Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Cactus Island by William Manchee

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

Cactus Island by William Manchee
A Stan Turner Mystery
Top Publications (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-929976-36-4 (1929976364)
ISBN-13: 978-1-929976-36-2 (9781929976362)
Publication Date: August 2006
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Attorney Stan Turner is called out to Possum Kingdom Lake in central Texas where there's been a tragic Jeep accident. The teenage driver, Steven Caldwell, survives unscathed but his passenger dies. It appears to be just another tragic auto accident until the sheriff discovers Steven and the victim were in love with the same girl. When Steven is charged with murder, he insists the accident wasn't his fault. He claims he was distracted by an alien spacecraft flying overhead. At first Stan thinks his client's story is ridiculous, but as his investigation progresses he discovers his client may be telling the truth.

Review: Cactus Island, the 7th mystery in the Stan Turner series by William Manchee, features the Dallas-based attorney and his partner, Paula Waters, separately hired to represent two defendants accused of murder. Though their cases are not apparently related, it ultimately becomes clear there is something that links them together.

Stan agrees to defend a young man, Steven, who was driving a Jeep when it went over a cliff in the Texas hill country and crashed, killing his passenger, a rival for the girl he loved. Steven claims the crash was an accident, and that he was distracted by the sudden presence of an alien spacecraft overhead while negotiating a turn in the road.

Paula, originally hired to handle the divorce of Cheryl Windsor, is suddenly put in the role of her defense attorney when she’s accused of murdering her husband, who has disappeared but no body has been found. Cheryl maintains her innocence even though circumstantial evidence suggests she may have killed him.

Both of these cases, and the possibility they are connected in some way, provide an intriguing premise for this book. However, what starts out so promising descends into the absurd by the end of the book. Significant inconsistencies in the plot are left either unresolved or given irrational explanations. The irony here is that Manchee sets up a logical explanation for the events taking place around Cactus Island, yet that solution is merely a red herring to the illogical conclusion that is finally revealed.

In retrospect, Manchee foreshadows the flawed logic in Cactus Island in the prelude. While attending the funeral of his son, Peter, Stan states, “For anyone who discovered the truth would suffer the same fate as Peter.” Obviously Stan knows “the truth” and clearly he has not suffered the same fate as his son as he is still alive to tell the story.

And what a story it is: a silly plot with holes large enough to fly a spaceship through.

Special thanks to Top Publications for providing a copy of Cactus Island for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Technorati tags: mystery books blogs, , , , . Omnimystery keywords for Cactus Island. Locations referenced: Dallas, Texas Hill Country, British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mystery Trivia for October 2006

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

Which Miss Marple mystery is the only one to take place outside of England?

Which location is believed to have been the inspiration for this book?

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 Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for October 02, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for October 02, 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: D E G H I M O R T. This was the title of the third mystery by Edgar Award winning author David Stout (with “The”) (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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Friday, September 29, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Deadline Stiff by J. M. Burns

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Deadline: Stiff by J. M. Burns. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Deadline: Stiff by J. M. Burns

Deadline: Stiff by J. M. Burns
A David Endicott Mystery
Cold Tree Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-58385-091-0 (1583850910)
ISBN-13: 978-1-58385-091-6 (9781583850916)
Publication Date: June 2006
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Freshly returned from military police duty in Iraq, young David Endicott stumbles into his first case by rescuing a corpse from an eccentric billionaire’s guesthouse. With eyebrows raised, Baulden Grey asks Endicott to discover three things in seven frenetic days: Who the man was; how he gained entry to the heavily protected grounds; and what he wanted once inside.

It all sounded so simple, so deliciously straightforward, and it might have been, except for the powdered wings of a rare Chinese butterfly. For the Golden Yellow possesses a secret powerful enough to change the face of gang crime in Southern California. And beyond …

Review: J. M. Burns debut mystery featuring David Endicott, Deadline: Stiff, begins as a locked room puzzle and ends as a first-rate thriller.

Hired to find out the identity of the dead man he “rescued” from a guesthouse fire on the estate of Baulden Grey, David Endicott is presented with a number of problems. The only unsecured access to the building was a small window on the third floor, yet no evidence was found to indicate the man entered through it. His death was apparently due to his falling from a great height, yet bruises on the body are inconsistent with this supposition. And why was he in the guesthouse in the first place?

The first half of Deadline: Stiff moves along briskly, as the seven day time limit imposed on David by Grey subtly serves to quicken the pace of the story. The second half races to a conclusion at breakneck speed, with the storylines seeming to trip over each other. It’s not quite clear at any time who is aligned with whom, and with the large cast of characters, it’s easy to get confused. The reasoning behind some of the alliances seems weak, and though it would probably have been something of a clichĂ©, a recap between David and his uncle at the end would have been helpful in explaining why various factions were working together.

