Puzzle Lady mystery series announcement, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Who would you like to see cast in the series? And can we expect some Will Shortz cameos? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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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.