Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Mama Does Time by Deborah Sharp

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

Mama Does Time by Deborah Sharp

by
A Mace Bauer Mystery

Midnight Ink (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-7387-1329-5 (0738713295)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7387-1329-8 (9780738713298)
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $13.95

Review: Deborah Sharp introduces Mason "Mace" Bauer, daughter to Rosalee Deveraux a.k.a. Mama, a multi-married, sherbet-colored pantsuit wearing, beauty parlor aromatherapist, in Mama Does Time, a delightful mystery set in Florida.

It’s September in Himmarshee, a town so small it is virtually unheard of outside the county and even if a random visitor managed to find it they couldn't pronounce it. 62-year-old Mama's been taken to the jail by the new detective in town, Carlos Martinez from Miami, for questioning in the death of a man whose body was found in the trunk of her vintage Cadillac convertible. The victim, Jim Alpert, was the owner of the local Booze and Breeze drive-thru, and fiancé of Mama’s new bingo buddy Emma Jean Valentine. Every one in Himmarshee knows Mama would never ever hurt any one, so the thought of her killing someone is ludicrous. Except for Detective Martinez who clearly thinks otherwise.

Although Himmarshee is certainly no tourist center, like most Florida towns it does have an animal park. Mace, Mama's middle daughter who loves the outdoors and the animals, is the caretaker of the park. Mace finds Detective Martinez’s handling of the murder of Jim Alpert outrageous and decides to begin a search on her own for the murderer. Martinez warns her to back off and to let the professionals handle the case, but she knows her mother is innocent and wants her out of jail. For her efforts Mace is run off the road in her Jeep, she and her mother receive threatening notes, and her house is broken into. Each time Martinez warns her to back off. But Mace knows at least three persons who had a good motive for wanting to see Alpert dead, and she's pretty sure she's next on the list.

Much of the appeal of Mama Does Time is in the relationship Mama has with her daughters. This close-knit family of women argue with the best of them, but are fiercely protective of each other. The writing is sharp and the characters quick-witted. The situations Mama and her daughters find themselves in provide much of the humor which has an authentic Southern charm to it. That the plot seems to be secondary to everything else doesn't lessen the interest in the story.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Mama Does Time and to asdf 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 Mama Does Time from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Meet Mama: a true Southern woman with impeccable manners, sherbet-colored pantsuits, and four prior husbands, able to serve sweet tea and sidestep alligator attacks with equal aplomb. Mama's antics -- especially her penchant for finding trouble -- drive her daughters Mace, Maddie, and Marty to distraction.

One night, while settling in to look for ex-beaus on COPS, Mace gets a frantic call from her mother. This time, the trouble is real: Mama found a body in the trunk of her turquoise convertible and the police think she's the killer. It doesn't help that the handsome detective assigned to the case seems determined to prove Mama's guilt or that the cowboy who broke Mace's heart shows up at the local Booze ‘n' Breeze in the midst of the investigation. Before their mama lands in prison -- just like an embarrassing lyric from a country-western song -- Mace and her sisters must find the real culprit.

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 Savings: Up to $20 off 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 special offer recently received by us that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

Save up to $20 off books, music, and movies at Alibris.com. From now through February 08, 2009, the following coupon codes can be used to save on all your purchases from one of the largest online retailers of books:

Use coupon code LAW for $2 off $20 or more;
PHYSICS for $4 off $40 or more;
BIOCHEM for $7 off $70 or more;
MARINEBIO for $10 off $100 or more;
ECOLOGY for $15 off $150 or more; or
ECON for $20 off $200 or more.

Click on the Alibris banner below to start shopping. For even more savings, search for books that are eligible for free shippping. When Alibris is listed as a book's seller, it ships from their warehouse and is eligible for free shipping to U.S. addresses. Click on the Free Shipping link on the right side of the home page to browse for books that qualify.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NPR Interviews Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

NPR has an interview this morning with mystery authors Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter . There's also an excerpt (both as part of the audio version and following the written profile) of their latest collaboration, Dashing Through the Snow, their fifth holiday mystery.

When asked if they share plot ideas or keep them to themselves, "Oh, we wouldn't steal from each other," says Carol Higgins Clark, named for one of the characters in her mother's first published short story. "We actually fax each other pages as we're working on our separate books, just to get feedback." "You know, when you're writing and rewriting, you can get so close to it that it suddenly seems dull," says Mary Higgins Clark. "You need fresh eyes you can count on to say, 'That's fine. What are you worried about?'"

