Stop a Murder: How by J. A. Konrath is at least one-half an activity book for readers who love mysteries and are getting a little bit smug about always getting to a solution before the author is finished providing clues. In this case, the always entertaining Konrath invites readers to help prevent a murder. Konrath has received emails from a criminal planning a murder, the criminal baits Konrath with clues that when followed might lead the author to prevent a murder. Along the way, the unknown sender taunts and baits Konrath by insulting his previously published works as well as his overall abilities and intelligence. Konrath has a plan.
The activity has several parts. There are five novels with clues about how to stop the murder; each has a title describing what the successful reader will be able to find out. This novel, the first, addresses the “How.” Others will address the “Where,” the “Why,” the “When,” and the “Who.” All five can be read for free through KU but the sixth, the answer book, sells for USD 2.99. After I worked my way through one-half of this novel, I bought the answer book. Because that is where I knew the answer, was positive I was correct but found the website would not acknowledge my carefully typed correct response. I looked forward to vindication from the answer book so that I could send a self-righteous whine to the author. Well … I was right, but I gave the answer in the wrong format. Careful (and complete) reading of the puzzles and clues is essential to avoid damage to your nearest unsuspecting house pet. In other words, this was fun. And I learned new things. What is leetspeak? (I am sure this is not a spoiler.)
For those readers who like responding to writing challenges, this is a pleasant diversion. For those experts in the ancient game of trivial pursuit, this can be humbling. And for a bonus, Konrath provides lots of humor and satire throughout the email exchanges between the Unknown Sender and himself/reader.
I gave this an Amazon five-star rating because I was so amused and haven’t seen anything like this for quite a while. You might need more than one device to get through this experience. It is all about how convenient you like things to be. Read the Kindle book on one device, go to the website to input your answers, and keep a notebook and old-fashioned scribbling device nearby. And maps. And you will need to do Google searches. It is not cheating. The Unknown Sender and Konrath expect you to do this. Unless you already speak leetspeak.
I used this first novel as a testbed. I didn’t want to refer to the answer book but after the experience of finding myself correct but incorrect, I decided to not punish myself a lot if I had to give in occasionally. This was unintentionally wise because I found an incredibly difficult clue that I was in no way equipped to handle. Readers who are fond of movies will have no problems with the clue that completely defeated me.
This novel has it all. A mystery, challenges, humor, and good writing. I look forward to having fun with the other four mystery novels. After imbibing several alcoholic refreshments, I am going to hide the answer book in some hidden, protected file. I’ll never be able to find it again. This is good news for Konrath as far as book sales because at a certain level of frustration I will simply buy another copy.