Monday, March 31, 2008

Mysteries on TV: Law & Order SVU and Murder, She Wrote

Mysteries on TV

, your source for the most complete selection of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense television mystery series now available or coming soon to DVD, has two series that have season DVDs being released this week.

Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni star as detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, members of an elite New York crime unit, in . The series, a spin-off from the highly successful series, first aired on NBC in September 1999 and remains a series in production. Most of the storylines in this series are fictionalized versions of actual crimes.

The Law & Order Special Victims Unit Season 6 DVD set of 5 discs contains all 23 episodes from the sixth season of the series that aired during the 2004 / 2005 television season. For more information on the series, visit the Law & Order SVU website on NBC.com.

featured one of the most popular amateur sleuths ever to appear in a television series, Angela Lansbury as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher. In this season, Jessica lives part time in New York City when she accepts a position as criminology instructor at Manhattan University but still manages to find murder and mayhem on her regular visits back to her home town of Cabot Cove, .

The Murder, She Wrote Season 8 DVD set of 5 discs contains all 22 episodes from the eighth season of the series that aired on CBS from September 1991 through May 1992.

Visit the Mysteries on TV website to discover more currently available on DVD.

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Mystery Book Review: Improved Lies by Brian Kennedy

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Improved Lies by Brian Kennedy. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Improved Lies by Brian KennedyBuy from Amazon.com

Improved Lies by
Non-series

Durban House (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9779863-5-7 (0977986357)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9779863-5-4 (9780977986354)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $19.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Ken Edwards was going nowhere fast. Then murder steps up to the tee at Lake Pointe. Edwards has the defense of the “Country Clubber” and his shot at redemption. But his dream case is rapidly becoming a nightmare.

Amanda Armbruster was the darling of the country club set. Long, lithe and lovely, she was the queen of many hearts. Her brutal murder ignites a firestorm of public passion. Even before a jury can be seated, a lynch mob is forming for Amanda’s husband, Ted.

Every rock Edwards turns over in building a defense hides something dark, slimy and full of teeth. Money, power, and prestige are threatened and are threatening in return. The high and mighty will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden. On the golf course, over the card table, and in the halls of justice, everybody is trying to improve their lie. Presiding at trial sits Judge Alexandra Kingsdale. Years earlier she tossed Edwards aside. Yet, she treats him as if it were his doing. He can expect no help from the bench.

As the evidence mounts before a packed courtroom time is running out on the defense. Unless Edwards can decode Amanda’s final enigma “The cats went to the dogs.” he and his client will be thrown to the wolves. A lifetime 18 handicapper, Edwards will have to be a scratch lawyer if his client is to have any chance.

Review: Brian Kennedy has created a compelling courtroom suspense thriller with his first novel, Improved Lies, set among the country club elite of northern .

Defense attorney Ken Edwards has an almost impossible task. His client, businessman Ted Armbruster, is accused of murdering his wife in their home. The evidence: Ted was found standing over the body, the murder weapon, a bloody golf club, in his hands. To top it off he admitted being responsible for her death, signing a confession witnessed by his neighbor, a friend and also an lawyer. But Ted later swears to Ken that he's innocent and Ken believes him. While preparing for trial, Ken comes across a number of suspects that might have wanted to see Ted's wife dead, some with both motive and opportunity, but none seem strong enough to break the prosecution's case. Ted would rather go to jail than accept a plea bargain, so Ken has no choice but to try to persuade the jury that reasonable doubt exists and that his client should be found not guilty of murder.

The author uses golf as a metaphor for the law, and a round of golf as a metaphor for a trial. The title is a play on words: an improved lie in golf is the intentional alteration of a ball's position so to make it easier to hit. As Ken Edwards states in his closing arguments, "to improve your lie is to cheat." He then goes on to say, "It is to ignore the truth about where your ball has come to rest and to create a false reality by cheating to gain advantage." For the crime being tried, he explains, "[I]t's best not to lose sight of the tangled web that lying creates. First, the lie; then the cover-up, or improved lie; then, when that fails, murder."