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New Hardcover Mysteries for January 2009

The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books has updated its list of with books scheduled for publication in January 2009.

As we've done for several months now, 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 "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:

(Jade Del Cameron), (Shane Scully), (Alafair Tucker), Alys Clare (Hawkenlye), (Dixie Hemingway), Robert Ludlum and James Cobb (Covert One), (Milt Kovak), (Stephanie Plum), (Madeline Bean), (Dek Ekstrom), (Valentin St. Cyr), (Mario Silva), (Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire), Hugh Holton (Larry Cole), (Donna Galbreath, Cedar Harbor), Stuart M. Kaminsky (Lew Fonesca), (Rick Redman), Ralph M. McInerny (Father Dowling), (Savannah Reid), (Harry Hole), (Armand Gamache), (Jane Whitefield), Rosemary Rowe (Libertus Mystery of Roman Britain), Alan Savage (Duncan Morant), (Cealie Gunther), (Ian Rutledge), (Will Lee)

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

(Eliot Ness), (Gary Goodhew), (Karl Werthen and Hanns Gross), (Emmanuel Cooper), (Lola Cruz)

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

, , , , , , , , , Karen Tintori and Jill Gregory, , Jack Higgins, , , , , , , , , Erica Spindler, , Paul Block and Robert Vaughan

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, also updated with January 2009 releases.

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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Mystery Savings: Free Backpack with $100 or more at B&N.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 special offer recently received by us that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

From now through January 30, 2009, Barnes&Noble.com is offering a free traveler backpack when making a single purchase of $100 of more at bn.com. Be sure to check out the offer details on the home page for restrictions and other requirements.

The backpack, shown below, designed exclusively for Barnes & Noble customers, is the perfect bag for carrying your books to class or your gear to the gym. It's light-weight and strong, with re-enforced padding in the back and on the shoulder straps, and includes 3 compartments to help you stay organized. It is regularly priced at $24.95.

Getting your free backpack couldn't be easier: place $100 of qualifying items in your cart, go to the backpack page and add the bag to your cart, and proceed to checkout.

Get a FREE Backpack when you spend $100 or more.

Get a FREE Backpack when you spend $100 or more.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

New Mysteries: Beat the Reaper Website and Trailer

We were reading tweets this morning (yes, we twitter, mostly about ; you can follow us at twitter.com/mysteries), and one from Little Brown caught our eye: a website promoting the upcoming debut suspense novel Beat the Reaper by .

BeatTheReaper.com has all the usual promotional material that accompanies a new release but also has a clever book trailer, a fairly lame and silly game, and excerpts from the book (don't overlook the footnotes!) and audiobook. Turn on your speakers; the background music is really pretty good.

Beat the Reaper comes out next month but is available for pre-order. Our page is online, though not yet linked, but you can get a preview by following the link above. We'll formally post the page of January releases tomorrow or Wednesday.

We don't have any plans to review Beat the Reaper but maybe we can get Little Brown to send us a copy. It does, however, seem like a promising debut.

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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Mystery Book Review: The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

by
A Matt Stevens Mystery

Amulet Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8109-7067-8 (0810970678)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8109-7067-0 (9780810970678)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $15.95

Review: Jack D. Ferraiolo introduces middle school private investigator Matt Stevens in The Big Splash, a hard-boiled noir mystery for young adults that pays homage to the masters of the genre.

The case seemed deceptively simple, but don't they all: Matt is hired by Vincent "Vinnie Biggs" Biggio to retrieve a pendant given by him to his former girlfriend, Nicole "Nicki Fingers" Finnegan. Not only was Nicki a girlfriend, she was also Vinnie's primary enforcer, a sharpshooter with a water gun. Nicki's gone straight to set an example for her younger sister, but just as Matt completes his assignment, Nicki is attacked with a stream of water by an unknown assailant. Matt's now in the middle trying to figure out what's going on. Is someone trying to muscle in on Vinnie's organization? Or is one of Nicki's many victims just getting payback? Or is it something more personal? The possibilities, and suspects, seem endless.

Narrated by Matt, the opening paragraph of The Big Splash definitively sets the tone for the entire book. One can immediately imagine Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer reciting these lines:

"He approached me as I made my way into the caf for lunch. He was small and wiry, with a face that would've been more at home on a rodent. His jaw moved slowly and with great purpose as it worked over a piece of fruit gum, the kind that gave off a sickeningly sweet smell but lost its flavor after three chews. His name was Joey Renoni, a.k.a. the Hyena, and I knew who he worked for."

