Friday, February 02, 2007

Mystery Bestsellers for February 02, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending February 02, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich retains the top stop on the mystery bestsellers lists this week.

The Alexandria Link by Steve BerryNew on the lists is The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry, with a plot that sounds all-too-familiar. A cradle of ideas-historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious-the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend-its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power. Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library's hallowed halls-and only Cotton Malone, an elite operative from the US State Department, possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world's three major religions to their very foundations.

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

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Triple Cross by Kit Ehrman

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

Triple Cross by Kit Ehrman
A Steve Cline Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-307-2 (1590583027)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-302-9 (9781590583029)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Although 23-year-old barn manager Steve Cline doesn't expect to stray far from the horse world, he has enrolled in a private investigations course and is working on the final project. But when his father, racehorse trainer Chris Kessler, invites him to Louisville on a two-week, all-expense-paid vacation that will culminate with the running of the Kentucky Derby, how can he refuse? Except, it isn't really a vaction. Kessler has a Derby runner and needs a reliable fill-in when one of his employees is injured.

With only two horses to care for, the workload is light, and Steve decides to get that class project out of the way--a simple records search. But the very act of initiating the project triggers a chance encounter that plunges Steve into the world of the ultra rich. A world where greed and revenge and ambition drive some men to commit unspeakable acts amid the pageantry and glamour of thoroughbred racing.

In quick order, Steve finds himself the prime suspect in a murder investigation and the target of brutal thugs. From the relative security of the backside to the Derby festivities that transform downtown Louisville into Party Central to the opulence of a Lexington horse farm, Steve deals with his own personal demons and strained relationships as he attempts to stop a murderer before a power play culminates in shattered dreams and a bloody triple cross.

Review: Horseman and amateur sleuth Steve Cline travels to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby in Kit Ehrman's fourth entry in this series, Triple Cross.

Steve has been asked by his father, trainer of a Kentucky Derby entrant, to help out in the preparations for the race. He arrives in Louisville a week prior to the first Saturday in May, splitting his time working on the track backside and fulfilling an assignment for a private investigator course he's taking: finding out as much as possible about a random individual. The person he chooses, a woman working as a marketing assistant on the frontside, inexplicably disappears after he meets her and is later found murdered. Since Steve was investigating her background, he seems a natural suspect for the police. But when Steve later escapes some close calls himself, he realizes she may have been involved in something far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

The first half of Triple Cross, which proceeds at what might best be considered a leisurely pace, is largely background material for the plot which itself is fairly complicated. The title, no doubt a play on racing's Triple Crown, intimates that a "triple cross" will be revealed at some point necessitating a complex set of relationships to be set up early in the book. Horse racing itself has numerous participants: owners, trainers, jockeys, and other assorted horse men and women. The owners typically have other business interests as well, offering any number of plot possibilities. Ehrman initially does a fine job of managing all this information in Triple Cross, but seems to falter when attempting to introduce misdirection, red herrings if you will, into the story. It's a bit confusing at times, and the plot gets sidetracked for a while but eventually regains its focus. And, as with a typical horse race, in the end it all comes down to the stretch run. In this regard, Triple Cross is a winner.

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

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

News: Download Mystery Movies and TV Shows to Your PC

New! Download mystery movies and television shows directly to your PC!

Amazon Unbox allows you to purchase or rent your favorite movies and TV shows to download and watch on your PC – all in DVD quality. There are thousands of titles and episodes available, but we think the best ones are in (no surprise!) the mystery category.

TV mysteries available include 24, CSI, Bones, NCIS, Numb3rs, Supernatural, and more. Also available are several Miss Marple TV movies.

There are also many popular mystery movies available to download (both to rent and to purchase). You can narrow your choices by selecting from the categories on the left (classics, crime, detectives, film noir, etc.)

We've also recently updated our Mysteries on DVD site with more movie titles adapted from mystery books. You can purchase any of these movies on our Mysteries on DVD aStore.

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, January 30, 2007

News: Lillian Jackson Braun Named Honorary Director of National Audio Theater

The Tryon Daily Bulletin is reporting that mystery author Lillian Jackson Braun has been named to be the first Honorary Director of National Audio Theater (NAT), based in Tryon (North Carolina). Braun, who lives in Tryon, said she was "delighted" to support the 10 year-old nonprofit organization, which produces original audio cassettes and CDs for distribution to institutions serving handicapped persons, primarily those who are sight-impaired.