Improved Lies, like many legal thrillers, is split into two parts: the pre-trial investigation followed by the trial itself. Both work well here. The investigation brings multiple red herrings into the story, information that may (or may not) point to the guilt (or innocence) of third parties (or Ted), all of which are intended to introduce reasonable doubt into the minds of the jurors. Ken is hampered in part by restrictions placed on him by his client, restrictions he doesn't quite understand nor is he prepared to honor if it means his client may be found guilty. But the best part of the book is the trial which, for the most part, is riveting. The author's experience as an attorney comes through here with an authenticity that keeps the reader deeply absorbed in what happens, almost as if they were part of the jury.

Other than a few plot points that don't quite work (most glaringly, Ken neglecting to ask an obvious question about an investment club that factors into his defense), Improved Lies is an exceptional legal thriller that will keep the reader guessing as to the outcome until the final pages.

Special thanks to Durban House for providing an ARC of Improved Lies for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which 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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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for March 31, 2008

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for March 31, 2008A new has been created by the editors of the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is now 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 E L N O S Y Z. This is the title of the 6th mystery in the Tom Thorne series by (9 letters).

New! We now have our puzzles in PDF format for easier printing. Print this week's puzzle here.

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, March 30, 2008

Mystery Book Review: God's Spy by Juan Gomez-Jurado

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of God's Spy by Juan Gomez-Jurado. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

God's Spy by Juan Gomez-JuradoBuy from Amazon.com

God's Spy by
A Paola Dicanti Mystery

Plume (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-452-28912-2 (0452289122)
ISBN-13: 978-0-452-28912-3 (9780452289123)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): In the days following the death of Pope John Paul II, the horribly disfigured body of a cardinal is discovered in a chapel in Rome. With a serial killer now on the loose in the Vatican, Police Inspector Paola Dicanti is assigned to the grisly case. Desperate to find the killer before another victim dies, she enlists the help of Father Anthony Fowler, a charismatic American priest who knows more about the killer than Paola could have imagined. As Paola and Father Anthony struggle through the web of tantalizing clues, the evidence leads them to powerful figures within the Church hierarchy. But their pursuit of the truth may make them the next pawns to be sacrificed in this terrifying and deadly game.

Review: Juan Gomez-Juardo's debut novel, God's Spy, introduces Rome police inspector Paola Dicanti investigating a series of brutal murders in the Vatican.

It is April 2005 and Pope John Paul II has died. One hundred and fifteen cardinals from around the globe are called in to a conclave to elect a new pope. Before this could be accomplished, three cardinals destined to sit on the conclave, one from Argentina, another from Brazil, and one from Italy, are found horribly mutilated and dead at the foot of various altars in the church. A group of three specialized police officers, headed by Inspector Paola Dicanti, begin their investigation. They know who they are looking for, but he has ethereal disguises. He is able to fool and kill one of the officers hunting him. His goal is to kill them all, especially Paola. But it is Paola’s promise to her fellow officers that she will find and kill him first.

God's Spy has a significant and detailed backstory to the murders that brings in the character of Dr. Anthony Fowler, an American Catholic priest but also a retired US Air Force intelligence officer and a psychologist trained in sexual behavioral problems. Father Anthony knows the killer and even counseled him at one time. The partnership of Father Anthony and Inspector Dicanti is a compelling one, and brings together two very different characters that work well together in the context of the story.

There are several questions posed in God's Spy that contribute to its suspense. Were the three murdered cardinals chosen at random or was there something that linked them together? Were the murders the work of a serial killer with more killings to come, or someone whose task (as it were) was now complete? What secrets are being kept by the Vatican hierarchy? Or even by Italian officials?

God's Spy is a remarkable, sinister, at times breathtaking, novel that incorporates an event already shrouded in secrecy (the election of a new pope) into an impressive murder mystery. It is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of God's Spy and to Penguin Group for providing a copy of the book for this review. God's Spy was originally published as a hardcover in April 2007.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which 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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Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Hardcover Mysteries for April 2008

New Hardcover Mystery Books

The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books has updated its list of with books scheduled for publication in April 2008.

For our series fans, we've listed those titles with their series character(s) separately below:

Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert. China Bayles (16th).

