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   Two Down, by Nero Blanc  
  Novel, first publication in July 2000
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      Constructing a mystery around a crossword puzzle is nothing new. Dorothy Sayers's 1929 Lord Peter Wimsey short story, "Uncle Meleander's Will," is an early and particularly charming example. After all, logic, extrapolation, and methodical musings are all stock-in-trade for detectives and puzzlers alike.

    Two Down, the second crossword-puzzle mystery from Nero Blanc (nom de plume of cowriters Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler), marks the return of private investigator Rosco Polycrates and crossword editor Belle Graham, first thrown together in The Crossword Murder. Easygoing Rosco and charmingly absent-minded Belle--an intellectual who seems to sustain herself entirely on deviled eggs--are now tentatively navigating the uncertain waters of romance in Newcastle, Massachusetts. More treacherous waters, however, claim an unlikely pair of victims when Hollywood femme fatale Jamaica Nevisson and her friend Genie Pepper, an experienced yacht racer, disappear off the coast of Nantucket, leaving only a charred boat hull behind. When their dinghy washes up in a cove where the tide can't reach, Rosco, Belle, and Genie's husband Tom begin to wonder whether they were murdered. The arrival of a series of cryptic crosswords strengthens their suspicions. Obscure hints of fraud, jealousy, and murder send Belle into a pile of thesauri and dictionaries--and Rosco into some decidedly unfriendly situations. Divining the clues behind the clues will take two heads and a willingness to confront the slightly seedy underbelly of Newcastle's aggressively genteel, Waspy upper crust.

    It's all fun, but the premise of a crossword-puzzle mystery comes across less as a game of wits than as a gimmick. It seems odd that everyone, including stodgy police sergeant Al Lever, is perfectly willing to accept anonymous crossword puzzles as prophecies from some scurrilous oracle. Readers probably won't guess who the crossword constructor is, and by the time this person is unmasked, many may not care. The puzzles themselves, though, are delightful. One hopes that in future novels, Nero Blanc will polish the plots and characters to better surround these little gems.

    Source: Kelly Flynn,

    Readers can solve the puzzles--and solve the crime.

    In this brain-teasing follow-up to the smash-hit debut, The Crossword Murder, P.I. Rosco Polycrates returns to discover that--up, down, or across--S.O.S. spells danger...

    When a famous Hollywood actress and her friend set sail off the coast of Nantucket Island--and never return, it sounds like foul play to P.I. Rosco Polycrates and his paramour/crossword editor Belle Graham. They are sharpening their pencils and their minds to solve this case. But the truth is not so easily spelled out, and it will take all their sleuthing skills to fill in the missing blanks.

    Includes six crossword puzzles to help readers solve the crime (answers in the back of the book)--the Bantam crossword mystery by Parnell Hall only has one puzzle and the reader is warned not to do it until after reading the book because it gives away the mystery.

      Part of series  
  • Crossworder (#2)

      Related theme(s)  
  • Crosswords
  • Detectives - Sleuths - Pis - Bounty Hunter
  • Earth
  • Murders
  • Mystery
  • U.S.A.

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