Puzzling Out an English Village Murder

A quaint little village in the Cotswolds, or the Lake Country, or somewhere in Oxfordshire. A place where everyone knows your name and what you’ve been up to. The public house is the center of community activity and the place to escape the troubles and worries of daily life. There’s a manor house, the hoary old church, the classic English cottages. But there may be the new development, causing tension in the community. Long-held grudges and long-festering feuds suddenly boiling up in the face of change, with murder the result.

Fertile and deadly ground for thousands of mystery novels, and countless television shows.

It’s also the inspiration for Murder in Little Piddling by White Mountain Puzzles.

Murder in Little Piddling
A seemingly-peaceful, quaint English village, riven by murder.

The image for the puzzle itself (shown above) is slightly different in a few important details from the box art, which, for instance, shows the murder scene bucolic and corpse-free. Once you complete the puzzle, you read the provided “story” of the murder, and then can read the clues and testimony on the various sections of the puzzle itself to solve the mystery.

Being a jigsaw puzzle, the main fun to be had is with “solving” the actual puzzle, but the murder mystery is a fun coda to that. Compared to escape room-style board game puzzles we’ve tried, like “Box One,” the mystery here is a snap to solve, especially for seasoned mystery readers, but it’s entertaining in the process.

Jigsaw puzzles and murder mysteries go hand-in-hand in my book, since both involve solving sometimes maddeningly challenging puzzles. Murder in Little Piddling combines them for even more fun.

If you are interested, you can find the puzzle here.

A Puzzling Mystery, Part II

Like a mystery novel, the mystery of how I became an avid jigsaw puzzler in 2020 is more straight-forward than why. In 2019, I wouldn’t have tried a jigsaw puzzle. I’d watched my wife do them years earlier, and it just didn’t appeal to me.

What changed?

The lockdown in the Spring and Summer of 2020 had an unanticipated silver lining: a pause. That pause of staying at home gave me and others the opportunity to slow down.

I think I’d actually be interested in puzzling all along, but had been intimidated by it. I had enjoyed fast moving video game “puzzlers” like Tetris Attacks, Columns, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and others. Those games all capture a fundamental aspect to jigsaw puzzling–finding the piece that fits.

Of course, jigsaw puzzling has much more to it than that. Subject is important. I have a friend who is a talented amateur photograph and routinely sends photos of potential puzzles. They don’t appeal to me as much as they do to him, but that’s not to say that the subjects won’t make a fine puzzle. They just wouldn’t for me.

The Gradient Moon puzzle at the top of this post is an example of a subject which I love–Luna and astronomy. The same for the Solar System panorama puzzle we did in 2020.

Discovering puzzle subjects that I loved really increased the appeal.

But, it really came down making order out of chaos–building an image from a jumble. Even more “elementary” than that, it came down the satisfaction of plugging the right puzzle piece into the right spot.

It meant sorting puzzle pieces into colors and shapes. It meant doing the edge first.

In the process, I fell hard for puzzling and my wife rekindled her own passion for puzzling.

We discovered Karen Puzzles, a YouTuber who spreads the joy of puzzling and has now gone full time pursuing her puzzling passion. Karen tackles changing puzzles, including a twenty-fourth thousand piece monster and does so with humor and fun. Karen collects and does old puzzles, and mystery puzzles, and gradient puzzles.

Most of all, I find puzzling relaxing, when I’m not too caught up in trying to puzzle as fast as my wife LeAnn or Karen, and take it at my own pace.

Joy and relaxation are at the heart of the solution to this mystery.

A Puzzling Mystery, Part I

I’ve been impressed by jigsaw puzzles for years, and watched as my wife LeAnn did them, some that seemed like such an endeavor to me. Though it was interesting to see her puzzle, I couldn’t imagine myself doing it. It seemed too hard, and I preferred the interactivity of a game.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. By that June I became interested in actually trying a jigsaw puzzle, and LeAnn happily obliged. We started with with a one hundred piece puzzle, then went to a five hundred piece one, featuring a painting of “Flora,” a cat on bed. It was a challenging puzzle, and by the time we’d finished, I was hooked.

Many people were drawn to jigsaw puzzling in the summer of 2020, and puzzles shortages were common. Still, we managed to buy a number of them, and for a while there we finished a puzzle every week or two.

By last count we have finished thirty-four puzzles in two years. Everything from beach scenes, to marbles, sea shells, the solar system, Star Trek, and the movie Die-Hard.

For the past year or longer we’ve been listening to audio books while we puzzle, broadcasting from my iPhone to a little Bose speaker. That’s how we “read” the first four Hannah Swenson mysteries, John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society, among other books. We’re now started in on an epic reading of the classic Wilkie Collins mystery, The Woman In White, as we finish our thirty-fifth puzzle.

The mystery isn’t that I gave it a try. The mystery is, how did I go from doing a couple of puzzles to nearly three dozen in two years, and why I am a passionate puzzler now, and someone who supports a YouTube puzzler via Patreon?

Return tomorrow for the answers and more.

The Sting of Apep, the puzzle we’ve finished most recently. A mystery puzzle.