Monday, January 21, 2008

Murder By Numbers - Kaye Morgan

Murder By Numbers
A Sudoku Mystery
Kaye Morgan
Berkley Prime Crime


Note: If you haven’t read the first book in this series, DEATH BY SUDOKU, this review contains some unavoidable plot spoilers.

Liza Kelly, known to newspaper readers as sudoku expert Liza K, never imagined that her tiny hometown of Maiden’s Bay, OR, would be the site of a film production. But there is a movie set in town, complete with stars, town extras, crew, craft services, and all the attendant support staff. Also included are producers, production assistants and a director. That director is currently out of the picture, so to speak, after being sidelined in a one-car accident. Liza, a former pr rep from Los Angeles, is representing the young star of the movie, Jenny. Jenny is the niece of Liza’s late friend, Derrick, and has some real talent.

To complete the shoot, the new owner of the fledgling Mirage Productions, one Oliver Chissel, a former (and possibly current) scam artist, has hired a new director to complete the film. And, to everyone’s shock, Chissel is planning some major script revisions and a whole new direction for the story. He wants to change the film from its original thriller roots to a cheap slasher film that exploits Jenny’s recent kidnapping and near death. Jenny objects, as do others, but Chissel makes it plain that his word is law and that anyone who objects is fired. In so many words.

The changes are not the only reason for Chissel’s visit. Even before the first director’s accident, there had been incidents of vandalism on the set. And the mayor of Maiden’s Bay is less than pleased by the proposed extension of the shooting schedule, since every day the company shoots, the expensive equipment leased to rebuild the pier sits idle. Taking an early morning walk near the site, Liza comes upon Chissel’s head, sticking out of the sand. He was clearly there when the tide came in the previous evening. Plenty of people wanted him dead, and Liza is determined to get to the bottom of things.

This second installment follows the first quite naturally. Past events involving Jenny and her uncle are sketched in neatly, allowing new readers easy access to the storyline. A movie set contains an amazing number of people and motives; Chissel’s background provides additional possibilities. There is a wealth of suspects, and Liza uses her logic and people skills to whittle down that number. There are sudoku puzzles included, with tips and an answer key at the end of the book. If you have no interest in sudoku, you’ll still find an involving mystery here; if you’re a puzzle addict, this series provides an extra layer of entertainment. And just when I’d almost managed to control my puzzle addiction, too.

Rating: 7 ½
January 2008ISBN# 978-0-425-21903-4 (paperback)


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