Thursday, November 30, 2006

Press Release: MWA Holds Second Annual Short Story Contest

NEW YORK, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- MWA:Reads, a Mystery Writers of America literacy program that encourages children and teens to read mysteries by joining authors with students, parents, teachers, and librarians, will hold its second annual Joan Lowery Nixon Award mystery writing contest in 2007. The announcement was made today by MWA:Reads National Chairperson Daniel J. Hale. Since its inception eight years ago, MWA:Reads (formerly Kids Love a Mystery) has involved thousands of students and scores of authors all across the United States.

The Joan Lowery Nixon Award mystery writing contest allows students to use their language arts skills along with their imagination to create their own unique mystery story. The contest is named after the prolific American writer of historical fiction and mysteries for children and young adults, Joan Lowery Nixon. She is the founder of MWA:Reads, as well as the only person ever to win the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar® Award for Best Juvenile Mystery four times. Lowery passed away in 2003.

Contest details:

The Joan Lowery Nixon Award mystery writing contest is open to students from the second through the tenth grades. There are two age categories: Grades 2-5 and Grades 6-10. Only one story per student may be submitted, as specified in the contest rules. The entries will be judged in the area of creativity and proper use of the English language. The winner of each category will receive a $250 cash prize.

Submissions for the contest will be accepted beginning February 3, 2007 (Joan Lowery Nixon's birthday) but no later than February 28, 2007. Students in public and private schools, as well as home-schooled students, are encouraged to participate. Visit MWA:Reads for complete contest rules.

Winners will be announced at Mystery Writers of America's 2007 Edgar® Awards on April 26, 2007. All decisions are final.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Caribbean Calling by J. D. Gordon

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Caribbean Calling by J. D. Gordon. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Caribbean Calling by J. D. Gordon

Caribbean Calling by J. D. Gordon
An Eddie Gilbert Mystery

Red Engine Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9745652-8-8 (0974565288)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9745652-8-6 (9780974565286)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $15.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Chicago-area firefighter Eddie Gilbert is headed back to the Florida Keys and the open seas of the Caribbean. A beautiful woman and an interesting job offer are waiting.

Caribbean Calling plays out amid lush tropical settings and authentic slices of life in the Florida Keys and other areas in the Caribbean. It’s adventure, action and romance unfolding in an area of the world that is a natural breeding ground for dark characters who deal in everything from gun-running to drugs and white slavery. It’s the resurfacing of old enemies who still carry a grudge. It’s hot nights in the South. It’s the Caribbean calling.

Review: Caribbean Calling is the second mystery in this series to feature Eddie Gilbert, a firefighter from the Chicago suburbs, who travels to Tampa on a month-long “interview” for a job with a company whose business is never quite clearly identified.

One of his early assignments is to locate the daughter of a wealthy client. A doctor, she was working with a relief organization on a tiny third-world island nation in the Caribbean when her regular phone calls home suddenly ceased. Eddie hooks up with a partner in Key West and the two of them are off to uncover what happened to the young doctor.

Caribbean Calling is an ambitious effort that fails to deliver on its promise. Gordon has for the most part developed genuinely interesting characters and locales, drafted an intriguing adventure in which they can participate, but then misses the mark entirely when tying it all together. It’s almost as if the author created an intricate outline of a story with detailed descriptions of people, places, and events, and then converted the whole thing into paragraph form and called it a book.

One of the problems for the reader is that there is too much reliance on knowing what happened in the first book of the series, Island Bound, to understanding some of the character motivation in this second book. The pointless preface suggests there may be some interpersonal conflict to be resolved, yet when it happens it’s a disappointment.

Finally, Eddie himself is a bit of a contradiction. Portrayed as a hero and James Bond-type of character, he keeps his ego in check, has a softer and arguably weaker side, and follows far more often than he leads. As the principal character of an action, adventure, mystery series, he comes off as something of a wimp who doesn’t engender the respect of the reader.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of Caribbean Calling for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

News: Cowboys and Turkeys

The Shape Shifter by Tony HillermanThis amusing anecdote of Tony Hillerman has been around since 2001, but it bears repeating every so often.

As reported by Larry Thornberry in The American Spectator, Hillerman describes an evening when he found himself at a large intertribal meeting shortly after it was decided that, to be politically correct, American Indians should henceforth be called Native Americans. He was curious about what his friends, regular walking around Indians who'd never been to Washington and had never felt compelled to join an indignation group, thought of this label.

Most in the room said they preferred to be called by their tribal affiliation, i.e., they thought of themselves as Navahos, Apaches, Kiowas, Arapahos, Zunis, etc. One guy succinctly summed it up by saying, " I don't mind being called an Indian because Christopher Columbus went looking for India and got lost. I'm just glad he wasn't looking for Turkey."