The Big Splash is clearly written for a younger audience though readers not familiar with the noir classics may not fully appreciate the narrative style. It's likely older children and even adults will enjoy the book. The violence is minimal and references to more mature subjects are replaced by, though hardly masking, age-appropriate themes. From a plot perspective, in many ways Matt and the other characters are adults merely inhabiting children's bodies. Typical of the genre, the plot is filled with unexpected twists and turns, though it seems overly drawn out at times. Still, it's hard not to like Matt and get involved in his investigation as he discovers the true culprit behind the pusillanimous deed.

Though not specifically stated at any point that a sequel is planned, The Big Splash seems an ideal introduction to a noir series featuring Matt Stevens written for a middle school-age audience.

Special thanks to Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, for providing a copy of The Big Splash for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing The Big Splash from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): “The Frank” is in the clutches of a crime syndicate run by seventh-grader Vinny “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, who deals in forged hall passes and black-market candy. Double-cross him and your number is punched by one of his deadly water-gun-toting assassins. One hit in the pants and you are in “the Outs” forever.

Matt Stevens is a proud loner with his own code of justice. He’s avoided being pulled into Vinny’s organization until now: Mr. Biggs has offered him a job he can’t resist, one that leads to the surprising downfall of Vinny’s top assassin, the beautiful and deadly Nikki “Fingers” Finnegan, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Matt thinks he was used, and he becomes determined to find the trigger-guy or -girl, even if it means bringing down one of his oldest friends.

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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Mysteries on TV: A Look Back at Foyle's War

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, on Mondays typically profiles series that have DVD sets being released the following Tuesday. With the next new release of a mystery series not scheduled until after the first of the year, we thought we'd take the last three Mondays of 2008 to highlight some of our favorite series.

This week: Foyle's War.

Any discussion of our favorite series wouldn't be complete without mentioning . There were but 19 episodes filmed over a period of 5 years yet this series profoundly affected how we view mystery television.

Michael Kitchen starred as Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle, a police officer in the southern coastal town of Hastings. The series is set during World War II and each episode is dated to correspond to a real time (and real events) during the war. Two other characters appeared in every episode: Foyle's right-hand man Sergeant Paul Milner was played by Anthony Howell, and Samantha "Sam" Stewart, Foyle's driver, was played by Honeysuckle Weeks. Julian Ovenden had a recurring role as Foyle's son, Andrew, an RAF pilot. The series was created and written by Anthony Horowitz.

No series is perfect, but Foyle's War comes close. Very close. The casting was ideal and the actor's portrayals of their characters was astonishly believable. Michael Kitchen in particular played Foyle in such a confident, understated manner that he projects a powerful screen presence. To be fair, the actors were given strongly developed characters by Horowitz. Foyle, for example, was never one willing to compromise, but he knew that war was not fair and that sometimes doing the right thing meant doing something unpopular, especially with his superiors. This conflict in values provided the foundation for many of the episodes.

The production values are as high as you'll ever see on series television. The south coast of England is meticulously depicted as it was during the 1940s and the visuals are frequently stunning to look at. If nothing else, it's a marvelous period series.

But what sets Foyle's War above many others of its kind is the first-rate writing and the intricate plots that compel the viewer to pay close attention, listen to every word and take in all details. Most episodes couple a war event (or something to do with the war) with a local crime. That they're connected is almost a given; how they're connected, and how Foyle will use the information available to him, is the mystery. Of the 19 episodes, only 2 or 3 are relatively weakly plotted (though when we rewatched the series with another couple, they completely disagreed). Still and all, it's a good track record.

All five sets of are available on DVD. (ITV aired the series in 6 sets with two of them consisting of 2 episodes each; these two sets were combined into one for the DVD release.) We've also put together a Foyle's War Squidoo lens with additional information about the characters and episodes.

And there may yet be more! Last April The Guardian reported that ITV was in discussion to continue the series as Foyle's Peace. In August, the Daily Mail stated the series was confirmed. But we can find nothing more definitive on the series published recently.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for December 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 December 29, 2008

This week's letters and mystery clue:

A B C D E G I M R

The Cassandra James mysteries by Christine Poulson are set in this university town (9 letters).

We now have two weeks of our puzzles on one page 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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A Note to our Readers ...

