Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mysterious Reviews: A Look Back at 2006

Mysterious ReviewsAs we look back at the mysteries we reviewed at Mysterious Reviews in 2006, there were only 5 that received our highest praise. Each of these noteworthy books deserve another mention before we begin the new year.

We don't review books "on a curve", but we want to acknowledge that some mysteries are simply better than others. In order for our readers to recognize this, most of the mysteries we review are awarded "average" marks. This doesn't mean they are bad; generally, it simply means that these books didn't impress us as much as those rated higher. Our highest rating is reserved for those few books that are exceptional in one way or another and we try to highlight in our review why we believe they deserve this high mark.

Here are the 5 mysteries from 2006, in the order in which they were published, that we believe deserve space on your bookshelf.

The Geographer's Library by Jon FasmanThrough a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon

When Good Bras Go Bad by Gayle TrentMessenger of Truth by Jacqueline WinspearFalse Harbor by Michael Donnelly

February 2006: The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman. This book was published in hardcover in 2005, with the trade paperback, the one we reviewed, published in early 2006. We were captivated by both the literary adventure and the way it was presented to the reader. It is an exceptionally well-written book with an unexpected twist at the end.

May 2006: Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon, the 15th mystery to feature Venice Commissioner of Police Guido Brunetti, and a fine example of her body of work. Leon continues to impress us after all these years. In our review we wrote, "The storylines are multi-faceted, each side amplifying another, to produce a brilliance that is rare in detective fiction today." If you haven't read one of the mysteries in this series, make a resolution to do so in 2007; you won't be disappointed.

August 2006: When Good Bras Go Bad by Gayle Trent, the 2nd mystery in the Myrtle Crumb series. This slender book was an unexpected delight. Targeted to pre-teen girls, this gem of a mystery can be enjoyed by all. We said in our review, "Fully developed characters, a well thought out plot, and expressive and eloquent dialog, are all deftly composed in a book that runs less than 100 pages." A good example of never judging a book by its cover, its title, or its intended audience.

September 2006: Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, the 4th mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series. Somehow, someway, we managed to miss reading the first three books in this award-winning series. We're glad we caught this one, however, which we found mesmerizing. With eloquent prose, finely drawn characters, a reasoned investigative process, and atmospheric settings, it truly was one of the year's best.

October 2006: False Harbor by Michael Donnelly, who demonstrates considerable talent as the author in his debut mystery. Though we found the plot somewhat formulaic in places, the depth of characterization, the descriptive locales, and the accomplished prose elevated this book into the top tier of mysteries published this year.

If you haven't already read these mysteries, seek them out. They're worth the effort.

All of our mystery book reviews are conveniently organized by date, author, and "star" (or, in our case, "magnifying glass"). If you'd like to comment on our reviews, you may do so on this blog, or by sending a message to [email protected].

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mystery Book Review: False Harbor by Michael Donnelly

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

False Harbor by Michael Donnelly
An Egret Van Gerpin Mystery

Windstorm Creative (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59092-129-1 (1590921291)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59092-129-6 (9781590921296)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $15.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): A cryptic symbol on a block of marble …

Anton Gropius understands. The malicious vandal who ravaged his sculptures is not finished. About to unveil his culminating creation, two decades in the making, Gropius must first expose his tormentor.

Reclusive Gropius Stuns World ...

Friday Harbor journalist, Egret Van Gerpin, has the headline written even before intruding on the sculptor’s private island. By kayak, in a tempest. The cantankerous Gropius recruits Egret’s help to save his work from those he's invited to his sanctuary. A dark bargain, as she becomes the last bulwark against a murderous compulsion storming the sculptor's false harbor.

Review: Michael Donnelly introduces journalist Egret Van Gerpin in the outstanding mystery novel, False Harbor, set in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.

Egret arrives, uninvited and unwelcome, on the private island retreat of famed sculptor and recluse Anton Gropius to interview him for an article. Rough seas prevent her from departing, stranding her on the island with Anton's family who have gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. Anton is planning a surprise for his family: the unveiling of a series of sculptures on which he has been working since someone destroyed a collection 21 years earlier at a similar event. Tormented by the idea that someone may try to do the same now, he asks Egret to stay and observe since many of the same people who were at the event years ago are again on the island for his birthday celebration. When a close associate of Anton's is found dead at the bottom of a ravine, Egret believes it wasn't an accident and sets out to identify the culprit ... and possibly solve a 21-year-old mystery.

