High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Rants > Reviews > Jigsaw Puzzles and Accessories > Murder She Wrote: The Art of Murder

Murder She Wrote: The Art of Murder

This is what I was hoping for when I started doing mystery puzzles!

Plot: 5/5

The most important thing when writing a Murder She Wrote story is to get Jessica right. Happily, Wise succeeded. I could quibble about details, but broadly I was able to imagine Angela Lansbury speaking those lines.

The mystery itself moves quickly, which is good. Ultimately this is a puzzle, not a chance for the writer to show off their nuanced characterizations and cyclical use of theme.

In the story, Jessica arrives to meet a friend. Said friend is one of three suspects being questioned for a murder. They all angrily accuse each other of killing the victim because she jilted one, because the suspect is a creepy stalker who refused to take no for an answer, or because she was going to break off from her business partner of dubious competence. Jessica examines the crime scene, and fingers the murderer.

There is an interesting decision to never describe the exact nature of the murder. This take it off the table as a potential source of clues or red herrings. The lead police investigator simply says that it looks like she was murdered.

The police are written a bit strangely. We're told that "circle" of detectives surrounds the three men and are questioning them, but we don't see any questioning, and certainly no isolation of suspects. The police are awfully willing to let Jessica wander in and nose around. But, it's in line with the television series.

Overall, a solid, satisfying effort.

Physical Production: 3/5

Overall, the physical pieces were very disappointing.

The good news is that the pieces were well punched, with just a few pairs we had to separate.

The bad news is that the pieces are thin and overly flexible. Not a deal breaker, but annoying.

The worse news is that the pieces don't fit together well. Entire sections of assembled puzzle would move around. It was difficult to tell by fit if you had a right piece, as it wobbled around so much. It was impossible to lift more than two connected pieces up to move them, and even two could be tricky.

The box is inoffensive.

Image: 5/5

This is a good scene, with lots of different colors and patterns. Many of the pieces grouped well, although some presented interesting challenges as different areas of the puzzle had similar designs. There were a few single color sections, but none were very large.

As an interesting twist, several pieces of the scene give clues as to what other pieces of the scene might look like. That made the puzzle a bit simpler, and it was a fun to try and make the connections.

Pieces all had four sides, but the configuration of tabs and holes varied widely, including some pieces with four tabs and some with four holes. This also simplified finding the right piece for a given position. Piece shapes varied a fair amount, also simplifying identifying the correct piece visually.

Making it a little bit harder, the piece configurations and sizes varied enough that it was not possible to identify a piece's orientation purely on shape.

Overall, a relatively easy puzzle. Generally we've been taking 3-4 evenings on a puzzle. Art of Murder only took 2, but they were 2 of the best puzzling evenings I've had so far.

Mystery: 4.5/5

This was a solid mystery. All three suspects seemed plausible. Solving the mystery required studying the puzzle, and the key elements were significant portions of the image.

This was the first solution where we felt absolute certain about our conclusion. The explanation makes sense. It wasn't enough evidence for a conviction, but it was maybe compelling enough for an arrest, although in the series that's the point where the murderer would pull a gun, implicating themself.

One small hiccup: the official solution refers to a clue that we're confident is not present in the picture. Probably just as well, as the clue wouldn't have been there. Fortunately, it was unnecessary, as the remaining clues are pretty solid.

Final Rating: 4.5/5

Overall, a very satisfying puzzle. This is what I wanted!

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