Ike Wilson, President of NAT, states that the all-volunteer group has produced more than 50 recordings that are sent free-of-charge to hospitals and medical centers throughout the nation. He adds that he believes a writer of Braun’s calibre will help swell interest in the organization’s mission.

Braun is the author of the "The Cat Who ..." mystery series featuring Jim Qwilleran and his two cats, Yum Yum and Koko.

Read the entire article here.

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News: Tommy Lee Jones to Play Dave Robicheaux

Production Weekly is reporting that Tommy Lee Jones is set to star in the upcoming feature film adaptation of In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, a Dave Robicheaux mystery by James Lee Burke. Jones will portray the Cajun detective who was previously played by Alec Baldwin in Heaven's Prisoners. Bertran Tavernier is directing, and production in Louisiana is scheduled to begin in April.

Elrod Sykes, pulled over by Robicheaux for drunk driving, and in New Iberia to star in a movie, leads Dave to the skeletal remains of a black man that had washed up in the Atchafalaya swamp. So begins a mystery that takes Dave back to an unsolved murder -- a murder that he witnessed in 1957. Haunted by the past as he confronts the gruesome present - day rape and murder of young prostitutes, Robicheaux must also contend with a new partner from the F.B.I., and the local criminal gentry. But for Dave, the answers he seeks lie somewhere in the bayou mist with the ghosts of soldiers long since forgotten.

Read the entire article here.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for January 29, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 29, 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 G H I J M N O U. He is the author of international thrillers featuring CIA agent Jack Dunphy (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 28, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley

Scrub-a-Dub Dead by Barbara Colley
A Charlotte LaRue Mystery

Kensington Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-7582-0766-2 (0758207662)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-0766-1 (9780758207661)
Publication Date: December 2006
List Price: $22.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Maid for a Day Charlotte LaRue knows that sweeping murder under the rug is anything but simple in the Big Easy–especially since no smudge or stain is safe from her scrutiny ...

Doing a favor for a friend in need has Charlotte cleaning rooms at the New Orleans Jazzy Hotel. The historic Garden District mansion is serving as a home-away-from-home for Shreveport’s chapter of the Red Scarf Sorority, a group of socially elite women in their forties.

While picking up beautiful red silk scarves from the floor of a room she's cleaning, Charlotte is startled by the sudden arrival of its ranting and raving occupant, who insists that Charlotte ignored the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the door and threatens to have her fired. Charlotte is stunned into silence, until the Red Scarf Sorority comes to the rescue. The women manage to calm Tessa Morgan, who just had a run-in with her estranged husband’s much younger mistress Lisa—and learned that they plan to marry. After some of the women jokingly suggest making Lisa permanently disappear, Charlotte takes her leave. The situation gets even messier when Charlotte runs into an old flame and learns that he is Tessa’s stepfather—and that Lisa may be blackmailing him.

The next day, Charlotte gets back to work, only to learn that Lisa has been murdered, strangled by what could have been a red scarf. The hotel is awash in suspects, and soon Tessa is being dragged away in handcuffs. It seems Lisa had more enemies than friends, and Charlotte is convinced the police are on the wrong track with Tessa. It's time to start scouring through clues before the person who rubbed out Lisa makes a clean getaway ...

Review: Scrub-a-Dub Dead, by Barbara Colley, is the sixth mystery in this series featuring Charlotte LaRue, owner and manager her own New Orleans maid service for the genteel folk of the Garden District.

Charlotte is looking forward to some well earned time off. Instead, she agrees to help out a friend who has a contract cleaning rooms at the Jazzy Hotel and is currently a bit-handed. While working at the hotel, she encounters the members of the Red Scarf Society, a group of socially prominent women from Shreveport who are visiting New Orleans. When a young woman, who just happens to be the dating the estranged husband of one of the society members, is found strangled with a red scarf, Charlotte finds herself drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that just may involve a special person from Charlotte’s own distant past.

This well written and constructed mystery has at its core a strong character in the form of Charlotte LaRue. Charlotte is reminiscent of one’s favorite aunt, someone who’s weathered more than her fair share of life’s personal storms, yet maintains a positive outlook and whose advice, when given, is meaningful and sound.

