Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Silesian Station by David Downing

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Silesian Station by David Downing. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Silesian Station by David DowningBuy from Amazon.com

Silesian Station by
A John Russell Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-494-X (156947494X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-494-5 (9781569474945)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Summer, 1939. British journalist John Russell has just been granted American citizenship in exchange for agreeing to work for American intelligence when his girlfriend Effi is arrested by the Gestapo. Russell hoped his new nationality would let him safely stay in Berlin with Effi and his son, but now he's being blackmailed. To free Effi, he must agree to work for the Nazis. They know he has Soviet connections and want him to pass them false intelligence. Russell consents, but secretly offers his services to the Soviets instead-not for anything too dangerous, though, and only if they'll sneak him and Effi out of Germany if necessary.

It's a good plan, but soon things become complicated. A Jewish girl has vanished, and Russell feels compelled to search for her. A woman from his past, a communist, reappears, insisting he help her reconnect with the Soviets, who turn out to demand more than Russell hoped. Meanwhile, Europe lurches toward war, and he must follow the latest stories—to places where American espionage assignments await him.

Review: Foreign correspondant John Russell takes on a more dangerous job than he imagines in 1939 Germany in Silesian Station, the second mystery in this series by David Downing.

Though British by birth, Russell has maintained a stance of neutrality while living in pre-war Germany. When it becomes apparent that Germany is preparing to declare war on England, Russell takes his son on a vacation to America. While there he decides to obtain citizenship and, more importantly, an American passport. The Intelligence Department requests that in return for a passport he, as a reporter, supply them with any firsthand knowledge, overt or covert, concerning Germany’s plans towards the war, Upon his return to Germany, he discovers that his girlfriend Effi has been imprisoned by the Gestapo for insulting the Fuhrer. Russell is told he must see the Chief of Germany’s Intelligence Agency to free her. Knowing that Russell has many journalistic friends in most countries, the Chief tells him that the only way they would release Effi was if he were to contact one of his counterparts in Russia to obtain information about their movements in the war. Russell agrees, but when he meets with the Russian officials they offer a counter-proposal: supply false information to the Germans and they would help him, Effi, and his son safely escape to a neutral country should the need arise. In a matter of days Russell goes from being a neutral observer of the war to an active, albeit undercover, participant for three countries on a collision course. Will he be able to do what's needed and keep his loved ones safe?

Though the sheer number of agency relationships in Silesian Station may appear to be daunting for the reader, Downing handles it all deftly by keeping the action moving forward without sacrificing period detail. And that is the real hidden gem in this novel, a peek into the lives of everyday Germans during the early days of the war. That Russell is associated with three governments also provides an insight as to the positions these countries were taking prior to active involvement. This is an intricately crafted fictional story (and a traditional mystery no less involving a missing Jewish girl) embedded within a historical context, and it comes together so remarkably well.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Silesian Station and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book 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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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mystery Savings: $5 Off on $50 or more at Alibris.com

Mystery Savings: Discounted Products and Services on Books, Movies, and more!

Mystery Savings periodically provides our readers with current promotions that offer discounts or other incentives for purchasing mystery-themed products and services products through our partner websites. Below is a list of offers recently received that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

Alibris connects people who love books, music, and movies to thousands of independent sellers around the world. Search over 60 million used & new books, music, & movies to find great deals!

Shop at Alibris.com for books you thought you'd never find! Use coupon code BEACHREADS on checkout at Alibris to save $5 on $50 or more of books, music, and movies. This coupon expires August 20, 2008.

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Mystery Book Review: Orphan by Harry Haines

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Orphan by Harry Haines. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Orphan by Harry HainesBuy from Amazon.com

Orphan by
Non-series

Mayhaven Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-932278-56-7 (1932278567)
ISBN-13: 978-1-932278-56-9 (9781932278567)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $26.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): In a horrific vehicular accident twenty miles west of Amarillo, Texas, veterinarian James Robert Masterson steps out into the night to find the sole survivor is a very young colt. As there is no one to take charge of the frightened animal, Masterson agrees to take him home to his ranch in Bushland, Texas. He and his wife tend “Orphan,” never dreaming he will play a significant role in their daughter’s life—and in theirs.

When a suspicious gambler from Albuquerque, and the pushy ex-wife of the owner, claim the horse, the mystery begins. Interwoven in this mystery are murder, battles in the court, a life and death struggle with cancer, music, and . The reader will travel to the beautiful horse country of Kentucky, and to the impressive Ruidoso Downs, home of the much sought-after All-American Futurity, the world’s richest horserace. They will also see the seamier side of horseracing driven by greed.

Review: Harry Haines crafts a novel of love, greed, and murder in Orphan, a book so beautifully written that it should be kept near to be cherished again.

