It’s winter right now where I live, and I’ve been trying to think of indoor activities to do aside from reading and watching Netflix. I love puzzles, so I went to my local game shop to have a browse of some of theirs. One in particular looked intriguing. “Grounds for Murder” by John Lutz, described as ‘a mystery jigsaw thriller with a secret puzzle image’. A 1000 piece puzzle with a short mystery story, you have to read the scenario and then put together the puzzle to figure out the solution.
The premise of “Grounds for Murder” is pretty straightforward. Set in a coffee shop called Spill the Beans, a group of regulars together with the store manager notice the odd behaviour of another regular. The booklet unfolds with all of the mysterious facts, and then once you’ve finished reading the clues, you have to complete the puzzle without a reference image.
This was actually a lot of fun. The puzzle is really quite beautiful, and I enjoyed reading the story aloud to my partner and then cosying up with him in front of the heater putting the puzzle together over several nights. However, there were a couple of things that bugged me. First of all, I felt like the factual scenario was a bit too long. For something that was only about 15 pages, it really felt like it dragged. The story seemed to laboriously linger over a lot of details, and some of the puns and jokes felt even clunkier than they needed to be. Then, once the puzzle was completed, the picture didn’t really seem to match the facts in the booklet. When my partner and I checked the answer, there didn’t seem as though there was enough evidence in either the puzzle or the scenario to justify it.
I really like the concept of mystery puzzles, so much so that I picked up another one at the recent Lifeline Book Fair. While the puzzle itself was gorgeous, I think that the story could be done much better and I’m sure there are other ‘jigsaw thrillers’ out there that are just as good if not better.