Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

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

Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Immortal Laws by
A Bryson Coventry Mystery

Dark Sky (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9769243-5-8 (0976924358)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9769243-5-7 (9780976924357)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $13.95

Review: Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry investigates two separate cases, the disappearance of a local television reporter and the vampire-style murder of woman, a wooden stake driven through her heart, in Immortal Laws, the sixth thriller in this series by Jim Michael Hansen.

After spending an evening out on the town with Bryson, Jena Vernon disappears from her home without a trace. Though Bryson is not a suspect in her disappearance, he is a person of interest and therefore prohibited from officially investigating her high-profile case. That doesn't stop him from unofficially pursuing clues that lead him to similar unsolved cases in other parts of the country where the missing woman was later found murdered. He believes he's in a race against time to prevent the same for Jena. The case to which he has been officially assigned is most bizarre: a woman has been found murdered with a wooden stake embedded in her chest. He doesn't necessarily believe in the existence of vampires himself, but knows all too well that others may and sets out to find this self-styled vampire slayer before anyone else loses their life.

The large cast of characters in Immortal Laws is effectively managed by having them appear, for the most part independently, in accounts from three points of view: that of Bryson, a purported vampire Heather Vaughn, and the vampire slayer Trent Tibadeau. It should be noted that the vampires depicted in this novel are not the stereotypical characters from legend and film; they are fairly typical, everyday human beings who happen to be blood descendants from people considered to be immortal vampires in their day. In a rather oddly compelling way, that the author chooses to represent them as relatively "normal" makes them all the more unusual.

Of the three narratives, that of Bryson's unofficial investigation of the missing reporter is in many ways, and certainly somewhat ironically given he's the series character, the least interesting. A sense of danger or urgency is never established and even though it is presumed that the storylines will intersect at some point, Bryson's unofficial case remains essentially orthogonal to the others up to the final pages and even then never seems fully integrated into the story. His murder investigation is also weakly delivered and is clearly secondary to his search for Jena.

Of far more interest are the narratives of Heather and Trent. These are well-rounded, nuanced, captivating characters that inexorably draw the reader into their spheres. Each takes a cat-and-mouse approach to the other, with their suspense-filled pathways culminating in a climatic encounter, the outcome of which cannot be foreseen. A couple of seemingly minor and tangential subplots and a disappointing final "twist" are all that mar the courses these characters take.

There are many reasons to recommend this book, but in the end, the intriguing, most unusual plot of Immortal Laws is what makes it a worthy addition to this fine series.

Special thanks to Jim Michael Hansen for providing a copy of Immortal Laws for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Immortal Laws from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is thrust into his most bizarre, terrifying and twisted case yet as he hunts for the killer of a woman who was murdered with a wooden stake through her heart as if she was a vampire. Meanwhile, beautiful young blues singer Heather Vaughn learns that she has been targeted for a similar death. She frantically searches for answers, not only to save her life but also to find out whether dormant genes from an ancient past are buried inside her. As time runs out, both she and Coventry find themselves swept deeper and deeper into the throes of a modern-day thriller born of ancient and deadly obsessions.

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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New Hardcover Mysteries for October 2008

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

As we did last month, we're listing those authors with returning series characters, new series characters, and non-series or stand-alone mysteries in separate sections. All titles are available on our page. We're also using the new "carousel" widget by Amazon.com to display a random selection of titles; refreshing this page will change the selection displayed.

Authors with mysteries having returning series characters (in parentheses) this month:

Barbara Allan (Brandy Borne, Trash and Treasures), Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow), Michael Bowen (Rep and Melissa Pennyworth), James Brownley (Alison Glasby), Sean Chercover (Ray Dudgeon), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot), Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch), Nelson DeMille (John Sutter), Vince Flynn (Mitch Rapp), Christopher Fowler (Bryant and May), Robert Greer (C. J. Floyd), Michael Jecks (Medieval West Country), Larry Karp (Scott Joplin, Ragtime), Alex Kava (Maggie O'Dell), Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware), Mary Logue (Claire Watkins), Stuart MacBride (Logan McRae), Richard Marcinko (Rogue Warrior), Walter Mosley (Socrates Fortlow), Marcia Muller (Sharon McCone), Robert B. Parker (Spenser), Sharon Kay Penman (Eleanor of Aquitaine), Anne Perry (Christmas Novella), Betty Rowlands (Sukey Reynolds), Zoe Sharp (Charlie Fox), Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer), Tony Spinosa (Joe Serpe), Eric Stone (Ray Sharp), Margaret Truman (Capital Crimes), F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack)