A tragic accident has occurred on the highway to Amarillo, Texas. An old pickup truck pulling a horse trailer with a mare and her colt collides with a car and is overturned. The drivers are dead, and the mare has internal damages. The colt, about two weeks old, manages to get out of the trailer unscathed, but stays close to be with his dying mother. Dr. Jim Bob Masterson, on his way home to his ranch in Bushland, comes upon the wreckage. Masterson has his cattle trailer hitched to the truck. The police on the scene recognize him and ask him to talk the colt to his ranch for a few days until they find the owner’s relatives. This begins the one aspect of the mystery in this story: who actually owns the colt, a thoroughbred horse, who Jim Bob names Orphan?

Separately, Liz Masterson, Jim Bob's daughter and aged twenty-five, is making her starring debut in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Madam Butterfly”. After a beautiful performance in the first act, it is announced that she is ill and will not be able to return for the remainder of the performance. The reason: Liz is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. When she is able to be brought home she bonds with the colt and the colt with her. All is going well for Liz until two people come demanding possession of the colt. One is the ex-wife of the truck driver and the other a billionaire who knows the history of Orphan. The stress of a court trial becomes too much for Liz and her remission has reversed itself. Realizing this colt had much to do with Liz’s health, Jim Bob fights for the right to keep him. The judge, however, says he must be put up for auction. How can Masterson compete with a billionaire? Or even a wife who has a will stating the horse is hers?

Haines is brilliant in his depth of development of the characters in Orphan. Each is brought to life in such a way that they bond with the reader. When Liz's parents realize that, after mortgaging everything they have to bid at auction for Orphan, they will be easily outbid by the billionaire, it's both heartbreaking and uplifting. This family loves, laughs, and cries together. It is a joy to read such a wonderful story within a mystery and especially one that doesn't need to resort to bad language or unnecessary violence to accomplish its goal. Orphan is one of the best books of the year.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Orphan and to Book Trends for providing an ARC of the book 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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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry GreenwoodBuy from Amazon.com

Heavenly Pleasures by
A Corinna Chapman Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-426-0 (1590584260)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-426-2 (9781590584262)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Baker Corinna Chapman is happy with her life. Jason, the former addict she rescued from her alleyway,, is shaping into a good apprentice. And her beautiful Israeli lover, Daniel, though away for the last couple of weeks, is as enchanting as ever.

Corinna has no intention of doing any more investigative work. At least until she bites into what should have been a lovely violet cream gourmet chocolate and instead finds a chili-filled catastrophe.

Corinna doesn’t want to see Juliet and Vivienne Lefebvre’s chocolate shop, Heavenly Pleasures, shut down. And quite frankly, it is just a crime to ruin those gorgeous chocolate confections. Is this tampering part of an elaborate and horrible joke, or is it a warning that worse may yet happen?

In the meantime, Daniel has returned bruised and battered from an encounter with a so-called messiah. Is the messiah somehow involved in this chocolate crime? And just who is the mysterious man who has moved into the upper apartment?

Review: Kerry Greenwood's second mystery featuring baker Corinna Chapman, Heavenly Pleasures, is a hodge-podge of crimes, characters, and cats with a bit too much of each the result being a less than satisfactory novel.

The mystery begins and ultimately ends in the building that houses Corinna's business, Earthly Delights, and a number of other diverse tenants including a self-proclaimed witch, a vegan who grows greens on the rooftop, a wealthy elderly woman who has recently rented an apartment, and a strange middle-aged man who will not talk with anyone. Also in the building is a fantastic chocolate candy shoppe, Heavenly Pleasures, owned by two sisters who make divine chocolates. Someone has maliciously injected chilies into their new violet crème flavor. Although not poisonous, it was certainly a crime and could drive potential customers away from the shoppe, ultimately forcing the sisters to close. What would this mean to the other small shoppes along the street? Corinna’s lover, Daniel, a private investigator, is asked to investigate. With Corinna’s assistance they are drawn into other crimes taking place in the area. There is a self-professed messiah taking advantage of young girls. A bomb has exploded in the quiet man’s apartment where the authorities find him tied up but alive. Corinna’s fifteen year old helper at the bakery, once an addict, is beaten and drugs forced into his system. Corinna and Daniel must get to the bottom of all this before it negatively impacts her beloved bakery.

Most of the problem with Heavenly Pleasures is with the character of Corinna. She comes off as somewhat cold and aloof, hard and cynical. She loves to bake, she loves cats, and she loves Daniel, although it's never quite clear what her priorities are as on any given day she seems willing to give up one for another. As with the first book in this series, Earthly Delights, there is no discernable plot here and though attempts are made to infuse some humor and make it more likeable, these efforts generally fall flat. The supporting characters are undoubtedly intended to be unique and memorable, but even this too largely fails to add depth and texture to the book. All this is so much more disappointing as Greenwood is also the author of the incredibly enjoyable Phyrne Fisher mysteries, a series so different (and better) than this one that it's hard to believe they are written by the same person.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Heavenly Pleasures and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing a copy of the book 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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Compendium of Mystery News 080729

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles. Note that we're still way behind in getting news items posted but plan on preparing four updates before getting current. This update includes news items from early- through mid-June 2008.

