The Devil's Puzzle
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It has been a busy summer for Archers Rest's unofficial sleuth Nell Fitzgerald. Along with the town's upcoming anniversary celebration, for which she is organizing the quilt show, she and her grandmother Eleanor's beau Oliver have planned a surprise renovation of Eleanor's backyard in preparation for his marriage proposal. In fact, apart from the occasional prodding that she marry the town's sheriff Jesse, things are going according to plan for Nell.
However, the renovation uncovers a thirty-year-old skeleton that dashes any hope of a proposal, incites immediate controversy in the town, and leads Nell and Jesse on an investigation that casts even the most highly respected members of the community, even Nell's own grandmother, as suspects involved in cold-blooded murder decades in the making.
The Devil's Puzzle is a book about finding the truth in the details, about doggedly pursuing the facts despite the odds. It is about being true to oneself and one's community, regardless of how it paints us in the public eye. It is a book about trust, honest, and forgiveness.
Clare O'Donohue is a freelance television writer and producer. In addition to the someday Quilts series, she is the author of Missing Persons.
- Who is Nell Fitzgerald? What is your impression of her at the start of the book? How would you describe her relationship to the residents of Archers Rest and how does that relationship help or hinder her role as honorary detective?
- When the skeleton is uncovered, it sparks a lot of curiosity and controversy throughout the community. What does the discovery mean for Nell? What is your take on Glad's reaction to the discovery? What is your opinion of the mayor's plan to exploit the skeleton to promote Archers Rest?
- During a quilt club meeting, Bernie opines that, "if the majority of quilters were men, quilting would be taken more seriously as the art form it is, instead of treated as a quaint old tradition." What do you think of this notion? Where does quilting fit into the world of art? What role does quilting play in the Archers Rest community?
- While discussing marriage, Eleanor says, "someone once said to me that a woman can live her whole life without a man and be complete, but a man needs a woman." What is your opinion of this sentiment? How do you see this idea reflected in the relationship between Nell and Jesse? Between Eleanor and Oliver?
- It is discovered much later in the book that part of the killer's plan was to implicate others in the community. Who were your early suspects, and why? Which clues did you find most compelling?
- A lot of the tension in The Devil's Puzzle centers on a community's presumptions about its citizens. How are Glad, Eleanor, Ed, Mary Shipman, and the mayor seen in the community? How does town gossip inform each of their lives? How does that gossip complicate Nell's investigation?
- Nell and the members of the quilt club share a passion for quilting. In fact, Nell observes that, "it's amazing what you can tell about a person by their quilts." What is your opinion of this idea? How much of oneself can and should be expressed in her art? What connection do you see between Nell's passion for quilts and her passion for sleuthing?
- Eleanor admits to being ashamed of marrying Winston for financial security. What was your reaction to the revelation of this marriage? How did it inform your view of Eleanor, if at all?
- Family plays an important role in The Devil's Puzzle. How would describe the relationship between Nell and Eleanor? Between Mary and Glad? What qualities in those relationships do you see reflected in Molly's determination to solve the disappearance of her great uncle Winston?
- Before the murderer is revealed, Nell collects more information about each of the suspects, and many secrets are revealed. Whose story most surprised you? Whose story did you find most relatable? Were there any characters about whom your opinion changed by the end of the book?
- Ultimately, the mayor's crime could be considered a crime of passion. What is your opinion of the mayor's story? How do you see his actions throughout the book and what does it say to you about the mayor's character?
- What future do you see for Nell Fitzgerald? How has her relationship with her grandmother changed? How has her relationship with Jesse changed? How has her place in the community changed?