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Death by Sudoku by Kaye Morgan

Death by Sudoku

by Kaye Morgan

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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 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).

We should be able to give zero star ratings ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Liza Kelly thinks she is just going to a sudoku competition conference, but ends up in a murder investigation.

I personally loved this book. It's not that hard to read and is about 199 pages long. The story starts by giving the background story and once the murder picks up, you get sucked into the mystery as well. Even I really didn't expect the ending... (It is happy, though)..

Once thing that I think is this book's asset is that the sudoku puzzles are included in the book. So while you are reading about Liza doing the sudoku puzzle in the entry-level of the competition, you get to do it along with her. I also loved the Sudo-cues excerpt in the back of the book. It gives tips and explains the different sudoku techniques used throughout the book. It's very detailed and has examples to show you how to do the same. ( )
  deepikasd | Sep 14, 2011 |
One and a half stars, but I'll round up to two. For all its faults, this book was mercifully quick to get through, so it does not receive my undying loathing. However, it is not completely off the hook for the following reasons.

- The whole premise of the series is rather ludicrous. I can understand a Hollywood publicist as a protagonist, but not a Hollywood publicist / Sudoku columnist. Heck, I can't even understand the Sudoku columnist part of it, period. Sure there may be different tips and techniques to solve these puzzles, but I don't think they warrant a regular column. You can cover them all in a book, probably.

- Also, Sudoku tournaments? Eye-roll! I was a very late convert to the Sudoku thing, so this could just be excessive skepticism on my part, but I think that kind of thing is really lame. I consider crossword competitions to be a bit more challenging -- you have to KNOW the things that the clues talk about, instead of just figuring out which numerals go in which boxes. And cryptic crosswords would be harder than normal crosswords, especially the British ones! So forgive me while I reserve my impressed-ness for the more hardcore puzzle-pagers out there.

- The way all the characters were ever so willing to help out the protagonist with her harebrained detecting schemes was even more ridiculous than the average cozy. And don't get me started on the miraculously useful knowledge everybody had. Liza just HAPPENS to have a codebreaking uncle in Japan who just HAPPENS to be up when she sends him an instant message. Michael just HAPPENS to know all about sailing even though he's a "script doctor" (as he refers to himself many times). I mean, he could very well have picked up this knowledge in the course of researching a script, but the way he actually acquired his knowledge was nowhere near as legitimate as that.

- If I had to read about someone's lips quirking into a smile one more time, those characters would not be smiling anymore. There are some phrases that aren't that great the first time but get REALLY tiresome on reuse.

- Way too much backstory for the characters that was way too clumsily incorporated into the narrative. I know that most first novels in a series are riddled with backstory to an extent, but this was just too much.

- The characters weren't really described all that well, and the aspects that were described about them didn't stick with me. The only one I could picture with any detail was Jenny, and she appeared in the form of Georgia Moffett's character on Doctor Who.

- Speaking of Jenny, that conversation she had with Liza where they complimented each other's looks and talked about being in front of the camera? Blech. Much too unrealistic. I think that was the part I was reading when my boyfriend asked why I was making such a horrible face at my book.

So to sum up, even if you're a Sudoku nut, don't bother with this book. There are much better cozies out there. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 12, 2011 |
Liza Kelly left Hollywood to get a break. She went from a publicist to the stars to Liza K, Sudoku specialist for an Oregon newspaper. Only when she returns to LA for a Sudoku tournament does her life get back in the fast lane. One of her good friends is killed after he tells her he thinks there are clues to some crazy news stories embedded in the Sudoku puzzles. Now, she takes the puzzle by the horns and is forced to help once it gets personal. Along with her editor, her estranged husband and her high school boyfriend, she has to get down to solving business before more people die.

I picked up this book because I love Sudoku. My dad got me hooked on it a few summers ago. I don’t just stop at Sudoku though, I love crosswords and word searches and you name it, I’ve got a book for it. I was actually surprised how much I learned about the number puzzle in this book. There were solving tips and little explainers on how to get the hard ones. And that was on top of the drama and death.

I definitely liked this book and will pick up the rest of the series. It was written well, kept me on my toes trying to figure out the murders and the puzzles and made me feel like less of a nerd knowing there are other goobers out there who are puzzle dorks.

I give Death by Sudoku 5 bookmarks. ( )
  kariannalysis | May 25, 2010 |
OK - Sudoku solving ideas ( )
  brsquilt | Aug 31, 2008 |
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Don't get excited by the name. In sudoku, naked pairs are hardly X-rated--in fact they don't even rate a hard R. The name refers to a situation in a row, column, or box where two spaces have the same two choices (and only the same two choices) as candidates. The naked part is because they're right out there in the open. It's an either-or situation. Logically, if the choice is between a 2 or a 4, a 2 in the first space means a 4 in the second. It also means that 2s and 4s can be eliminated from the candidate lists everywhere else in the given row, column, or box. Those numbers have been taken already... -Excerpt from Sudo-cues by Liza K
This book is dedicated with love to Mom, my first reader, who always tells the truth. I love her anyway.
And no acknowledgments would be complete without thanks to the person who made it possible. To my editor at Berkley, Samantha Mandor, who not only championed this book, but also had a very large hand in creating this world and its characters.
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Just keep your head down and sit tight, Liza Kelly told herself for the umpteenth time as she hunched in her seat.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425216403, Mass Market Paperback)

Maiden's Bay is a small, scenic town on the Oregon Coast where citizens get their number fix thanks to Liza Kelly-Sudoku Maven with the Oregon Daily. Her challenging puzzles sharpen the mind, and her deductive skills unravel even the most enigmatic clues.

Liza enters a Sudoku tournament in which her old friend and competitor turns up dead. Now, she must think outside the boxes to find a murderer.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:44 -0400)

After a brief stint as a public relations specialist and a married woman in Los Angeles, Liza Kelly left both Hollywood and hubby behind and returned to her hometown of Maiden's Bay. Inspired by her success as the Oregon Doily's sudoku master, she enters a tournament in Orange County to test her expertise against other puzzlers. But Liza's old friend Derrick Robbins, also a contestant in the tournament, turns up dead after the competition.… (more)

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