Authors with mysteries introducing new series characters (in parentheses) this month:

V. C. Andrews (Delia), Ruth Brandon (Reggie Lee), Sharon Kaye (Dana McCarter), Keiichiro Ryu (Seichiro Matsunaga), Jeri Westerson (Crispin Guest, Medieval Noir)

Authors with non-series or stand-alone mysteries this month:

Lorelei Armstrong, Joe Barone, Richard Belzer and Michael Black, Mark Billingham, Marcelo Birmajer, Ken Bruen, Andrea De Carlo, Steve Carlson, John le Carre, Michael Cox, Judith Cutler, John Donohue, Jon Fasman, Leopoldo Gout, Sophie Hannah, Tom Harper, Iris Johansen, Brad Kelln, Mike Knowles, Ward Larsen, Dennis Lehane, Graham Masterton, David Morrell, Katherine Neville, Hilary Norman, James Reese, Sam Stall, Peter Tremayne, Peggy Webb

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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Monday, September 29, 2008

New on DVD This Week: Adam-12, B. L. Stryker, Banacek, Numb3rs, Trial & Retribution

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 five series that have season DVDs being released this week.

was the call sign for patrol officer partners Pete Malloy (played by Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (played by Kent McCord) of the Los Angeles Police Department. The series, developed by Jack Webb who also produced , is known for using real LAPD case files as the basis for the episodes. Much of the show was filmed on location along the streets of North Hollywood and Studio City with the exterior of the LAPD Rampart Division station house used as the officers' base.

The Adam-12 Season Two DVD set of 4 discs contains all 24 episodes of the second season that aired from September 1969 through May 1970 on NBC. Individual episodes are also available at Amazon VOD: Adam-12.

Burt Reynolds starred as , a private investigator that lived on a boat docked off the coast of southern Florida. The series also starred Rita Moreno as Stryker's ex-wife and Ossie Davis, a former boxer and Stryker's frequent partner in solving crimes.

B. L. Stryker was one of the rotating series that comprised the ABC Mystery Movie, lasting only 12 episodes over 2 seasons. (The others were the return of and , and new series Gideon Oliver and Christine Cromwell).

The B. L. Stryker Complete Series DVD set of 7 discs contains all 12 episodes of the series that aired on ABC from February 1989 through May 1990.

George Peppard starred as , the suave Boston freelance insurance investigator whose fee was 10% of the value of the property recovered. Each episode in the series featured a seemingly "impossible" crime with (generally) ingenious solutions.

Banacek was one of the rotation series that comprised the NBC Mystery Movie, airing 17 episodes over 2 seasons. (The others were , , and .)

The Banacek DVD set of 5 discs contains all 16 episodes of the series plus the pilot episode that aired from September 1972 through March 1974 on NBC.

stars Rob Morrow as FBI agent Don Eppes and David Krumholtz as his brilliant unverisalist mathematician brother Charlie who believes that crime in Los Angeles can be viewed from the perspective of mathematics and probabilities. Together they combine their areas of expertise to solve some killer cases.

The premiere of the 5th season of Numb3rs is scheduled for Friday, October 3rd at 10 PM (ET) on CBS.

The Numb3rs Season Four DVD set of 5 discs contains all 18 episodes of the fourth season that aired from September 2007 through May 2008 on CBS. Individual episodes are also available at Amazon VOD: Numb3rs.

From the creative mind of Lynda La Plante () comes crime-to-court suspense in . In this -like British series, each episode follows a case from the commission of the crime to the trial of the accused. The series stars David Hayman as Detective Superintendent Mike Walker and Kate Buffery as Detective Inspector Pat North. No emotions are spared, and no characters emerge unscathed in this unflinching detective drama that goes behind closed doors to reveal the strategies of both prosecution and defense as they maneuver toward a final verdict.

The Trial & Retribution Set One DVD set of 4 discs contains the first four episodes that aired on ITV1, one each in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for September 29, 2008

A 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!).

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for September 29, 2008

This week's letters and mystery clue:

G H I M N O P R T

This short story by David Bart appeared in 2003’s A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime (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, September 28, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Interred With Their Bones by
Non-series

Plume (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-452-28989-0 (0452289890)
ISBN-13: 978-0-452-28989-5 (9780452289895)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $15.00

Review: Jennifer Lee Carrell's debut mystery, Interred With Their Bones, is the gripping story of a pursuit against time and life itself to find the 1st Folio, a collection of the first works of William Shakespeare.