Hillerman's most recent book, The Shape Shifter, is on bookshelves this month.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Mystery Book Review: McMansion by Justin Scott

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of McMansion by Justin Scott. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.McMansion by Justin Scott

McMansion by Justin Scott
A Ben Abbott Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-063-X (159058063X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-063-9 (9781590580639)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Even the cozy New England town of Newbury, Connecticut, is not immune to the relentless spread of McMansions carpeting the countryside. Ben Abbott, realtor and private detective, is so incensed that he refuses to sell them. That Ben is not the only citizen of Newbury who is provoked by over-sized, ugly, wasteful houses becomes apparent when the corpse of Billy Tiller, Newbury's greediest developer, is discovered underneath his bulldozer.

The young and troubled eco-activist Jeff Kimball, who is arrested while sitting at the controls of the bulldozer, protests his innocence. Connecticut's state's attorney sees the opportunity to prosecute an open-and-shut TV murder trial that will vault him into the U.S. Senate. While Ira Levy, the small-town criminal defense lawyer hired by Jeff's hip-hop mogul father, longs to impress movers and shakers in New York City.

Ben Abbott, deep in debt to Attorney Levy for an expensive horse he gave to 12-year-old Alison, is forced to pay off the debt by trying to prove Jeff Kimball innocent of a crime that State Police Major Crime Squad Lieutenant Marian Boyce styles "perpetrator on bulldozer on victim."

It looks that way, says Ben Abbott. But in what order did they really stack up?

Review: Justin Scott's 4th book featuring realtor and private investigator Ben Abbott, McMansion, is a rather loosely constructed mystery populated with characters that seem more contrived than real.

Ben has been hired to look into an environmentalist's background by the attorney defending him, accused of the murder of a local real estate developer. The young man was arrested atop a bulldozer under which lay the crushed corpse. Ben quickly discovers that many of the developer's detractors had the means and a motive to kill the man, but which of them also had the opportunity to do so?

McMansion doesn't break any new ground here and contains a fairly routine outline of a murder mystery. For all practical purposes, Ben identifies the culprit early on when he ponders the crime scene. That leaves a lot of pages to fill. What could have made the book more interesting would have been development of good, complex characters and incorporating them and said outline into a new environment to make it more of a puzzle. McMansion tends to fail in both regards.

With only one or two exceptions, the characters here lack the multi-dimensionality that provides depth to a story. Even Ben seems a bit flat here. He doesn't want the case he's working on and resents the obligation to continue. Whining about the assignment in particular, and the title structures in general, doesn't endear him to the reader.

The setting also presents something of a problem. The fact that large homes on large lots are being purchased by people with more money than taste isn't a criminal act and by itself simply doesn't provide a strong foundation upon which to build this story. And the implication that the reason these houses exist is primarily due to the greed of developers and the corruption of zoning officials is absurd, even in a work of fiction.

There is a decent, credible murder plot buried here somewhere, but it seems Scott would rather bemoan what he perceives to be the sorry state of housing in Connecticut than craft an interesting mystery around the death of one of its developers.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of McMansion for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for November 27, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for November 27, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: C E H M N O P R S. Set in 1920s Scotland, mysteries featuring Dandy Gilver are written by Catriona _____ (last name only, 9 letters).

Previous puzzles are stored in the Mystery Godoku Archives.

Enjoy the weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle from the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, and Thanks for visiting our website!

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for November 24, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending November 24, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

The 18th Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mystery from Tony Hillerman debuts in the third position at both Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com this week. The Shape Shifter by Tony HillermanIn The Shape Shifter, Joe's "last case", unsolved, continues to haunt him. It involved a priceless, one-of-a-kind Navajo rug supposedly destroyed in a fire. Suddenly, what looks like the same rug turns up in a magazine spread. And the man who brings the photo to Leaphorn's attention has gone missing. Leaphorn must pick up the threads of a crime he'd thought impossible to untangle. Not only has the passage of time obscured the details, but it also appears that there's a murderer still on the loose. Publisher's Weekly calls The Shape Shifters "masterful" and states, "The conclusion is sure to startle longtime fans of this acclaimed mystery series."

Also new this week is the second joint effort by married bestsellers Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, Capital Crimes by Jonathan and Faye KellermanCapital Crimes. Two novellas are presented: Thy Sister's Keeper and Music City Breakdown. Making background appearances in these whodunits are reader favorites Alex Delaware, Peter Decker, and Rina Lazarus.

Be sure to check out our new HSMB Mystery Bestsellers AStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

News: Burke Robicheaux Mystery to Start Filming

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee BurkeProduction Weekly is reporting that an adaptation of James Lee Burke’s In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, the 6th mystery in the outstanding Dave Robicheaux series, is set to begin pre-production next month in Louisiana. No mention yet in IMDB.

