Wednesday, September 13, 2006

News: Agatha Christie Memorabilia Auctioned

Hundreds of personal items belonging to crime writer Dame Agatha Christie were auctioned off Tuesday by Bearnes of Exeter (UK). The signed first edition books, ceramics, pictures, prints, furniture and jewellery were kept at her Devon holiday home, Greenway House. The house, but not the contents, was gifted to the National Trust in 2000 by Christie's daughter.

The first 100 lots sold for two or three times their initial estimates, Bearnes reported. A collection of her first edition novels sold for more than $75,000. A single copy of Death on the Nile, the most expensive book sold at the auction, fetched over $4400. The auction, which attracted worldwide attention, garnered approximately $560,000, half of which will help fund conservation work at Greenway House.

Dame Agatha's books published in English have sold more than one billion copies and another billion copies in more than 45 other languages. She died in 1976.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

News: Which Whodunits Work and Why?

Roberta Alexander ponders in the Contra Costa Times as to what makes some mysteries work and others not. "Every mystery contains its own mystery," she writes. "Will it satisfy the reader? Is this a favorite author who has recycled old stuff and needs a new shtick? Is this a first-time author who shouldn't quit his or her day job? Or, if you're lucky, is this someone who has found a new and perhaps ingenious way to solve a puzzle and take you on an adventure for several hours?"

To answer some of her own questions, she takes as examples five recent, but diverse, mysteries and analyzes them as to what works and what doesn't. The books under investigation: The Old Wine Shades by Martha Grimes, Nail Biter by Sarah Graves, A Long Shadow by Charles Todd, Hornswoggled by Donis Casey, and Bones to Pick by Carolyn Haines.

Read her very entertaining analysis of these mysteries on the ContraCostaTimes.com here.

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Mystery Book Review: Scoop by Kit Frazier

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Scoop by Kit Frazier. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Scoop by Kit Frazier

Scoop by Kit Frazier
A Cauley MacKinnon Mystery
Midnight Ink (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7387-0915-8 (0738709158)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7387-0915-4 (9780738709154)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $13.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Banished to the "death page" at the Austin Sentinel after sleeping with her boss, Cauley MacKinnon is eager to shed her shameful title as the Obituary Babe and put her new journalism degree to good use. When her childhood friend Scooter Barnes, exotic pet store owner and former Dallas Cowboy, threatens suicide, she sneaks into the crime scene and manages to talk him out of it. But Scooter is later found dead and everyone -- a hot FBI agent, a menacing one-eared maniac, the Argentinean mafia, and a flirtatious customs agent -- wants the scoop on what he told Cauley in his last hours.

Up to her eyelashes in dead bodies, Cauley gets mixed up in a Texas-sized hunt for Scooter's killer and also manages to fall for a couple of cuties involved in the murder case.

Review: Kit Frazier's debut mystery, Scoop, introduces Cauley MacKinnon currently working as the obituary editor for an Austin newspaper but looking for her big break as a news reporter.

She may get her scoop sooner than she thinks when Scott "Scooter" Barnes is found dead after two unsuccessful suicide attempts. Cauley doesn't believe he actually killed himself, but there's no real evidence to think he was murdered. Cauley's persistence, however, pays off when she's able to connect the importation of exotic animals from South America with events that took place decades ago and that someone is willing to keep secret at all costs.

Frazier appears to be trying to appeal to readers of "chick lit" by having Cauley state in the opening paragraph of the book, "Sometimes I think the only things standing between me and certain doom are instinct, pure dumb luck, and a kick-ass hairdresser." But the label doesn't strictly apply to what follows. True, Cauley is pursued by two eligible, handsome bachelors, one good for her and one not (both of whom will no doubt play recurring roles in the future). And she spends way too much time thinking about her underwear. And yes, there is the requisite cat. All this and a cover prominently featuring stylish high-heeled shoes just screams "chick lit". But Scoop is also a serious mystery with dramatic and suspenseful elements that are well interwoven to the plot. The only significant lapses in logic have to do with the backstory behind the murder, though they don't stretch the imagination so much that they detract from the appeal of the mystery.