It's a rare pleasure to read such a polished debut mystery. The island setting is a perfect location for the story, and the characters are interesting and well developed. The plot is a bit formulaic in places, but this minor fault is more than made up for by the accomplished prose. Consider this passage, as Egret is walking along a trail on the island pondering her reason for being there: "... the path sucked the anxiety from my legs, slowing me, starving the future and past to nourish the present, making a gift of itself. I fell into a new rhythm, letting the earth push me along and feeling wealthy at owning it for the moment, my only responsibility being to do it no harm ...".

It isn't clear if False Harbor is the start of a series featuring Egret Van Gerpin or simply a stand-alone mystery as the book is subtitled "A San Juan Island Mystery". But this complex character deserves another outing. Seek out False Harbor; it's one of the year's best mysteries.

Special thanks to Michael Donnelly for providing a copy of False Harbor for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Friday, December 29, 2006

News: Elijah Wood Joins Cast of The Oxford Murders

The Oxford Murders by Guillermo MartinezThe Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Elijah Wood has been signed to star in the upcoming movie The Oxford Murders based on the book of the same name by Guillermo Martinez. The movie will be directed by Alex de la Iglesia. It was previously announced that John Hurt will also star in the film.

The Oxford Murders involves a young Argentine mathematics student at Oxford (Wood) who finds his landlady - an elderly woman who helped decipher the Enigma Code during World War II - murdered. Meanwhile, leading Oxford logician Arthur Seldom (Hurt) receives an anonymous note bearing a circle and the words, "the first of the series." As more murders occur, Seldom guesses that they relate to his book about the parallels between investigations of serial killers and certain mathematical theorems. As he and the young student are drawn further into the game, it is up to the mentor and student to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again.

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in London and Oxford in late January 2007.

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Press Release: Love is Murder Mystery Conference

Naperville, IL, December 29, 2006 --(PR.COM)-- “It would be a crime to have a dream of writing a novel and not be able to achieve it,” says Todd A. Stone, author of Novelist’s Boot Camp: 101 Ways to Take Your Fiction from Boring to Bestseller (Writers Digest Books, ISBN 1582973601), "but at this year’s Love is Murder Conference and Convention, our boot camp is going to help you beat the rap and make that dream come true.”

Stone’s intensive Novelist’s Boot Camp workshop—based on his book by the same name—is one of the headlining events at the 9th annual “Love is Murder” conference/convention for readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thrillers, romantic suspense, and other dark fiction and true crime writing. The conference is scheduled for February 2-4 2007 at the Wyndham O’Hare Hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Headlining authors include Ken Bruen, Anne Perry, Raymond Bensen, Carolyn Haines, Max Allan Collins, Charlaine Harris, Robert W. Walker, and local Guest of Honor David J. Walker.

The conference/convention also features a full offering of panels, presentations, a crime scene reenactment, weapons demonstrations, and a Scotch tasting hosted my Master of Whisky Martin Duffy from Johnnie Walker. More information on the conference can be found at www.loveismurder.net.

Read the entire press release here.

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Mystery Book Review: High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets

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

High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets
A Josie Marcus Mystery

Signet (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-21988-0 (0451219880)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-21988-6 (9780451219886)
Publication Date: November 2006
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Every job has its pluses and minuses. Josie Marcus gets to shoe-shop-but she also must deal with men like Mel Poulaine, who's too interested in handling women's feet. Soon Josie's been hired by Mel's boss to mystery-shop the store, but one step leads to another and Josie finds herself in St. Louis's seedy underbelly. Caught up in a web of crime, Josie hopes against hope that she won't end up murdered in Manolos.

Review: Josie Marcus, mystery shopper, returns in her second madcap adventure, High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets.

While mystery shopping a shoe store to which complaints have been made by woman who say that a certain salesman seems a bit more interested in their feet than in selling them shoes, Josie catches him in a compromising position with a pair of her own shoes. Just a day after being fired from his position, he's found murdered. Josie's neighbor's daughter, "Miss Perfect" Cheryl, to whom she is compared by her mother, is unexpectedly accused of the crime. Soon Josie finds herself drawn into an investigation involving men with "special needs".

High Heels are Murder is typical of this genre, reasonably well written and plotted, and will no doubt appeal to those readers who appreciate their murder mysteries liberally sprinkled with references to designer brands (and not to those who don't). Josie is an entertaining character, and there are certainly a few instances where it's hard not to smile at the situation in which she finds herself.

While the story is frivolous and light-hearted, Viets tries to instill into Josie characteristics that readers may find familiar in their own lives. Josie's a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, but working in a job she clearly enjoys despite the poor pay. She's constantly trying to live up some standard she attributes to her mother, but is it really her own standard that she's trying to live up to? These are interesting facets for a lead character, but at times they seem out of place in what is primarily a comedic mystery.