In many mystery series, there’s often someone who acts as the source of arcane information, all of which is important, if not always initially obvious, to the case at hand. In Deadline: Stiff, it’s Gus, and he’s a wonderfully complex character. Whether he’s quoting scholars from the 17th century or brewing pruno, he’ll be an asset to David in the future.

Burns has created some memorable characters in Deadline: Stiff, and has a real talent for dialog and setting. It’s a terrific start to a promising new mystery series.

Special thanks to J. M. Burns for providing a copy of Deadline: Stiff for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Bestsellers for September 29, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending September 29, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Topping the lists this week is the latest horse racing thriller from Dick Francis, Under Orders by Dick FrancisUnder Orders. Not only does this mark the return of Francis, but also his ex-jockey/detective Sid Halley. Halley had been called upon by Lord Enstone to make discreet inquiries into why his horses appeared to be on a permanent losing streak. Are races being fixed? Are bookies taking a cut? And if so, are trainers and jockeys playing a dangerous game with stakes far higher than they are realistic? Halley's quest for answers draws him even deeper into the darker side of the race game, in a life-or-death power play that will push him to his very limits-both professionally and personally. Publishers Weekly states, "The writing and action are as crisp as ever, though longtime Francis fans may find the plot a little familiar."

Also new this week is the second Harper Connelly mystery, Grave Surprise by Charlaine HarrisGrave Surprise by Charlaine Harris. A college class gets more than it bargained for when Harper gives a demonstration of her uncanny talent. Instead of just finding one body in an old grave, she finds two: the original occupant and a recently deceased girl whom Harper had tried, and failed, to find two years previously. To dispel suspicions about her own innocence, Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver undertake their own hunt to find the killer-only to find yet another body in the same grave. Kirkus Reviews writes, "Believers and skeptics alike will enjoy Harper's search for the truth and her changing relationship with Tolliver."

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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News: Patterson Mysteries Under Development at ABC

Variety is reporting that Brett Ratnet has been ordered by ABC to direct and executive produce Woman's Murder Club, an adaptation of James Patterson's mystery series featuring four woman who track down serial killers in San Francisco. Patterson will also executive produce.

Also in the works at ABC is Murder Incorporated which revolves around a man who discovers he's from a wealthy family, but the source of the money may be from a less than legitimate business.

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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Thursday, September 28, 2006

News: Online Bookfair October 3-5, 2006

First-ever fair celebrates and connects the online book community with three days of continual events.

Talk about an idea that’s really plugged-in. The fair will be held during October 3-5, 2006 at the Online Bookfair October 3-5, 2006Online Bookfair website.

A cause for celebration and connection for the burgeoning online book community, the three-day fair has something for everybody -- from booklovers to bloggers -- according to Fauzia Burke, a pioneer in online book promotion and president of FSB Associates, host of the premiere event.

With its "Love of Reading" theme, the event is designed for a wide audience -- booklovers, authors, publishers, booksellers, and anyone else who is passionate about books and reading.

The online event is teeming with non-stop book happenings, says Burke, along with a variety of special events and giveaways.

"Today’s online book community is more vital and vibrant than ever" says Burke. "Throughout the book fair, we want to celebrate their increasingly important voice and connect people who love books in a whole new way."

FSB Associates works with some of the best mystery authors writing today. Recent mysterious reviews of books promoted by FSB Associates include The Husband by Dean Koontz, The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, and The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman.

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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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

News: A Double Dose of Crichton

Kevin Howell* writes in the September 25th issue of Publishers Weekly that HarperCollins is planning a big splash for Next, the Michael Crichton title set for release November 28. Meanwhile, on October 31, Hard Case Crime is reissuing John Lange's 1970 novel Grave Descend by John LangeGrave Descend—and booksellers with long memories will recall that Lange is one of three pseudonyms under which Crichton has published.

The mystery is why Crichton's name is not on the mass market jacket. When the author's name is brought up, Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime's founder and editor, won't budge: "We're mentioning the only name that has ever appeared on the book. Mr. Lange is a very private person and we don't have very much information about his private life."

It's an open secret that Crichton wrote books under three pseudonyms while he was in medical school. Long ago, he owned up to writing the 1968 medical thriller A Case of Need, which won his pen name, Jeffrey Hudson, an Edgar Award and is currently published by Signet; the cover reads "Michael Crichton writing as Jeffrey Hudson." In 1970, Crichton and his brother penned Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues under the nom de plume created by combining their first names: Michael Douglas.

The eight novels published by John Lange between 1966 and 1972 are a little harder to connect to Crichton, but there are plenty of clues. The final novel, Binary, was turned into a 1972 movie of the week called Pursuit, the same movie that marked Michael Crichton's debut as a film director. Both Who's Who and Contemporary Authors credit the Lange novels to Crichton.