Kit Frazier has created a smart, independent, strong-minded woman to be the heroine of her series, and with Scoop has written a solid mystery that should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Special thanks to Book Trends for providing an ARC of Scoop for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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The Mystery Bookshelf: New Paperback Mysteries for September 2006

Mystery Bookshelf: New Paperback MysteriesThe Mystery Bookshelf has posted a list of new paperback mysteries expected to be available in September 2006. The list was actually updated last week, but we neglected to mention it in our mystery blog.

Some of the mystery authors whose books are coming out in paperback this month include:

Delete All Suspects, the 4th Turing Hopper mystery by Donna Andrews;
The Case of the Roasted Onion, the 1st book in a new series featuring veterinarian Austin McKenzie by Claudia Bishop;
Wreath of Deception, another 1st book in a series, this one featuring crafts by Mary Ellen Hughes;
Death and Judgment, the 4th mystery in the excellent Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon;
Sacred Cows, the 1st book in the Annie Seymour mystery series by Karen E. Olson;
Fever, still another 1st book, this time featuring Miami cruise line investigator Matt "Loose Cannon" Shannon by Sean Rowe.

and many more!

Titles are maintained on The Mystery Bookshelf for 6 months, and are available for browsing by author, series character, or date of publication. You may also use our search tool to find all current and archived titles.

Thank you for visiting The Mystery Bookshelf!

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for September 11, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for September 11, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: A B D E K N O R W. The 18th mystery in the Nameless Detective series by Bill Pronzini had this title (9 letters).

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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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for September 08, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending September 08, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

The number of mysteries on the New York Times Bestseller List has diminished considerably this week. And the divergence of mystery titles on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com lists has grown. It's possible the definition of "mystery" is changing at each of these sites. We'll have to do a bit of our own investigating to see what's happening here!

New this week is the debut mystery from Jed Rubenfeld, The Interpretation of Murder by Jed RubenfeldThe Interpretation of Murder, a suspenseful historical thriller inspired by Sigmund Freud's only visit to America. In an opulent apartment high above New York City, a stunning young woman is found dangling from a chandelier—whipped, mutilated, and strangled. The next day, a second beauty—a rebellious heiress who scorns both high society and her less adventurous parents—barely escapes the killer. Yet Nora Acton, suffering from hysteria, can recall nothing of her attack. Asked to help her, Dr. Stratham Younger, America's most committed Freudian analyst, calls in his idol, the Master himself, to guide him through the challenges of analyzing this high-spirited young woman whose family past has been as complicated as his own. Publishers Weekly calls it "ambitious". Kirkus Reviews adds, "Meaty and provocative, though also grandiose and calculated." Mysterious Reviews states of The Interpretation of Murder, "... a cleverly devised murder mystery ... [but] flaws in style and editing prevent it from being a memorable novel of suspense fiction."

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

News: PBS To Air New Inspector Lynley Mysteries

Inspector Lynley (Nathaniel Parker) and Sergeant Havers (Sharon Small), Elizabeth George's crime-cracking duo from opposite sides of the track, are back in four intriguing mysteries to air on PBS.

No detective is better suited to expose the secrets of the upper classes than Lynley, himself the eighth Earl of Asherton. And while Havers may not know her earl from her escargot, she knows how to dig for clues in places a bit too seedy for the well-manicured Lynley.

Series 5 picks up where the last story ended -- Havers has been shot in the line of duty, and Lynley is estranged from his wife Helen. Will these traumas affect their ability to do their jobs?

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries will air on Sundays on PBS, 09/10 through 10/01. Check local listings for dates and times.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Profile: An Interview with J. A. Jance

Jessica Agi of the Anchorage Daily News recently interviewed J. A. Jance, author of the bestselling J. P. Beaumont, Joanna Brady, and Brandon Walker mysteries. Her most recent book, Dead Wrong, a Joanna Brady mystery, was recently published by HarperCollins.Dead Wrong by J. A. Jance

When asked how long it takes to write a novel, Jance replied, "It usually takes about six months from beginning to end, depending on what else is going on in my life." She adds, "It's hard work! There's nobody else to do the writing, nobody else to do the promoting, no other body to send on the book tour. Being a full-time writer is sort of like having three full-time jobs."

On the subject of where she comes up with her plots, Jance notes that inspiration varies from place to place, book to book. "Sometimes I find stuff that interests me in newspapers and magazines," she says. "The challenge then is taking that inspiration and figuring out a way to live with it for six months."