We moved to a new server last night. While we hope the transition was a seamless one, we apologize in advance for any disruption that you may encounter (or may have already encountered). Something we've already noticed is that e-mail subscribers received a long list of posts as if they were all "new". In fact, only the Sunday, December 28th, entries were new.

We hope that this new server will improve both performance and reliability and we'll keep you posted (as it were) on anything that may affect your reading of our blog. Thanks for visiting, we appreciate your support.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best Mysteries of 2008 from January Magazine, Part 2

January Magazine has now published the second and final part of its selection of the best crime fiction of 2008. Listed alphabetically by title, and including their original review, part 2 includes books starting with the letter H and greater. We published a post about the first part of their list earlier today.

An interesting mix of bestsellers and little-known (outside the mystery world) titles. We hope that these "best" lists, including our own list of the , help spread the word about outstanding books readers may be missing.

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Mystery Book Review: Born to Run by James Grippando

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

Born to Run by James Grippando

Born to Run by
A Jack Swyteck Mystery

HarperCollins (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-155611-4 (0061556114)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-155611-1 (9780061556111)
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $25.99

Review: Life for lawyer Jack Swyteck had never been what most people would call uneventful. Defending death row inmates in Florida is never an easy job, especially when your father, the governor, is frequently signing the orders of execution for your clients. But as Jack reached forty, it seemed his life was finally slowing down: his father was retiring, and both his job and relationship were going well.

Yet, everything turns around with the death of Jack’s father’s friend, who just happens to be the vice president. When his father is named to be the new VP, Jack finds himself drawn into the Washington world of power politics, and before long it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems. Drawn into a web of murder, intrigue, and deception, Jack finds himself inescapably involved in one of his most dangerous and fast-paced mysteries yet.

James Grippando shows that he is clearly a master of the thriller in Born to Run, his latest work featuring Swyteck. From its first pages, Born to Run is packed with action, making it a difficult book to put down. Readers who prefer a story that starts slow and builds gradually with clues will be disappointed, as the book fits an impossible amount of action into almost every scene and the story progresses quickly.

Despite being the eighth installment in this successful series, Born to Run is readable on its own. In fact, it’s a great place to pick up this popular series, as Grippando doesn’t skimp on his character development despite his work in earlier books. Jack Swyteck is witty and fun, and all of Gippando’s characters have strong, believable personalities that jump off the page along with the action.

Born to Run is a fun and exiting read that fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy. The scope of the drama in this political thriller may feel a bit over the top at some points, but the fun of the book is suspending disbelief and hanging on for the ride. Born to Run is especially recommended for reading during a long bus trip or a day at the beach because it will immediately pull you out of your chair and into a world of blackmail, murder, and dirty political secrets.

Special thanks to Rebecca Henderson for contributing her review of Born to Run.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Rebecca Henderson — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Synopsis (from the publisher): criminal defense lawyer Jack Swyteck guards his own family secrets closely, after his father's two terms as Florida's governor made some personal rifts public. Things between the two men are finally better, and whenever Harry Swyteck asks for Jack's help he gets it. Suddenly, Harry needs it more than ever before.

When Harry's friend, the vice president of the United States, goes hunting for alligators in the Everglades and winds up dead, the president positions Harry to be his new VP. Harry immediately asks Jack to be his lawyer. The prestige that comes from the job turns lethal, however, when Jack finds himself at the heart of a complicated cover-up that spans nearly fifty years and the globe. Before hostages can be released, an old secret must be revealed, one that could threaten the life of the president of the United States himself.

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: Suspects and Clues, New at Big Fish Games

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed electronic and board games, parties for kids and adults, and mystery getaway vacations, is pleased to announce the availability of a new mystery game from Big Fish Games released today. You can find out more about these games from our page or by clicking on the links provided below.

Suspects and Clues

Thieves, vandals, and counterfeiters have joined together for the heist of the century. You'll need keen visual skills to analyze the evidence, piece together clues, and track down the suspects in this photo hunt game. Featuring over 120 challenges with multiple puzzle types and beautiful images from around the world to engage your powers of perception.

Suspects and Clues may be downloaded and purchased for as little as $6.99 with the Big Fish Game Club Jumbo Pack. A demonstration version may be downloaded (50.27 MB) and played for one hour for free.

50% Off All Games at Big Fish Games

Big Fish Games is offering a special deal now through the end of the year. All games are 50% off! To realize your savings, click the Buy button for any game you want. Sign in or create a new account. Select the $19.99 price option. Then type in coupon code HOLIDAY2008 into the box. All purchases must be completed by January 01, 2009.

