Wednesday, May 09, 2007

News: Mystery Author Philip R. Craig Dies

Philip R. Craig, author of the Martha's Vineyard mystery series, died this week after a short illness according to William G. Tapply, his friend and co-author on another series. Tapply first reported the news on the popular DorothyL news group. A touching remembrance page has been posted to Tapply's website.

Craig is survived by his wife, Shirley, and his children Jamie and Kim. He was 74.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

News: Three More Seasons for Lost

Mysteries on TVIn an unusual move, ABC has announced that it has renewed its television series Lost for three more seasons after which it will end. Each of the next three seasons will consist of 16 episodes, run consecutively from February through May. The series is scheduled to resume in February 2008 and end in May, 2010.

"Due to the unique nature of Lost, we knew it would require an end date to keep the integrity and strength of the show consistent throughout and to give the audience the payoff they deserve," ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said. "It's got brilliant storytelling, incredible character work, and takes chances beyond anything that's on the air now," he added.

In January, the producers of Lost said that they envisioned the endpoint to be around episode 100. The agreement with ABC will bring the total number of episodes to 120.

This season's final episode will air May 23rd on ABC.

Visit the Mysteries on TV website to discover more currently available on DVD.

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Mystery Book Review: Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Final Undertaking by
A Barry Clayton Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-229-2 (1590582292)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-229-9 (9781590582299)
Publication Date: April 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Barry Clayton’s father developed Alzheimer’s, Barry gave up his career in law enforcement to return to the mountain town of Gainesboro and run the family’s funeral home. But even a small town in the Appalachians is not immune to crime.

At a summer street dance, Barry’s friend Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins is gunned down by an old man distraught at the death of his wife. To the dismay of Deputy Reece Hutchins, hospitalized Tommy Lee appoints Barry as the deputy in charge of the investigation. Who was the old man stalking? Why was a young woman who was wounded at the scene traveling with the intended victim?

What at first appears to be a case of a mentally unstable summer tourist quickly develops into a tangled web of deceit stretching from western North Carolina to the Florida coast. Someone is preying upon senior citizens.

Barry realizes Deputy Hutchins is undercutting his investigation, but as potential witnesses and informants begin to die under mysterious circumstances, Barry confronts a conspiracy that runs so deep he no longer knows who to trust. One false step, one betrayal, will make this case Buryin’ Barry’s final undertaking.

Review: Final Undertaking, the fourth mystery in this highly recommended series by Mark de Castrique, has funeral home owner Barry Clayton wearing a deputy's badge to investigate the senseless shooting death of a young woman during an evening summer festival in his home town. The sheriff, Tommy Lee Wadkins, wounded while trying to subdue the killer who dies in the process, provides guidance from his hospital room.

Barry quickly discovers the dead man's wife had recently died at their home in Florida of an overdose of a powerful prescription pain reliever. What isn't clear is why he was blaming someone attending a festival 600 miles away for his wife's death.

de Castrique writes in a clear and uncomplicated manner that keeps the plot focused and the reader interested. The plot itself is topical and (from a taxpayer perspective) all too believable though Barry, like almost anyone living in small town America, is slow to accept that a local resident could be involved.

In an effort to keep the series fresh, a new character is introduced in Final Undertaking, Fletcher Shaw, an intern assigned to Barry's funeral home, Clayton and Clayton. In addition to studying mortuary science, Fletcher has special skills in computer graphics and other forms of high technology that are useful in forensic analysis. Assuming that Fletcher will be a recurring character (and from the ending, this seems to be a fair assumption), he will be a winning addition to the existing cast in this series.

Finally, in keeping with Barry's profession, de Castrique handles a death in the community with grace and sensitivity. It's a special moment and it's very well done.

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

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Mysteries on TV: Cagney & Lacey Season 1

Mysteries on TVTelevision series being released this week on DVD:

Cagney and Lacey Season 1Cagney & Lacey: Season 1 featured two strong and intelligent female detectives, with real lives and real problems--ordinary women doing extraordinary jobs. Sharon Gless starred as NYPD Detective Chris Cagney and Tyne Daly as her partner, Detective Mary Beth Lacey.

Sharon Gless was actually the third actress to play Chris Cagney. The pilot, a made-for-television movie, starred Loretta Swit as Cagney, but she could not continue with the series as she was contractually obligated to the producers of M*A*S*H. Meg Foster was hired to play Cagney for the series and did so for the first 6 episodes in 1982 when the series aired as a mid-season replacement. Gless replaced Foster when the series returned in the fall.