Special thanks to BreakThrough Promotions for providing a copy of High Heels are Murder for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Bestsellers for December 29, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending December 29, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

No new titles appeared on either the Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com lists this week. However, brisk sales for several pre-release titles indicate there will be several changes in January.

Be sure to check out our new, updated 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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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Effigies by Mary Anna Evans

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

Effigies by Mary Anna Evans
A Faye Longchamp Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-342-6 (1590583426)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-342-5 (9781590583425)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her friend, Joe Wolf Mantooth, have traveled to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to help excavate a site near Nanih Waiya, the sacred mound where tradition says the Choctaw nation was born. When farmer Carroll Calhoun refuses their request to investigate an ancient Native American mound, Faye and her colleagues are disappointed, but his next action breaks their hearts: he tries to bulldoze the huge relic to the ground.

Faye and Joe rush to protect history--with their bodies, if necessary. Soon the Choctaws arrive to defend the mound and the farmer's white and black neighbors come to defend his property rights. Though a popular young sheriff is able to defuse the situation, tempers are short.

That night, Calhoun is found dead, his throat sliced with a handmade stone blade. Was he killed by an archaeologist, angered by his wanton destruction of history? Neshoba County farmers have been plowing up stone tools like the murder weapon for centuries. Did one of them take this chance to even the score with an old rival?

The sheriff is well-aware that Faye and Joe were near the spot where Calhoun's body was found and their combined knowledge of stone tools is impressive. They had motive, means, and opportunity....but so does almost everyone in Neshoba County.

Review: Mary Anna Evans continues to impress readers with the third entry in the Faye Longchamp mystery series, Effigies.

Faye, together with Joe Wolf Mantooth, are working on a project team that was hired by the state of Mississippi to excavate a region prior to putting a new road through. The local Choctaw tribe had its origins in the area, and considers much of the land sacred. When a local property owner is murdered with a Choctaw artifact, Faye gets involved with the investigation. Was it a case of property rights versus the preservation of ancient history? Or could the murder have been personally motivated? The latter case seems possible when an aging, prominent, black politician makes a speech that he was the victim of a hate crime in the area many years ago, and would like to see justice done before he dies.

Evans is masterful at weaving a historical thread through her mysteries, with Effigies being no exception. Interspersed between chapters are Choctaw stories, as told by one of the local residents. Most of these stories are related in some way to the main plot, though they don't necessarily aid the reader in solving the mystery of the property owner's death. Towards the end, Evans turned what could have been a typical "heroine-in-peril" scenario and made it something spiritual and special, not unlike the Choctaw themselves. It's a captivating moment.

If there's a weak element of Effigies, it's Faye herself. She seems to lack the passion exhibited in earlier books; it's as if this murder mystery is simply an academic exercise to her. Faye has been evolving dramatically since Artifacts (the first, and arguably, the best book of the series) and she is a more interesting character when she has something personal vested in the outcome.

Following the main text, the author adds a guide for teachers, students, and (in her words), the incurably curious, a nice touch to a well-researched and written novel.

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

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

News: Best Mystery Fiction of 2006 from The New York Sun

Otto Penzler, in The New York Sun, writes what he believes are the best mysteries of 2006. "Best", by his own definition, merely means the books that most moved, shocked or impressed him, made him laugh or struggle to hold back tears, forced him to turn another page or two, and continue to resonate with him now.

In order ...

1. Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh.

2. Echo Park by Michael Connelly.

3. Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille.

4. Nightlife by Thomas Perry.

5. The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos.

6. The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais.

7. Damnation Street by Andrew Klavan.

8. Four Kinds of Rain by Robert Ward.

9. Slipping into Darkness by Peter Blauner.

10. Best American Mystery Stories 2006 edited by Scott Turow.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

News: Nancy Drew Movie Trailer Available

Nancy Drew: Get a ClueThe trailer for the Warner Bros. movie, Nancy Drew, is now available online. The movie is scheduled for release June 15, 2007.