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Other popular games on our page include several and games, games in the series and in particular the latest, Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst, Art of Murder: FBI Confidential, the Carol Reed mystery Remedy, Veronica Rivers: Portals to the Unknown, Mystery Chronicles: Murder Among Friends, and The Treasures of Mystery Island.

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

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best Mysteries of 2008 from January Magazine

January Magazine has published the first in a multi-part series of its selection of the best crime fiction of 2008. Listed alphabetically by title, and including their original review, part 1 includes books through letter G.

Mixing some bestselling authors with newcomers, the list (so far) includes two titles that we also reviewed at and rated very highly: (which we called "first class entertainment") and (of which we said was "Swedish noir at its best").

There's no indication on the January Magazine website when the rest of their list will be published, but when it is, we'll let you know.

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Mystery Author Hillary Waugh Dies

The New York Times is reporting that prolific mystery author Hillary Waugh died on December 8th in Torrington CT. He was 88.

Waugh was widely recognized as a pioneer in the mystery subgenre of police procedurals with his 1952 novel Last Seen Wearing. In addition to his many stand-alone novels, he wrote several recurring series books, one of which, the 1959 novel Sleep Long, My Love featuring Chief of Police Fred C. Fellows, was made into the 1962 film Jigsaw. He also published many mysteries under pen names including H. Baldwin Taylor and Elissa Grandower.

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Mystery Book Review: The Exchange by Inga C. Ellzey

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

The Exchange by Inga C. Ellzey

The Exchange by
A Jewelle Dawson Mystery

Lambie Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-60585-504-9 (1605855049)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60585-504-2 (9781605855042)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $19.99

Review: Inga C. Ellzey introduces Jewelle Dawson, a woman without a past and an uncertain future, in The Exchange, the first book in a series of romantic suspense novels.

After an injurious warning not to testify, a knife drawn down her cheek leaving a hideous scar and a finger being dismembered, Elinore Hanson testified anyway against the Gambrelini mob family of Chicago. She was immediately put into the Witness Protection Program as Jewelle Dawson and moved to Duluth. After seven years in a lackluster job, her only true friends being John Murray, her Witness Protection officer, and his wife Betty, Jewelle decides she wants more for her life. Against the warnings of John, Jewelle elects to take a month’s cruise in the Mediterranean on the luxury liner, Emerald of the Seas, flying to Barcelona where she boards the ship with thoughts of making new friends, having an exciting adventure, and perhaps fitting in a little romance. Little does she know that her assumed persona would innocently and unknowingly be revealed by a new and trusted friend and that word would get back to the Gambrelini don who had never given up his aspiration of finding and killing her for the trouble she had caused his “family.”

Jewelle is delighted to be seated at dinner with Frances and Gordon Wakefield from Quebec. Besides celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, Frances, a writer of mysteries, is eager to write her final novel, a mystery involving an intercontinental jewel theft. Also present is Paul Rosini, a handsome widower, who took an immediate interest in Jewelle as she did in him. During the first few days at sea she also meets Max Caldwell, a very wealthy, very attractive gentleman, who shares a mutual interest in her. Jewelle is having the time of her life. But, through a quirk of fate, one of her new friends described Jewelle to another acquaintance who had once been a member of the Gambrelini “family”. He notified Gambrelini and plans were immediately set in motion to find the woman now know as Jewelle Dawson. When Jewelle’s friend realized what she had done, she gathers all who had came to know and love Jewelle to devise a plan that would save Jewelle’s life, yet satisfy Gambrelini that the woman who had caused him so much harm in the past was now dead.

The title of The Exchange has several meanings in the book, not the least of which is the ultimate exchange of Jewelle's old life for her new one. The richly drawn characters come alive, each of the principal ones having memorable attributes. The plots of the jewel theft and the jeopardy surrounding Jewelle are complex but are beautifully woven together. The Exchange is a passionate, suspenseful novel, and, according to the author's website, just the first in a series to feature this intriguing woman.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Exchange and to FSB Associates 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 The Exchange from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): After seven years in the Witness Protection Program, Jewelle Dawson hopes to regain her freedom and her identity by embarking on a one-month Mediterranean Cruise. With full knowledge that the Gambrelini mob is still hunting her and despite desperate pleas and warnings from John Murray, her Witness Protection Officer, Jewelle flies to Barcelona and boards the luxury cruise ship, the Emerald of the Seas, in search of interesting new friends, a fresh beginning, and hopefully...romance.