• The International Mystery Writers' Festival was held in mid-June, ending with the announcement of the Angie Awards. Mary Higgins Clark received the First Lady of Mystery award. Other winners included Agatha Christie's Chimneys as Best New Play and Stuart Kaminsky as Best Playwright for his play The Final Toast. For a complete list of winners visit the organization's website. Be sure to check out the promotional video as well. No festival will be held next year the next one scheduled for June 17-27, 2010.

• According the company's website, Lighthouse Interactive has begun shipping the conspiracy adventure game Belief & Betrayal. Playing as journalist Jonathan Danter, you discover a 10-year-old murder is somehow part of a greater mystery that reaches back through history. Visit the game's website to view a trailer. (MBN note: Belief & Betrayal is available to purchase on our partner website, .)

The Times has an interview with , the Anglophile mystery author from California who writes the Inspector Lynley series of mysteries, many of which have been successfully adapted into screenplays for the television series .

• The Dallas Morning News has an update on , the mystery writer who suffered a massive stroke in April 2007 but has recovered and is back on the circuit with a hiking stick and her newest book, Clubbed to Death.

• The American Film Institute lists its 10 top mystery movies in AFI's 10 Top 10 list. In order they are Vertigo, Chinatown, Rear Window, Laura, The Third Man, The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest, Blue Velvet, Dial M for Murder, and The Usual Suspects.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Paramount has purchased the rights to a New York Times article, Mystery on Fifth Avenue, that J. J. Abrams (, ) will produce. The article profiles an upper east side luxury apartment on Fifth Avenue that the owners had redesigned to include hidden compartments, messages, puzzles, codes, and games for their kids.

• Last year JoWooD and The Adventure Company announced that they had entered into a partnership with Simon & Schuster to develop a series of interactive games based on series of classic books. The first title, The Hidden Theft (renamed from the original The Tower Treasure), developed by XPEC Entertainment, has now been scheduled for release in October. (Read the updated press release from the companies, though the title named is still the original one.)

• The San Diego Union-Tribune talks to whose lastet Stephanie Plum mystery, Fearless Fourteen, remains at the top of our weekly .

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Mystery Book Review: House Rules by Mike Lawson

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of House Rules by Mike Lawson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

House Rules by Mike LawsonBuy from Amazon.com

House Rules by
A Joe DeMarco Thriller

Atlantic Monthly Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-87113-983-9 (0871139839)
ISBN-13: 978-0-87113-983-2 (9780871139832)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $23.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): A terrorist attack, a bomb meant for the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, is narrowly averted. Then a private plane headed straight for the White House ignores warnings and is shot down. The pilot, a Muslim American, is suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda. An atmosphere of fear and panic overruns the country, and when the junior senator from Virginia introduces legislation to deport all non-citizen Muslims and start extensive background checks of all Muslim Americans, his bill gains surprising traction.

Speaker of the House John Fitzgerald Mahoney is not pleased. He knows it is the kind of knee-jerk intolerant response people will come to regret, like the Japanese internment camps in World War II, and he needs to find a way to kill the bill before it reaches the House. But Mahoney has a secret—the man who tried to park his plane on the president’s desk was the son of one of his oldest friends. The speaker is in a bind, and also has some vague suspicions about the attack, so he calls his man DeMarco.

An average guy, DeMarco struggles with debt, divorce, and a difficult, unreasonable boss. He is an unlikely hero, in over his head, relying on old friends— Emma, a spy who may or may not be retired, and Neil, an information broker— as he attempts to get to the bottom of the attacks.

Review: Congressional investigator Joe DeMarco is called upon to look into a series of terrorist threats by the Speaker of the House in House Rules, the third political thriller in this series by Mike Lawson.

America is in a state of unrest. There have been attempts to bomb a railway terminal and to fly a plane into the heart of Washington DC. People are increasingly fearful and more panic-stricken as each new assault is made. A senator from Virginia contends that all that is necessary to calm the country is to run background checks on all Muslims and deport any who are not American. He is so sure this will stop the violence against Americans that he proposes a law to bring before Congress. Other senators as well as representatives, including the Speaker of the House, are against his proposal and set out to fight it through other channels. One of those channels is in the person of Joe DeMarco, the go-to-guy for the House Speaker, who is assigned the task of finding the source of the most recent terrorist acts, attacks in which the terrorist, a Muslim, was killed before his task had been completed. It looks to Joe like the man might have been coerced into a situation and then killed for some reason before he could fulfill his mission. Who would go to such lengths? It would take someone with a lot of power and money to initiate such attacks and unfortunately there is no shortage of people locally with both: the mob, drug lords, and, of course, politicians.

House Rules is an exhilarating read full of surprises from beginning to end. A political thriller to be sure, but also a terrific whodunit-style mystery. Lawson delivers an insider view of the workings of Congress, the FBI, and other government agencies that add a level of sophistication to the novel that works to its benefit. At the center of the story, though, is Joe DeMarco, a likeable hero who realizes he cannot do it all alone and enlists the aid of some old friends, colorful characters in their own right. A thoroughly entertaining book, House Rules is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of House Rules and to Mike Lawson for providing a copy of the book 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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Monday, July 28, 2008

Press Release: Oceanview Publishing Needs Your Help, Name the Genre

Ipswich, Mass. (PRWEB) July 25, 2008 -- What do you call a series of books, geared towards male readers, that is similar to the "chick lit" genre? Unfortunately, there's no punchline, because we have no idea.

