The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books recently updated its list of December 2011 hardcover mysteries as well as shelved new December paperbacks on The Mystery Bookshelf.
In this series of monthly posts, which we call Firsts on the 1st, we're introducing readers to new series characters who will make their mysterious American debut in print during December. (Purchase options include Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and the iTunes iBookstore, which are indicated by icons under the cover image.)
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Author: Pamela Beason
Series Character: Sam Westin
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What we know about the character: Sam Westin is an internet writer/reporter.
Her first case: A child has gone missing, and Sam Westin knows it's her fault. She nudged the boy down a dark path toward a man she presumed was his father. Now there's a media campaign targeting the cougars she helped rehabilitate and release a year ago, blaming them for the boy's disappearance. It's only when FBI Agent Chase Perez joins the case that human suspects are considered.
Clues lead Sam and Chase to the high country, where they comb the rocky canyons for evidence of the boy and for the one man who may be a vital witness. But as hours pass, and the media frenzy escalates, Sam fears they won't uncover the truth in time to save both the boy and the big cats …
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Title: Double Booked for Death
Author: Ali Brandon
Series Character: Black Cat Bookshop
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What we know about the characters: The Black Cat Bookshop mysteries feature a bad-tempered black cat named Hamlet with an unwitting bookstore owner named Darla Pettistone.
Their first case: As the new owner of Pettistone's Fine Books, Darla is determined to prove herself a worthy successor to her late great-aunt Dee … and equally determined to outwit Hamlet, the smarter-than-thou cat she inherited along with the shop.
Darla's first store event is a real coup: the hottest bestselling author of the moment is holding a signing there. But when the author meets an untimely end during the event, it's ruled an accident — until Hamlet digs up a clue that seems to indicate otherwise …
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Title: Soft Target
Author: Stephen Hunter
Series Character: Ray Cruz
What we know about the character: Ray Cruz is a retired Marine sniper, who was a supporting character in the Bob Lee Swagger mystery Dead Zero (2010).
His first case: Black Friday America’s largest shopping mall Suburban Minneapolis 3:00 P.M.
Ten thousand people jam the aisles, the corridors, the elevators, and the escalators of America, the Mall — a giant Rubik’s Cube of a structure with its own amusement park located in the spacious center atrium. Of those people, nine thousand nine hundred and eighty-eight have come to shop. The other twelve have come to kill.
The gunmen open fire in the mall corridors, driving the pack before them. Those on the upper floors take cover or get out any way they can; but within a few minutes the gunmen have herded more than a thousand hostages into the amusement park.
Ray Cruz is in the mall with his fiancée and her family. The retired Marine sniper thought he was done with stalking and killing — but among the trapped thousands, he’s the only one with a plan and the guts to confront the self-proclaimed “Brigade Mumbai.” Now all he needs is a gun.
FBI Sniper Dave McElroy has a gun. But positioned on the roof of the vast building, looking down through one of its thickly paned Great Lakes–shaped skylights, and without explosives or fuses — or the go-ahead from his superiors — he is effectively cut off from his targets and forced into the role of witness to the horror unfolding below.
Having learned the lessons of Columbine, the feds believe that immediate action is the only solution. But Douglas Obobo, the charismatic and ambitious commandant of the state police, orders cooperation, tolerance, communication, and empathy for the gunmen. He feels that with his superior negotiating skills, he can make contact with the shooters and gently nudge them into surrender. But what if their goal all along has been unparalleled massacre — and they’re only waiting for prime time?
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Author: Clea Koff
Series Character: Jayne Hall and Steelie Lander
What we know about the characters: Jayne Hall and Steelie Lander are forensic anthropologists in Los Angeles.
Their first case: When a bundle of frozen body parts tumbles out the rear door of a van on a Los Angeles freeway, FBI agent Scott Houston knows just where to go for an off-the-record analysis: Agency 32/1, a non-profit missing persons identification resource center run by Jayne Hall and Steelie Lander. Jayne and Steelie quickly determine that the remains are human, though from several women. But Scott’s call has unintended consequences for the two women, putting their lives in jeopardy, as their unique skills uncover evidence leading directly to the killer …
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Title: Matrimony and Murder
Author: Lois Lamanna
Series Character: Marlene Webb and Bethany Cunningham
What we know about the characters: Marlene Webb and Bethany Cunningham are amateur sleuthing sisters.