The only other Burke book featuring Robicheaux to be filmed was the second in the series, Heaven's Prisoners, starring Alec Baldwin as the Cajun detective.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

News: Movie Based on The Three Investigators in Post-Production

The Secret of Skeleton Island by Robert ArthurIt frequently happens that while searching for something, one ends up in quite a different place and what was originally searched for is long forgotten. It happened (again!) today. We stumbled upon a reference to "The Three Investigators" and immediately were transported back 40 years to when we collected these books as children. (Of course, a thorough search of the the closet shelves produced no books, no doubt donated to charity many, many years ago.)

Who are the three investigators? This website does a terrific job providing a history of the series. The books were created in the early 1960's by Robert Arthur and featured three boys: Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews. In order to promote the series and provide some name recognition, an Alfred Hitchcock character (based on the director of the same name) provided opening and closing remarks in many of the early books. In fact, the series was originally titled "Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in ...".

And what prompted all this attention? Disney is reportedly in post-production on a movie based on The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island, the 6th title in the original series. According to IMDB, filming took place in South Africa and the movie is scheduled for release sometime in 2007.

We'll try to keep a closer eye on what's happening with the franchise, and report back with more information when available.

Now if we can only remember what we were originally searching for ...

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Profile: How to Write in High Heels with Elaine Viets

See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin JacobsSherri Winston, writing for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, recently spoke with mystery author Elaine Viets who writes the Dead End Job series featuring Helen Hawthorne and a new series featuring mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Her motivation to contact Viets: one of several new books on writing "Chick Lit", See Jane Write by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs.

What is chick lit? "I think chick lit is really a marketing tool. It's a label publishers put on women's fiction. I think any woman's book that's smart and funny and a little cheeky gets labeled chick lit," Viets says.

See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin JacobsWinston writes that Viets' view of chick lit mirrors the advice in See Jane Write. Viets says, "I think there are certain things that do define chick lit books. One is the friendships. The thing about real friends is they will tell you when you're going wrong. I think chick lit reflects women and how they see the world."

Because chick lit is often light and breezy, a lot of novices might think it's easier to write or is a lesser form of literature, Winston adds. Before you go thinking being funny is a piece of cake, Viets has this to say: "I think the hardest thing in the world is to be funny and get away with it. To be funny, you have to be honest, and people don't like honesty. And to be funny you have to have an edge. There are a hundred ways to offend people when you're being funny -- I've done 'em all. With humor, you're always walking an edge. You have to be very, very careful."

According to Viets, chick lit shares with all other forms of fiction four common important elements: Character, Plot, Setting, Motivation.

Read the rest of the Elaine Viets interview on Sun-Sentinal.com here.

Other recently published books on the subject of chick lit include: Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley, This Is Chick-Lit edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, and Chick Lit: The New Woman's Fiction by Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for November 20, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for November 20, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: D E H I K M O S T. The Beth Austin mysteries, based on literary classics, were written by this author (9 letters).

Previous puzzles are stored in the Mystery Godoku Archives.

Enjoy the weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle from the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, and Thanks for visiting our website!

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

News: New Self-Published Golf Mystery Available

Snowman by Dave SaariThere seems to be an increasing trend for authors to try to self-publish their mysteries, promoting and selling their work directly to their readers. We're partial to golf mysteries, and we came across a new self-published book that fits the category: Snowman by Dave Saari. We haven't read this book, nor have we been offered a copy for review, so we don't know if it's worth buying or not. But if you don't mind eBooks, it's available for $4.50 from Lulu.com. Paperback and hardcover versions are also available.

A synopsis (from the author/publisher): Matt Davidson, an underachieving golf bum and a somewhat nerdy engineer, inadvertently witnesses a shocking scene while playing golf, which launches him on an adventure that proves to be an emotional roller coaster ride. Though unsure what to do or how to do it, he drops everything to help a stunningly beautiful woman he’s never even met. His clumsy efforts soon entangle him in a web of sex, fraud, and abuse that could end up costing him his life.

We've reviewed several self-published mysteries in the past, and for the most part, they are reasonably good and often better than the run-of-the-mill bestsellers that some mystery authors produce these days. To help you decide in this case, however, the first few pages of Snowman are available online to read. The narrative isn't as polished as it could be, but as a golf mystery, it certainly has potential.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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News: Festival to Celebrate New Mysteries and their Writers

Organizers for the first International Mystery Writers' Festival will showcase 12 works June 12-17, 2007 in Owensboro (KY). Some of the key players in the field, including Ira Levin, Sue Grafton, and Angela Lansbury, are expected to attend the event, dubbed, "Discovering New Mysteries," at Owensboro's RiverPark Center.

Festival leaders will introduce a new award, The Angie, named after Lansbury, the star of TV's Murder, She Wrote. She will be honored as "The First Lady of Mystery" said Zev Buffman, RiverPark President & CEO.

Buffman added, "This is the only new works festival in the English-speaking world specializing in staging and discovering new mysteries."