Available in two formats and at 4 different resolutions, the trailer can be viewed by clicking one of the links below:

Super High-Resolution (480x204): QuickTime, Windows Media Player
High-Resolution (320x132): QuickTime, Windows Media Player
Medium-Resolution (240x104): QuickTime, Windows Media Player
Low-Resolution (176x76): QuickTime, Windows Media Player

Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew follows Nancy (Emma Roberts) as she accompanies her father Carson (Tate Donovan) to Los Angeles on one of his business trips and stumbles across evidence about a long-unsolved crime involving the mysterious death of a beautiful movie star. Nancy's resourcefulness and personal responsibility are put to the test when she finds herself in the middle of the fast-living, self-indulgent world of Hollywood.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for December 25, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for December 25, 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 H I J L M N O S. The “Tenoclock” mysteries featuring Johnnie Baker 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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Monday, December 25, 2006

News: Christie Novels to be Published in China

UPI is reporting that the People's Literature Publishing House (PLPH) is set to publish the first "legal" Agatha Christie novels in China. PLPH, China's largest publisher of literature, bought the copyright for Christie's novels from her agent in Britain. The release in Chinese will also mark the 30th anniversary of her death.

A total of 14 stories, including Death on the Nile, will be part of the first collection. Next year, another 32 books, including The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express, will be translated into Chinese and published.

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Mystery Bestsellers for December 22, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending December 22, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

The 9th mystery in the Kathleen Mallory series, Find Me by Carol O'ConnellFind Me by Carol O'Connell, is the only new book to appear this week on the bestseller lists. A mutilated body is found lying on the ground in Chicago, a dead hand pointing down Adams Street, also known as Route 66, a road of many names. And now of many deaths.A silent caravan of cars, dozens of them, drives down that road, each passenger bearing a photograph, but none of them the same. They are the parents of missing children, some recently disappeared, some gone a decade or more-all brought together by word that childrens' grave sites are being discovered along the Mother Road. Kathy Mallory drives with them. The child she seeks, though, is not like the others'. It is herself-the feral child adopted off the streets, her father a blank, her mother dead and full of mysteries. During the next few extraordinary days, Mallory will find herself hunting a killer like none she has ever known, and will undergo a series of revelations not only of stunning intensity- but stunning effect. Publishers Weekly states, "Stylish prose and a magnetic lead character more than compensate for an overly complicated plot that drags in spots ..." while Kirkus Reviews adds, "Very smart murder fare complete with a rain-swept mood and psychological heat."

Be sure to check out our new, updated Mystery Bestsellers aStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Mystery Book Review: High Heels and Holidays by Kasey Michaels

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of High Heels and Holidays by Kasey Michaels. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.High Heels and Holidays by Kasey Michaels

High Heels and Holidays by Kasey Michaels
A Maggie Kelly Mystery

Kensington Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7582-0882-0 (0758208820)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-0882-8 (9780758208828)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Mystery author Maggie Kelly is getting ready to celebrate her first Christmas with Alexandre, Viscount Saint Just -- her once-fictional, but now all too-real sexy hero and boyfriend. But her romantic Christmas plans go haywire when murder decides to deck the halls ...

Bad Tidings We Bring! There’s nothing I’d rather be doing this time of year then singing Christmas carols while I trim my tree, and snuggling next to my man Alex while we watch It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time. But this season, it seems some Grinch with a really bad sense of humor is delivering packages of rotting rats and death threats to me and the other authors who contributed to the mystery collection No Secret Anymore.

To You and Your Kin! Sure, even I’ll admit the book was terrible. But why can’t this sicko just go to the bookstore and get a refund? It’s Christmas, buddy -- not Halloween! But then Jonathan West -- the brainchild of No Secret Anymore -- turns up dead, and me and Alex aren’t so sure anymore that the murderer is a just a disgruntled reader... Bad tidings for Christmas—and a Murderous New Year! Jonathan had finally completed a new novel, which his agent claimed to be his best. This leads us to think maybe a jealous rival is the killer—that is, until two of Jonathan’s obsessed fans surface. So now the we’re scrambling to solve this mystery before eight writers—including yours truly—don’t live to see the New Year ...

Review: High Heels and Holidays is the fifth mystery in this series by Kasey Michaels to feature mystery author Maggie Kelly and her fictional, but now real, Regency-era hero, the aristocrat-detective Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just.

This disappointing entry in the series takes place immediately after the gang returns from England, the site of the previous book, the delightful and entertaining High Heels and Homicide. A colleague, Francis Oakes, has died under mysterious circumstances, and though Maggie would rather be preparing for the holidays and sharing an intimate moment with her fictional-but-real creation, she is drawn into the mystery when another celebrity author is found dead.

This series has a unique twist to it, and Michaels uses a prologue in the form of a letter from Maggie to "Fred" to describe just how the the character of Alexandre Blake came to be. But readers new to the series are likely to be confused by the whole premise, and are better served to read one of the previous books to appreciate the situation in which Maggie finds herself with Saint Just.