On a midsummer's day in 2004, Katherine J. Stanley, director of the theatrical group at the Globe Theatre, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre which burned to the ground in June, 1613) opens with their performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Before the performance, Rosalind Howard, Kate’s former professor, comes to the theatre with a gift wrapped box for Kate. She tells Kate she has made a ground-breaking discovery but she needs Kate’s help. Before the evening is over the Globe Theatre is set afire, and Roz is found dead in the ruins -- killed in the same manner as Hamlet’s father. Is this an improbable coincidence or was it planned? With nothing to go on but a brooch and a cryptic note found in the box Roz had given her, Kate and Roz’s nephew Ben set out to try to find Roz’s discovery. The journey takes Kate and Ben from Europe to America and back again, followed all the way by a sinister shadow of a man who is also hunting for the secret. While Kate and Ben continue their investigation more people are murdered in a Shakespearian style. Although she has resolved to continue, as she gets closer to the truth she begins to wonder if the solution is worth the lives lost, which now possibly include Ben’s and her own.

The premise upon which Interred With Their Bones is based is itself a literary mystery. It has been suggested that William Shakespeare's plays (his tragedies, comedies, tragicomedies, sonnets, and more) were not written by him at all. Stratfordian scholars strongly believe Shakespeare wrote the work attributed to him; the Shakespearean Oxford Society argues otherwise, that his name was merely ascribed to the work of contemporary playwrights, most notably Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Would these organizations resort to murder to promote (or protect) their cause? Who truly wrote the words, "The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones"?

Interred With Their Bones is a remarkable novel that throughout maintains the drama, ambiguity, and suspense surrounding the authenticity of Shakespeare's literary canon. Though some passages are a bit confusing, the pace of the narrative will keep the pages turning.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Interred With Their Bones and to Penguin for providing a trade paperback edition of the book for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Interred With Their Bones from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): On the eve of the Globe’s production of Hamlet, Shakespeare scholar and theater director Kate Stanley’s eccentric mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a mysterious box, claiming to have made a groundbreaking discovery. But before she can reveal it to Kate, the Globe burns to the ground and Roz is found dead ... murdered precisely in the manner of Hamlet’s father. Inside the box Kate finds the first piece in a Shakespearean puzzle, setting her on a deadly, high-stakes treasure hunt.

From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and decipher a tantalizing string of clues, hidden in the words of Shakespeare, that may unlock literary history’s greatest secret.

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 PC Games Featuring The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed games, parties, and vacations, is pleased to announce the upcoming release of two new Windows PC games for fans of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery series.

The Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft

Scheduled for release on October 6th is the first game featuring Frank and Joe Hardy, also known as .

The vault of the Spencer Mansion has been robbed, and the Bayport Police call on the Hardy Boys to help tie up some loose ends, but they soon find themselves in the middle of a major criminal investigation that takes them on an adventure all over Bayport, and even into New York City.

But the pieces don't add up, and Frank and Joe find themselves embroiled in a drama of sinister proportions. Is the recent theft linked to something from the past? Can Frank and Joe find and decipher the clues in time to prevent another crime from happening?

The Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft, rated E for Everyone, is developed by Dreamcatcher and features the voice and likeness of teen stars Jesse McCartney and Cody Linley as Frank and Joe Hardy. Visit the HardyBoysGame.com website for more information or to view the game trailer.

Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy

Scheduled for release on October 3rd is the 19th game in the popular series of mystery games.

Touted as the most romantic event to grace the ruined halls of Ireland's Castle Malloy, the Simmons-Mallory wedding was supposed to be a fairytale beginning, but now the groom is missing! Did a banshee crash the wedding or is this a case of cold feet? Can you, as Nancy Drew, unravel the knot of scattered clues and scary superstitions? You'll have to catch more than a bridal bouquet to make this is a happily ever after!

Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy, rated E for Everyone, is developed by Her Interactive which has released a trailer for the game. For more information about Nancy Drew, her books, games, and movies, visit our Squidoo lens .

And don't forget to visit for all types of mysterious fun!

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mysteries on TV: Series Premieres for the Week of September 28, 2008

Mysteries on TV

The premieres of several shows (both new series and returning favorites) will air this week and , 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 reminding you to set your DVRs!

• Sunday, September 28 (all times Eastern)

Cold Case: TV Series

CBS (9 PM). Episode title: Glory Days (6th season premiere). New evidence prompts the team to reopen the 1973 case of a murdered football player, whose death may have been linked to a steroid cover-up. Previous seasons of Cold Case are not yet available on DVD.

