Title:Death by Sudoku
Author: Kaye Morgan
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime 
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)