Two men quickly find their way into Jewelle's protected life and heart. Max Caldwell, the fabulously wealthy playboy gambler lures Jewelle into his life of risk with promises of adventure and romance, yet lets Jewelle know upfront that he's a man who wants no ties or commitments. In spite of his warnings, Jewelle finds herself in a game of chance, willing to risk it all for love. Paul Rosini, the handsome, widower pilot, fascinates Jewelle with his gentle ways and romantic charms, although Jewelle knows that there's a hidden, deeper, darker side that he won't reveal to her...or anyone. Through exotic ports-of-call in the Mediterranean, Jewelle finds new relationships with Frances Wakefield, the eccentric internationally famous mystery thriller authoress, Randy and Sarah Harrison, Picco, the Italian Countess, and Kenny Scott, the physically grotesque but lovable Vietnam Vet. All add fun, adventure, and intrigue to Jewelle's escape vacation.

Love and friendship are put to the ultimate test when the mob discovers Jewelle's vulnerable location. Two will die, relationships are defined, and Max and Paul will be forced to reveal their secret pasts when all the characters come together in a daring exchange to give Jewelle freedom from the Gambrelinis once and for all.

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, December 26, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers for December 26, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

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

's latest Alex Cross thriller, retakes the top spot this week nudging Scarpetta by into second place. The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesch) by , and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by retain their respective third and fourth positions from last week.

Show No Fear by Perri O'Shaughnessy

New on the list this week but actually debuting at 22 last week is the 12th mystery in the Nina Reilly series by Perri O'Shaughnessy, Show No Fear. Working as a paralegal and attending law school at night, Nina has her hands full. She's fighting for custody of her young son Bob and overseeing a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of her mother, Virigina Reilly, whose health is rapidly declining after she suffered complications from an acupuncture procedure. But Nina's personal stresses are ramped up when a local tragedy plunges Nina into a hunt for a killer -- a killer only she believes exists. When a woman falls to her death off a bridge near Big Sur, Nina suspects there is more to the accident than the authorities are saying. Embarking on her solitary quest for the truth and stirring up trouble along the way, Nina catches the killer's attention -- and the only official help Nina gets is from homicide cop Paul van Wagoner. Now, moving dangerously close to the shattering truth, Nina finds the missing link in the shadowy case only when she recognizes a crucial, overlooked fact: sometimes people bury their secret desires, even from those who love them the most.

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:

Cross Country by James PattersonScarpetta by Patricia CornwellThe Private Patient by P. D. JamesThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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, December 22, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Heartless by Alison Gaylin

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

Heartless by Alison Gaylin

Heartless by
Non-series

New American Library (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22497-3 (0451224973)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22497-2 (9780451224973)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $21.95

Review: An undercurrent of terror lies just beneath the surface of a picturesque town in Heartless, series' author Alison Gaylin's first stand-alone thriller.

Subsequent to the capture of a serial killer that former hard news journalist Zoe Greene had not only closely followed but had also been an integral part of during the investigation, she finds solace of a sort in reporting the far less threatening goings on in the steamy world of soap operas. But she crosses an editorial line when she falls in love with one of the soap's leading men, Warren Clark. Rather than give up a chance at love, she impulsively quits her job and meets him at his retreat in San Esteban, Mexico. At first she thinks she's found paradise, even though the town had recently been in the news when a young man was found brutally murdered, his heart cut from his chest. But her reporter's instincts kick in when a few too many coincidences pique her interest, and all paths seem to lead to Warren being involved in some way. It isn't until she's threatened that she realizes how dangerous San Esteban is and how little she really knows about the man she ran away to be with.

Heartless is one of those thrillers that is so easy to pick apart it hardly seems worth the effort. From the shallow characters to the silly plot, there is so much material available to ridicule that it's hard to know where to start. So rather than focus on the multitude of things that don't work, here are a few that do.

The prologue is strongly written; it's too bad what follows couldn't match the intrigue promised by these few opening pages. Ironically, the epilogue is also one of the high points, and not only because it marks the beginning of the end of the book. It is here that Zoe finally gets some depth to her character and becomes real to the reader. Though little of the narrative is credible or believable, the author manages to maintain an atmosphere of surrealism throughout. There is a sense that Zoe believes in what is happening and that is often enough to keep turning the pages. Finally, there's no denying that Gaylin is a talented writer; in less capable hands Heartless would have been conspicuously forgettable. As it is, it's merely disappointing.