Showtime (9 PM). Episode title: Our Father (7th season premiere). Dexter targets a dope dealer who is also in the sights of ADA Miguel Prado; Internal Affairs puts pressure on Debra. The first 2 seasons of this series are available on DVD from . Individual episodes are available to download or to watch online from Amazon Video: Dexter.

Masterpiece Mystery: Sally Lockhart

PBS Masterpiece Mystery (Check your local schedule). Episode title: Sally Lockhart, The Shadow in the North. An elderly woman loses her money; thugs pursue a conjuror; and a clairvoyant mentions the name of a very rich man in and his mysterious company. These seemingly unconnected events set Sally Lockhart on a trail of evil.

• Wednesday, October 01 (all times Eastern)

ABC (8 PM). Episode title: Bzzzzzzzzz! (2nd season premiere). Chuck goes under cover at a honey-based cosmetics company after its new spokesmodel (Autumn Reeser) is stung to death; Lily takes Olive to a nunnery so she can't reveal Lily's dark secret. The first season of this series is available on DVD from .

ABC (9 PM). Episode title: The Birthday Present (2nd season premiere). Tripp and Letitia Darling throw Nick a luxurious birthday party on a yacht; Jeremy reveals his feelings for Lisa to the mysterious Nola Lyons; Brian is reunited with his illegitimate son; someone is arrested for murder. The first season of this series is available on DVD from .

• Friday, October 03 (all times Eastern)

CBS (10 PM) Episode title: High Exposure (5th season premiere). Two rock climbers in possession of a large stolen diamond are killed, and Don and the team hunt for the murderers; Charlie considers whether he should have his FBI clearance reinstated. The first 4 seasons of this series are available on DVD from . Individual episodes are available to download or to watch online from Amazon Video: Numb3rs.

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

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Mystery Book Review: Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A. Hill

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

Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A. Hill

Bones in the Belfry by
A Francis Oughterard Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-510-5 (1569475105)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-510-2 (9781569475102)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Bones in the Belfry is the second book (episode?) by Suzette A. Hill to feature the adventures of Francis Oughterard, vicar of St. Botolph's in the small English town of Molehill, Surrey, his dog Bouncer, and his ever-so-proper cat Maurice. The British editions of this book are alternately subtitled An Unfortunate Case of a Lost Masterpiece or The Case of the Vicar and the Missing Masterpiece.

The story takes place in 1958 and picks up following the events of the first book in the series, A Load of Old Bones. F.O. (as Bouncer and Maurice refer to him) continues to fear the day he may be exposed for killing his troublesome parishioner Elizabeth Fotherington in Foxford Wood. An old school mate, Nicholas Ingaza, had given him an alibi and now he wants a favor in return: for F.O. to temporarily store a couple of paintings at the vicarage. It turns out, of course, the paintings had been stolen, are considered very valuable, and their disappearance are actively being investigated by the authorities. When a certain mystery writer, Mrs. Tubbly Pole, turns up in town to write a fictional version of the unsolved murder in Foxford Wood, F.O. tries to divert her. But she wants to get a sense of the area, including the belfry where the stolen paintings are being stored, so F.O. moves the paintings to his sister's house where she promptly (and inadvertently) gives one away. Mischief and mayhem ensue as F.O. tries to retrieve the painting, deal with ever so inquisitive Mrs. Tubbly Pole, and return his life to relative normalcy.

Bones in the Belfry is a quirky, engaging, and utterly charming book. It is not necessary to read the prior book to appreciate how the vicar came to be in his current situation. The dog and cat (who each have their own points of view expressed here) fill the reader in on the backstory. But classifying this story as a mystery is a bit of a stretch. There are few, if any, of the standard elements that typically characterize a novel as a mystery.

The narrative is intelligent and witty and every so often bordering on the absurd but always a delight to read. The three points of view are clearly complementary with the vicar giving his (often emotional) version of events and the cat and dog providing their (often more objective) take. The author wisely doesn't give the animals any more credit to do more than they can; for example, they cannot read or manipulate objects in the way humans can. But they are observant and their perspective on the activities of their master is both entertaining and insightful.

Hill is clearly planning a multi-part series of books here with the final sentence of Bones in the Belfry setting the stage for the next in the series. Based solely on the events presented here, it's a book worth looking forward to.

Special thanks to Soho Press for providing an ARC of Bones in the Belfry for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Bones in the Belfry from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Francis Oughterard was the contented vicar of Molehill when he accidentally strangled a lady parishioner. A sleazy art dealer gave him an alibi, and Maurice-his victim's cynical cat-and Bouncer-a neighbor's dog-rescued him from police suspicion. Now he is called upon to return the favor by storing stolen paintings in the church belfry. The intrigue mounts as hapless F.O. bumbles through confrontations. Maurice and Bouncer each contribute their version of events.