Crichton, 6'9" tall, supposedly chose his two pen names as riffs on his height. Lange means "tall one" in German and Dutch, while Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a 17th-century French dwarf.
Ardai won't speculate about pseudonyms (his own 2004 novel, Little Girl Lost, was published under the name "Richard Aleas") but he will vouch for Grave Descend's quality. "When I discovered John Lange's novels a few years ago, I thought they were lost gems that readers would love if they were reprinted. They're fun books. We chose this one because it felt like the most obvious fit for Hard Case Crime. His others seemed more like thrillers than crime stories. It's also the only John Lange book that was nominated for an Edgar."

No one at HarperCollins would comment on the Lange-Crichton connection; an HC spokesperson said Crichton was "finishing up the new book" and wouldn't be able to comment.

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.

* Reprinted with permission of the author, Kevin Howell.

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Mystery Book Review: The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman
Non-series
Penguin Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-14-303662-9 (0143036629)
ISBN-13: 978-0-14-303662-3 (9780143036623)
Publication Date: February 2006
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): When a twelfth-century Sicilian cat burglar snatches a sack of artifacts from the king's geographer's library, the tools and talismans of transmutation—and eternal life—are soon scattered all over the world. Nine hundred years later, a young Connecticut reporter finds evidence that someone is collecting them again.

In the process of investigating the suspicious death of a local professor, Paul Tomm finds the dead man's heavily fortified office stuffed with books on alchemy. The Geographer's Library entwines his contemporary reporting with a chain of ancient stories-within-the-story, tracking the last time each of the geographer's tools changed hands—some bought, some stolen, some killed for.

Review: Jon Fasman's debut novel, The Geographer's Library, is a literary adventure tale that will captivate its readers with a murder mystery interlaced with a fascinating insight into the history of alchemy and the pursuit of its treasures. (Alchemy is the study, the science, and the process of transformation. Deliberate transformation. Of anything into anything. This definition is important to understanding the nuances of the characters in the book.)

Paul Tomm, a reporter for a small paper in northwest Connecticut, has his interest piqued when, following the death of a Professor of Baltic History, information about the man's background seems remarkably difficult to obtain. Following a near death experience himself, he learns more about the dead scholar and his obsession with obtaining the contents stolen from a geographer's library almost 900 years ago.

The Geographer's Library is written as a first person narrative of Paul Tomm. The wonder, confusion, and fear expressed by Paul during his investigation is convincingly conveyed to the reader. At one point he states, "All this for what could have been an obit at the back of a newspaper that a few hundred people would have run their eyes over before throwing away ... But it had grown into something else, something that thrilled me even as it frightened me, made me feel that I had finally cracked through the pane of smudged glass, broken the surface of the sea. I finally felt like something other than an observer in my life." This is an exceptionally well written book.

As good as Paul's account is, the 16 side stories in chapters alternating with the narrative, each representing an object stolen from the geographer's library, are absolutely riveting. Though having little to do directly with Paul's story itself, these mini-vignettes provide an intriguing glimpse into the history of alchemy and serve as the back story into the life, and ultimately death, of the mysterious professor.

The Geographer's Library ends with an interesting and unexpected twist that provides a very cogent conclusion to this exceptional book.

Special thanks to FSB Associates for providing a copy of The Geographer's Library for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

Hardcover version: Penguin USA, February 2005, ISBN: 1594200386, $24.95.

Visit for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books. The is commited to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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News: A Conversation with Steve Hamilton

Sonja Brodie, special writer for the Ann Arbor News, recently had a conversation with Steve Hamilton, author of the Alex McKnight mystery series.

Hamilton's 7th mystery in the series, A Stolen Season by Steve HamiltonA Stolen Season, was recently published by St. Martin's Press. On a cold, miserable night in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Alex McKnight and his former partner Leon happen to be standing on the edge of Lake Superior, waiting for the July 4th fireworks to begin when the wreck happens. In the shallow water of Waishkey Bay, an antique wooden boat runs right into a line of old railroad pilings. When Alex and Leon go out to rescue the passengers, they find three men. The driver of the boat is out cold. The other two are dazed but conscious. When they're finally back on dry land and sent away in an ambulance, Alex figures he'll never see them again. He couldn't be more wrong.

Alex McKnight is not a traditional detective by any means, Hamilton says. "He's a guy who has no interest in being a private eye or having any kind of profession like that, so it is a little more challenging to drag him into trouble every time. The one thing that I've got going for me is that he's a total sucker. A friend in need or anybody who needs his help - he's going to do it. That's really what keeps dragging him into trouble.''

