Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sinister Sudoku - Kaye Morgan

Sinister Sudoku
A Sudoku Mystery
Kaye Morgan
Berkley Prime Crime


Liza Kelly’s career in sudoku is taking off in some interesting directions. First, and maybe most importantly, her puzzle column for her local paper already enjoys a regional syndication. Now she’s poised to embark on a national syndication deal. One of the more unlikely outgrowths of her puzzle expertise is the class she’s teaching at the Seaport Correctional Facility. Her few minimum-security students include celebutante Ritz Tarleton (in for 10 days on a DUI and blogging about it every day); Fat Frankie, a mob guy whose very politeness is scary; and Chris Dalen, a man who’s spent the last dozen years locked up for not telling anyone the location of the Mondrian painting he stole.

The final assignment for the class was to create a puzzle using thirty clues. To Liza’s amazement, Chris managed to create a puzzle with only seventeen clues. In the world of sudoku, it’s a rare thing to be able to create a true puzzle (one with only one correct answer) with so few clues. There’s not much time to devote to it, though, since Chris is being released that very afternoon, due to health issues.

Putting aside thoughts of prisoners, Liza and her sort-of-boyfriend Kevin plan a romantic dinner at the local inn where Kevin is manager. The weather turns ugly even before they get there, and the rapidly accumulating snow forces dinner guests to become overnight guests. The unexpected guest roster includes Ritz’ travel magnate father, a known associate of Fat Frankie, Chris Dalen on his first night of freedom, and an insurance investigator still on the trail of the stolen Mondrian. Alone in her assigned cabin, Liza discovers an unwelcome amenity in the bed. It’s a hand, underneath all layers of bedding. The hand is attached to one Chris Dalen.

The third installment in this very entertaining series (DEATH BY SUDOKU, MURDER BY THE NUMBERS) almost reads like an Agatha Christie. There’s a group of people, stranded by weather, and a murderer is in their midst. There are plenty of good motives collected under this one roof. A sudoku puzzle might seem an unlikely tool to use to solve a mystery, but both pursuits require the application of logic – and the willingness to take a risk or two. You do not need to be a fan of sudoku to enjoy the mystery, but if you are, you’ll enjoy solving the puzzles (answer keys at back) and tips scattered throughout the story. Looking forward to Liza’s next case.

Rating: 7 ½
August 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22306-2


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