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 080927

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles. This update includes news items from mid- to late-September 2008.

CBC News interviews in which the legendary author discusses the art of the crime novel. When asked why mystery novels are so satisfying, she replies, "I think at their heart, detective novels are about bringing order out of disorder and that’s tremendously reassuring — probably even more so in an age where it doesn’t seem to matter how many resources we put into our social problems, they seem impossible to fix. In a novel, you’re not going to get divine justice, but human justice, which is always fallible. You’re going to get justice of a kind." The new Adam Dalgliesh novel, The Private Patient, will be published by Knopf in November.

Variety is reporting that Jack Reacher is coming to the big screen. Josh Olson will be adapting 's thriller One Shot for Paramount Pictures. The book had previously been considered for production in 2005. One Shot is the 9th mystery in this series featuring drifter and ex-military policeman Jack Reacher.

• And The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that 's novel The Innocent will also be adapted for production. The Innocent, a stand-alone thriller that spent 10 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2005, was optioned by Plum Pictures.

• The Oroville Mercury-Register is reminding everyone that Perry Mason Days starts this Sunday in Oroville. Perry Mason Days commemorates Erle Stanley Gardner, who lived for a while in Oroville, and the fictional defense attorney he created. Events are planned for the entire week. (While you're marking your calendar, make a note that the Erle Stanley Gardner Mystery Weekend is being held this year November 7th and 8th in Temecula.)

Entertainment Weekly lists six essential British whodunit series available on DVD. Included are the usual suspects (, , and ) and a couple series you might not have heard of ( and ). [MBN note: All 6 series, together with many, many, more are available from .]

• The winners of the first annual are announced in a press release. The Premier Book Awards were established to recognize meritorious works by writers who self-published or had their books published by a small press or independent book publisher. In the Mystery / Thriller / Suspense / Horror category, Brookwater's Curse Volume II by Steven Van Patten is the winner. [MBN note: Visit for a list of more awards given out to writers of outstanding mystery fiction.]

   

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Forsaken Soul by Priscilla Royal

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

Forsaken Soul by Priscilla Royal

Forsaken Soul by
 A Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-521-6 (1590585216)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-521-4 (9781590585214)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Prioress Eleanor, administrator of the Tyndal Priory on the East Anglican coast of England, investigates the gruesome murder of a local cooper in Forsaken Soul, the 5th mystery in this series by Priscilla Royal.

In the summer of 1273, Prioress Eleanor is training a new Prioress, Sister Ruth, and a new anchoress, Sister Juliana. An anchoress lives in a single, small room and listens to visitors who need counsel. Her only duty is to listen and give advice during daylight hours. Sister Juliana, however, insists on only night-time visitors -- for reasons known only to her. This causes dissention inside the Priory, especially for Sister Ruth. The Priory serves both the spiritual and worldly needs of the village. Between her duties at the Priory, her work with the monks and the police, Prioress Eleanor is kept busy trying to keep peace and bring the unbelievers to God.

It is during one of her outside visits to the village when she learns that Martin, the cooper, has been found poisoned to death. His murder isn't all that unexpected as he was a crude, nasty man. Suspicion, however, immediately falls upon his pregnant whore, Ivetta. But when she's poisoned, Eleanor, together with Thomas the monk, is forced to look elsewhere. Thomas believes it highly improbable that two people, so well known to each other, died by the same method within such a short period of time. Before any solution to the crimes can be found, Will, the blacksmith is poisoned. Is this the act of one person? If so, why, kill a cooper, his whore, and a blacksmith? What is the common thread?

Forsaken Soul is a fascinating story both in the historical sense and for its fictional plot. With generous attention to detail, readers may readily imagine the dingy bar with the foul odors and dingy tables, and the upstairs room where Martin took Ivetta, mostly for himself but sometimes with the other men who visited. The dark, windy streets teem with evil shady men and women. Nefarious schemes abound. One doesn't need to be a fan of historical mysteries to enjoy this wonderfully atmospheric medieval tale of murder.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Forsaken Soul 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.

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Forsaken Soul from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): The summer of 1273 is peaceful for most of England—except in the village of Tyndal where Martin the cooper has been poisoned at the local inn.

Could the murderer be his usual whore who is about to be tossed aside for another woman? Or the innkeeper’s niece with secret reasons for fearing him? Perhaps the blacksmith did it, a man whose temper might have exploded when he was mocked once too often. Martin had enough enemies. The killer could be anyone.

