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Morgan's Sinister Sudoku

March 10, 2012 - Jodelle Greiner
I had some time to kill in Blue Earth, so I stopped off at the library — always a good place to kill time — and perused the book shelves. My eye was drawn to some books and I read the author’s name: Kaye Morgan.

Never heard of her.

As any bibliophile knows, the discovery of an author you’ve never heard of is fraught with possibilities. I couldn’t resist test-driving one of Morgan’s books, “Sinister Sudoku.”

Liza Kelly is a columnist who comes up with Sudoku puzzles and she’s pretty adept at solving mysteries in everyday life, too. She’s got a good one on her hands this time.

Liza had been teaching a Sudoku class at a local Oregon prison. One of her best students is Chris Dalen, an art thief who’s biggest swipe, a Mondrian painting worth $3 million, hasn’t been located throughout Dalen’s 12-year stretch in prison. The day of Liza’s last class happens to be the day of Dalen’s release. Less than 24 hours later, Dalen turns up dead in a hotel run by Liza’s friend Kevin.

Who killed Dalen? Liza has plenty of suspects, from insurance agents to mobsters, and all of them are trying to find that missing painting. Figuring out who could have done it is harder than solving a Sudoku puzzle. Speaking of Sudoku, could Dalen have given Liz a clue to the location of the painting in the last class assignment? With bodies piling up, Liz has to find that Mondrian before all the other treasure hunters, otherwise someone close to her could wind up in the body count.

The idea of basing a murder mystery series on the Sudoku craze is a captivating premise. Those who aren’t adept at the numbers game shouldn’t be put off from reading the books. Morgan uses Liza’s shtick with a light hand, more as a clue or tool, and it doesn’t impede the plotline at all. If you do like solving Sudoku, you’re in for a treat, several of the puzzles are included — with answers. Liza K even explains how to set up a Sudoku puzzle after the killer is caught.

Using a Sudoku whiz as a mystery solver is actually a natural. I’m surprised no one has thought of it before. The same powers of deduction that make a person good at solving or creating Sudoku would come into play for solving a mystery. And this story has all the elements of a good read: Morgan moves the story along quickly and populates the book with lots of quirky characters.

It’s always best to start with the first of any series, if you can find it. The Sudoku Mysteries, in order are “Death by Sudoku”, “Murder by Numbers”, “Sinister Sudoku”, “Killer Sudoku”, “Ghost Sudoku” and “Celebrity Sudoku”. Have fun exercising your brain.


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