by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the latest Puzzle Lady mystery by Parnell Hall. We also have an interesting and very fun interview with Parnell. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Puzzle to Be Named Later. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
A Puzzle to Be Named Later: Puzzle Lady series by Parnell Hall
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Puzzle Lady, Cora Felton, is back and in fine form. She’s able to meet Matt, the up and coming baseball player who’s out with an injury. Matt’s wife Jackie, has a puzzle for Cora to solve.
The problem is, Sherry, Cora’s niece, is really the puzzle lady. She doesn’t like publicity so Cora is the public face of crossword puzzles. There are perks of course, but someone handing her a puzzle and expecting her to solve it within minutes, is not one of them.
Then there’s the local witch. She’s a psychiatrist and counselor, very protective of her client’s privacy. She calls the police to report a break in at her house and says her memory has been stolen or at least that’s what the police chief thinks she said. She actually meant the memory card from her computer. The chief asks for Cora’s help, not that he wants to, but when a squirrelly case like this comes up, Cora’s squirrelly mind can figure things out that the average person can’t.
Matt wants to have a party for the townspeople at his rental home. He asks Cora’s help in forming the guest list, so the movers and shakers will be invited. Of course, it’s leaked that Cora made the guest list and that causes a lot of hard feelings by those who didn’t make the cut.
On the plus side, other baseball players were invited. Cora got to meet Derek Jeter, and he asked for her autograph! On the minus side, a couple of guests got murdered. Cora likes Matt and wants to help. The chief is reluctant, but admits, the case has him baffled. Following the clues as they relate to each other in Cora’s mind is a challenge.
Cora isn’t someone who finds a theory and tests it out. Her fertile mind is like a water bug on speed. She comes up with a thousand possible scenarios and blurts them all out to Sherry and the chief. Nothing is too outlandish to be possible. Of course, it’s also confusing to everyone but Cora. But like panning for gold, she’s able to shake out the goofy ideas, the impossible, and land on the probable.
This is book seventeen in the Puzzle Lady series. Start at the beginning or start here—either way, readers will be able to follow the storyline, if not Cora’s inventive thinking. Sherry takes more of a back seat this time as she’s got a daughter to care for now. Aaron, Sherry’s husband, is off trying to get a story for the local paper much of the time. Cora is a unique person who you’d like as a friend although keeping up with her might be challenging. The benefit is, you’d never find a more loyal friend—and a funny one to boot.
Interview with Parnell Hall:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Parnell: I’ve been writing all my life in one way or another. At the age of sixteen I had a song recorded by Pete Seeger. During an early career as an actor I wrote a musical comedy that was produced in summer stock and regional theater, and I spent several years writing screenplays.
KRL: How cool! When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Parnell: My first novel, Detective, came out in 1987. It was based on my experience working as a private investigator in New York City. I worked for a firm that serviced negligence lawyers. We investigated accident claims, mostly for people who had tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and wanted to sue the City. My private eye, Stanley Hastings, was a man like me, as ill equipped to solve crime as I was.
KRL: Wow you have had an interesting life. Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Parnell: I wrote the screenplay for a horror movie called C.H.U.D. It was about monsters that lived in the sewers of New York and came out and ate people.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Parnell: I started writing the Puzzle Lady books because my publishers realized that not enough people were reading my private eye books. I was hoping they wouldn’t notice. It took them eighteen books, but they finally did, and I was in trouble. No one would publish me. So I created a character as different from a male New York private eye as I could. A little old lady from a small Connecticut town who had a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle column and solved crime on the side. Even so, I didn’t think anyone would publish it if they knew I wrote it, so I put a woman’s name on the book as the author and had my agent send it around. Bantam snapped it right up.
The new Puzzle Lady book, the 18th in the series, is A Puzzle to be Named Later. It’s about a New York Yankees hotshot rookie pitcher, Matt Greystone, rehabbing in the town of Bakerhaven, where the Puzzle Lady lives. Puzzles and murders follow.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Parnell: I asked my readers about that. One wanted to be entertained. The other didn’t know.
KRL: LOL! Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Parnell: I dictate into a small handheld digital recorder. I can write anywhere at any time. I write on airplanes, driving my car, in the park with my dog, or even at the beach. I later type it into the computer, but it’s basically all written.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Parnell: I don’t outline and I have no idea where the book is going. Each day I read what I wrote the day before and keep on going. This has been a big problem with my last two books, which I co-wrote with best-seller Stuart Woods. I have to write an outline before I start the book. It’s murder.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Parnell: I was a huge Perry Mason fan, and when Erle Stanley Gardner died I started writing a Perry Mason novel. I was about 150 pages into it when his widow told me to cease and desist. So I put it aside until I got published fifteen years later, then finished it as a Steve Winslow novel. The Anonymous Client came out in 1988, and is now an eBook.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Parnell: The first agent I gave my manuscript to was Dominick Abel. He rejected it. Five years later Dominick was on a panel I moderated on how to get published. I introduced him by saying he had rejected my novel, which was nominated for the Edgar and the Shamus awards. I said they could not believe the wish fulfillment it was to be standing there saying that, and the crowd went wild. When it was time for questions, the first person said, “Dominick, you rejected me too…” Several other people also said so. Dominick, a good sport, said, “This is getting ridiculous. Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have I rejected?” Half of the audience put up their hands, including two of the panelists.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Parnell: More people have heard my book signing story than have read my books. You can hear it to, in my music video on YouTube.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Parnell: I’m happy just to publish anything.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Parnell: Erle Stanley Gardner and Robert B. Parker, who inspired me to write private eye.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Parnell: I hate research. I try to write about things I know.
KRL: What do you read?
Parnell: Sadly, I don’t have time to read these days. It gets in the way of what I’m writing, but I just took time to read The Knife Slipped. It’s a never-before-published Donald Lam /Bertha Cool novel by Erle Stanley Gardner writing under the pen name A.A.Fair. Hard Case Crime just brought it out, and I couldn’t have been happier. It would have been the second book in the series, following their marvelous debut in The Bigger They Come.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Parnell: Game of Thrones, Newsroom, Good Wife, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, West Wing, Silence of the Lambs.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Parnell: Quit. I have enough competition.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Parnell: You don’t have to read it, you just have to buy it.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Parnell: I once sang for Eddie Fisher.
To enter to win a copy of A Puzzle to Be Named Later, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “puzzle,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 11, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.