Monday, January 08, 2007

News: Transplant Patient that Inspired Blood Work Dies

Mysteries on DVDThe Associated Press is reporting that Terrell Hansen, the inspiration for the book Blood Work by Michael Connelly, has died. He was 65. Hansen was a friend of Connelly; they met at a book signing event in 1992 for the author's first novel, Black Echo.

AP notes that Hansen, who was 51 when he received the transplant, never met the family of his donor, but he knew she was an 18-year-old girl killed in an auto accident. He gave Connelly complete access to his life in researching the book Blood Work, a mystery involving a retired FBI agent who investigates the death of the young woman whose heart he received in surgery. The book was published in 1998 and was a bestseller.

Blood Work was turned into a 2002 film of the same name, directed by Clint Eastwood, who starred as the heart transplant patient.

Visit the Mysteries on DVD website for more information on Blood Work, the book and the movie.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for January 08, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 08, 2007A 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 E I K O R T V Y. This Oxford historical novelist is featured in mysteries by Veronica Stallwood (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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Sunday, January 07, 2007

News: Online Mystery Games are Back from the Dead

Games of MysteryReuters is reporting that mystery games are back from the dead, thanks to surging interest from older gamers and digital technology that makes them cheaper to produce and distribute.

According to Reuters, mystery games were popular in the mid-1990s but then fell out of favor. Recently, however, publishers of two popular online mystery games, Mystery Case Files and Mystery at Mansfield Manor, have been attracting large numbers of players, and a disproportionate number of them are older women. Links to both these games are available on the Games of Mystery website.

Big Fish, creator of the Mystery Case Files series, plans a retail launch this spring at Wal-Mart and other major retailers to get recognition for the title with consumers who may be leery of buying online. The three current Mystery Case Files games have sold more than 700,000 units. The company plans six more installments of the mystery-themed games.

With not one dollar to spend on advertising, Rory Scherer, founder of Toronto company SR Entertainment, banked on the appeal of TV crime shows and mystery novels when he launched Mystery At Mansfield Manor last summer. The game's rich look and user-friendly website, praised by several reviewers, was achieved for $50,000, Scherer said. SR Entertainment recently inked a deal with Stonehenge Media Group to raise $2 million to make five more interactive games.

Read the entire story, as published on CNET News.com, here.

Visit Games of Mystery for more mystery games of all kinds as well as mystery parties, mystery-themed vacations, and more!

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Mystery Bestsellers for January 05, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending January 05, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers by Lilian Jackson BraunThe first new bestseller of the new year is The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, the 29th installment in the long-running "The Cat Who ..." mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun featuring James Qwilleran and his famous felines, Koko and Yum Yum. Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere, is in an uproar (good and bad) following vast inheritances from wealthy old families. Only "Cool Koko" knows what's happening . . . and he's not telling. Jim Qwilleran thinks it's because he has more whiskers than ordinary cats, but who's counting? Meanwhile . . . Koko meets a piano tuner. Polly goes to Paris. Qwill writes a play (an absurdist play titled The Cat Who Got Elected Dog Catcher). And there's a mysterious death from a bee sting . . .

Be sure to check out our new, updated Mystery Bestsellers aStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

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, January 04, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader

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

The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader
Non-series

Forge (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-765-31463-0 (0765314630)
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31463-5 (9780765314635)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Braverman Shaw--"Bravo" to his friends--always knew his father had secrets. But not until Dexter Shaw dies does Bravo discover that his father belonged to the Order of Gnostic Observatines, a hidden sect long believed extinct. For centuries, the Order has guarded a lost Testament that could shake Christianity to its foundations. Dexter Shaw was the latest Keeper of the Testament--and Bravo is his chosen successor.

Before Dexter died, he hid the cache where only Bravo could find it. Now Bravo, an accomplished medieval scholar and cryptanalyst, must follow the esoteric clues his father left behind. His companion in this quest is Jenny Logan, a driven young woman with secrets of her own. Jenny is a Guardian, assigned by the order to protect Bravo, or so she claims. Bravo soon learns that he can trust no one where the Testament is concerned, perhaps not even Jenny ...

Another secret society, the Knights of St. Clement, originally founded and sponsored by the Papacy, has been after the Order's precious cache since the time of the Crusades. The Knights, agents and assassins, will stop at nothing to obtain the treasure. Bravo has become both a target and a pawn in an ongoing war far larger and more deadly than any he could have imagined.