"Discovering New Mysteries" is still accepting submissions of original plays, screenplays and teleplays. Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2006. The "Festival Final 12" will be selected and notified February 15, 2007. Categories and prizes include: Best New Work, Play, $10,000; Most Promising New Writer, all categories, $5,000; Outstanding Screenplay or Teleplay, $2,500.

For more information, visit the RiverPark Center website here.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

News: Focus Home Interactive to Release New Sherlock Holmes Mystery Game

Games of MysterySherlock Holmes: The AwakenedFocus Home Interactive is reporting that the latest game in its Sherlock Holmes series, Sherlock Holmes-The Awakened, will be released early next year in the US. The game has traditional point-and-click game play, in a real time 3D environment, while offering numerous enigmas and varied puzzles including some that use physics and light for the first time.

The game, based on an excellent scenario, plunges the player into the heart of a terrifying investigation. Sherlock Holmes, assisted by the loyal Doctor Watson, investigates strange disappearances which seem related to the activity of a secret sect which worships the god Cthulhu. The adventure begins in London, in the renowned Baker Street, then on to investigating a disturbing psychiatric hospital near Bale, Switzerland, then on to Louisiana and finally to Scotland.

A trailer is available on the official Sherlock Holmes-The Awakened website.

Visit Games of Mystery for more mystery games of all kinds as well as mystery parties, mystery-themed vacations, and more!

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Mystery Bestsellers for November 17, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending November 17, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Several new mysteries are on the bestseller lists this week. Debuting in first position at both the Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com James Patterson's 12th Alex Cross mystery, simply titled Cross by James PattersonCross. Alex Cross was a rising star in the Washington, DC, Police Department when an unknown shooter gunned down his wife, Maria, in front of him. The killer was never found, and the case turned cold. Now a free agent from the police and the FBI, he's set up practice as a psychologist once again. Then Cross's former partner, John Sampson, calls in a favor. He is tracking a serial rapist in Georgetown, one whose brutal modus operandi recalls a case Sampson and Cross worked together years earlier. When the case reveals a connection to Maria's death, Cross latches on for the most urgent and terrifying ride of his life.

In the second spot on both lists is Nature Girl by Carl HiaasenNature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Honey Santana has a scheme to help rid the world of irresponsibility, indifference, and dinnertime sales calls. She's taking rude, gullible Relentless, Inc., telemarketer Boyd Shreave and his less-than-enthusiastic mistress, Eugenie-the fifteen-minute-famous girlfriend of a tabloid murderer-into the wilderness of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands for a gentle lesson in civility. What she doesn't know is that she's being followed by her obsessed former employer. And he doesn't know he's being followed by Honey's still-smitten former drug-running ex-husband. And when they all pull up on Dismal Key, they don't know they're intruding on Sammy Tigertail, a half white-half Seminole failed alligator wrestler, trying like hell to be a hermit despite the Florida State coed who's dying to be his hostage. Publishers Weekly calls Nature Girl "another hilarious Florida romp".

Finally, just in time for the holidays, is the latest mystery by mother and daughter Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins ClarkSanta Cruise. Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner turned amateur sleuth; her husband, Willy; recently hitched private detective Regan Reilly and her groom, Jack, head of the NYPD Major Case Squad; and Regan's parents, Nora and Luke, are guests on the Royal Mermaid's maiden voyage, the Santa Cruise. On-board activities include a mystery seminar dedicated to a Ghost of Honor, the late Left Hook Louie, a champion prizefighter turned bestselling author. However, a terrified mystery fan swears she has spotted the Ghost of Honor in the ship's chapel. Then two Santa suits disappear from a locked supply room. A storm develops, and in the infirmary an attempt is made on the life of a seemingly feeble passenger. Back in Miami, a TV reporter is turning the cruise into a public-relations nightmare, thanks to her spies on the ship. As the Royal Mermaid sails through troubled waters, Alvirah, Regan, and Jack are uncovering the clues that lead them to dangerous criminals who were not on the original guest list!

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Press Release: Adventure Company Ships Murder on the Orient Express for PC

Games of MysteryAgatha Christie: Murder on the Orient ExpressTORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Adventure Company, the leading publisher of adventure games, today shipped to retail its engrossing new PC game, Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express. The game is a thrilling murder mystery for both long-time and new Agatha Christie fans that presents an ideal blend of classic Queen of Crime style lifted from the pages of her acclaimed novel of the same name with additional deceptive twists and turns, making the interactive mystery a challenge for detectives of all skill levels.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express draws fans in as they step aboard a lavishly appointed 1930’s era train along with a cast of 25 intriguing characters led by acclaimed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and including philanthropist Samuel Ratchett and Princess Dragomiroff, all traveling from Istanbul to London. The game adds a new main character to the storyline as well, Antoinette Marceau, a train company employee, crime buff and a huge fan of Poirot’s. The luxurious rail trip quickly shifts gear when a heinous murder is committed, shocking everyone aboard and fueling a hunt for the killer.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is equipped with a new mapping system, where icons of each rail car appear on the top of the game screen. Players simply click on the rail car they want to visit to move quickly and easily from place to place. There is also the ability to skip through dialogue by pressing the enter key. This is particularly useful if a player returns to a certain section of the game for a clue but does not want to burn time listening to dialogue they’ve already heard.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is rated “T” (teen) and has moderate system requirements including Windows® 2000/XP and a 1.4 GHz Pentium® 3 processor.