Here's the quandary: We released a book last fall, by award-winning novelist . Stuff to Die For received some phenomenal reviews, and it seems the novel's protagonists, James Lessor and Skip Moore, twenty-something slackers/would-be entrepreneurs/ amateur sleuths, really struck a chord with reviewers and readers. Numerous readers and reviewers described James and Skip as the Hardy Boys grown up, and Deadly Pleasures magazine said Stuff to Die For was "written with both the wit and the wisdom that seems to leave the actions, but not the minds, of most men once they hit thirty."

But one article really got us thinking. Jay MacDonald, book reviewer for the Ft. Myers News-Press, wrote this: "Bruns may have stumbled upon a goldmine: a legitimate male counterpart to the hugely successful chick lit novels."

A legitimate male counterpart to the hugely successful chick lit novels? That's good stuff.

But, what on earth should said genre be called? We put our heads together and made a few feeble attempts at coming up with a name. Male-o-drama (ugh), Histery, as opposed to mystery (double ugh), and one other idea that is just too unpalatable to print. Frankly, we're stumped.

Got an idea, a suggestion, a thought you'd like to share for this as-yet-to-be-named genre? Then kindly drop us an email at namethegenre @ oceanviewpub.com. If your entry is chosen, Don will gladly include you as a character in book three of the Stuff series. Entries will be accepted until August 31, 2008.

Stuff to Die For has been awarded the Gold Medal in the Mystery Category of the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards, and won top honors in the mystery/suspense category of the 2008 National Indie Excellence Awards. Book two in the Stuff series, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, will be released on September 1, 2008.

Don Bruns is an award-winning novelist, songwriter, musician and advertising executive. He and his wife, Linda, divide their time between Ohio and South Florida. Oceanview Publishing (www.oceanviewpub.com) is an independent book publisher headquartered in Ipswich, Massachusetts. For more information, please contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone - (615) 297-9875, or by email - maryglenn @ maryglenn.com.

(MBN Note: Oceanview Publishing is one of our favorite independent publishers of mystery fiction, consistently producing high quality mysteries worth seeking out. Read our review of at .)

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Mysteries on TV: Law & Order SVU

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, is profiling one series that has a season DVD being released this week.

Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) star in , one of the most successful of the original spin-offs. The series chronicles the life and crimes investigated by the elite Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department with intense storylines ripped straight from today's headlines. Law & Order: SVU has been renewed for a 10th season and is scheduled to premiere September 23rd at 10 PM (ET) on NBC.

The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season Seven DVD set of 5 discs contains all 22 episodes of the 7th season that aired from September 2005 through May 2006 on NBC. This season included many first-class guest stars including Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden, Dean Cain, Brittany Snow, Mark McGrath, and more.

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

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Mystery Book Review: Findings by Mary Anna Evans

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Findings by Mary Anna Evans. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Findings by Mary Anna EvansBuy from Amazon.com

Findings by
A Faye Longchamp Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-483-X (159058483X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-483-5 (9781590584835)
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Faye Longchamp is overjoyed to be paid to do archaeological work she would have done anyway—excavating a site that was once her family’s. That joy ends abruptly when intruders break into a dear friend’s house and leave him dead among the scattered remains of Faye’s artifacts. But the open wall safe is untouched, and choice artifacts are left in their cases.

There seems to be no motive at all for the vicious crime…unless the thieves were aware of the fabulous emerald he had been holding minutes before his death. But Faye had only uncovered it that very evening, and she had told no one.

When his widow asks Faye to organize the relics left broken on the floor, Faye realizes that something is actually missing—not an emerald nor a valuable painting, but her field notes.

Faye seeks out the story behind the mysterious emerald. How was her fieldwork connected to her friend’s death? The key to all her questions must be buried in the field notes now held by the killers. Now, it is only a matter of time before they come for Faye.

Review: Archaeologist Faye Longchamp investigates a mystery dating back to the Civil War on her own beloved island of Joyeuse in Findings, the fourth book in this consistently outstanding series by Mary Anna Evans.

Faye is heartbroken when thieves break into the home of Douglass Everett who dies after being beaten by two men. Douglass was more than an employer; he was her friend, role model, and father figure. His death is all the more puzzling since nothing of value was taken. Ironically, the most valuable thing in his possession was something that Faye had only just discovered, a large, beautifully cut emerald that had been found, caked in mud, on Joyeuse. And it was found undisturbed on his body. To Faye's surprise, her field notes are missing but they would mean little to anyone else. Soon thereafter, another friend, Wally, is stabbed and dies literally in Faye's lap. His final words whispered to her, "Remember. Before.", make no sense to her. Yet she's convinced the deaths of these two men in her life are connected to the emerald she found on her island. Researching the gem she uncovers a series of letters between Jedediah Bachelder and his wife Viola, written during the years of the Civil War. And it cannot be a coincidence that the area has seemingly been overrun with amateur pothunters looking for relics from battles long ago. It isn't long before Faye makes the connection and realizes that not only is her life in danger, but also those closest to her.