There's an astonishing amount of dialog in High Heels and Holidays, but very little of substance is ever said. At one point Saint Just notes, facetiously but accurately, "... you fascinate us with this story, although you've said very little so far, haven't you?" And Maggie herself says that "... if anyone sane ever eavesdropped on any of our conversations, we'd all be locked up."

It's probably not giving away too much to say that Maggie and Alex get romantically involved in this book, and that is frequently a problem for a romantic mystery series. And a serious problem in this one. Maggie, for all practical purposes, admits as much in another letter to "Fred" in the epilogue. "So I give him this independent woman, see. They battle—right off the bat. Two strong personalities, going at it ... but slowly, against their will, they're drawn to each other. Big-time. Physically. They keep dancing around each other; advancing, retreating, keeping the readers happy. And all the while she helps him solve crimes. It could work."

Or not.

If the series is drawing to a close, this might be a way to end it. But if Michaels intends to continue the adventures of Maggie and Saint Just, a rapid retreat to their pre-Holiday relationship is definitely in order.

Special thanks to Book Trends for providing a copy of High Heels and Holidays for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Hardy Boys Author's Estate Donates Papers to Library

Michael Posner of the Globe and Mail reports that personal archive of Canadian author Leslie McFarlane -- much better known as Franklin W. Dixon, the pseudonym affixed to the best-selling mystery series, the Hardy Boys -- has been given by his heirs to Hamilton's McMaster University.

In the mid-1920s, McFarlane worked as a staff reporter for a Springfield (MA) newspaper before seeing an advertisement for a children's book ghostwriter, placed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Under the pen name Roy Rockwood, McFarlane produced seven novels in the Dave Fearless series for the syndicate before moving on to write more than 20 Hardy Boys novels, including the first 16 in the series. For most of these, he was paid a flat fee of $100 per book and, although the novels sold many millions of copies and were translated into 50 languages, he earned no royalties.

It was only a year before his death in 1977 that McFarlane announced his role in their creation. The Stratemeyer Syndicate had insisted that their ghostwriters never reveal authorship.

"He left a wonderful legacy," says son Brian McFarlane. "He got millions of kids hooked on reading."

Read the entire article on GlobeAndMail.com here.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for December 18, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for December 18, 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 K N O R T Y. This doctor is featured in the classic English mystery series written by R. Austin Freeman (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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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mystery Book Review: The Only Pure Thing by Patrick Hyde

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Only Pure Thing by Patrick Hyde. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Only Pure Thing by Patrick Hyde

The Only Pure Thing by Patrick Hyde
A Stuart Clay Mystery

Beckham Publications Group (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-931761-61-1 (0931761611)
ISBN-13: 978-0-931761-61-4 (9780931761614)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Benny Batiste's head winds up on a Georgetown parking meter, defense attorney Stuart Clay inherits his problems. Police discover Cleveland Barnes wearing a green army raincoat, a battered top hat, and bloodied Bally loafers. As Benny was found both headless and shoeless, Cleveland is charged with murder and Stuart is appointed to represent him.

Stuart thinks Cleveland is a hapless street person who filched some shoes. The police insist that things are not so simple. Pursuit of the case leads to clues that connect a band of homeless living under the Key Bridge, the Bronx mob, the urban renaissance of Washington, D.C., and a malignant evil so dark that it threatens to consume Stuart's very existence.

Review: Patrick Hyde's debut mystery, The Only Pure Thing, introduces Washington DC criminal attorney Stuart Clay who is assigned to defend Cleveland Barnes, a homeless man accused of the murder of a man whose head was found on a parking meter and whose shoes were found on Barnes' feet.

The Only Pure Thing is not a typical legal mystery ... and the better for it. It's virtually impossible to predict where the plot of this book is heading, the result being the reader enjoys the journey almost as much as Stuart Clay in taking it. The ending is a bit over the top, but that's a minor flaw.

Hyde has a deft style of writing, and he vividly portrays the nation's capital from an insider perspective. In describing Barnes and the other homeless people in his sphere, he writes, "I [Stuart Clay] concluded that Cleveland didn't even know the people under the bridge. He and the others coexisted in a psychic half light, stranger to each other in a shared reality. They clung to a subterranean world the way the oppressed poor and sick cling to flawed ideas the world over. They huddled from a distance not of geography but of mind." This is powerful and perceptive prose. And in a clever nod towards the O. J. Simpson trial, he crafts the sound bite, "Bloody Ballys don't prove murder", that becomes a rallying cry for Barnes' supporters.

The Only Pure Thing is a strong start for Stuart Clay. If subsequent books share the same strength in plot and characterization, it will definitely be a series worth reading.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing a copy of The Only Pure Thing for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Best Mysteries of 2006 from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

As we approach the end of the year, several publications produce their "best" lists. At the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, they have published their list of the best mysteries of 2006.