Read the entire interview of J. A. Jance in the Anchorage Daily News here.

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Mystery Book Review: No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews
A Meg Langslow Mystery
St. Martin's Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-32940-7 (0312329407)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-32940-2 (9780312329402)
Publication Date: August 2006
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): eXtreme croquet is the current rage in Caerphilly, where Meg and her fiancĂ©, Michael, have bought a house. While this society game can get quite warm, it hasn’t reached the stage of actual homicide---at least not until Meg knocks her ball down a small cliff and encounters the body of a dead woman. Her head has been bashed in, illustrating, perhaps, one of the many uses of a croquet mallet. It turns out that Michael knew the woman from years before. Meg finds herself further drawn in when it’s discovered that the woman was seeking to expose the bad dealings of a certain local society lady’s ancestors.

In the meantime, the old house needs many basic improvements and swarms with an entire family of working men, including countless second cousins, sawing and pounding away. Meg’s father is the overseer but is easily distracted since he has a tendency to become wrapped up in his current animal charges---this time it’s ducks.

Review: The mystery and mayhem continue in Caerphilly with Donna Andrews's 7th entry in the Meg Langslow series, No Nest for the Wicket. Credit must be given for the clever title, but this latest book from Andrews simply isn't up to par (to mix sports metaphors).

Reading No Nest for the Wicket is like watching a one-act play. Meg sits onstage in front of a backdrop that represents her farm. Scene changes are unnecessary as the entire story is essentially played out from this venue. Various family members, neighbors, friends, and visitors drop in, have a conversation with Meg, and then wander off to do whatever they do. Meg ponders the current situation between chats, coming up with a plan to move forward in the investigative process. All this is well and good, but about two thirds of the way through the play (er ... book), the audience asks, What’s all the fuss about? A murder? Oh, that’s right, someone was found with their head bashed in by a croquet mallet. What was her name? Are you sure? And that’s the underlying problem with this book: the reason for its very being ceases to be important, or even interesting.

No Nest for the Wicket is definitely not one of the better Meg Langslow mysteries, but will undoubtedly appeal to readers who have enjoyed previous books in the series. Despite the large cast of eccentric though admittedly interesting characters, the ever-present menagerie of animals, and the novel idea of incorporating eXtreme croquet into the story, in the end this one-act play is all rather monotonous.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing a copy of No Nest for the Wicket for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for September 04, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for September 04, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: A C E H K M N O R. The Fractal Murders, this author’s first mystery, introduced private eye Pepper Keane (9 letters).

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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Mystery Book Contest: Win a Set of Romantic Suspense Titles

The Mystery Book Contest WebsiteNew! The Romantic Suspense Contest is now available on The Mystery Book Contest Website. Enter daily through November 14, 2006, for a chance to win a prize package featuring five romantic suspense titles by authors represented by Book Trends!

The mysteries featured in this prize package are:

Triple Threat (paperback) by Jan Coffey
Double Dare (paperback) by Vicki Hinze, autographed!
Run for Your Life (paperback) by Andrea Kane
Maggie Without a Clue (paperback) by Kasey Michaels
Dark Truth (paperback) by Mariah Stewart


Triple Threat by Jan CoffeyDouble Dare by Vicki HinzeRun for Your Life by Andrea KaneMaggie Without a Clue by Kasey MichaelsDark Truth by Mariah Stewart

The Romantic Mystery Contest is sponsored by Book Trends, a company that meets authors' unique needs with personally designed promotions and publicity from an experienced industry insider, and Mysterious Reviews.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Profile: Christopher Fowler and a Very Odd Crime Unit

A recent article in The Independent describes how Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant and May mystery series, created his curmudgeonly detective duo. Fowler's most recent mystery, Ten Second Staircase, was recently published by Bantam.Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler

"To invent your own detective, it's necessary to glance at the sleuths of the past," says Fowler. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn't need to give his famous consulting detective a quirk because at the time Sherlock Holmes was conceived, the whole idea of a consulting detective was novel. Things are different now. "So how does a writer create a memorable detective these days?", Fowler asks. "My detectives, I decided, would be old, troublesome, wayward and faintly disreputable. Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to crime: the realistically detailed police procedural, usually grim and downbeat, and the more left-field, joyous theatre of ideas in which past masters once specialised."

