In this installment of the series an investment banker hires the private detective to collect information about a woman he met in a singles bar. A series of dead bodies impinge on the investigation, and once again Hastings is framed for murder. A Publishers Weekly wrote that "smart dialogue, clever plotting and a perfectly executed reverse scam … result in sparkling entertainment. Hall does to the private-eye formula is very funny, but it isn't frivolous. His puzzles, for all their manic nonsense, are fiendish constructions of sound logic. Hastings's thirteenth outing, Suspense, brings him good luck as well, in the opinion of a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Here, a bestselling suspense novelist's wife hires Hastings to uncover the source of harassing phone calls—and the calls lead to murder. The case gives Hastings an opening to offer comically wise observations on the publishing industry with its agents, editors, and would-be writers. David Pitt, writing in Booklist pointed out the self-referential nature of this comedy in this "very clever" novel about the suspense genre; for example, the characters frequently state that the case on which Hastings is working would make a bad novel.
For Pitt, this experiment worked, because Suspense is "first-class fun from start to finish. Hastings reappears in Cozy. When the local police chief misinterprets the clues and places the blame for the murder on Hastings and his wife, Alice, Hastings has no choice but to find the real killer.
Writing in Booklist, Ilene Cooper noted that the mystery itself "takes a backseat to the delicious style with which the tale is told. However, as the case progresses, Hastings, aided by his cop friend, MacAulif, soon learns that Joe Balfour the criminal does not exist. The case becomes further complicated by the murder of the blackmailer. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Whodunit fans with a taste for the unconventional will find this just what the doctor ordered.
Cora, the "puzzle lady," lives in Bakerhaven, a charming suburban town in Connecticut, where her neighbors frown on her heavy drinking but bask in her fame as a creator of nationally syndicated crossword puzzles without realizing that her niece Sherry ghostwrites the puzzles. Cora gets to work on a different kind of puzzle, though, when crossword-puzzle clues start turning up on dead bodies. A Publishers Weekly contributor welcomed the character of Cora, describing her as "a true original" and "Miss Marple as a promiscuous lush.
Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido noted that some of the book's elements seemed overly familiar, but added that "Hall works with them in such deft ways, with such spiffy dialogue, that we are immediately seduced. Cora and Sherry return in Last Puzzle and Testament, in which a strange woman named Emma Hurley dies and leaves a will granting her substantial wealth to whichever one of her heirs can solve a complicated puzzle—with Cora in charge of the judging.
But soon, someone starts killing the players, and Cora and her niece must shift into crime-solving mode. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, once again reviewing for Booklist, predicted that "this novel's puzzles within puzzles will charm and so will its attractive cast. Cora and her editor are hosting a puzzle tournament when people begin turning up dead in Puzzled to Death.
Although the murders initially seem unrelated, Cora soon finds a strange connection. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, noted that "the crosswordiana remains engaging. Meanwhile, Sherry is the Virgin Mary in a recreation of the Nativity scene. Before long, someone poisons a pear tree given to Becky Baldwin, who is the star of the pageant. Cora sets out to find the culprit along with the help of Jonathon Doddsworth, a Scotland yard detective visiting his daughter.
Things go awry however, when Sherry is arrested for the murder of another actor. A Kirkus Reviews writer called the novel "less abrasive and more amusing than her [Hall's] previous outings. All this takes place within the context of Cora's ex-husband showing up with his new bride-to-be and asking that their daughter Sherry be in his wedding. Stalking the Puzzle Lady features Cora selling cereal on a media junket and being stalked by a former high-school classmate. When another young woman on the media tour is murdered, Cora sets out to solve the mystery.
Stephanie Zvirin, writing in Booklist, noted that "feisty, contentious Cora has plenty of quirky charm. You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled finds Cora accused of plagiarism and then of murder when her accuser is found dead. The problem Cora faces is to solve the murder without revealing that it is really Sherry and not Cora who creates the puzzles.
In Booklist, David Pitt noted the novel's "suspenseful mystery, engaging characters, [and] dialogue that sparkles. The firm I worked for serviced negligence lawyers, the type who advertised for clients on TV. I interviewed the accident victims, usually those who had fallen on the city sidewalk, and photographed the casts on their arms and legs, and the cracks in the pavement that had tripped them. While this was real detective work, it was not the type I was used to reading about in mystery novels, and it occurred to me how ill equipped I would be if I had to solve a murder.
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So that's how I began my novel. I don't have a gun, I have a camera. I take pictures of cracks in the sidewalk. Armchair Detective, winter, , Jon L. Breen, review of Juror, pp. Booklist, January 15, , review of Murder, p. DeCandido, review of Last Puzzle and Testament, p.
DeCandido, review of Puzzled to Death, p. Kirkus Reviews, December 15, , review of Murder, p.epaph.com/qiqic-tool-to.php
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Library Journal, September 1, , Rex E. Klett, review of Favor, pp. Klett, review of Strangler, p. Klett, review of Client, p.
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Klett, review of A Puzzle in a Pear Tree, p. Publishers Weekly, December 18, , review of Murder, p. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. James Grippando. A Delicate Touch. A Marriage of True Minds.
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Suspense Stanley Hastings Mystery, Detective Stanley Hastings Mystery, 1.