Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Review of Crossword Ends in Violence (5) by James Cary (Piqwiq, 2014)
Crossword Ends in Violence (5) charts John Fellowes attempt to uncover whether his grandfather really was a German spy during the Second World War, communicating with the enemy through crossword puzzles. He’s aided in this task by his two geeky employees at the puzzle agency he runs, and Amanda, an accountant working for a firm in the same building who finds them oddly fascinating. The strength of the story are the four main characters, who are quirky, engaging, have a nice dynamic, and have a lot of potential for anchoring a series of stories involving puzzle solving. Cary populates the story with a number of small puzzles, that add a nice touch. The story is told using multiple intersecting storylines, set at three different time periods (contemporary, eight years after the war, and 1944). For the most part this works well, enabling the tale set in past and contemporary eras to be told simultaneously and putting them in productive tension. However, two converging storylines concerning events in Normandy led nowhere, and the one concerning a Polish cryptographer lacked credibility, weakening the ending. Moreover, the exploits of four puzzle solvers didn’t involve enough of an adventure -- a little bit of hacking and a trip to the archives -- and was very linear in progression, with no blind alleys or sharp twists. In my view it would have benefitted the story to extend the contemporary investigation to provide a couple more challenges to overcome. Nonetheless the storyline hook is good and the resolution to the puzzle is satisfying. Overall, an interesting and engaging debut, with a set of characters that hold much promise.