23 October 2014

Review: THE CROSSWORD MURDER, Nero Blanc

  • source: NetGalley review book, e-book (Kindle)
  • first published 1999 - available from Amazon
  • this edition published 2014 by Open Road Media.
  • #1 in the series
  • author website
Synopsis (NetGalley)

Solving puzzles can be murder when a PI and a crossword editor join forces to catch a killer in the first novel of Nero Blanc’s fiendishly clever crossword mystery series.

Playboy Thompson C. Briephs has just been found strangled in his bed. The police believe the Newcastle Herald crossword editor, a scion of a blue-blooded New England family, died from kinky sex gone wrong.

But cop-turned–private investigator Rosco Polycrates thinks there’s a six-letter word for what happened. Enlisting the help of Annabelle Graham, the crossword editor for a rival paper, Rosco unearths a crazy quilt of suspects who had it in for the victim—and one of them was blackmailing him. Belle is certain the answers lie in Briephs’s twisty puzzlers. Now she and Rosco will have to employ some dazzling wordplay of their own to stop a cunning killer from crossing paths with another victim.

Readers will delight in solving the crime, along with six crossword puzzles, which can be downloaded as PDFs, with answers in the back of the book. The Crossword Murder is a book to be savored by mystery lovers and crossword-puzzle enthusiasts alike.

My Take

Thompson Briephs, Newcastle playboy (Massachusetts) and crossword editor is found murdered in his bed in his Minoan-style mansion on his private island.

Briephs always works five days ahead of his deadline and he outwits his murderer by leaving five unpublished crosswords which reveal the murderer's identity. These will be published in the Newcastle Herald by his assistant on five consecutive days. The first two crosswords are published and then the other three go missing when Briephs' assistant is threatened over the phone and decides to post them to various people as insurance.

These crosswords are provided for the reader to play with both in the book and online, and so there is the opportunity to solve the mystery along with the sleuthing pair, cop-turned–private investigator Rosco Polycrates and Annabelle Graham, the crossword editor for a rival paper. Many of the crossword clues are cryptic, and Briephs also taunts some of the people he worked with by naming them in the crosswords. In the story these provide red herrings although the murderer is actually named (using a nickname) in the very first one.

The murder mystery is quite well plotted while the crossword clues are designed to further tantalise the reader.

This was the first in a series written by husband and wife team, Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler who are serious crossword buffs.

Fantastic Fiction
1. The Crossword Murder (1999)
2. Two Down (2000)
3. The Crossword Connection (2001)
4. A Crossworder's Holiday (2002)
5. A Crossword to Die for (2002)
6. Corpus De Crossword (2003)
7. A Crossworder's Gift (2003)
8. Anatomy of a Crossword (2004)
9. Wrapped Up in Crosswords (2004)
10. Another Word for Murder (2005)
11. A Crossworder's Delight (2005)
12. Death on the Diagonal (2006)

My rating: 4.1

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