Table of Contents
Praise for the Sudoku Mysteries
“[A] very entertaining series . . . You do not need to be a fan of sudoku to enjoy the mystery, but if you are, you’ll enjoy solving the puzzles and tips scattered throughout the story.”
“A wonderful addition to Ms. Morgan’s Sudoku Mystery series! The narrative hits the ground running incorporating sudoku strategy with a treasure hunt and a tantalizing whodunit!”
—The Romance Readers Connection
Murder by Numbers
“A fun read.”
“Kaye Morgan has written a cleverly constructed mystery that reflects the finely crafted sudoku puzzles that are included for fans to enjoy.”
—The Mystery Gazette
“Whether you are interested in sudoku or not, this mystery is fun and challenging.”—MyShelf.com
Death by Sudoku
“The start of a great new amateur sleuth series . . . Kaye Morgan is a talented storyteller who will go far in the mystery genre.”
—Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine
“The characters are likable, the writing fairly smooth, and the plotline reasonable.”
“Puzzles and codes surround a vast pattern of murder . . . Sudoku lovers (like myself) will be delighted to see on the cover that this is the first of a series.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Kaye Morgan
DEATH BY SUDOKU
MURDER BY NUMBERS
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with Tekno Books
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / July 2009
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eISBN : 978-1-101-13315-6
BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group
For my brothers, Charlie and Frank, and my sisters-in-law, Betty and Nancy, for putting up with this author’s antics. And to my editor, Michelle Vega, for the same reason . . .
Standard Sudoku Time
I recently came across a scientific study that claimed the hours between nine and eleven a.m. as the most productive time of day for most people. That led me to wonder—is there an optimal time and place for sudoku?
Certainly, it’s best not to tackle a puzzle when you’re overtired or distracted—that way leads almost inevitably to disaster. Any other guidelines? Well, personal experience has taught me that taking a break from a solution and returning later allows me to bring new eyes to a puzzle. (Note: this is
a good technique for competitive sudoku!)
Even the action of moving from the great indoors to my backyard can free up a logical logjam. So I guess a change of place can help with a puzzle—so long as the new place isn’t the bottom of your waste-basket.
by Liza K
Liza Kelly stood on the balcony of her room, looking down at the water of Upper Newport Bay. It seemed to reflect the almost artificial blue of the California sky overhead.
Sighing in contentment, she turned back to the suite—and had to hide a smile at the sight of her neighbor, Mrs. Halvorsen, through the open door of her bedroom. Mrs. H. stood bent over the queen-sized bed, her hands sunk nearly to the wrists into the mattress on the hotel bed.
“It seems awfully . . . mooshy.” The older woman’s plump cheeks creased in a dubious frown.
Of course, for Mrs. H. and her generation, the only healthy mattress was a rock-hard super-firm.
“It’s a pillow-top mattress,” Liza explained. “Trust me, it’s expensive enough to go along with a suite like this.”
In what Liza liked to consider her “old career”—partner in a major Hollywood publicity firm—she had booked suites like this in even fancier places than the Rancho Pacificano resort for the rich, the famous, and sometimes even the talented.
Her new career as sudoku expert had involved considerable travel recently, publicizing her newly syndicated newspaper column. Since Liza was mainly traveling on her own dime, the accommodations had been more Comfort Inn level than deluxe resort.
But the invitation for the West Coast Sudoku Summit allowed her to publicize the column in style. It wasn’t just that there was a five-figure prize for coming in first at the tournament, or that there would be national news coverage. Her friend Will Singleton had offered an all-expenses-paid trip for two from Liza’s hometown of Maiden’s Bay, Oregon, to one of the swankiest joints on the coast of beautiful Orange County, California.
That “for two” part had thrown a major curve into Liza’s planning for the long weekend. If her career was hectic, her personal life had stepped well over the line into just plain crazy. She had way too many candidates for the post of California companion.
First, there was her husband, Michael Langley. Well, ex-husband. Or was there such as thing as almost-ex-husband? His storming out of her life a year and a half ago had prompted some heavy soul-searching on Liza’s part. She’d gone on to return to Maiden’s Bay and establish what became the basis of her new life. The closer they came to the paperwork that would finally end everything, however, the more reluctant Michael became at calling it quits on their marriage. To tell the truth, Liza felt the same reluctance.
The only thing that kept them both from a stereotypical romantic happy ending was Kevin Shepard. Liza had bumped into her old high school boyfriend, newly single, when she returned to Maiden’s Bay. Now the manager of a boutique country inn, Kevin had definitely expressed interest in her, much to Michael’s annoyance.
And then there was Ted Everard, state police sergeant. He and Liza had started out as investigative rivals when Liza got involved in yet another murder. But they had moved on to friendship—and something warmer—by the end of the case. Partly, Liza had to admit, that was because Ted’s behavior had looked so much more adult compared to what Michael and Kevin were demonstrating at that time. The guys had been carrying on like characters from a bad teen comedy.
Part of the problem with being an adult, however, was that Ted’s job kept him traveling the length and breadth of Oregon, chasing crime statistics. Even though he enjoyed sudoku puzzles, Ted couldn’t free up his schedule for the Sudoku Summit. And Liza by no means wanted to encourage her other suitors.
So the men in her life weren’t on the invite list.
That left Mrs. H.
Besides, Mrs. H. definitely could use a break. Liza had always thought of her next-door neighbor as grandmo therly, but lately Elise Halvorsen was definitely looking her age. Money worries and a traumatic loss in the family had carved deep lines in her cherubic face. Liza had been able to help with those problems, but she thought it would be nice for Mrs. H. to relax in the California sun. And she’d definitely make for a quieter and more restful suite-mate than any of the other choices.
Peace and quiet, Liza had found, were good things to enjoy before competitive sudoku. They were also good in general. That’s why Liza had turned off her cell phone while standing in line at the Portland Airport and hadn’t turned it on since.
She smiled now as Mrs. H. took off the lightweight straw hat whose wide brim fluttered like wings with every move she made. Another sign of the difference in generations—Mrs. H. had donned her Sunday best for the plane trip. Liza, in contrast, wore a pair of sloppy jeans and a denim jacket, both well worn and comfortably worn in. She’d packed a couple of nicer outfits into a carry-on bag, while Mrs. H. had seemingly poured half her house into a pair of large suitcases.
Mrs. Halvorsen took off her hat and skimmed it through the air to land on the bed. “I think I’ll follow your example and get into something looser,” she said. “Then I think I’ll find someplace where I can sit in the sun.”
“I’ll be doing the opposite and changing into something less comfortable,” Liza sighed. “Will has a media event with the major players at the tournament.” Shrugging, she patted the bulge of her cell phone in her shoulder bag. “At least I haven’t had a deedle on my phone.”
Mrs. H. gave her a look. “Is ‘deedle’ even a word?”
“As much a word as ‘mooshy,’ ” Liza replied. “It’s the sound my phone makes when—”
The suite’s telephone began to bleat.