The game is available to purchase on the Games of Mystery website on the Mystery Computer Games page.

Read the entire press release here.

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Mystery Book Review: A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter

A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter
Non-series

Counterpoint Press (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-58243-342-9 (1582433429)
ISBN-13: 978-0-1-58243-342-4 (9781582433424)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Dennis Pratt doesn't want to go to Mexico. He's a guy knocking on forty, with a dead-end job, a lukewarm marriage, a distant daughter, and an incredible lack of enthusiasm for anything in his life. So little wonder that he's not very enthusiastic about the trip south of the border his wife's got planned. And as he becomes increasingly convinced that his wife is having an affair with a local alpha-male, obsessive thoughts begin to take over his life, and Pratt finds himself putting his job and his marriage at risk. He befriends a shifty father and daughter who live in a camper near the country club where Pratt is trying to learn how to play golf. He meets a mysterious artist and may or may not be falling in love with her. And his imagination runs wild about his wife and daughter. Only when en route to Mexico, and at their villa in Los Cabos on the Sea of Cortez, do the pieces start to fall into place, with disastrous results.

A quirky cocktail of obsession, adultery, revenge, hazardous waste, golf, murder, fatherhood, and love, A Trout in the Sea of Cortez is a smart, sarcastic, and riveting mid-life crisis murder mystery.

Review: A Trout in the Sea of Cortez is John Salter's first full-length novel, and while it might not be categorized as a murder mystery by most definitions, it is an interesting if somewhat over-long work of fiction.

Read as a mystery, the first three-quarters of the book represent the background material. The principal character is Dennis Pratt, a part-time hazardous waste employee, married to an apparently successful mortgage broker, with a daughter in college, living near Fargo. Pratt smokes too much, he drinks too much, and he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but none of these concern him as much as believing his wife of almost 20 years is having an affair. She has lost a lot of weight, has whipped her body into shape, and seems to be spending a little too much time with the local dentist.

Then there's the case of the missing mercury. Though his company doesn't handle highly toxic metal, he accepts $500 to take it anyway, thinking he can come up with a way to dispose of it. Striking a deal with the father of a girl who's selling used balls on the course where he plays golf, he discovers the mercury missing when he tries to buy it back. Worse for Pratt, the man is found murdered on the golf course and his daughter has vanished.

And so begins the mystery, soon after Pratt and his wife, together with three other couples and, no surprise, the dentist and his girlfriend, have arrived in the resort area of Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico. The authorities in Fargo suspect Pratt of the murder, and the fact that he has apparently fled to Mexico seems proof of his guilt. Though the denouement isn't all that original, it cleverly unfolds in a way that may take the reader by surprise.

Salter has tried to combine two books in A Trout in the Sea of Cortez, and has generally succeeded. There's the well-written novel about a troubled family man, a husband and father who loves his wife and daughter, but is having difficulty adjusting to middle age. Then there's a murder mystery, really just a short story but a good one, that's been well integrated into the novel. As a mystery reader, one might have hoped for a little less of the former and a little more of the latter, but it's definitely worthwhile seeking this book out.

Special thanks to John Salter for providing a copy of A Trout in the Sea of Cortez for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Mysteries on DVD: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Mysteries on DVDNew on DVD this week isThe Da Vinci Code The Da Vinci Code, the movie adapation for the book of the same name by Dan Brown. A murder inside the Louvre and clues in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years -- which could shake the foundations of Christianity.

Critics and controversy aside, The Da Vinci Code is a verifiable blockbuster. The film has taken in over $250 million to date while the book has sold over 100 million copies.

The Da Vinci Code DVD is available for pre-order now, and will be available for sale tomorrow. Click on the DVD cover to order from Amazon.com.

See more mystery books that have been adapted as screenplays at Mysteries on DVD.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for November 13, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for November 13, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: E I M O P R S T W. This author’s latest supernatural spy thriller was titled Three Days to Never (9 letters).

Previous puzzles are stored in the Mystery Godoku Archives.

Enjoy the weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle from the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, and Thanks for visiting our website!

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News: Prime Suspect, The Final Act

The Prime Suspect miniseries is drawing to a close. This Sunday, November 12th, PBS will show the first two hours of Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act, with the conclusion to follow next Sunday, November 19th. (Check local listings; dates and times may vary.)