This crime has naught to do with the priory, but Prioress Eleanor grieves for her friend—the newly bereaved Crowner Ralf—and offers what help she and former apothecary Sister Anne can.

When her own problems multiply, Eleanor has good reason to regret her kindness. Her new anchoress terrifies her servants and welcomes visitors to her window at night. One of those visitors has been Brother Thomas, a man the prioress secretly loves and whose loyalty to her as head of Tyndal Priory is now suspect.

Bodies multiply. Suspects disappear. No one likes the direction the evidence points, but God’s justice must be rendered—even for the forsaken soul.

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 September 26, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

A list of the top 15 for the week ending September 26, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Assuming the top spot this week is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first book in The Millennium Trilogy by the late . [MBN note: Read our review of .]

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

New on this list this week and coming in at number 7 is When Will There Be Good News?, the 3rd mystery in the Jackson Brodie series by . On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever ... On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound ... At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency ... Publishers Weekly calls When Will There Be Good News? "stellar" and adds, "A lesser author would buckle under so many story lines, but Atkinson juggles them brilliantly, simultaneously tying up loose ends from One Good Turn and opening new doors for further Brodie misadventures."

Heat Lightning by John Sandford

Debuting at number 9 is Heat Lightning, the 2nd mystery featuring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers by . It's a hot, humid summer night in Minnesota, and Flowers is in bed with one of his ex-wives (the second one, if you're keeping count), when the phone rings. It's Lucas Davenport. There's a body in Stillwater -- two shots to the head, found near a veteran's memorial. And the victim has a lemon in his mouth. Exactly like the body they found last week. The more Flowers works the murders, the more convinced he is that someone's keeping a list, and that the list could have a lot more names on it. If he could only find out what connects them all ... and then he does, and he's almost sorry he did. Because if it's true, then this whole thing leads down a lot more trails than he thought -- and every one of them is booby-trapped.

Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods

Finally, entering the list at number 11 is Hot Mahogany, the 14th mystery thriller featuring attorney Stone Barrington by . One night at Elaine’s, Stone -- back in Manhattan after chasing down the bad guys in the Caribbean -- meets Barton Cabot, older brother of his sometime ally, CIA boss Lance Cabot. Barton’s career in army intelligence is even more top secret than his brother’s, but he’s suffering from amnesia following a random act of violence. Amnesia is a dangerous thing in a man whose memory is chockfull of state secrets, so Lance hires Stone to watch Barton’s back. As Stone discovers, Barton is a spy with a rather unusual hobby: building and restoring antique furniture. The genteel world of antiques and coin dealers at first seems a far cry from Stone’s usual underworld of mobsters, murderers, and spies. But Barton also is a man with a past, and one event in particular -- in the jungles of Vietnam more than thirty years earlier -- is coming back to haunt his present in ways he’d never expected. Stone soon finds out that Barton, and some shady characters of his acquaintance, may be hiding a lot more than just a few forged antiques.

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.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are shown below:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonSilks by Dick Francis and Felix FrancisDevil Bones by Kathy ReichsMoscow Rules by Daniel Silva

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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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mysteries on DVD Review: No Country For Old Men

Mysteries on DVD

We're still in the process of setting up a new website with reviews of mystery TV shows and movies which may (or may not) have a separate blog. In the meantime, we'll continue to post our television and film reviews here on and advise you of when the new site is up.

Film:

Release date: 11/21/2007
DVD release date: 03/11/2008

Tommy Lee Jones: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
Javier Bardem: Anton Chigurh
Josh Brolin: Llewelyn Moss
Woody Harrelson: Carson Wells
Kelly Macdonald: Carla Jean Moss
Garret Dillahunt: Deputy Wendell
Tess Harper: Loretta Bell

No Country For Old Men

There's an axiom that states that friends, if they want to remain friends, don't discuss sex, politics, or religion. That truism needs to be amended to add Coen brothers movies to the list. I have a very good friend that I can discuss sex, politics, and religion with but when it comes to the Coen brothers, we simply stay silent. You either think the Coen brothers walk on water when it comes to filmmaking or you think they don't.

I fall into the latter category. I guess it takes a certain mind set to appreciate a Coen brothers movie and I'm simply not wired that way. But I think anything Tommy Lee Jones does is worth watching, so I rolled the dice and ordered NetFlex to send me the DVD of No Country For Old Men.