Special thanks to Penguin Group for providing an ARC of Heartless for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Synopsis (from the publisher): From the moment magazine editor Zoe Greene joins her lover Warren in San Esteban, an idyllic Mexican village, something is strange about the place and its people -- from the black crosses that hang throughout the town to the blood-tipped spines of its strange indigenous plants to Warren’s odd disappearances. Then, when tourists are found murdered, Zoe begins to ask questions. At even greater risk, she’s finding the answers.

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 Savings: Free eBooks from eHarlequin.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.

eHarlequin.com is offering a free eBook a day starting tomorrow, December 23rd. Simply visit the eHarlequin.com ebook store from 12/23/2008 9 AM ET through the end of the year (12/31/2008) to download your book.

We contacted eHarlequin.com to see if there were any restrictions or fees and they assured us there were none. Though we couldn't get a list of titles to be available, we were told they will be current, December 2008, releases. Maybe there will be a mystery or two, but regardless, if you enjoy eBooks and want to sample eHarlequin titles, this is the time to do it! Click on the link above or the banner below to visit the eHarlequin eBook store. (eBook readers can also be downloaded from their home page.)

An affiliate of eHarlequin.com

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Mysteries on TV: A Look Back at the NBC Mystery Movies

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, on Mondays typically profiles series that have DVD sets being released the following Tuesday. With the next new release of a mystery series not scheduled until after the first of the year, we thought we'd take the last three Mondays of 2008 to highlight some of our favorite series.

This week: the NBC Mystery Movies.

In 1971 NBC introduced The NBC Mystery Movie, an umbrella series consisting of alternating Wednesday night airings of Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife. The success of the format led NBC to not only add another series to the umbrella (Hec Ramsey) the following year but also create a second night of mystery movies (Madagan, Cool Million, and Banacek). Some of the new series weren't quite the rating success of the original three, so over the next 5 years NBC tried to find a fourth series in Tenafly, Faraday & Company, The Snoop Sisters, Amy Prentiss, and more. It wasn't until Quincy M.E. aired in 1976 that it found a winner. The concept was abandoned by NBC at the end of the 1976-77 season (though revived a decade later by ABC with the return of Columbo and Kojak, adding B. L. Stryker, Gideon Oliver, and Christine Cromwell). A lot of good mysteries were shown as part of a weekly mystery movie series, some of which are available today on DVD. Below are three of our favorites.

George Peppard played Thomas Banacek, a -based freelance insurance investigator in . He typically investigated the loss of only the most expensive items (an airplane, a race car, rare art, jewelry, etc.) and his fee of 10% of the insured value of missing property allowed him to lead a lavish lifestyle.

The vast majority of the episodes were of the "impossible crime" variety with the insured item vanishing in a most mysterious manner. Each episode ended with Banacek recreating how the theft occurred and producing, causing to produce, or simply explaining where to find the missing item. Granted, some of the solutions were as wildly improbable as the crime itself, but it was always entertaining to watch.

The series also starred Ralph Manza as Banacek's chauffeur Jay Drury (who often came up with his own "theories" on how to find the stolen items) and Murray Matheson as rare bookstore owner Felix Mulholland, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the most arcane subjects frequently came in handy in solving the case.

The pilot episode and 16 regular season episodes of are available on a single DVD set as the complete series. The individual seasons are also available separately.

We also enjoyed the early seasons of which starred Rock Hudson as Police Commissioner Stewart McMillan and Susan St. James as his wife Sally. Though the banter between the two could be syrupy sweet, there was usually a decent mystery plot supporting each episode.

Comic relief was often provided by two series regulars, Nancy Walker as the McMillan's live-in housekeeper Mildred and John Schuck as McMillan's right-hand man, Sgt. Charles Enright.

Due to a contract dispute between the studio and Susan St. James, Sally was written out of the series for its final season which, for that reason and several others, was the weakest and least watchable.

Only the first season of is currently available on DVD.

It's impossible to discuss the NBC Mystery Movies without including . Peter Falk starred as the Los Angeles homicide detective who always wore a rumpled overcoat, drove a battered Peugeot convertible, and was famous for the line "Just one more thing ...".