Evans is a master at weaving history into her mysteries and creating intricate yet credible plots that entice and delight even the most jaded mystery readers. And with Findings she adds another element to her stories: romance. The integration of the love triangle between Faye, Joe, and Ross into the mystery isn't totally successful, though; at times they seem to interfere with and take away from the other, a case where the total is less than the sum of the parts. Arguably the well crafted love story between Viola and Jedediah is far more touching and a more integral part of the plot. Still, as a mystery, Findings is first rate. Much of the credit here is due to the depth of character development and the subtle clues that Evans leaves in unexpected places. While the solution to the whodunit aspect of the book will undoubtedly surprise many readers, the resolution of the love triangle is never in doubt.

As she has previously done, Evans offers additional background to her book in an informative appendix titled a Guide for the Incurably Curious: Teachers, Students and People Who Just Plain Like to Read.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing the ARC of Findings 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 Book Review: Strip for Murder by Max Allan Collins

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Strip for Murder by Max Allan Collins. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Strip for Murder by Max Allan CollinsBuy from Amazon.com

Strip for Murder by
A Jack and Maggie Starr Mystery

Berkley Prime Crime (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-425-22139-3 (0425221393)
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-22139-6 (9780425221396)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Manhattan, 1953. Hal Rapp's Tall Paul, one of America's most popular comic strips, is now a Broadway musical, infuriating Rapp's longtime rival Sam Fizer, creator of the once-beloved boxing strip Mug O'Malley. Adding insult to injury is the casting of Misty Winters, Fizer's wife, as one of Rapp's hillbilly gals sashaying across the Great White Way. Then Fizer is found dead, his apparent suicide actually an obvious homicide—with all evidence pointing to Rapp.

Starr Syndicate has distribution deals with both cartoonists, which added fuel to the fire between them, but vice president Jack Starr and his stepmother (and company president) Maggie believe Rapp's been framed. Between loan sharks, jealous husbands, bitter artists, and Fizer's widow—who has taken a romantic interest in Jack—there are more colorful characters with murderous motives than in a month of Sunday funnies.

Review: It's not all fun and laughs for comic strip syndication executives Maggie Starr and her stepson Jack when one of their cartoonists is murdered and another the prime suspect in Strip for Murder, the second mystery in this series by Max Allan Collins.

Sam Fizer, creator of the Starr’s most profitable strip, Mug O’Malley, is dead. At first it looks like suicide – but is it? Upon further investigation it appears as though someone may murdered him and then tried to make it look like he had killed himself. The incriminating evidence points to his former partner and now fierce competitor Hal Rapp. But is he being framed?

Jack Starr, vice president and general trouble-shooter for Starr Syndicate, is also a licensed private investigator with just one client, Starr Syndicate. He and Captain Chandler of the local precinct work together to question everyone involved with Sam, from Hal to Misty (the estranged wife, now widow) to the local loan sharks. Hal Rapp is the creator of Tall Paul, currently the most popular strip of the year. He and Sam had once worked together though their partnership ended twenty years ago with them becoming bitter enemies. Over the years, through their comic strips, they had maligned each other as much and as often as they could. Now Hal is involved in a musical based on the Tall Paul strip starring Misty. Sam was furious and blamed Hal for his broken marriage. He had planned on taking Hal to court citing plagiarism. A reason for Hal to kill him? Maybe. But Sam owes over $100,000 in gambling debts. A reason for the mob to kill him? Maybe. And his wife hated him for his threat to leave her and cut her out of his will. A reason for Misty to kill him? Maybe. It's no surprise there are others who would like to see Sam dead. It's up to Jack to put the jumbled frames of this story together in the right order to see what really happened.

Strip for Murder is a breezy mystery to read though it has a lot of dark humor. The seemingly innocent world of comic strips created for the amusement of newspaper readers is juxtaposed against the cutthroat world of competitive creators, syndication deals, even ghost cartoonists. The book starts slow but the pace quickly picks up and becomes a delightful (and in many ways insightful) story. It's also worth noting that Terry Beatty's illustrations throughout add great value to the plot and lift it above the average mystery.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Strip for Murder and to Berkley Prime Crime for providing a copy of the book 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 July 28, 2008

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for July 28, 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 C G H I J K R T. This is the title of ’s 4th mystery featuring NYPD lieutenant Sigrid Harald (with “The”, 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!

Games of Mystery: Mystery Games, Parties, and Vacations
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Mercy Street by Mariah StewartBuy from Amazon.com

Mercy Street by
A Mercy Street Foundation Mystery

Ballantine (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-49226-9 (0345492269)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-49226-5 (9780345492265)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $22.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): On a balmy spring evening, four high school seniors–three boys and a girl–enter a park in the small Pennsylvania city of Conroy. The next morning, two of the boys are found shot to death, and the girl and the third boy are gone. After three weeks with no leads and no sign of either of the two missing teenagers, the chief of police begins to wonder if they too were victims. But with no other suspects, the authorities conclude that one of these kids was the shooter.