In order ...

1. The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos.

2 (tie). The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais.

2 (tie). Echo Park by Michael Connelly.

3. No Good Deeds by Laura Lippman.

4. Promise Me by Harlan Coben.

5. Kidnapped by Jan Burke.

6. Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson.

7. Prisoner of Memory by Denise Hamilton.

8. Stripped by Brian Freeman.

9. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason.

10. A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley.

11. Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder.

12. A Long Shadow by Charles Todd.

13. White Shadow by Ace Atkins.

On their website, they also list their choices of the best debuts of the year, and the best short story collection (A Merry Band of Murderers, a review of which can be read at Mysterious Reviews.)

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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Mystery Book Review: The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen

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

The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
A Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles Mystery

Ballantine Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-47699-9 (0345476999)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-47699-9 (9780345476999)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $25.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): PECCAVI. The Latin is scrawled in blood at the scene of a young woman's brutal murder: I HAVE SINNED. It's a chilling Christmas greeting for Boston medical examiner Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizzoli, who swiftly link the victim to controversial celebrity psychiatrist Joyce O'Donnell—Jane's professional nemesis and member of a sinister cabal called the Mephisto Club.

On tony Beacon Hill, the club's acolytes devote themselves to the analysis of evil: Can it be explained by science? Does it have a physical presence? Do demons walk the earth? Drawing on a wealth of dark historical data and mysterious religious symbolism, the Mephisto scholars aim to prove a startling theory: that Satan himself exists among us. With the grisly appearance of a corpse on their doorstep, it's clear that someone-or something-is indeed prowling the city. Soon, the members of the club begin to fear the very subject of their study. Could this maniacal killer be one of their own-or have they inadvertently summoned an evil entity from the darkness?

Delving deep into the most baffling and unusual case of their careers, Maura and Jane embark on a terrifying journey to the very heart of evil, where they encounter a malevolent foe more dangerous than any they have ever faced . . . one whose work is only just beginning.

Review: The Mephisto Club is the sixth mystery in this series featuring Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, this time on the case of the brutal murder of a young woman on Christmas Eve. Though both women participate in the investigation, Jane plays a much larger role than Maura in the book.

The crime, and a subsequent murder, is quickly linked to an unusual group of wealthy individuals who are members of the Mephisto Club, an organization that seeks out evil in the world. The group is headed by a mysterious and powerful man with the highest level connections, giving him access to confidential information on the victims and the crimes. Though apparently working on the same side as the officials investigating the murder, it's not clear his objectives are the same. Is he part of the solution or part of the problem?

The Mephisto Club has a solid, effective, fast-paced plot with a number of unusual features that make it an above average thriller. The incorporation of obscure symbolism and the inclusion of arcane biblical references make the, at times, implausible storyline quite credible.

There are a few problems, however, that prevent The Mephisto Club from being first rate. In an effort to show the familial side of both Jane and Maura, Gerritsen includes two side stories that seem incongruous. For Jane, there are the droll scenes with her parents that seem to be present solely for comic relief. For Maura, it's her troubled relationship with Father Brophy. Neither seems terribly important for this book, but may simply have been included for the purpose of continuity of the series.

A more serious problem is the motivation of the culprit and the purpose for the murders. Though it appears to be personal, in the end, the implication is that there was an ulterior motive to the crimes that is at odds with the events that took place. It's rather convenient how it all turns out, and just a bit illogical.

Despite these few shortcomings, The Mephisto Club is definitely worth adding to your library.

Special thanks to The Book Report Network for providing a copy of The Mephisto Club for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Press Release: Unlock the Secrets of a Haunted Manor in Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst

Games of MysteryMystery Case Files: RavenhearstSEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Big Fish Games, a leading developer and distributor of casual games, today announced the launch of Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst, a thrilling game that puts game players in the role of Master Detective to solve the mystery surrounding the Ravenhearst manor.

This is the third episode in Big Fish Games’ top-selling franchise, Mystery Case Files. The two previous episodes, Mystery Case Files: Huntsville and Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspects, set online sales records in 2005 and 2006. Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspects currently remains the top-selling casual game, a position it has held since it launched in April 2006, according to Logler.com, a site which tracks the top 10 global casual games based on data from major download portals.

Unlock the Secrets of a Century Old Mystery ...