Created by multiple winning producers Richard Levinson and William Link, the episodes in the series generally followed a similar format. A murder was committed before the first commercial break with the audience in on who did it and how. The rest of the episode was devoted to Columbo uncovering the very small clue that implicates the killer, often a well-known guest star, and using it to trap them in the end.

By the time ABC resurrected Columbo in 1989 he had become almost a caricature of himself. The quality of the writing seemed to have slipped a bit as well. Still, it is a memorable series and will always be a standard of mystery television.

All seven seasons of the original on NBC are available on a DVD. The ABC episodes from 1989 and 1990 are available separately as movie collections.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for December 22, 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 December 22, 2008

This week's letters and mystery clue:

A C D E N R S V W

Andrew Neiderman became the ghost writer of this author’s novels following her death in 1986 (9 letters).

We now have two weeks of our puzzles on one page 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, December 21, 2008

Mystery Author Julius Fast Dies

Acclaimed mystery author Julius Fast died earlier this week in Kingston, NY. He was 89.

Fast won the debut given out by the Mystery Writers of America in 1946 for his first novel Watchful at Night which he wrote while serving in the Army during World War II. He followed up this book with several other well-received detective novels before turning his attention to non-fiction. His subsequent work covered a wide range of subjects from the Beatles to pop psychology.

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Mystery Book Review: Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan

Paper, Scissors, Death by
A Scrapbooking Mystery with Kiki Lowenstein

Midnight Ink (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7387-1250-7 (0738712507)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7387-1250-5 (9780738712507)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $14.95

Review: Joanna Campbell Slan introduces wife, mother, and scrapbooking expert Kiki Lowenstein in Paper, Scissors, Death, the first mystery in the Scrap-N-Craft series set in St. Louis, Missouri.

Kiki, husband George, and 11-year-old daughter Anya live in an upscale large home in an exclusive suburb of St. Louis. Kiki finds much delight in scrapbooking, so much so, that at times she teaches small classes in her home. Tragedy strikes this contented family’s home when George is found dead in a fashionable hotel in the city. He was naked, save for a striped scarf in his mouth. His death was ruled a heart attack by the coroner. Kiki, however, could not accept this verdict. George recently had had a complete physical examination and was found to be in perfect health. If she had to do it alone, with no help from the authorities, she would somehow prove that her husband was murdered.

She's going to get no help from her mother-in-law, though. George’s mother, Sheila, does not even try to hide the hatred she feels for Kiki. She believes Kiki stole George’s true love from him, his high school sweetheart Roxanne Baxter. When George died, Sheila devotes all her love and attention to her granddaughter, Anya. And then Kiki is informed by George’s partner shortly after his death that he had been embezzling large sums of money from their company, close to a half a million dollars. If she would pay it back in full, he would not make a public revelation of that fact. Kiki sells their home and most of their possessions to protect George’s name, moving to a more modest section of the area. But then things get really tough for Kiki when, in her search for the truth, she discovers that George had been seeing Roxanne all along. In a heated exchange with the woman, Kiki threatens her. When Roxanne is later found dead, Kiki naturally becomes the prime suspect, giving Sheila an opportunity to try to get custody of Anya. Kiki receives help and support not only from friends working on their scrapbooks, but also a very attentive detective. And could the solution to this mystery be contained within the scrap-n-craft entries in the scrapbooks themselves?

Slan cleverly frames the mystery in Paper, Scissors, Death around the craft of scrapbooking, something about which she clearly has considerable knowledge yet makes it seem approachable to beginners. Instructions, tips, and techniques are all featured. The characters, in particular Kiki, are nicely developed and likeable, and there's an enjoyable mix of humor, suspense, with a just a touch of romance in this well-rounded cozy debut.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Paper, Scissors, Death and to Midnight Ink 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 Paper, Scissors, Death from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Mousy housewife Kiki Lowenstein has only been good at two things in her life: scrapbooking and raising her eleven-year-old daughter, Anya. Known as the "Scrapbook Queen of St. Louis," Kiki works part-time at a scrapbook shop and shares her passion with others. But life gets sticky when her husband, George, is found naked and dead with a silk scarf stuffed in his mouth. And worse, George's business partner accuses him of having embezzled company money.

Vowing to put all the pieces together, Kiki toughens up and spouts vicious threats when George's former flame brags about their affair at a bridal shower. But when the woman is murdered, Kiki's scissor-sharp words make her a prime suspect. Faced with losing custody of Anya, can Kiki track down the cunning killer, resist the distractingly dashing Detective Detweiler, and reveal the courageous woman she is at heart?

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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