Colley frequently allows the reader to follow Charlotte’s reasoning in analyzing the crimes, sorting out what’s possible and impossible, plausible and implausible. For a story that has a fairly complex set of relationships, this approach helps clarify (both for Charlotte and the reader) who may be innocent and who most probably is not. Many mysteries would be greatly improved if their authors followed Colley’s lead in this regard.

What is disappointing in the book is the general lack of depth and originality in the supporting characters, most of whom are completely unmemorable. It’s likely that twenty minutes after finishing the last chapter, one would be hard pressed to name any of the victims or even the perpetrator of the crimes.

Potential readers who assume, not unreasonably, from the title that this is some light, frothy cozy will be sadly disappointed. Scrub-a-Dub Dead is definitely a cut above the average book in this genre.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of Scrub-a-Dub Dead for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

News: No Return from the Grave for Morse

Steven Russell, writing in the East Anglian Daily Times, reports that fans of Inspector Morse must face reality: there simply won't be any new stories or TV series featuring the grumpy Oxford detective. Not now, not ever. Colin Dexter, the author of the long-running mystery series, holds the copyright for the Morse brand and is being pro-active in preventing anyone from filming another version of his character.

“I'm never going to let anybody else play Inspector Morse", says Dexter. "I've put it in my will! In 100 years' time, if the planet is still going - which I doubt very much - it won't be like Sherlock Holmes, with people saying 'I preferred his interpretation.' For me, John Thaw was Morse; and I've said I'm never going to allow - while the decision is mine - anybody to take Morse's role.” John Thaw, who played Morse on television, died of cancer in 2002.

Read the complete article on eadt.co.uk here.

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Mystery Book Contest: Win a Signed Book by Mary E. Martin

Mystery Book ContestNew! The Final Paradox Contest is now available on The Mystery Book Contest Website. Enter daily through March 19, 2007, for a chance to win a prize package generously provided by author Mary E. Martin.

Final Paradox by Mary E. MartinThe prize package includes:

Final Paradox, signed by the author, and a copy of the cover photograph, taken by the author in Venice.

The Final Paradox Contest is sponsored by Mary E. Martin (author of Final Paradox), and Mysterious Reviews.

If you are an author of a mystery book, or represent a mystery book author, and would like to have your book featured on our Mystery Book Contest website, please contact us at [email protected].

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Mystery Book Review: A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh

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

A Hard Bargain by Jane Tesh
A Madeline Maclin Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-354-X (159058354X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-343-2 (9781590583432)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): After solving her first big murder case in the small town of Celosia, North Carolina, Madeline Maclin hopes at last to be taken seriously as a private investigator. She's opened an office in the home of her best friend Jerry Fairweather, a man haunted by his past who enjoys running harmless scams.

Jerry doesn't feel worthy of anyone's love--bad news for Madeline--although she thinks Jerry's sister Harriet knows more about the accident that killed their parents than she'll say.

Madeline is hired to find Kirby Willet, an eccentric inventor who left boxes of his belongings, including one filled with money, at Frannie Thomas’ house. Meanwhile Voltage Films director, Josh Gaskins, is in town and thinks Jerry's old house will be perfect for his horror film, "Curse of the Mantis Man," about Celosia's mythical beast. Is this monster actually real?

Celosia is also hopping with the Pageantoids, rabid fans from Madeline's days as a beauty queen, who have come to Celosia to produce more pageants. And then there's Rick Rialto, one of Jerry's shady con artist friends.

When Gaskins is murdered, Madeline uncovers several suspects and is forced to make--and investigate--some hard bargains. At least one of which is with Jerry …

Review: Former beauty queen Madeline Maclin returns in A Hard Bargain, the second mystery in this series by Jane Tesh.

One of Madeline's first cases as an independent private investigator is to locate a man whose belongings were placed in the care of a neighbor who is now eager to get rid of them. While searching through boxes belonging to the missing man for clues to his whereabouts, she finds $10,000 in cash, money no one thinks he could legitimately have earned. In parallel to her investigation, she's also trying to understand what really happened on the night her best friend's parents were killed over 20 years ago. There are a couple of other subplots that are peripheral to the story but help introduce additional characters.

