A spooky 'whodunit' for Halloween

The Devil's Puzzle: A Someday Quilts Mystery by Clare O'Donohue; 978-0-452-29737-1; 276 Pages; $14; Published September, 2011; Softcover; Published by Plume Books, a Member of the Penguin Group

Halloween is the perfect time of the year to read a creepy, spooky and haunting book.

"The Devil's Puzzle" is the fourth novel in the Someday Quilts Mystery series written by Clare O'Donohue. Her locale for this mystery novel is Archer's Rest, a fictitious New England town founded 350 years ago, where the protagonist, Nell Fitzgerald, and her entourage are at it again!

This time the townspeople are planning a 4th of July anniversary celebration honoring founding father John Archer. Legend has it he and his followers came to this peaceful place on the Hudson River to practice witchcraft.

The celebration features a parade, carnival, a quilting show and fireworks - and publicity is necessary. The citizens of Archer's Rest may have gotten exactly what they wished for.

In an eerie turn of events, a skeleton is unearthed in Nell Fitzgerald's grandmother Eleanor's backyard as her suitor is preparing the yard for new rose bushes. News gets out and Eleanor becomes the prime suspect in the murder of an unknown man who may have once lived in her Victorian home in the 1960s.

It appears that Eleanor knows something about this man, but keeps very closed-mouthed and reveals little. Archer's Rest unravels with an abundance of suspicions and rumors.

Nell, known as the amateur detective, and her boyfriend Jesse, who happens to be the chief of police, collaborate in order to solve the mystery. When many of the townspeople get involved, strange events start to occur - the defacing of a headstone in the cemetery with red paint, a series of unusual break-ins, and threats made to prominent people.

What makes this book outstanding is the main theme of quilters and how they analyze events at Someday Quilts, the store owned by Eleanor. The small town gossip travels quickly to shop owners and other townspeople who gather in coffee klatsches at Jitters. Secrets are slowly revealed along the way, sparking fears that witchcraft may have returned to Archer's Rest!

O'Donohue has created some very amusing characters. There is disheartened Oliver, Eleanor's love interest; and Glad, the town historian who folks find to be pushy and snoopy. Then there is Glee, Glad's sister, who is called the "crazy lady." She never leaves her house - or does she?

Curious mystery fans and people who love quilting will be delightfully transported to this unusual place to discover a "whodunit" with a shocker ending. This is a five-star treat!

Publishers Weekly

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Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman, Arizona. Visit Clark Isaacs at http://clarkisaacs.ning.com.