“Dr. Rhineman was zealous about puzzle solving and known in wider circles as a peerless stickler for detail.”
– Puzzle of Death (Locations 85-86)
From Amazon: “People are dropping like flies. Who the hell’s murdering them?” asks Private Detective Jake Wayde. He realizes it’s now killed or be killed.
The plot of Puzzle of Death has more turns than a coiled rattlesnake. There’s a goodly dose of mean, murderous women among the diverse characters that add to the violence, blood, and pain.
After his death, Dr. Frederick Rhineman sets in motion a complex plot involving his twelve most hated people. They are pitted against each other to collect a prize of ten million dollars and a newly developed chemical formula that many nations would pay extreme amounts of money. Each of the people the Doctor has a grudge against receives a letter containing a puzzle piece. The person who collects Rhineman’s twelve hand-cut puzzle pieces with written clues attached is the winner. Or are they?
There was far too much wrong with the grammar, syntax (“have” instead of “has”, especially), concord and minor things like missing punctuation and quotations marks, and missing words to ignore. Regardless of how much I enjoyed the plot, I found these errors to be persistent and distracting, thus they must be factored into my over all rating of the book. Further, the writing was a little too literal at times, where a full set of actions could have been narrowed to a more succinct sentences:
“When Wayde searched Dr. Rhineman’s desk, he found one of the drawers locked. He asked Jean if she had the key. She came in and looked in the safe, found the key, handed it to Wayde, and he unlocked the drawer.” (Locations 3162-3164)
Character development was a little bit stunted with certain, not all, characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the seemingly “devil may care” attitude that Jake has and his loose morals when it comes to murder, cheating and pretty much anything. He’s ex-military and pretty much gives close to no fucks. He so efficiently plays both side but also really sucks at being observant about people spiking his drinks. He’s wonderfully paradoxical character. I don’t think that the he akways asks the right questions but I kept wondering if he wasn’t asking because he didn’t actually want to know. Overall, I enjoyed the characters and their interaction, especially in interrogation or torture scenes. I them riveting! There was also a healthy dose of power play and interesting gender dynamics.
“Benny handed the butcher’s knife to the man standing at the head of the bed. “My friend here can cut you free if that’s what you want.” Benny smiled as he pointed to Max’s left arm. The big man ripped the knife across Max’s arm. Max felt his flesh tearing.” (Locations 69-71)
“She dropped the bloody piece of glass to the floor then removed the pillow from his face, forced the other pills into his mouth, and made him swallow. Again, he gagged as the pills went down his throat.” (Locations 1158-1160)
At the 30% mark of the book, I was worried that the plot was going to run out of people to kill. From the very first page of this novel, people are dying, and doing so in some very interesting ways. I enjoyed the creativity that the author employed when thinking up ways for characters to die. Some were gory and sickening but I never felt like it was unjustified or for the sake of shock value. The puzzle is a dangerous endeavour and the characters competing for all the pieces are quite literally cutthroat.
The plot was paced very well, and at no point did it seem to lag. I was concerned that the rather energetic start would lead to a lacklustre middle or ending. If anything, I think that the narrative could have been slowed down, and though the plot was well paced, the writing felt rushed. The grammatical issues were a bit of a distraction but the content was rather enthralling and everyone knows that I’m a sucker for a good femme fatale or two.
I think that this book needs to be properly edited, and that some of the clunky language needs to be smoothed out. This would be a vast improvement and make it even easier to read and enjoy. I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy some blood with their thrillers, and Lord knows, the author does not hold back on the blood, guts and gore.
My rating: 3½/5
Puzzle of Death is available on Amazon.
This review was requested by the author.