From New York City to Washington D.C., to Paris, to Venice, and beyond, the race is on for the quintessential prize ... the Testament.

Review: In Eric Van Lustbader's latest thriller, The Testament, scholar Braverman "Bravo" Shaw is on a personal journey to seek out a cache of secrets following clues left to him by his late father. This cache includes the mysterious substance quintessence (the fifth classical element after earth, fire, water, and air) which may have been used to resurrect Jesus after his crucifixion, and a testament, a long hidden and suppressed gospel purportedly written by Jesus after his "death". Public knowledge of the contents of the cache could be catastrophic to modern Christianity, and with several factions using whatever means necessary to locate it, it is essential that Bravo find it first.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Millions of copies of a similarly plotted book have been sold, and that same book was made into a movie seen by millions more. It's something of a mystery why an author of Lustbader's caliber needed to write such a derivative work.

There are some redeeming qualities in The Testament. First, and most importantly, the book is well written. Characters are expressive and appropriately developed for a stand-alone thriller, locales (of which there are many) are realistically depicted, and the action is relentless. Second, the story is well plotted, if familiar. And in a nice, personal touch, Bravo's father lives on in his memory, and throughout the story, with italicized comments that are relevant to the situation at hand.

It's hard not to enjoy a book by Lustbader, and in the end, The Testament is no exception. But it is still disappointing that the story was so conventional.

Special thanks to The Book Report Network for providing a copy of The Testament for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Books: New Hardcover Titles for January 2007

Mystery BestsellersNew hardcover mystery titles scheduled to be published in January 2007 are now available on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

We thought we'd try something different this month, and provide summaries of the titles in order of entry in the mystery series (with non-series titles at the end).

• The 29th "The Cat Who ..." mystery, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers by Lilian Jackson Braun.
• The 21st Richard Jury mystery, Dust by Martha Grimes.
• The 15th Kate Shugak mystery, A Deeper Sleep by Dana Stabenow, set in Alaska.
• The 14th Marti MacAlister mystery, Suddenly a Stranger by Eleanor Taylor Bland.
• The 14th Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Murder Among the OWLS by Bill Crider.
• The 14th Amanda Pepper mystery, All's Well That Ends by Gillian Roberts, set in Philadelphia.
• The 13th Stephanie Plum mystery, Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich, set in New Jersey.
• The 9th Alexandra Cooper mystery, Bad Blood by Linda Fairstein, set in New York City.
• The 9th Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery, A False Mirror by Charles Todd.
• The 8th Trish Maguire mystery, Evil Is Done by Natasha Cooper.
• The 8th Mandy Dyer mystery, Pressed to Kill by Dolores Johnson, set in Denver.
• The 6th Charlotte LaRue mystery, Scrub-A-Dub-Dead by Barbara Colley, set in New Orleans.
• The 4th Bernie and Libby Simmons mystery, A Catered Valentine's Day by Isis Crawford.
• The 4th Steve Cline mystery, Triple Cross by Kit Ehrman, set in Louisville (KY).
• The 4th Philip Dryden mystery, The Coldest Blood by Jim Kelly, set in Cambridge (UK).
• The 4th Gil Cunningham mystery, St. Mungo's Robin by Pat McIntosh.
• The 2nd Jade Del Cameron mystery, Stalking Ivory by Suzanne Arruda, set in Nairobi.
• The 2nd Body Farm mystery, Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass, set in Tennessee.
• The 2nd Mike Garrity mystery, Head Games by Thomas B. Cavanagh.
• The 2nd Lee Bartholomew mystery, How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre, set in the Hamptons.
• The 1st Jamaica Wild mystery, Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault, set in New Mexico.
• The 1st Johnny Hawke mystery, Forests of the Night by David Stuart Davies, set in London.
• The 1st Sophie Anderson mystery, Body Count by P. D. Martin, set in Washington D.C.
• The 1st Lady Julie Grey mystery, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, set in London.
• Non-series: The Song Is You by Megan E. Abbott, set in Los Angeles.
• Non-series: The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry.
• Non-series: The Killing Moon by Chuck Hogan, set in Massachusetts.
• Non-series: The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey, set in Chicago.

Be sure to check out our Mystery Books aStore to purchase any of the new mysteries featured on our website!