No Country For Old Men

Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the premise of No Country For Old Men is fairly simple. A good ol' boy, Llewelyn Moss (played in an understated manner by Josh Brolin), is out hunting one day in a remote area of west Texas when he stumbles upon what is clearly a drug deal gone bad. Bodies are scattered around a number of pickup trucks, one of which has bed full of bricks of drugs. One man is still alive, but just barely. What he doesn't find is any money. Searching the horizon, he sees a man reclining against a tree. When the man doesn't move after a lengthy period of time, Llewelyn assumes he too is dead and approaches him, finding a case filled with $2 million in cash. He takes the money and returns home, but later feels guilty about leaving a dying man in the desert. He returns that night only to find the man shot to death. Realizing that someone else has been there, he starts to leave when he's shot, wounded by men who suddenly appear. The remainder of the movie consists of Llewelyn on the run from the drug smugglers (in the form of a man named Anton Chigurh) and the authorities, namely Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

The movie is essentially filmed from three points of view, that of Llewelyn, Anton, and Sheriff Bell. In an interesting side note, they never share any screen time together.

No Country For Old Men

There is no denying that No Country For Old Men is a stylish, highly (maybe overly) crafted movie. My basic problem with it is that it seems made more for other filmmakers to appreciate than for the general public to enjoy. I haven't read the novel so I don't know if it is as disjointed and hard to follow as the movie is. Though I knew the basic storyline I was frequently confused by what I was seeing. For example, Anton just shows up in a scene to illustrate how violent and psychopathic he is. His interest in the drugs, or even Llewelyn, is never revealed. The scenes with Javier Bardem as Anton are mesmerizing to say the least, but in and of themselves they don't carry the movie. (As an aside, it's easy to see why he was given the Academy Award for his performance.)

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is terrific as always. But while his story is probably the most interesting of the three main characters, it is given the least amount of screen time. That the movie opens and closes with Bell, however, is illustrative of how important the character is. I was disappointed that so much of the movie was devoted to the visual violence of the other characters at the expense of the measured nuance of the Bell character.

No Country For Old Men

Do I recommend No Country For Old Men? No, not really. Even with Tommy Lee Jones. My original impression upon seeing it was that it was simply a version of Fargo set in west Texas. And I hated Fargo. If you're a Coen brothers fan, you'll no doubt think No Country For Old Men is brilliant. Certainly the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did, awarding it the Oscar for Best Picture of 2007. But if you're not a fan, or if you haven't seen any of the Coen brothers' previous movies, you might think that on an academic level it is an interesting piece of filmmaking but little more. It's certainly not entertaining in any sense of the word.

The DVD of No Country For Old Men is available to purchase from Mysteries on DVD, your source for movies that have been adapted from mystery books.

Reviewed on 09/23/2008 by Mr. E., television and movie critic for Mystery Books News.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Omnimystery — All Rights Reserved.

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Mystery Book Review: Green Monster by Rick Shefchik

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

Green Monster by Rick Shefchik

Green Monster by
A Sam Skarda Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-524-0 (1590585240)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-524-5 (9781590585245)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Private investigator Sam Skarda is hired by the owner of the Boston Red Sox to track down and stop an extortionist in Green Monster, the second mystery in this series by Rick Shefchik.

For Lou Kenwood, the self-made billionaire owner of the Red Sox, life is good. His beloved team has now won two World Series under his leadership and he's revered by people of Boston. But someone wants to take that all away, threatening to go public in 5 days with evidence that the 2004 World Series was fixed. The written note was short and to the point: pay $50 million or be exposed. It was signed "Babe Ruth". Fearing publicity and loath to involve the police, Kenwood uses his connections to hire Sam Skarda, a former police officer working as a private investigator in Minneapolis, who he trusts can investigate the case without bringing any attention to it. Skarda quickly locates some of those involved in the scheme, but realizes time may run out before he can put a name to "Babe Ruth" and prevent a scandal from rocking the sports world.

Fans of baseball novels will undoubtedly be thrilled with Green Monster and overlook the flaws that make this mystery no better than average. The plot itself is rather disjointed and tends to be inconsistent in terms of its credibility. There are long stretches on the history of baseball (especially some of its more disreputable periods) that may appeal to sports enthusiasts, but are likely to be skimmed over by most readers. Skarda's relationship with Kenwood's assistant, Heather Canby, is prurient to say the very least. Sex may add color and interest for some to the story but it accomplishes little in the way of advancing the plot here. The subplot set in Venezuela is also a distraction and is not only unnecessary but seems to exist merely as transitional filler. But probably the most serious flaw here is that Green Monster is set up as a whodunit-style mystery yet the identity of "Babe Ruth" is fairly obvious from early on in the story. Red herrings and alternate suspects are eventually proffered, but too late to generate any real suspense.