Winter Study by Nevada Barr. Anna Pigeon (14th).

Angels Fall by Baron R. Birtcher. Mike Travis (3rd). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Vodka Neat by Anna Blundy. Faith Zanetti (3rd).

Goodbye, Ms. Chips by Dorothy Cannell. Ellie Haskell (13th).

The Enchanter's Forest by Alys Clare. Hawlenlye Abbey (10th).

Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark. Regan Reilly (11th).

Antiques to Die For by Jane K. Cleland. Josie Prescott (3rd).

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell by C. R. Corwin. Maddy Sprowls, Morgue Mama (3rd). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Death on the Holy Mountain by David Dickinson. Lord Francis Powerscourt (7th). Scheduled to be reviewed by . Scheduled to be reviewed by .

The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich. Ethan Gage (2nd).

Waterloo Sunset by Martin Edwards. Harry Devlin (8th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Barrington Street Blues by Anne Emery. Monty Collins (3rd).

The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson. Ann Lindell (3rd).

Frames by Loren D. Estleman. Valentino (1st).

Lethal Vintage by Nadia Gordon. Sunny McCoskey (4th).

Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio. Hanno Stiffeniis (2nd).

The Butcher of Smithfield by Susanna Gregory. Chaloner (3rd).

To Kill or Cure by Susanna Gregory. Matthew Bartholomew (13th).

Pastures New by J. M. Gregson. Inspector Peach (12th).

Cheating at Solitaire by Jane Haddam. Gregor Demarkian (23rd).

The Sudoku Puzzle Murders by Parnell Hall. Puzzle Lady (9th).

Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart. Annie Laurence, Death on Demand (18th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Sleight of Hand by Robin Hathaway. Jo Banks (3rd).

Easy Innocence by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Georgia Davis (1st).

Degrees of Separation by Sue Henry. Jessie Arnold (12th).

Mummy Dearest by Joan Hess. Claire Malloy (17th).

The Templar, The Queen and Her Lover by Michael Jecks. Medieval West Country (24th).

An Instinctive Solution by Roderic Jeffries. Inspector Alvarez (32nd).

Quicksand by Iris Johansen. Eve Duncan (7th).

Roux Morgue by Claire M. Johnson. Mary Ryan (2nd). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Still Shot by Jerry Kennealy. Carroll Quint (2nd).

The Stranger from Home by Frederic Lindsay. Jim Meldrum (8th).

Headhunters by Peter Lovesey. Hen Mallin (2nd).

Artist's Proof by Lander Marks. D. J. Singer (1st).

The Painted Man by Graham Masterton. Sissy Sawyer (2nd).

Hoodoo by Susan Cummins Miller. Frankie MacFarlane (4th).

City of the Dead by Ian Morson. Nick Zuliani (1st).

The Warriors by Mark Andrew Olsen. Abby Sherman (2nd).

The Fire Waker by Ben Pastor. Aelius Spartianus (2nd).

Assassins at Ospreys by R. T. Raichev. Antonia Darcy and Major Hugh Payne, Country House Crime (3rd). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Seven for a Secret by Mary and Eric Mayer Reed. John the Eunuch (7th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Unholy Domain by Dan Ronco. Ray Brown (2nd).

Getting Away Is Deadly by Sara Rosett. Ellie Avery, Mom Zone (3rd).

Separated at Death by Sheldon Rusch. Liz Hewitt (3rd).

The Devils of Bakersfield by John Shannon. Jack Liffey (10th).

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander Mccall Smith. Precious Ramotswe, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (9th).

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley. David "Kubu" Bengu (1st).

Dirty Money by Richard Stark. Parker (25th).

No Stone Unturned by Peter Turnbull. Hennessey and Yellich (16th).

The Mercy Oak by Kathryn R. Wall. Bay Tanner (7th).

Santa Fe Dead by Stuart Woods. Ed Eagle (3rd).

Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth Zelvin. Bruce Kohler (1st). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

For more information on any of these titles, please visit the page on our website. If you're interested in new paperbacks, visit where you can discover a library of new mysteries.

Please visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books where we are 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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