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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Monday, January 01, 2007

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for January 01, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 01, 2007A 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: E H K N O R T W Y. John Buxton Hilton wrote a series of mysteries featuring this Scotland Yard Superintendent (9 letters, last name only).

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 31, 2006

Mysterious Reviews: A Look Back at 2006

Mysterious ReviewsAs we look back at the mysteries we reviewed at Mysterious Reviews in 2006, there were only 5 that received our highest praise. Each of these noteworthy books deserve another mention before we begin the new year.

We don't review books "on a curve", but we want to acknowledge that some mysteries are simply better than others. In order for our readers to recognize this, most of the mysteries we review are awarded "average" marks. This doesn't mean they are bad; generally, it simply means that these books didn't impress us as much as those rated higher. Our highest rating is reserved for those few books that are exceptional in one way or another and we try to highlight in our review why we believe they deserve this high mark.

Here are the 5 mysteries from 2006, in the order in which they were published, that we believe deserve space on your bookshelf.

The Geographer's Library by Jon FasmanThrough a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon

When Good Bras Go Bad by Gayle TrentMessenger of Truth by Jacqueline WinspearFalse Harbor by Michael Donnelly

February 2006: The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman. This book was published in hardcover in 2005, with the trade paperback, the one we reviewed, published in early 2006. We were captivated by both the literary adventure and the way it was presented to the reader. It is an exceptionally well-written book with an unexpected twist at the end.

May 2006: Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon, the 15th mystery to feature Venice Commissioner of Police Guido Brunetti, and a fine example of her body of work. Leon continues to impress us after all these years. In our review we wrote, "The storylines are multi-faceted, each side amplifying another, to produce a brilliance that is rare in detective fiction today." If you haven't read one of the mysteries in this series, make a resolution to do so in 2007; you won't be disappointed.

August 2006: When Good Bras Go Bad by Gayle Trent, the 2nd mystery in the Myrtle Crumb series. This slender book was an unexpected delight. Targeted to pre-teen girls, this gem of a mystery can be enjoyed by all. We said in our review, "Fully developed characters, a well thought out plot, and expressive and eloquent dialog, are all deftly composed in a book that runs less than 100 pages." A good example of never judging a book by its cover, its title, or its intended audience.

September 2006: Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, the 4th mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series. Somehow, someway, we managed to miss reading the first three books in this award-winning series. We're glad we caught this one, however, which we found mesmerizing. With eloquent prose, finely drawn characters, a reasoned investigative process, and atmospheric settings, it truly was one of the year's best.

October 2006: False Harbor by Michael Donnelly, who demonstrates considerable talent as the author in his debut mystery. Though we found the plot somewhat formulaic in places, the depth of characterization, the descriptive locales, and the accomplished prose elevated this book into the top tier of mysteries published this year.

If you haven't already read these mysteries, seek them out. They're worth the effort.

All of our mystery book reviews are conveniently organized by date, author, and "star" (or, in our case, "magnifying glass"). If you'd like to comment on our reviews, you may do so on this blog, or by sending a message to [email protected].

Visit for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books. The 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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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mystery Book Review: False Harbor by Michael Donnelly

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

False Harbor by Michael Donnelly
An Egret Van Gerpin Mystery

Windstorm Creative (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59092-129-1 (1590921291)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59092-129-6 (9781590921296)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $15.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): A cryptic symbol on a block of marble …

Anton Gropius understands. The malicious vandal who ravaged his sculptures is not finished. About to unveil his culminating creation, two decades in the making, Gropius must first expose his tormentor.

Reclusive Gropius Stuns World ...

Friday Harbor journalist, Egret Van Gerpin, has the headline written even before intruding on the sculptor’s private island. By kayak, in a tempest. The cantankerous Gropius recruits Egret’s help to save his work from those he's invited to his sanctuary. A dark bargain, as she becomes the last bulwark against a murderous compulsion storming the sculptor's false harbor.

Review: Michael Donnelly introduces journalist Egret Van Gerpin in the outstanding mystery novel, False Harbor, set in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.

Egret arrives, uninvited and unwelcome, on the private island retreat of famed sculptor and recluse Anton Gropius to interview him for an article. Rough seas prevent her from departing, stranding her on the island with Anton's family who have gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. Anton is planning a surprise for his family: the unveiling of a series of sculptures on which he has been working since someone destroyed a collection 21 years earlier at a similar event. Tormented by the idea that someone may try to do the same now, he asks Egret to stay and observe since many of the same people who were at the event years ago are again on the island for his birthday celebration. When a close associate of Anton's is found dead at the bottom of a ravine, Egret believes it wasn't an accident and sets out to identify the culprit ... and possibly solve a 21-year-old mystery.