Their first case: Marlene and Bethany attend the wedding of a distant cousin hoping to find information for the family tree. What they discover is a body in the church basement, a tactless police officer, a cosmetic case containing fifty thousand dollars and a hidden family secret.
Self described as being over-fifty, over-weight, and over-educated, the sisters have obvious personality differences. Bethany is generous of heart and, well, let’s just say, Marlene is not.
When the groom is arrested at the reception, the sisters are challenged with the task of proving his innocence, after all, no family member of theirs would commit murder … or would they?
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Title: Trashy Chic
Author: Cathy Lubenski
Series Character: Bertie Mallowan
Format: Trade Paperback
What we know about the character: Bertie Mallowan is a reporter in Southern California.
Her first case: Bertie has drifted away from hard news stories and into the shallows of "fluff" features, the kind you find buried in the back of the newspaper. Writing about preschool fashion shows and the latest in designer garbage bags bores her so she amuses herself by inventing naughty passwords for her computer and pushing the envelope when it comes to creative lying to management types.
When she interviews greedy, nasty Robert Bellingham, the king of must-have luxury items for the rich of Southern California — like monogrammed airbags for "The Crash with Panache" and mink coats pre-streaked with red paint to foil PETA kamikazes. Over the years, his products have become de rigueur for the class that has two of everything and is seeking the one and only of something else. He's made a lot of money and a lot of enemies.
Two days after Bertie's interview, Bellingham's body is found on the floor of the foyer in the family mansion; someone has aerated his skull with the stereotypical blunt object. Thanks to her interview, Bertie has inside information about the life and times of a rich and powerful murder victim and is thrust into a big story again.
Bertie is convinced that the family's bizarre emotional ticks make them all uniquely capable of committing murder. A second murder and an attack on Bertie herself brings her face-to-face with the kind of danger she's only ever written about, never experienced first-hand.
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Title: A Bespoke Murder
Author: Edward Marston
Series Character: Harvey Marmion
What we know about the character: Inspector Harvey Marmion is a police officer in London during the early days of The Great War.
His first case: May 1915. As zeppelin bombs fall on London and with the sinking of the Lusitania, anti-German hysteria reaches fever pitch and attacks on German immigrants surge. Not even the West End of London is immune. Jacob Stein's bespoke tailoring business comes under brutal attack, leaving his safe ransacked, his daughter, Ruth, raped and traumatized and Jacob dead.
Inspector Harvey Marmion is detailed to the case and faces an uphill struggle to track down the perpetrators, even up to the chaos of the Front Line. But was the murder as opportunistic as it first appears, or did someone with a deadly grudge plan the attack?
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Title: Morgue Drawer Four
Author: Jutta Profijt
Series Character: Martin Gänsewein
Format: Trade Paperback
What we know about the character: Dr. Martin Gänsewein is a coroner in Cologne, Germany.
His first case: Coroner is the perfect job for Martin, who spends his days in peace and quiet autopsying dead bodies for the city of Cologne. Shy, but scrupulous, Martin appreciates his taciturn clients — until the day one of them starts talking to him. It seems the ghost of a recently deceased (and surprisingly chatty) small-time car thief named Pascha is lingering near his lifeless body in drawer number four of Martin’s morgue. He remains for one reason: his “accidental” death was, in fact, murder. Pascha is furious his case will go unsolved — to say nothing of his body’s dissection upon Martin’s autopsy table. But since Martin is the only person Pascha can communicate with, the ghost settles in with the good pathologist, determined to bring the truth of his death to light. Now Martin’s staid life is rudely upended as he finds himself navigating Cologne’s red-light district and the dark world of German car smuggling. Unless Pascha can come up with a plan — and fast — Martin will soon be joining him in the spirit world.
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For a list of more hardcover mysteries scheduled for publication during December, please visit our New Mysteries home page. If you're interested in new paperbacks, visit The Mystery Bookshelf, where you can discover a library of new mysteries, also updated with December 2011 releases. See also our regularly updated eBook site for new mysteries, suspense novels and thrillers, MysterEbooks.com.
Please also visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books where we are committed to providing readers and collectors of mystery books with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.