Review – Death by Sudoku by Kaye Morgan

Title:Death by Sudoku

Author: Kaye Morgan

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime [2007]

ISBN: 978-0-425-21640-8

No. of pages: 199

Hollywood publicist and Sudoku columnist for an Oregon newspaper Liza Kelly finds the dead body of a client and fellow Sudoku nut and, by following a series of clues hidden in a rival paper’s puzzles, averts a major terrorist act and saves a young woman’s life.

If that sentence sounds ridiculous imagine my delight at reading what was essentially that plot expanded into a 199 page piece of utter nonsense.

I know many people think all cosy mysteries are preposterous but this is not the post for an argument about the worthiness of the sub-genre: it is what it is (and if you’re wandering exactly what ‘it’ is read the Definition of a Cozy Mystery) and as with most art forms there are good and bad examples of it. This is the post for me whingeing about how truly stupid this book is.

The plot is laughable. I assume even the author realised that her theme of sudoku was weak so she threw in the Hollywood element for extra interest. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book and it wasn’t any more credibly written than the parts featuring sudoku solving. Those parts mainly consisted of pages (and then more pages) of boring and unintelligible puzzle solving, a whole load of random guess work about which puzzles were meaningful and what the code was and a bunch of irrelevant elements borrowed from the plots of far better books (e.g. the clues are pointers to bible passages, the criminals are survivalists). I’ve no idea why the actor/sudoku fan “had” to die at the beginning (no connection was ever made between him and the criminals) and I’ve no clue why the person behind the crimes committed them. Most importantly of all, the plot did not even attempt to reveal why on earth the criminal mastermind chose such a ludicrous method to communicate with his minions (who appeared to be dumb as house bricks and seemed unlikely to have the mental capacity to tie their own shoelaces let alone follow a complex numerical code hidden inside a logic puzzle).

The characters are no better. Liza and her trail of beaus (1 nearly ex husband, 1 high school boyfriend and 1 current stalker) are all equally stereotypical and completely lacking in credibility. None of them, nor the dozen other forgettable folk that wandered across the pages, behave in ways that real people do. When the author got stuck on some plot element or other she simply gave a character some previously unexplained expertise in the subject so and moved on. My favourite example of that was when Liza developed advanced civil engineering skills to know where explosives would need to be placed in a public building to cause the most damage. Not bad for a woman who kept referring to her computer as a box.

I mooched a copy of this book on a whim because I do a sudoku puzzle or two every day (one of the things I do in a vague attempt to slow down the deterioration of my ageing brain) (in addition to wearing a garlic necklace of course) and wondered how the subject could sensibly be incorporated into a whodunit. I am left with two thoughts: (a) It can’t (sensibly be incorporated into a whodunit that is) and (b) I’ve never felt less guilty about not having contributed hard cash to an author in my life. Normally when I don’t like a book that other readers have enjoyed I am philosophical enough to know that art is a matter of taste, but if I met someone who thought this book was anything other than dross I would be seriously concerned for their mental health.

P.S. To those who are wondering why I bothered to finish such a piece of nonsense I had unexpected reading time on my hands and had once again failed to heed my own mantra (never leave the house with less than 3 books and a Swiss army knife) (although it’s just as well I didn’t have the knife as I suspect I might have gouged my own eyes out with it in an effort to avoid the book).

My Rating 0.1/5 (I reserve ‘0’ for books I didn’t finish)

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Reviewed by Sarah at Reviewing the Evidence

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8 Responses to Review – Death by Sudoku by Kaye Morgan

  1. Cathy says:

    No! Do not put that knife anywhere near your eyes! Instead, use it to cut pages out of the book to make paper airplanes…or to practice origami.


  2. bernadetteinoz says:

    Excellent idea Cathy 🙂


  3. Maxine says:

    I laughed when I read this review because I think we must be pretty similar, Bernadette. I have loved Sudoku ever since the very first puzzle appeared in the Times back in 2005 or sometime, before the world-wide craze hit. At that time I already was doing the quick crossword each day to keep my ageing brain vaguely functioning (the main Times crossword being beyond my mental grasp) so it was great to have Sudokus as well (and the Polygon anagram puzzle but I don’t like that as much as I think they cheat on the allowed words). I’ve tried the various variants of Sudoku as they’ve been introduced, but my favourite is “Killer”, quite appropriate for this book review. As a brain challenge, the Times increases the difficulty level of its daily sudokus throughout the week, so they are easy on Monday and “fiendish” on Friday – I actually wish they’d do it the other way round!
    Anyway, sorry for the ramble, I loved your review and having already heard about this book and thinking I might get it because of my interest in sudokus, I appreciate your warning. (and Cathy’s idea is a far better alternative for knife use.)


  4. Anonymous says:

    I definitely agree that the puzzles should start strong and get easier through the week Maxine…by Fridays my brain is mush. I’ve given up on newspapers (the only thing available where I live is owned by Rupert Murdoch and I refuse to add to his wealth by a single cent) so I have several different puzzle books that I dip in and out of – so I choose my own level of difficulty.

    Glad the review made you laugh..In the end so was I…I kept reading just to see how bad it would get…and knew that it would do me good to have a nice rant about it on here.

    Apparently there is a different series also featuring a sudoku champion as the protagonist by an author called Shelley Freydont so I might try one of those. Or not. 🙂


  5. bernadetteinoz says:

    GRRRR I didn’t notice wordpress had logged me out – that was my comment (I guess it’s obvious but just in case anyone thinks one of the voices in my head has completely taken over)


  6. Dorte H says:

    Amazing what gets published.
    You could also use the pages to wrap fish in, or try them out as cigarette paper in these times of crisis.


  7. Beth F says:

    Too funny!! I love cozies, but this one is ridiculous.


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