It's a rare pleasure to read such a polished debut mystery. The island setting is a perfect location for the story, and the characters are interesting and well developed. The plot is a bit formulaic in places, but this minor fault is more than made up for by the accomplished prose. Consider this passage, as Egret is walking along a trail on the island pondering her reason for being there: "... the path sucked the anxiety from my legs, slowing me, starving the future and past to nourish the present, making a gift of itself. I fell into a new rhythm, letting the earth push me along and feeling wealthy at owning it for the moment, my only responsibility being to do it no harm ...".

It isn't clear if False Harbor is the start of a series featuring Egret Van Gerpin or simply a stand-alone mystery as the book is subtitled "A San Juan Island Mystery". But this complex character deserves another outing. Seek out False Harbor; it's one of the year's best mysteries.

Special thanks to Michael Donnelly for providing a copy of False Harbor for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Friday, December 29, 2006

News: Elijah Wood Joins Cast of The Oxford Murders

The Oxford Murders by Guillermo MartinezThe Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Elijah Wood has been signed to star in the upcoming movie The Oxford Murders based on the book of the same name by Guillermo Martinez. The movie will be directed by Alex de la Iglesia. It was previously announced that John Hurt will also star in the film.

The Oxford Murders involves a young Argentine mathematics student at Oxford (Wood) who finds his landlady - an elderly woman who helped decipher the Enigma Code during World War II - murdered. Meanwhile, leading Oxford logician Arthur Seldom (Hurt) receives an anonymous note bearing a circle and the words, "the first of the series." As more murders occur, Seldom guesses that they relate to his book about the parallels between investigations of serial killers and certain mathematical theorems. As he and the young student are drawn further into the game, it is up to the mentor and student to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again.

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in London and Oxford in late January 2007.

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: Love is Murder Mystery Conference

Naperville, IL, December 29, 2006 --(PR.COM)-- “It would be a crime to have a dream of writing a novel and not be able to achieve it,” says Todd A. Stone, author of Novelist’s Boot Camp: 101 Ways to Take Your Fiction from Boring to Bestseller (Writers Digest Books, ISBN 1582973601), "but at this year’s Love is Murder Conference and Convention, our boot camp is going to help you beat the rap and make that dream come true.”

Stone’s intensive Novelist’s Boot Camp workshop—based on his book by the same name—is one of the headlining events at the 9th annual “Love is Murder” conference/convention for readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thrillers, romantic suspense, and other dark fiction and true crime writing. The conference is scheduled for February 2-4 2007 at the Wyndham O’Hare Hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Headlining authors include Ken Bruen, Anne Perry, Raymond Bensen, Carolyn Haines, Max Allan Collins, Charlaine Harris, Robert W. Walker, and local Guest of Honor David J. Walker.

The conference/convention also features a full offering of panels, presentations, a crime scene reenactment, weapons demonstrations, and a Scotch tasting hosted my Master of Whisky Martin Duffy from Johnnie Walker. More information on the conference can be found at www.loveismurder.net.

Read the entire press release 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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Mystery Book Review: High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets

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

High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets
A Josie Marcus Mystery

Signet (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-21988-0 (0451219880)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-21988-6 (9780451219886)
Publication Date: November 2006
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Every job has its pluses and minuses. Josie Marcus gets to shoe-shop-but she also must deal with men like Mel Poulaine, who's too interested in handling women's feet. Soon Josie's been hired by Mel's boss to mystery-shop the store, but one step leads to another and Josie finds herself in St. Louis's seedy underbelly. Caught up in a web of crime, Josie hopes against hope that she won't end up murdered in Manolos.

Review: Josie Marcus, mystery shopper, returns in her second madcap adventure, High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets.

While mystery shopping a shoe store to which complaints have been made by woman who say that a certain salesman seems a bit more interested in their feet than in selling them shoes, Josie catches him in a compromising position with a pair of her own shoes. Just a day after being fired from his position, he's found murdered. Josie's neighbor's daughter, "Miss Perfect" Cheryl, to whom she is compared by her mother, is unexpectedly accused of the crime. Soon Josie finds herself drawn into an investigation involving men with "special needs".