For nearly 15 years Helen Mirren has played the series character Jane Tennison, a brilliant detective but flawed human being who has dealt with all manner of personal problems and demons. The first episode originally aired in January, 1992. In The Final Act, she reprises her role for the last time.

The Prime Suspect series, and Helen Mirren individually, have deservedly been honored by the media over the years, winning awards from BAFTA for Mirren and the series, a Peabody for the series, Emmys for Mirren and the series, Edgars for the series, and many others.

Read an interview with Helen Mirren, on both the series and her final portrayal of Jane Tennison, on PBS.org here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

News: Legacy Awards Winners Announced

The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation announced last weekend the winners for its Legacy Awards program. Presented annually, this national awards program honors black writers in the categories of Fiction, Debut Fiction, Nonfiction, and Contemporary Fiction.

The winner in the Contemporary Fiction category was The Long Mile by Clyde W. FordThe Long Mile, a mystery by Clyde W. Ford. At the awards ceremony, held at the National Press Club, Ford said, "The first thing any writer is trying to do is tell a story. We are not trying to say something, but tell a story about hopes, aspirations and challenges. I see myself standing on the shoulders of great writers."

The Long Mile is a gritty detective thriller, set in New York City, that relates one African-American man's riveting quest for truth and redemption. Written in the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley, it is the first in a series of thrillers featuring the compelling character of former NYPD officer John Shannon.

The Long Mile was also the winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) for Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.

Read an article covering the Legacy Awards event on the Washington Post website here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for November 10, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending November 10, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

New this week, and debuting at the top of both the Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com mystery bestsellers lists, is J. D. Robb's 23rd "In Death" mystery, Born in Death by J. D. RobbBorn in Death, featuring New York City Lt. Eve Dallas. Eve has a grisly double homicide to solve when two young lovers - both employees of the same prestigious accounting firm - are brutally killed on the same night. She's also asked by a pregnant friend to take on the case of a missing neighbor, who's also expecting. She'll have to track her down while simultaneously unearthing the deals and double-crosses hidden in the files of some of the city's richest and most secretive citizens, in a race against this particularly vicious killer.

Also new this week is the third, and final, installment in the epic chronicle of the Corleone crime family, The Godfather's Revenge by Mark WinegardnerThe Godfather's Revenge, by Mark Winegardner, written with permission from the estate of the author of the original Godfather, Mario Puzo. A subordinate to Michael Corleone, New Orleans underboss Carlo Tramonti is publicly humiliated when the U.S. Attorney General—President Danny Shea's brother—has him arrested and deported to Colombia. Tramonti eventually returns, hell-bent on settling scores, and triggers a series of events destined to change the course of American history. Corleone, though haunted by the death of his brother Fredo, knows that this is no time for weakness-and so, with fearless consigliere Tom Hagen leading the way, a new path for the future is forged.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Press Release: Court TV and Barnes & Noble to Market New Series “Murder by the Book”

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Court TV and Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS) have joined forces to promote the network’s upcoming series, Murder by the Book, featuring James Ellroy, Michael Connolly, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman and Lisa Scottoline. The series will premiere on November 13th at 10pm, and takes viewers through the real-life cases that most captivated these best-selling mystery writers.

Court TV will implement a national TV, print, and online marketing campaign. The series will also be featured on Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com). Barnes & Noble.com commercials will appear on Court TV throughout the holiday season. In addition, there will be extensive placements throughout the Court TV Web site (www.courttv.com) with links to Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com/murderbythebook), so visitors can purchase books written by authors appearing on Murder by the Book.

Read the press release here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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News: Evanovich Teams with Cannell on New Series

Authorlink is reporting that Warner Books has announced a collaboration between bestselling authors Janet Evanovich and Stephen J. Cannell to write a new adventure series set in Orange County. The first book in the series, No Chance, is scheduled for publication in late 2007.

Warner Books Senior Vice President and Publisher Jamie Raab said, "The combined talents, creativity and sales power of Janet Evanovich and Stephen J. Cannell is guaranteed to result in a marvelous, bestselling new franchise. Warner Books is thrilled to be working with this dynamic duo."

Read the article on Authorlink.com here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mystery Book Review: The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor

The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor
A Joe Gunther Mystery

Mysterious Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-89296-072-8 (0892960728)
ISBN-13: 978-0-89296-072-9 (9780892960729)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $24.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): A legend among Vermont cops, Joe Gunther has solved more local whodunits than a whole squad of detectives. But his latest case takes him and his team off their Brattleboro home turf, forty-two miles west, to chip-on-its-shoulder, blue-collar Bennington.

On the edge of town, Gunther encounters the lifeless body of Michelle Fisher. Her corpse, pale and seemingly at peace, offers him no clues about who she was or how she died. There are no signs of violence, no disorder. Snapshots and postcards show a woman who laughed hard and lived harder. Yet diaries reveal a rootless life marred by depression and drink. Suicide seems a reasonable conclusion, but Gunther suspects foul play. The house is for sale, after all, and Michelle was its only tenant-one who resisted all efforts to have her evicted. The unsavory landlord is a prime suspect, but is safely equipped with an impressively air-tight alibi.

