Anne Horrigan Geary: Puzzles and mysteries

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DALTON — Reading children's "Highlights" magazine in the dentist's office is probably where it all began. Though I didn't look forward to the visits, I smiled at the fresh copy of the magazine and eagerly scooped it up. Even in grammar school I was a fast reader, so I paged through the stories quickly and then turned to my favorite feature, the puzzles. They were simple things like which two pictures are exactly alike, but I got such a rush when I correctly solved them. I was hooked.

Rebuses were also fun. Later came crossword puzzles, cryptograms, and the daily newspaper "Jumble." If it has letters and words, I like it. I'm trying to like Sukodu, but I only work on those when all the word puzzles in the paper are finished and I have a few minutes to spare.

Naturally, I'm crazy about Scrabble, but not too many people are crazy about playing with me. When I use all my tiles for a word on the triple word square, some opponents tend to sigh loudly, or just quit. Someone once accused me of dumping the board on the floor when I wasn't winning, but we were on a moving ship and it really was an accident!

The daily puzzles on "Wheel of Fortune" are also an evening staple. Teaching reading for so many years does give me an edge. I spent thousands of hours teaching students about blends, prefixes, suffixes and other patterns. We played lots of "Hangman" too. Students liked the challenge of stumping the teacher, but I wasn't beaten too many times.

The other kind of puzzles which get my blood rushing and my little gray cells quivering are mysteries. From the early days of Nancy Drew right up to the current best-selling novel, I am totally enamored of fictional detectives and twisted plots. I just finished the electronic version of "Murder on Vancouver Island" by Kathy Garthwaite. That followed a paperback titled: "A Double Pointed Murder" by Ann Yost, set on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I learned some fascinating facts about Finnish culture. Before that, there was "Cat about Town" by Cate Conte, where I learned how much I missed my cat.

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I enjoy books set in places I have never been, so all those books had an added benefit of giving me an armchair view of exotic and not-so-exotic places. I also look for books whose settings I know well, like the crime novels of Paul Kemprecos, who calls Cape Cod home. The early works by Sally Gunning are also set on the Cape. Leslie Meiers in also a Cape author, but her mysteries are set in Maine for some reason.

Having a mysterious mindset makes me create my own stories, based on the things I see from my front window, or the car window when we are traveling. "Rear Window" and mystery movies of that type are always high on my viewing list. Lately, courtesy of Netflix, we have been traveling to the UK for our mystery fix with the series, "Midsomer Murders" and "Shetland".

Immersing myself in mysteries day and night, it's a wonder I can sleep; but that never seems to be a problem. My little gray cells usually know when to turn off their labyrinthine labors and nod or nap.

When you really think about it, isn't life just one big puzzle? We are always trying to figure out our path through the twists and turns of our daily existence. We are often vexed by people or circumstances which prevent our reaching an objective. We solve all kinds of problems every day, putting clues together and testing hypotheses. We interpret actions and determine motives of our friends and coworkers too. Some of us just have a slightly more jaundiced eye when looking at mundane matters, and often see what's hidden (or perhaps isn't really there).

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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