Asked why he chose to set his series in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, he says, "As soon as you cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, everything just feels different up there and looks different and the people are different, mostly in a good way." He adds, "The rest of the country is all starting to look alike, it's all Starbucks and Wal-Marts. The U.P. is one of the last places that's still unlike anywhere else in the country. I wanted to have that unique setting. And, of course, having Lake Superior in the background all the time, this beautiful monster of a lake, I just thought that was a pretty irresistible thing.''

Read the entire interview on Everything Michigan (mlive.com) here.

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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Press Release: Author Jon F. Merz Offers Free Serialized Fiction

Boston, MA (PRWEB) September 25, 2006 -- Thriller author Jon F. Merz will pen a free serialized novella The Courier on his MySpace.com page located at http://www.myspace.com/lawsonvampire beginning Monday, October 2nd and continuing through October with a climax on Halloween. Merz, the author of the critically-acclaimed Lawson Vampire series of novels, will write a special "mini-mission" - an approximately 40,000-word supernatural hard-boiled noir adventure.

Merz's character Lawson is an elite member of a vampiric race that evolved alongside humanity, known as a Fixer. His job is to protect the secret existence of vampires by acting as judge, jury, and executioner for rogue elements of his society. His past adventures have taken him from Boston to the Himalayas and everywhere in between as he chases down conspirators, kidnappers, power-hungry sociopaths, drug runners, and more.

Read the entire press release here.

The is commited 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 25, 2006

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for September 25, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for September 25, 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 G N O R S T U W. This was the title of Loren D. Estleman’s 5th mystery to feature Amos Walker (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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Friday, September 22, 2006

News: New Website for Agatha Christie Mystery Games

Games of Mystery
The Adventure Company, a division of DreamCatcher, has created a new website to present its games based on Agatha Christie mysteries.

And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None, introduced last year, is based on the Christie novel of the same name. 10 people, strangers to each other, are all invited to a lavish estate on an isolated island. Through a recording, their mysterious host accuses each of his ‘guests’ of murder and proceeds to exact "justice." Tension mounts as, one-by-one, the number of people are reduced through the ingenious plotting of the unseen killer. New twists-and-turns to the original story, plus a brand new character has been introduced – the player of the game. The game contains breathtaking 3D graphics and multiple endings.

Climb aboard the luxurious train and become part of the famous murder mystery as you play the video game adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express, to be released later this year. Staying true to the novel, players will step on to the lavish, richly appointed train that departs Istanbul hurtling toward Paris. The train is filled with passengers, one of whom is the high profile Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. A passenger recognizes him, asks for protection, but is turned down. The next day that individual is found dead. Players take on the role of Antoinette Marceau, a new character, who works alongside Poirot to investigate the savage murder. With a train filled of suspects, Antoinette will need every tip that she can garner from Poirot in order to pinpoint the killer.

Games for Mystery provides information about all types of mystery-themed games including games for the PC, board games, mystery parties for adults, teens, and children, mystery vacations, and mysteries online.

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Mystery Book Contest: Win a Signed Book and Pendant by Gerard F. Bianco

New MysteriesNew! The Deal Master Contest is now available on The Mystery Book Contest Website. Enter daily through December 01, 2006, for a chance to win an amazing prize package from author and jewelry designer Gerard F. Bianco.

The prize package includes:

The Deal Master, Bianco's first mystery and a psychological thriller, signed by the author. Read a review of The Deal Master on Mysterious Reviews.

A unique garnet pendant, designed and crafted by Bianco, including chain. Bianco's jewelry is featured at Porte 4, Portland Maine’s most unique jewelry store, located in the heart of the Old Port.

The Deal Master by Gerard F. BiancoGarnet Pendant by Gerard F. Bianco

The Deal Master Contest is sponsored by Gerard F. Bianco, Author Marketing Experts, and Mysterious Reviews.

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Mystery Bestsellers for September 22, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending September 22, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

New this week on the lists is the 3rd mystery featuring editor and philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall SmithThe Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith. When friends from Dallas arrive in Edinburgh and introduce Isabel to Tom Bruce - a bigwig at home in Texas - several confounding situations unfurl at once. Tom's young fiancée's roving eye leads Isabel to believe that money may be the root of her love for Tom. But what, Isabel wonders, is the root of the interest Tom begins to show for Isabel herself? She's certain of the ethical basis for a little sleuthing now and again - especially when the problems involve matters of the heart.

Another notable newcomer is the 10th appearance of Repairman Jack in F. Paul Wilson's Harbingers by F. Paul WilsonHarbingers. It starts off so simply: Jack, still feeling down after the tragic events of Infernal, is hanging in Julio's when a regular named Timmy asks him for help. His teenage niece has been missing since this morning; the police say it's too early to worry, but Timmy knows something bad has happened. Jack says he'll put the word out on the street. This innocent request triggers a chain of seemingly coincidental events that lead Jack into the darkest days of his life.

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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