Now to uncover the truth about the fate of this discarded, all but forgotten woman, Gunther must follow a confusing trail of half leads and mounting crimes. He draws near to a violent and careless trio of criminals, whose leader is hell-bent on making the career move of a lifetime-and willing to step on anyone who might get in his way.

Review: The Second Mouse is Archer Mayor's latest mystery featuring Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) field commander Joe Gunther. Although not strictly his case, Gunther is intrigued by the death of Michelle Fisher whose apparent suicide doesn't quite agree with some inconsistencies found at the scene of her death.

The story alternates between two seemingly unrelated cases. Michelle, whose boyfriend had recently died, was living in the house that legally belonged to his father, a man that desperately wanted her out of his house. Was she so despondent that suicide seemed to be the only answer, or was her death the result of a more sinister act? The other case presents three fascinating, and completely different characters, together leading a life of crime that escalates from simple larceny to murder. Could one or more of them somehow have been involved in Michelle's life, and possibly be the cause of her death?

There is considerable appeal for the reader in trying to determine how these cases are related and will ultimately be resolved. The solution to the mystery surrounding Michelle's death is fairly evident early on, but this in no way lessens the satisfaction of seeing how Gunther connects the cases. "Things have a funny way of working out" he says at the end of the book. If not always according to plan.

Mayor has a spare, clean style of writing. Shortly after arriving at Michelle's house for the first time, Gunther mentally notes that dead bodies "... displayed all the variety that they had in life, but in none of the same ways." And that they were "... capable of a kind of frozen, extraordinarily subtle form of sign language." He then asks himself, "... how many of the dead might have struggled fruitlessly to be heard in life, only to be scrutinized too late by total strangers anxious to see or hear even the slightest twitch or murmur." This is wonderfully perceptive prose, and illustrative of how much of the book is written.

Though The Second Mouse is the 17th mystery for Gunther, Mayor manages to keep the series as fresh as new fallen Vermont snow. It is highly recommended.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group for providing a copy of The Second Mouse for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

Visit for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books. The is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

News: Archer Mayor Kicks Off Authors' Series

Stephen Seitz of the Rutland (VT) Herald writes that Archer Mayor recently kicked off Misty Valley Books' annual "Vermont Voices" November series of author appearances. He also asks if Vermont's best-known fictional detective has finally found his way to the silver screen.

Director Jay Craven is "working on a screenplay right now," Mayor said. "But what we need are millionaires. It's a three- to six-year project unless we get funding."The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor Seitz adds that Hollywood has been dancing around a possible Gunther project for years, and Mayor said he got so tired of waiting for it to happen, he just told Craven to go ahead.

Joe Gunther's latest mystery The Second Mouse takes place in Bennington. "I set it in Bennington because I hadn't picked on it yet," he said. "It's a pretty interesting town. They see themselves as Vermont's forgotten and much-maligned corner, which too many people think should be relegated to New York or Massachusetts." Mysterious Reviews recently published a review of The Second Mouse on its website.

Seitz notes that while Archer Mayor is best known for his authentic and deeply researched mystery novels, he has plenty of experience in the field. Besides being a part-time police officer for Bellows Falls, he is an assistant medical examiner for the state and a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for the NewBrook Fire Department in Newfane, where he lives.

Read the rest of the Archer Mayor profile on RutlandHerald.com here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Mystery Trivia for November 2006

Mystery BestsellersThe Hidden Staircase Mystery Books has posted new mystery trivia questions for November 2006.

The Phryne Fisher mysteries, by Kerry Greenwood, are set in which Australian city (also the author's home town)?

According to the author, she adds a little extra mystery to each chapter of a book. How does she do this?

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books to see the answers to these questions as well as previous mystery book trivia questions from prior months.

The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books provides readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for November 06, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for November 06, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: A H I J M N O S T. The Berkeley Brigade was featured in Regency romantic mysteries written by this author (9 letters).

Previous puzzles are stored in the Mystery Godoku Archives.

Enjoy the weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle from the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, and Thanks for visiting our website!

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for November 03, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending November 03, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Very few changes on the bestseller lists this week, though a debut mystery by Maggie Barbieri, Murder 101 by Maggie BarbieriMurder 101 introducing English professor Alison Bergeron, is new on the Barnes&Noble.com list. Recently divorced from a fellow professor and even more recently without a car--it was stolen--she has been hoofing it to her university campus on the banks of the Hudson River. One Friday evening, two NYPD homicide detectives drop by her office. The good news is that they found her beat-up Volvo; the bad news is that the body of one of the students in her Shakespeare seminar was in the trunk. Not only are Alison's chances of getting the car back bleak, but suddenly she's the primary suspect on a list that includes, among others, the murdered student's drug-dealing boyfriend, Vince, and the girl's father's business rivals. Publishers Weekly calls Murder 101 a "sparkling debut" and adds, "Romance, humor and suspense blend perfectly in this exceptional cozy, the first of what hopefully will be a long series."