High Heels are Murder is typical of this genre, reasonably well written and plotted, and will no doubt appeal to those readers who appreciate their murder mysteries liberally sprinkled with references to designer brands (and not to those who don't). Josie is an entertaining character, and there are certainly a few instances where it's hard not to smile at the situation in which she finds herself.

While the story is frivolous and light-hearted, Viets tries to instill into Josie characteristics that readers may find familiar in their own lives. Josie's a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, but working in a job she clearly enjoys despite the poor pay. She's constantly trying to live up some standard she attributes to her mother, but is it really her own standard that she's trying to live up to? These are interesting facets for a lead character, but at times they seem out of place in what is primarily a comedic mystery.

Special thanks to BreakThrough Promotions for providing a copy of High Heels are Murder for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Bestsellers for December 29, 2006

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

No new titles appeared on either the Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com lists this week. However, brisk sales for several pre-release titles indicate there will be several changes in January.

Be sure to check out our new, updated Mystery Bestsellers aStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

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, December 28, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Effigies by Mary Anna Evans

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

Effigies by Mary Anna Evans
A Faye Longchamp Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-342-6 (1590583426)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-342-5 (9781590583425)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her friend, Joe Wolf Mantooth, have traveled to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to help excavate a site near Nanih Waiya, the sacred mound where tradition says the Choctaw nation was born. When farmer Carroll Calhoun refuses their request to investigate an ancient Native American mound, Faye and her colleagues are disappointed, but his next action breaks their hearts: he tries to bulldoze the huge relic to the ground.

Faye and Joe rush to protect history--with their bodies, if necessary. Soon the Choctaws arrive to defend the mound and the farmer's white and black neighbors come to defend his property rights. Though a popular young sheriff is able to defuse the situation, tempers are short.

That night, Calhoun is found dead, his throat sliced with a handmade stone blade. Was he killed by an archaeologist, angered by his wanton destruction of history? Neshoba County farmers have been plowing up stone tools like the murder weapon for centuries. Did one of them take this chance to even the score with an old rival?

The sheriff is well-aware that Faye and Joe were near the spot where Calhoun's body was found and their combined knowledge of stone tools is impressive. They had motive, means, and opportunity....but so does almost everyone in Neshoba County.

Review: Mary Anna Evans continues to impress readers with the third entry in the Faye Longchamp mystery series, Effigies.

Faye, together with Joe Wolf Mantooth, are working on a project team that was hired by the state of Mississippi to excavate a region prior to putting a new road through. The local Choctaw tribe had its origins in the area, and considers much of the land sacred. When a local property owner is murdered with a Choctaw artifact, Faye gets involved with the investigation. Was it a case of property rights versus the preservation of ancient history? Or could the murder have been personally motivated? The latter case seems possible when an aging, prominent, black politician makes a speech that he was the victim of a hate crime in the area many years ago, and would like to see justice done before he dies.

Evans is masterful at weaving a historical thread through her mysteries, with Effigies being no exception. Interspersed between chapters are Choctaw stories, as told by one of the local residents. Most of these stories are related in some way to the main plot, though they don't necessarily aid the reader in solving the mystery of the property owner's death. Towards the end, Evans turned what could have been a typical "heroine-in-peril" scenario and made it something spiritual and special, not unlike the Choctaw themselves. It's a captivating moment.

If there's a weak element of Effigies, it's Faye herself. She seems to lack the passion exhibited in earlier books; it's as if this murder mystery is simply an academic exercise to her. Faye has been evolving dramatically since Artifacts (the first, and arguably, the best book of the series) and she is a more interesting character when she has something personal vested in the outcome.

Following the main text, the author adds a guide for teachers, students, and (in her words), the incurably curious, a nice touch to a well-researched and written novel.

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

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

News: Best Mystery Fiction of 2006 from The New York Sun

Otto Penzler, in The New York Sun, writes what he believes are the best mysteries of 2006. "Best", by his own definition, merely means the books that most moved, shocked or impressed him, made him laugh or struggle to hold back tears, forced him to turn another page or two, and continue to resonate with him now.

In order ...

1. Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh.

2. Echo Park by Michael Connelly.

3. Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille.

4. Nightlife by Thomas Perry.

5. The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos.

6. The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais.

7. Damnation Street by Andrew Klavan.

8. Four Kinds of Rain by Robert Ward.

9. Slipping into Darkness by Peter Blauner.

10. Best American Mystery Stories 2006 edited by Scott Turow.

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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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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