Rumors surrounding the history of stately Ravenhearst Manor have circulated for decades. The recently acquired diary of Emma Ravenhearst may hold the key to unraveling the history of this unsettling place, yet all the pages are missing. Players assume the role of Master Detective to unlock secrets held within Ravenhearst, scouring 32 rooms in the manor for cleverly hidden clues. Locating and assembling diary pages help tell the history of the house and, ultimately, unlock the mystery. The game includes hundreds of items to find, which are new and different each time the game is played.

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst also includes a hidden “easter egg” in the game that gives players a chance to enter a contest that will award them with the opportunity to have a photograph or character of their likeness embedded in a scene in the next Mystery Case Files episode after Ravenhearst.

Read the entire press release here.

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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News: Murder the Write Way

Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles mysteries, writes in the Washington Post that as an author of mystery novels and medical thrillers, she inhabits a world in which killers are ruthlessly efficient and assassins seldom make mistakes. So when she considers the recent death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium in London, the sheer clumsiness of the crime astonishes her.

She adds, Litvinenko's killer chose a poison that is rare and easily tracked: polonium-210. Extremely toxic, polonium is difficult to handle and it leaves a telltale trail of radioactive contamination, which British police have used to trace the poison's spread -- and presumably the killer's footsteps -- throughout London. The villain may as well have left a trail of breadcrumbs. The poison allowed the victim to live for days, during which he was able to provide police with vital information.

Had this been a fictional account, Gerritsen suggests alternative methods of murder that would have been more efficient. And, if she were writing this story, the plot suggests a specific villain as the mastermind behind the murder. Or does it?

Read her entire analysis on WashingtonPost.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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Friday, December 15, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for December 15, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending December 15, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

New this week: The time has come for Meredith Gentry Mistral's Kiss by Laurell K. Hamiltonto put aside her detective work and fulfill her ultimate obligation to the world of Faerie - where her efforts to conceive an heir to the throne of the Unseelie Court are crucial to restoring magic, and life itself, to the fey kingdom in Mistral's Kiss, the 5th book in this series by Laurell K. Hamilton. As plots and counterplots are hatched, and strategies and subterfuges played out, the destiny of an entire world turns upon the fortunes of Merry Gentry: object of obsession, target of treachery, pawn of uncertain fate. Publishers Weekly states that "Lots of earth-shattering, supernatural sex and a rousing climactic battle will have Hamilton's fans panting for more."

Also new this week, the latest thriller from Greg Iles: True Evil by Greg IlesTrue Evil. If you wanted to kill your spouse and get away with it, you had to do something truly ingenious: something that wouldn't even be perceived as murder. And that was the service that Andrew Rusk had found a way to provide. Like any quality product, it did not come cheap. Nor did it come quickly. Who is this merciless assassin? Why is murder an art form for him? And what clues could exist to lead them to a man of such twisted talents? Not even the clients who hire him know his identity, and the lawyer who works with him fears him above all else. Most terrifying, those who choose murder over divorce soon learn a terrible truth: once set in motion, the instrument of their anger cannot be stopped. The Washington Post says, "True Evil will be too dark for some readers, but for those who enjoy lush, full-tilt thrillers, it will be engrossing and fun."

Be sure to check out our new, updated 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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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Press Release: The Moon Affects the Stock Market

Paradigm by Robert TaylorEl Dorado Hills, CA (PRWEB) December 14, 2006 -- A research paper discussed in the November issue of Harvard Business Review adds credence to the theory that author Robert Taylor developed years ago and set forth in his groundbreaking recent book Paradigm: the macro movement of the stock market can be predicted by gravitational fluctuations.

According to Taylor, who has worked with leading academicians and research scientists, the macro movement of the stock market is predictable. Gravitational fluctuations, such as those caused by the moon and other celestial bodies, influence masses of humans to feel simultaneously bullish or bearish about the stock market.

An article from the June 5, 2006 issue of BusinessWeek titled "The Sun, the Moon, and the Market," details Taylor's conclusions. Reporter Adrienne Carter called Paradigm "The Da Vinci Code for the Wall Street set."

Taylor packaged his research into the fiction mystery thriller Paradigm in order to reach a wider audience than a scientific journal. At the end of the book is a lengthy academic presentation of his science called "The Taylor Effect," and information on how readers can prove it to their own satisfaction. The recent Harvard published peer-reviewed study supports Taylor's findings.

Read the entire 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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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

News: Stephen King to win MWA Grand Master Award

Stephen King has been announced as the recipient of the most prestigious honor the Mystery Writers of America bestow: The Grand Master Award given for lifetime achievement, writes Otto Penzler in The New York Sun.

He adds, although mainly famous as the author of the most terrifying horror fiction published during the past half-century or more, the multitalented Mr. King has also produced a strong body of work in the mystery/crime/suspense genre.