The missing boy’s grandmother, a secretary at the local parish church, maintains his innocence. On her behalf, the parish priest, Father Kevin Burch, hires former detective Mallory Russo as a private investigator to figure out what happened in the park that night. Mallory had ended her nine-year stint with the Conroy police force some time ago after becoming a target of a smear campaign. Now a true-crime author, Mallory is surprised to receive the priest’s offer–and highly intrigued by the case. She can’t help but accept the challenge–especially when she learns that her investigation will be financed by Father Burch’s cousin the reclusive billionaire Robert Magellan, a man whose own wife and infant son disappeared without a trace a year ago, a man who understands the heartache of not knowing what happened to a loved one.

Detective Charlie Wanamaker is facing another sort of tragedy. He fled Conroy years ago with no plans to return to what he considered a dying factory town–until a family emergency brought him back. Finding the situation much worse than he’d thought, he trades his job as a big-city detective for one with the Conroy police department. Assigned to the park shooting case, Charlie quickly realizes that the initial investigation left a lot of questions unanswered. Unofficially, he teams up with Mallory to uncover the truth and find the two kids, dead or alive. What Charlie and Mallory discover will take them down a twisted path that leads to an old unsolved murder–and justice for a killer with a heart of stone.

Review: Mariah Stewart initiates a new series of thrillers with Mercy Street, a gripping novel set in Conroy, a small Pennsylvania town shattered by the murders of two high school senior boys and the disappearance of two others, a boy and girl who were classmates of the dead young men.

Friends since kindergarten, the four teenagers often went off together. The morning after they last met, two of the boys were found dead from gunshot wounds, the others missing. After three weeks, the police conclude that the killers either abducted the boy and girl, or the two killed their friends and went into hiding. Mary Corcoran refuses to believe her grandson, Ryan, killed his friends. She also believes he and the girl, Courtney, are still alive somewhere. With the help of Father Kevin Burch, Mallory Russo, an ex-cop, is persuaded to begin an investigation. Since Mallory Russo is no longer a detective on the dwindling police force and she has no license to act as a private investigator, she enlists the aid of her former captain, a good friend and mentor, to help her get information necessary to her investigation. The captain unofficially assigns Detective Charlie Wannamaker, new to the Conroy force, to aid her. The probing of this shocking incident takes Mallory and Charlie into the school to talk with other students and teachers, and into the homes of despondent parents. They also go to the dark side of the dying factory town for information concerning suspects they believe the police overlooked or didn’t even question. In their quest for the truth, they don't realize they are placing their lives in grave danger.

As riveting as the murder investigation is in Mercy Street, Stewart develops several equally interesting subplots involving the characters. Robert Magellan, a wealthy man whose wife and child disappeared a year ago after attending her sister's baby shower, has agreed to finance Mallory's investigation. And Charlie Wannamaker, an experienced detective who recently left the Philadelphia police force, has returned home to Conroy to care for his alcoholic mother and autistic sister. Both stories add depth and complexity to an already first-rate murder mystery.

Mercy Street is an outstanding start to this series, the next book of which is eagerly awaited.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Mercy Street and to Authors on the Web for providing a copy of the book 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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Games of Mystery: New PlayFirst Games and Savings Coupon

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed games, parties, and vacations, has updated its website with some of the latest mystery games available to download and play from PlayFirst Games.

Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti

Help Anna find her brother after he disappears while searching for Nefertiti's tomb! Solve mind-bending puzzles and find hidden objects in this unique adventure. Mainly set in Egypt of the 1930's, Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti provides a compelling ancient Egypt-themed experience which combines exciting storytelling and incredibly addictive game play. Mini-games deepen the story while point-and-click puzzles raise the excitement. Added to the PlayFirst game catalog just yesterday, it is available to download for a 60 minute trial (Windows PC, 48.7 MB)..

The Secret of Margrave Manor

Edwina Margrave's grandfather went missing under mysterious circumstances ten years ago. Her only clue to his whereabouts is a strange door with a puzzle for a lock. Search Margrave Manor, room by room, to uncover its secrets and discover your family's forgotten past! Never play the same game twice, it's up to you to uncover The Secret of Margrave Manor. Added to the PlayFirst game catalog during the past week, it is available to download for a 60 minute trial (Windows PC, 28.7 MB).

The Count of Monte Cristo

Conquer this epic game based on The Count of Monte Cristo, the famous novel by Alexander Dumas. Help the romantic hero, Edmond Dantes, escape from a perilous prison and exact his vengeance on those who betrayed him. Follow the thrilling plot as you scour scenes for thousands of hidden objects, investigate 8 suspects, and solve over 15 puzzles. Find the person that wrongfully imprisoned you in this one-of-a-kind adventure! Added to the PlayFirst game catalog during the past week, it is available to download for a 60 minute trial (Windows PC, 48.0 MB).