A more tightly-constructed plot might have helped Shefchik pull off the "sports noir"-type novel he seems to have attempted. To use a baseball metaphor, he didn't strike out with Green Monster, but did manage to advance the runner. Maybe the third inning of the series will be more successful.

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

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Green Monster from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): After a second World Championship in four years, the Boston Red Sox have finally buried the Curse of the Bambino—or have they? Sox owner Louis Kenwood receives an extortion note signed "Babe Ruth" claiming that the 2004 World Series was fixed—and demanding $50 million to keep the information from getting to the press and the Commissioner’s office.

If the allegation of a fix becomes public, Kenwood fears irreparable damage to the value of his franchise and to his legacy as "Lucky Louie," the man who finally brought a championship to after 86 years. Thus, the Red Sox turn to private detective Sam Skarda to find out who’s behind the extortion plot.

Kenwood insists that his beautiful executive assistant Heather Canby accompany—and monitor—Sam on every step of his investigation. Unsure whom he can trust, Sam follows the clues to the Los Angeles underworld and then to the slums of Venezuela. Can he assemble all of the pieces to this puzzle before more lives are lost and scandal blasts the Red Sox Nation?

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, September 23, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall

Sweeping Up Glass by
Non-series

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-512-7 (1590585127)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-512-2 (9781590585122)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Olivia Harker tells the story of her life and in particular the mysterious circumstances of one bitterly cold winter in Sweeping Up Glass, the powerful debut novel by Carolyn D. Wall.

Olivia Harker is a child unwanted and unloved by her mentally ill mother. Her father, however, adores her. He manages, while his wife Ida is in a sanitarium, to take care of Olivia, handle his grocery store, and learn through books to be a veterinarian. When Ida returns home, Olivia is already in school. Ida begins immediately to express her disapproval of Olivia by intimidating her, threatening her and at times beating her with a switch. The only friends Olivia has are the people of color from down the road. The young ones like her and the older ones teach her things she doesn’t learn in school, i.e. sewing and quilting. Not being taught the nature of life by her folks, she has a daughter, Pauline, out of wedlock, not even knowing who the father is. She ultimately marries and has a fairly happy life for twelve years before her husband dies. Her daughter follows in her mother’s footsteps and has a son, William, out of wedlock. When William is still a baby, Pauline leaves home to become a star in Hollywood. Through the years, however, Ida continues her nerve-wracking ways. But little Will'm is a source of joy to Olivia and she will do everything in her power to protect him and keep him out of harm’s way.

In 1938, Olivia recounts when folks had very little money so traded whatever provisions they had for groceries at the Harker grocery store. It was a time of blatant segregation and it was a time of bootleg whiskey. There were hunters who normally only hunted for food, but for reasons unknown to Olivia they began hunting for sport on her land where the only silver-faced wolves existed in Kentucky. Her grandfather had brought home a male and female years before from Alaska. Why did the hunters start shooting the wolves, then slicing the right ear off and leaving the remains for the vultures? Were these the same men that had secret meetings every Saturday night? And why were some of the colored boys getting sick and dying, or suddenly leaving home? When Olivia confronts the men about hunting on her land, she is warned that they will be coming after her and her grandson next. They give her no reason why. Now a widow, how can she protect herself and keep her teenage grandson safe from harm?

Sweeping Up Glass is a formidable tale of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and terrorizing issues for a family during a difficult period for many in America. Yet Olivia Harker finds love and honor among the shattered glass of her life. This is a remarkable story, rich in character and emotion, which should be read and reread; it is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Sweeping Up Glass and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Sweeping Up Glass from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): 1938: Olivia and the boy, Will’m, run Harker’s Grocery and live in the cold-water kitchen behind the store. Money is scarce; business is bad. Out back, Pap is buried near the outhouse, and Olivia’s crazy mother Ida is living in a tarpaper shack.

For 30 years, Olivia has loved Wing Harris, who plays a mean trumpet and owns the Kentuckian Hotel. For decades, they’ve shared only howdies at Ruse’s Cafe.

This may be the coldest winter on record in Kentucky, but that doesn’t keep the elusive Hunt Club from tracking silver-faced wolves on Olivia’s strip of mountain. It falls to her and Will’m to figure out why as the hunters turn their sights on them, too.

Then, one frozen night, Will’m’s mother comes back for him. The some terrible secrets explode among the Rowe Street community. Now there’s blood on Olivia’s hands, and nothing is as she thought it was.

Olivia is responsible for the very people who betrayed her. While she searches for answers that might save them all, then the day comes when Olivia must shatter the shackles that bind her and her community. 

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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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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