It takes both a crossword puzzle and a sudoku to provide the clues that solve several murders.
Although Cora Felton excels at solving sudokus, she doesn’t have anything like the crossword-puzzle savvy that would justify the lucrative career she’s built as the Puzzle Lady. In fact, few people know that her niece, Sherry, actually creates and solves the puzzles. When teen Peggy Dawson begs Cora to solve a mysterious crossword that some unknown person has sent to her, Cora enlists her friend Harvey Beerbaum, a real cruciverbalist, to help—but when they all get to the girl's house, the puzzle has vanished. Peggy goes to local police chief Dale Harper and harasses him until he agrees to find her puzzle. Harper sends deputy Dan Finley, who drags Cora along. Peggy’s brother, Johnny, refuses to let them search his room but soon phones the police to report that he's found not the puzzle but a bloodstained knife. The corpse who probably bloodied the knife is that of a construction worker staying in a motel near his job site. Cora’s happy days turn to dross when she spots Melvin Crabtree, the ex she loves to hate, claiming to be back in town to work with the realtor who employs Johnny Dawson, presumably on another of Melvin’s fake real estate scams. Johnny, arrested by the police, hires Cora’s clever lawyer friend Becky Baldwin, who quickly springs her client when Cora gets the coroner to admit that the time of death meant the knife couldn't have been the murder weapon. Turning on a dime, the police then arrest Melvin. More puzzles appear, including a sudoku that hints that Johnny is guilty. Once Cora learns that Melvin has a book contract to write an exposé about his life with the Puzzle Lady, she realizes that she must not only clear him, but do so in a way that forces him to keep her secret.
Using Hall’s trademark humor and panache, the Puzzle Lady (A Puzzle to Be Named Later, 2017, etc.) finds yet another clever way to get herself out of yet another tricky situation.