Once the characters and location are set, it's time to write the story. "In the search for original plots, I decided to produce a modern take on each type of 'classic' crime in turn, from the locked-room mystery to the whodunnit," writes Fowler. "With such rich storylines to tap into, the problem is not one of finding cases for Bryant and May to investigate, but of choosing between them."

Read the entire article by Christopher Fowler on The Independent here.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Moonblind by Laura Crum

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Moonblind by Laura Crum. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Moonblind by Laura Crum

Moonblind by Laura Crum
A Gail McCarthy Mystery
Perseverance Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-880284-90-1 (1880284901)
ISBN-13: 978-1-880284-90-1 (9781880284901)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $13.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Gail McCarthy, seven months pregnant, is on leave from her work as a horse vet. Despite her firm intention to rest and prepare for her baby, she is drawn into the odd situation surrounding her cousin Jenny, who claims that she is being stalked. Newly relocated from Michigan, Jenny hints at nefarious dealings in her past as a racehorse trainer that may return to haunt her; and accidents seem to happen with astonishing frequency at her Thoroughbred lay-up farm. As Jenny’s only relative and friend in the area, Gail feels the need to support and help her cousin, but can hardly sort out truth from fiction as she tries to discover who the stalker might be. Jenny’s ex-husband, her former lover, the lover’s ex-wife, an unscrupulous player on the racehorse scene?

Gail finds herself confused and frustrated, while she struggles at the same time to solve a medical mystery involving one of her own horses. As the accidents at Jenny’s farm become more serious, Gail’s concern becomes desperate and personal, leading her to a dark confrontation where she must use all her wits to survive.

Review: Laura Crum's 9th mystery featuring horse veterinarian Gail McCarthy, Moonblind, is a simple, yet effective, story of how one's actions in the past may have unintended, and deadly, consequences in the present.

Pregnancy has made Gail philosophical. She muses about the life she will have with her unborn child, nicknamed Mac, and the life with her beloved horses she fears she will leave behind. When her cousin, Jenny, a thoroughbred race horse trainer who has recently purchased property nearby, suddenly calls late one night, obviously distraught but unwilling to provide any details, Gail wonders how she can help without knowing what the problem is. As Gail learns of the circumstances of her cousin's move to California from Michigan, she realizes Jenny's situation is far more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

The title, Moonblind, refers to a disease (Equine Recurrent Uveitis) that affects the eyesight of horses, temporarily and sometimes permanently causing blindness. The original term "moonblindness" was coined decades ago due to the recurrent nature of the disease, and many at that time erroneously thought the condition was related to the cycles of the moon. It is an authentic, integral, and unexpected, component of the story.

Crum allows the suspense of the story to build and proceed slowly, almost mimicking how Gail, being 7 months pregnant, might move and react. The side story about Gail's favorite horse, Danny, offers insight into how she handles critical situations both intellectually and emotionally, and that in the end, people and animals adapt to their given situation in the best way they can. The concluding scenes in the horse barn are vividly constructed and provide a shocking conclusion to this most unusual mystery.

Special thanks to Perseverance Press for providing a copy of Moonblind for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Trivia for September 2006

Mystery BestsellersThe Hidden Staircase Mystery Books has posted new mystery trivia questions for September 2006.

In which east coast city are the Tess Monaghan mysteries, by Laura Lippman, set?

For which of the major mystery book awards is Lippman a multiple winner?

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books to see the answers to these questions as well as previous mystery book trivia questions from prior months.

The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books provides readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Mystery Bestsellers for September 01, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending September 01, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Mostly a bit of reshuffling on the lists this week, with only one new title: Ricochet by Sandra BrownRicochet, a story of murder and betrayal by Sandra Brown. When Savannah Detective Sergeant Duncan Hatcher is summoned to the home of Judge Cato Laird in the middle of the night to investigate a fatal shooting, he knows that discretion and kid-glove treatment are the keys to staying in the judge's good graces and keeping his job. Determined to learn the dead man's connection to the Lairds and get at the truth, however, Duncan investigates further and quickly finds his career, as well as his integrity, in jeopardy. Publishers Weekly states, "No one does steamy suspense like Brown, as shown by this expert mix of spicy romance and sharply crafted crime drama."

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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