Madeline is a well-drawn and appealing lead for the series and A Hard Bargain is mildly entertaining as a cozy mystery. There are, however, some fairly obvious inconsistencies in the plots of each of the main storylines that must be either overlooked or forgiven in order to enjoy the story. The missing person's case really isn't much of one (Madeline locates him with minimal effort), and it's hard to believe that the police investigating the deaths of her friend's parents decades ago didn't put forth the very same questions Madeline asks the family today. And for all practical purposes, Madeline accidentally stumbles onto the solution of the only real mystery in the book, the murder of the director of a movie that is being filmed in her community.

A Hard Bargain is probably not the best choice for that inclement afternoon, but it won't disappoint either.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of A Hard Bargain for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Mystery Bestsellers for January 26, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending January 26, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

There were no new additions to the bestseller lists at Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com this week. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich and Cross by James Patterson hold the top positions on both lists with a reshuffling of recent bestsellers in positions 3 through 10.

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

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Rumpole and the Reign of Terror by John Mortimer

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Rumpole and the Reign of Terror by John Mortimer. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Rumpole and the Reign of Terror by John Mortimer

Rumpole and the Reign of Terror by John Mortimer
A Rumpole of the Bailey Mystery

Viking (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-670-03804-0 (0670038040)
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-03804-6 (9780670038046)
Publication Date: November 2006
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): While defending a mind-numbingly dull theft charge, Rumpole finds that the new terrorist laws have hamstrung his beloved courts. Meanwhile, a Pakistani doctor has been imprisoned without charge or trial under suspicion of aiding al Qaeda in its plans for a terrorist attack. With the doctor’s wife begging him to help her husband, the Great Defender is determined to bring the case before a jury.

Trouble is also brewing at home as Hilda—She Who Must Be Obeyed—sits down to write her own memoirs describing her view of Rumpole and her own love life. Rumpole’s battle on the home front threatens to derail his case but where there’s a Rumpole, there’s a way!

Review: Though John Mortimer has been publishing short stories featuring London barrister Horace Rumpole for decades, Rumpole and the Reign of Terror is only the second full-length novel dedicated to one of his cases.

Rumpole's bread-and-butter clients, the Timson family, whose constant brushes with the law keep his financial balance sheet healthy, have decided to seek other legal counsel after Rumpole agrees to defend the Pakistani husband of an extended member of the Timson clan who has been accused of terrorism. Though Rumpole bemoans his loss of income, he is outraged that Mahmood Khan is being held without being informed of the crimes for which he is charged. When Khan is ultimately released from prison but subsequently held under house arrest in his own home, Rumpole fights to get him a jury trial, one in which he is confident Khan will be found not guilty.

The clever plot of Rumpole and the Reign of Terror and the way in which it unfolds is to be savored. Rumpole is quick to act when unexpected circumstances allow him to intervene on behalf of his client, and when they serve to benefit the judicial system at large, so much the better. After Rumpole gets the trial to which Mahmood Khan is entitled, he begins to doubt his client's innocence. But he never wavers in his defense of the basic tenets of British law. Once the trial is underway, Rumpole is in his element. "It's in the public interest that I establish the facts leading up to an inevitable conclusion ...", he declares. And then, in his best courtroom manner, he compels the guilty party to admit to the conspiracy. It's all exceedingly entertaining and very well done.

The book is written in a semi-autobiographical manner from the perspective of Rumpole, and he refers to this case being a part of his personal record. Interspersed between chapters written by Rumpole are those penned by his wife, Hilda, who reflects on her married life, her friends, and, somewhat improbably, her relationship with one of Rumpole's colleagues. Hilda's memoir extracts, as they are called, are no doubt intended to complement and contrast with those of her husband, but seem oddly out of place. They're interesting in their own right, and they provide an additional dimension to the characters, but at the same time, and it's hard to specifically identify why, they just don't work in the overall context of the book.

Special thanks to Viking for providing a copy of Rumpole and the Reign of Terror for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Press Release: Novel Writing Contest Announced by Iota Publishing

(PRWeb) January 24, 2007 -- Iota Publishing, a regional publishing house based in Irvine, California, introduced its 2007 novel writing competition today. Iota seeks unpublished authors who have completed manuscripts in the thriller, mystery, suspense, or sci-fi genres. The winner will receive a $1000 prize and a publishing contract with Iota. Submissions are via the Iota website.

The regional publisher is focusing on manuscripts with a Southwest connection, either by the author's personal connection or by some element in the manuscript. To be eligible, authors must not be previously published in these genres.

Terry Cooper, Iota President, said, "Iota's mission is about finding new regional authors. This contest is another way to reach out and encourage authors to give this path to publication a try."

