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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



Hall, Parnell: Last Puzzle & Testament

  Amazon  

4 stars

The second installment in Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady series finds cruciverbalist Sherry Carter and her bibulous Aunt Cora caught up in another crossword-related crime spree in the small town of Bakerhaven, Connecticut. (Sherry writes a popular syndicated crossword puzzle column, but the puzzles are attributed to her aunt, who is the public face of the "Puzzle Lady.") It turns out that the recently deceased Emma Hurley has stipulated in her will that her prospective heirs undergo a sort of trial-by-puzzle to determine which of the lot will wind up with the largest share of her multi-million-dollar estate. Cora Felton, meanwhile, because of her reputed prowess as a puzzle solver, is named judge of the contest, a highly lucrative if unlikely assignment. As the various greedy and unpleasant heirs discover, Emma Hurley's millions seem to be riding on the successful completion of a crossword. The puzzle is relatively straightforward--suspiciously so, considering the sums involved--but the mystery surrounding the Hurley will is far more complex than any of the principals--the innocent ones, at least--suppose. Before the puzzle ladies can solve the mystery, two corpses, their murders somehow connected to the crossword contest, join Emma's in the local cemetery.

Parnell Hall's mysteries are complex enough to keep readers guessing and written with sufficient wit to keep them appreciative. ("Beasley's trip up the stairs was perilous at best. While he did not actually crawl, he did not actually walk, either.") The relationship between Cora and her niece in particular makes for pleasant reading. Hall might tone down Cora's self-destructive tendencies, however: that the grandmaternal "Puzzle Lady" is in reality so unlike her public persona is the principal joke of the series, but one worries about the effect of excessive smoking and drinking on her health. These are not charming or inherently amusing habits. One may note that Colin Dexter's Detective Morse likewise drinks to excess, but Morse's problems with alcohol are not, I think, milked for humor. Perhaps rather for pathos.

Crossword lovers and cozy fans--and readers of the Nero Blanc series of crossword mysteries in particular--will enjoy Hall's take on the amateur sleuth genre.

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