A long-time aficionado of mystery fiction, King stated: "I'm delighted to be getting the Grand Master Award and to be joining the likes of some of my greatest idols and teachers — people like John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain and Donald E. Westlake. The award means a great deal to me personally because it's an award from people who understand two things: the importance of good writing and the importance of telling stories."

Read the rest of the story 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, December 11, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for December 11, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for December 11, 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 B D E F I L N R. This is the title of the second mystery in the Mechelle Deakes series by Lynn Abercrombie (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, December 08, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for December 08, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending December 08, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

The 4th book in the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris debuts in the second position at both Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com this week. Hannibal Rising by Thomas HarrisIn Hannibal Rising, the evolution of his evil is revealed. Synopsis (from the publisher): Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal's uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle's beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal's demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death's prodigy.

Be sure to check out our new, updated 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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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Press Release: Mystery Writers of America to Honor Bookstores

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Two bookstores, which have been major supporters of fiction and non-fiction crime writers, will be honored by Mystery Writers of America with the Raven Award for 2007. Kathy and Tom Harig of Mystery Loves Company bookstore, and Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books bookstore will be presented with the Raven at the 2007 Edgar® Awards Banquet to be hosted by Al Roker of NBC's "Today." Established in 1953, the Raven is awarded by MWA's Board of Directors for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Kathy and Tom Harig are being presented with the Raven for the role that Mystery Loves Company has played in supporting the careers of hundreds of established and emerging crime writers, and in connecting mystery enthusiasts from the Maryland community with authors. Mystery Loves Company's two stores are located in Baltimore and Oxford, Maryland.

Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books is being presented with the award for the support that his Books & Books bookstores have given writers over the years, as well as for his leadership in founding and chairing the largest book fair in the country, Miami Book Fair International. Books & Books' three stores are located in Florida's Miami-Dade County.

The Edgar Awards, or "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after Mystery Writers of America's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are awarded to authors of distinguished work in various categories. The Edgar Awards Banquet will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, NYC, on April 26, 2007.

Read the entire 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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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Press Release: New Online Sweepstakes for Mystery Author Lisa Gardner

Gone by Lisa GardnerNorth Conway, NH (PRWEB) December 5, 2006 -- What kind of writer invites readers to "Kill A Friend, Maim A Buddy?" Avid readers of New York Times bestselling mystery and suspense author, Lisa Gardner, know that while Gardner may not look like the dark, twisted type, she has her macabre side. On her website, readers can enter the "Kill A Friend, Maim A Buddy" online sweepstakes and nominate a friend, family member, coworker, boss, fellow mystery lover -- or even themselves -- to be the Lucky Stiff who meets their demise in Lisa Gardner's 2008 novel. The winner's nominee gains immortality, while the winning entrant receives a signed copy of the novel.

As devilishly devious as the sweepstakes may be, Gardner is quick to point out, "Kill A Friend, Maim A Buddy is meant as a harmless bit of fun. We ask that those entering the sweepstakes don't provide a physical description of the proposed Lucky Stiff or details about the manner in which they'd like to see the person die. It's a contest, not the starting shot at revenge -- or couples therapy." Entries will be accepted online at the Kill A Friend, Maim A Buddy Sweepstakes entry page until 11:59 p.m. ET, May 25, 2007, after which the winner will be randomly selected.

Gardner's most recent release, Gone, which will be published in paperback on December 26, 2006, recently received a reviewers' pick award from San Francisco Chronicles as one of the best books of 2006.

Read the entire 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: Clooney Reportedly Buying Rights to Grisham Bestseller The Innocent

The Innocent Man by John GrishamFor the second time in less than a week, we have news that George Clooney is getting involved with movie adaptations of mystery books. Variety (and others) are reporting the Clooney and Warner Independent Pictures are buying the screen rights to the latest John Grisham bestseller, The Innocent Man. Last week we noted that Clooney had signed on to produce and star in the James Ellroy mystery, White Jazz.

According to Variety, Grisham ultimately will be paid a seven-figure sum against the gross participation deal if The Innocent gets made. His approval of the deal came only after several conversations with Clooney and partner Grant Heslov.

The deal is the first studio pact in several years for Grisham, whose previous courtroom thrillers The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, and A Time to Kill routinely sparked fevered auctions and seven-figure movie deals, culminating in a then-record $8 million deal from New Regency for Runaway Jury.

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, December 04, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for December 04, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for December 04, 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 C G H L M N O P. Mary Anna Evans’ mysteries feature Faye ________, a student of archaeology: (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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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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