Other popular games on our page include Clue ClassicPrivate EyeDa Vinci's Secret, and James Patterson's Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet.

Save 20% on any game at PlayFirst Games! Use the coupon code AUGUSTAFFILIATES when placing your order and save 20% on your game purchase. The coupon code expires 09/01/2008.

Visit  for all types of mysterious fun!

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Mystery Book Review: Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Eye of the Crow by Shane PeacockBuy from Amazon.com

Eye of the Crow by
A Boy Sherlock Holmes Mystery

Tundra Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-88776-850-4 (0887768504)
ISBN-13: 978-0-88776-850-7 (9780887768507)
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $19.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Sherlock Holmes, just thirteen, is a misfit. His highborn mother is the daughter of an aristocratic family, his father a poor Jew. Their marriage flouts tradition and makes them social pariahs in the London of the 1860s; and their son, Sherlock, bears the burden of their rebellion. Friendless, bullied at school, he belongs nowhere and has only his wits to help him make his way.

But what wits they are! His keen powers of observation are already apparent, though he is still a boy. He loves to amuse himself by constructing histories from the smallest detail for everyone he meets. Partly for fun, he focuses his attention on a sensational murder to see if he can solve it. But his game turns deadly serious when he finds himself the accused — and in London, they hang boys of thirteen.

Review: Worldwide, 1867 was a year of memorable events. It was the year, for instance, when the U.S. purchased Alaska from the Russians and Canada became a Dominion. It was the year the Fenians rose up in Ireland, and the first ship navigated the Suez Canal. Charles Dickens gave the first of his public readings in America in 1867, and Karl Marx published his first volume of Das Kapital in Europe. John Galsworthy was born. Charles Baudelaire died. And according to multiple award-winning author, Shane Peacock, 1867 is the memorable year in his magnificent novel, Eye of the Crow, when his fictionalized 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes solves his first London murder with only the cawing of crows and a blood splattered glass eyeball initialled “L.E.” to guide him. Earlier this year, Peacock’s book won the 2008 for Best Juvenile crime novel. (See also a related post on .) It’s a must-read story about the teenage years of the British detective many believe to be the best ever in the business.

For dedicated Sherlockians, even young ones, Peacock’s novel is a fascinating depiction of Holmes’ coming of age with facts, fiction and personas taken from the mythology surrounding the Baker Street sleuth and cleverly and at times humorously woven into the story. Knowledgeable readers will recognize the references to Sherlock’s Sherrinford family roots, an older brother and a deceased younger sister. They will appreciate his use of a magnifying glass, his use of disguises and his retentive memory, his connection to Irene, her father, Andrew (not Arthur) C. Doyle, and their dog, John Stuart Mill, to the Irregulars, to the crippled newspaper vendor, Dupin, and to Inspector Lestrade and his teen-aged son, “Lestrade the second.” He’s about the same age as Sherlock, but ”the spitting image of Lestrade, except for the moustache.” The icons and landmarks of London are embedded in the story too. Sherlock cruises around Trafalgar Square, reads the Illustrated Police News, sights Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, and Disraeli, "the greatest politician in the land,” Anna Swann, "the Giantess with her head high above the crowd,” and Blondin, "the amazing high-rope star.” As well, “He`s seen the black-faced chimney-sweeps, the deformed beggars, and the pickpockets of the streets.” Holmes’ long time fans will be captivated by Peacock’s use of these familiar details, and new readers will be entranced by their introduction.

A first-rate thriller, Eye of the Crow, bubbles with mystery and suspense and bursts wide open with a gut-walloping surprise in the death of an individual Sherlock loves. But before that fateful event besets him, he embarks on a quest to expose the details of the knifing death of a young woman in a Whitechapel back alley, witnessed as far as he knows by only a pack of scavenging crows. Using his powers as “an observing machine” and the trademark reasoning that later distinguishes his adult career, he deciphers what the crows tell him in their unique way, finds and discards clues about a wrongfully imprisoned Arabian apprentice butcher, enlists the most unlikely of individuals to assist him, eludes the police and would-be anti-Semitic assassins, and adopts the most reasonable of disguises to allow him to gain entry to the houses of the rich in the city’s Mayfair district where he eventually discovers the final clue the crows were leading him to and to the perpetrator who owns it. Told with a remarkable mix of the styles of Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Shane Peacock, the novel bulges with memorable images such as that of the “rake thin little lad with ears like the handles on a teacup,” or that of “a ghostly parade of grotesque creatures, frail as skeletons, ragged as goats,” or that of Sydenham’s Crystal Palace which the young Sherlock sees as “either the biggest glass cathedral the world has ever known, or a greenhouse made for giants.” Touted as Sherlock’s 1st case, Eye of the Crow has already spawned a second riveting one in (also recently reviewed on .) Hopefully there are even more stories to come with the young man who vows he “will spend every waking hour seeking justice, as villainous in his search as any criminal.”

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of Eye of the Crow.

Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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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Friday, July 25, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Glass Devil by Helene TurstenBuy from Amazon.com

The Glass Devil by
An Inspector Irene Huss Mystery

Soho Crime (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-489-3 (1569474893)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-489-1 (9781569474891)
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $13.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): The principal of a high school telephones his friend, Inspector Andersson of the Goteborg Crime Police; one of his teachers failed to show up for work. To Inspector Irene Huss' surprise, on the basis of this vague complaint her boss drives out with her to a remote cottage in snowbound southern Sweden to investigate. There they find a body, its head blasted by a rifle. Teacher Jacob Schyttelius has been murdered. When they go to break the news to his elderly parents, Pastor Sten Schyttelius and his wife, they find the couple dead in their beds, each shot between the eyes. Upside-down pentagrams have been drawn in blood on their computer screens. The only surviving member of the family is a daughter, now residing in London, but she is too distressed to be interviewed. Is the killer a member of a satanic cult? Is it the parish treasurer, rumored to have been embezzling church funds? Or one of the assistant pastors, tired of waiting for a promotion? Perhaps the attractive blonde who sings in church and practices witchcraft? Irene Huss has a hunch that the answer lies in England, and she travels there twice to discover the reason for this triple homicide.

Review: Goteborg Detective Inspector Irene Huss investigates a bizarre triple murder in The Glass Devil, the fifth mystery in this series (but only the third translated into English) by Swedish author Helene Tursten.

Jacob, a well liked teacher, his father, an elderly minister, and his aging mother who suffered for years from depression are dead, all killed within a very short time of each other. Jacob was found in his cottage with two gunshot wounds, one to his heart and other between the eyes. On his computer screen was drawn an upside-down pentagram in Jacob’s own blood. His parents were shot in their bed, once each between the eyes. On their computer screen, too, was drawn the upside-down pentagram in their blood . In addition, a wooden cross with the body of Christ was found turned upside down. Were these murders committed by a devil worshipper? Since the upside-down pentagram is frequently associated with a satanic cult, it is possible someone in such a cult could be the guilty party. But why would anyone in a cult hate the minister’s family so much as to murder them all? A surviving family member, Jacob's sister Rebecka, lives in London. Is she, too, in danger? Inspector Huss travels to London to talk with her, only to be rebuffed. It seems she, too, like her mother, suffers from depression and is unwilling to talk.

Upon further investigation at home, however, Inspector Huss finds there was dissention in the church as to who would be promoted to take the pastor's place in the rectory. Rumors and accusations begin to surface by those who could be elected as the next rector. Is it possible that in trying to solve the crime, Irene was overlooking the obvious and simply assumed the killer was an outsider? Could it be one of the church’s very own who committed the crime? If so, why? When she comes close to the resolution, she discovers that any person can be a devil, a glass devil. The evil is there but it goes unseen even by those closest to them.

The many facets to Irene's life are on display in The Glass Devil, all to great effect. She is a wife, a mother, and a career woman with a time-consuming, often dangerous, job. The author skillfully weaves the her domestic life with her professional one, and adds a layer of complexity by showing how "common" people, not unlike Irene and her family, can be honest and straightforward yet simultaneously be deceitful and devious. This is an exceptional novel and worth seeking out.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Glass Devil and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book 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 Bestsellers for July 25, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

A list of the top 15 for the week ending July 25, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Just a minor shuffiling of the top 6 this week with 's 14th mystery featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Fearless Fourteen retaining the number 1 spot for the 5th consecutive week.

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

New this week and debuting at number 12 is Moscow Rules, the 8th international thriller by featuring sometime Israeli operative Gabriel Allon. The death of a journalist leads Allon to Russia, where he finds that, in terms of spycraft, even he has something to learn. He's playing by Moscow rules now. This is not the grim, gray Moscow of Soviet times but a new Moscow, awash in oil wealth and choked with bulletproof Bentleys. A Moscow where power resides once more behind the walls of the Kremlin and where critics of the ruling class are ruthlessly silenced. A Moscow where a new generation of Stalinists is plotting to reclaim an empire lost and to challenge the global dominance of its old enemy, the United States. One such man is Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB colonel who built a global investment empire on the rubble of the Soviet Union. Hidden within that empire, however, is a more lucrative and deadly business: Kharkov is an arms dealer—and he is about to deliver Russia's most sophisticated weapons to al-Qaeda. Unless Allon can learn the time and place of the delivery, the world will see the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11—and the clock is ticking fast. Library Journal states, "Some long-running series get tired; Silva's just improves with each new book. Highly recommended." adds, "The fusion of the critical threats of terrorism with the relative normalcy of the personal lives of the agents is remarkably well done and the intricate scheme that Allon conceives to foil the arms sale encourages the reader to keep turning the pages." (MBN note: Read our full .)

On our bestseller page, we've added an icon next to every title that is available for immediate download onto the Amazon Kindle. To learn about this wireless reading device, visit the Amazon Kindle page for more information. And don't forget to check our page where you can save an additional 5% when you purchase your mystery books prior to their publication date.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are shown below:

Fearless Fourteen by Janet EvanovichChasing Darkness by Robert Crais Swan Peak by James Lee BurkeNothing to Lose by Lee Child

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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