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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News: Lost Kubrick Mystery Treatment to be Filmed

The New York Times is reporting that a long missing mystery movie treatment that Stanley Kubrick had commissioned in the late 1950s from noir pulp novelist Jim Thompson, discovered by the filmmaker's son-in-law in 1999, is now on track to be filmed. Titled Lunatic at Large, it is written as a puzzle in which the audience must determine which among the film's quirky characters is the actual escapee from a nearby mental hospital.

Set in New York in 1956, it is the story of Johnnie Sheppard, a former carnival worker and Joyce, a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a tavern. There's a newsboy who flashes a portentous headline, a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down, and a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge. According to the New York Times, the great set piece is a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce, lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow's worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, and the Human Blockhead.

Signed to direct the film is Chris Palmer, a British television commercial director. This would be Palmer's first feature film.

Read the entire story, as published in the International Herald Tribune, here.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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News: L. A Confidential Sequel in the Works

A sequel to the film L. A. Confidential is reportedly once again in early development. Titled White Jazz, the fourth and final book in James Ellroy's L. A. Quartet series, the screen adaptation follows the misadventures of rogue cop Lt. Dave Klein as he becomes entwined in a violent and treacherous corruption scandal within the LAPD. Joe Carnahan has been signed to direct, and filming is expected to begin in November 2007.

Melbourne native Guy Pearce is in talks with Carnahan to play the role of Det. Lt. Edmund Jennings 'Ed' Exley in the movie, the character he protrayed in L. A. Confidential.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mystery Book Review: The River Killings by Merry Jones

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The River Killings by Merry Jones. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The River Killings by Merry Jones

The River Killings by Merry Jones
A Zoe Hayes Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-33041-3 (0312330413)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-33041-5 (9780312330415
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): On summer vacation from her job as an art therapist, Zoe Hayes, a divorced art therapist with a six-year-old adopted daughter, takes a sculling class for fun with her best friend, Susan Cummings. One evening, while her daughter Molly waits with Susan's children at the boathouse on the banks of the Schuylkill River, Zoe rows off with Susan to practice for an upcoming regatta. When Susan's oar catches on some flotsam (which turns out to be a woman's dress), the boat flips, and the two find themselves in deep waters with not just one but an entire throng of floating bodies.

Someone along Philadelphia's Boathouse Row is a murderer, but who? After Zoe argues with Detective Nick Stiles, her boyfriend, she and Molly head out to the river at night. There, Zoe uncovers a sinister plot that she and Molly might not be able to escape.

Review: The River Killings is Merry Jones's 2nd mystery featuring art therapist Zoe Hayes who is caught in the middle of a syndicate of human trafficking along Philadelphia's riverfront when one night while she and her best friend Susan are rowing they accidentally stumble upon a number of dead bodies floating in the Schuylkill River.

It is an understatement to say that there is way too much going on in this book. The gripping opening chapter is followed by a long string of chapters that are so convoluted they hardly make any sense. Early on, Zoe states that she "... wandered from room to room, agitated, not able to focus on any one issue, mind bouncing from one jarring event to another. Agent Ellis had been killed. Nineteen women were dead. My house had been broken into, and Susan had been carjacked. Coach Everett and Tony were involved in something shady, and Molly had seen and heard too much. And then there was Nick. Nick knew more than he was telling me. Nick kept secrets." This passage is a clear indication that not only is Zoe confused, but so is the reader.

It never makes sense when an author inexplicably turns an otherwise law-abiding citizen into a criminal by having them break into a private residence under the guise of solving a crime. Is it not possible to have Zoe investigate criminal activity without become a criminal herself? And why is it necessary for Zoe to put her daughter in harm's way by leaving her alone, on more than one occasion, in a potentially dangerous environment? And what happened to Susan? One of the more interesting characters in the book, and one who plays a prominent role early on in the story, she virtually disappears about half-way through.

There are stylistic questions as well. Jones has included 98 chapters in this book of just over 300 pages. Chapters often indicate a change of scene or perspective, but in this case, there is no logic to their content or length. It is almost as if each chapter represents a day of writing by the author. Some are several pages long, some barely a page long. Some span an extended period of time, some scarcely finish a thought. It's incredibly disrupting to the flow of the plot and makes the book seem far longer than it really is.

Merry Jones writes in a very descriptive, illustrative manner, and this series definitely has potential. But she needs to work on her plotting which, in the case of The River Killings, is simultaneously far too complex and inferential.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of The River Killings for this review.

Visit for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books. The is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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