The three finalists' manuscripts will be read by judges Sherri L. Board, Wendy Hornsby and Neal Stevens. Board is the author of the Katlin LaMar Mystery Series, Angels of Anguish and Blind Belief. Hornsby won the Edgar Award for her short story Nine Sons and is also the author of the Maggie McGowan Mystery Series. Stevens is a literary agent and a TV and film producer in Los Angeles. His films include Gunshy and The Money Shot. All three judges live in Southern California.

Iota's debut book, a new mystery novel, Anatomy Lesson, by Edgar-Award nominee Raymond Obstfeld will be the first in a series about an Orange County district attorney with an almost supernatural memory she's kept a secret from everyone. Obstfeld teaches creative writing at Orange Coast College and is the author of over forty works of fiction and non-fiction. His non-fiction work, On the Shoulders of Giants: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, co-written with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, published by Simon & Schuster, is available now. A documentary based on the book, also written by Obstfeld, will be released shortly.

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News: Barbara Seranella, Mystery Writer, Dies at 50

The Orange County Register is reporting that Barbara Seranella, an auto mechanic-turned mystery writer, died Sunday in Cleveland (OH) of end-stage liver disease while awaiting a third liver transplant. She was 50 years old.

Seranella wrote mysteries based on the adventures of Miranda "Munch" Mancini, an auto and motorcycle mechanic and amateur sleuth with a checkered past not unlike that of the author. A new book, Deadman's Switch, based on a different character, is scheduled to be published by St. Martin's Press in April, 2007.

Read the complete article by Robin Hinch on the OCRegister.com here.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich

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

Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
An Alexandra Barnaby Mystery

HarperCollins (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-058403-3 (0060584033)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-058403-0 (9780060584030)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $26.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Those Metro maniacs Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby and NASCAR driver Sam Hooker are back!

Miami is still freakin' humid. The nights are even hotter. And there's a body on ice. And that's just the beginning of this adrenaline-rush of a hot-wired ride from phenomenal #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

A woman with a taste for speed and a talent for breaking the rules, Barney also knows a little too much about cheating. First there was Hooker and that salesclerk. Now she's convinced one of the competitors is up to no good on the track. Snooping to find evidence, Hooker and Barney "borrow" a NASCAR hauler. Turns out, the hauler is carrying two race cars and a dead guy. Now Barney and Hooker are facing multiple counts of grand theft auto and homicide.

So buckle up as Barney, Hooker, a 150-pound-bundle-of-St. Bernard-love named Beans, and the Super Cigar Ladies Felicia and Rosa shift into gear on a wild race around South Florida and Concord, North Carolina.

Everything you always wanted to know about righteous indignation, stealing an eighteen-wheeler, and sex in the fast lane.

Review: Alexandra Barnaby returns for her second adventure in Janet Evanovich's Motor Mouth, an enjoyable through completely forgettable mystery by the author of the Stephanie Plum series.

There isn't (pun intended) an idle moment in this book. The action is literally non-stop. The reason "Barney" and NASCAR driver Sam Hooker are seem to be constantly stopping for food (usually a local drive-through) is that they need all the energy they can get to keep pace with the plot.

And what a plot it is. The basic premise of this series is, why bother with a simple solution to a problem when a far more complicated, intricate, and, to be fair, thrilling one can be manufactured. When an associate of Barney's calls to say he's locked himself into a competitor's truck, she solves the problem by stealing the truck. That happens to contain an illegally modified race car. And that also happens to contain a dead body. And not just any dead body, but the owner of the competition which has just won a race under suspicious circumstances. At the center of all this is a microchip that has the potential to alter the balance of power in the world of NASCAR, nay, the world itself.

There are a lot of parallels between this series and the typical Nancy Drew mystery. The most obvious is that Barney is an R-rated, some might argue X-rated, version of the girl sleuth. Both are smart and independent. Friends and family are important and worth taking risks for. Bending the rules (or in the case of Barney, committing outright felonies) is a perfectly acceptable means to an end. And, as Barney puts it in Motor Mouth, they are "simultaneously horrified and impressed" with themselves when they narrowly escape a dangerous situation.

Motor Mouth is one of those mysteries that readers probably need to invoke the 30-page rule: if you're not hooked by this page, it's unlikely you're going to be entertained by what follows.

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

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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