This DVD set includes the 22 episodes that aired on CBS from the 1982/1983 television season on 4 disks. It does not include either the pilot or the first 6 episodes and as a result it's rather difficult to understand why MGM chose to subtitle this release "Season 1" when it clearly isn't.

CBS cancelled Cagney & Lacey at the end of this season, but a strong letter writing campaign by viewers caused CBS to reverse its decision. The series continued to air through 1988 and was followed by 4 made-for-television movies based on the series. Cagney & Lacey was honored during its run with many Emmy Awards including 2 for best drama, 2 for Sharon Gless as best actress, and 4 for Tyne Daly as best actress.

Visit the Mysteries on TV website to discover more currently available on DVD.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for May 07, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for May 07, 2007A new 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 K L O S T W. wrote this historical mystery involving Sir Isaac Newton and alchemy (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!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

News: Agatha Award Winners for 2006 Announced

The Agatha Award winners were announced tonight at the Malice Domestic XIX conference in Arlington VA. The Agathas are awarded annually by Malice Domestic Ltd. to honor the best traditional mysteries published each year, i.e. those books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.

The winners are:

Best Novel: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (Random House);

Best First Novel: The Heat of the Moon by Sandra Parshall (Poisoned Pen Press);

Best Non-Fiction: Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden (Bella Rosa Books);

Best Short Story: Sleeping with the Plush by Toni Kelner (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine);

Best Childrens, Young Adult: The Pea Soup Poisonings by Nancy Means Wright (Hilliard Harris).

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Ricochet by P. M. Terrell

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

Ricochet by
A Sheila Carpenter Mystery

Paralee Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9785632-0-4 (0978563204)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9785632-0-2 (9780978563202)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): FBI Agent Sheila Carpenter is attending the Academy in Quantico, when she discovers information concerning a secret journey her mother made just days before her parents' deaths. Convinced her parents were murdered and vowing to find the killer, she retraces her mother's last steps, taking her on a hair-raising adventure leading to stolen identities, illegal immigration and an explosive ending that will leave you on the edge of your seat!

Review: Ricochet is the second thriller by P. M. Terrell to feature computer expert Sheila Carpenter. The book opens with Sheila, armed with her degree in computer programming from Vanderbilt University, preparing to enter the Federal Bureau of Investigation training program at Quantico VA. She is a brilliant woman and very self-assured, to a point just short of arrogance. Soon after she starts her training she takes a day off to meet a friend at the local mall. This is where her nightmare begins. As they prepare to have lunch in the overcrowded food court, Sheila witnesses, and is hurt by, a terrorist suicide bombing.

While recuperating in the hospital, her aunt brings her pictures and hand-written notes of her mother’s last days before her sudden death. She leaves the hospital without telling anyone and embarks on the violent and secret journey that her mother had started but never finished. She runs into unknown men dealing in drugs, a woman in red who helps Sheila find her way when she is lost, and men and women who are experts in the art of forging documents for the purpose identity theft and illegal immigration. Terrorists and sleeper cells also become a threat for Sheila. She searches out all these criminals and while doing so they are searching for her, too.

Ricochet is written in the first person allowing Sheila to tell of her exploits in her own words. The image formed in the reader’s mind is of a woman who is a cross between Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. In contrast to these superheroes, however, Sheila has little regard for Quantico’s rules and regulations or the orders from her superiors. As befits the title, she ricochets across the country as she flits from one problem to another without any clear objective in mind. Both the criminals and her own people can’t figure out what she is going to do next.

Ricochet is a fast paced story and with each turn of the page the reader wonders what rule Sheila will break, or which criminal she is getting closer to and which one is getting closer to her. As we are now living with the threat of terrorism, sleeper cells, drug use, illegal immigration, and stolen identities, it is also a very topical book as it involves the stories we read in the papers daily.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Ricochet and to Author Marketing Experts for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Profile: Seattle Author Nicola Griffith

Seattlest, the website about Seattle, recently published an interview with local author , whose 3rd Aud Torvingen mystery is being published this month by Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin USA).

In , the six-foot-tall fury (who proved in her previous two books that she can kill you as easily as look at you) is shaken by the shocking consequences of the self-defense class she's been teaching, and her investigation of what seems to be run-of-the-mill real-estate fraud is turning out to be more than she bargained for.

Seattlest: Though there are conventional whodunit mysteries within them, the biggest mysteries to Aud seem to be her own nature and the inner lives of other people. How comfortable are you with the label “mystery novel” for them?

Griffith: I have no quarrel with any label a reader feels is appropriate to my work--except, of course, that labels are reductive and I'm not partial to being reduced. But are the Aud books mysteries? No, not really. They're less interested in asking, Who did it?, or Why? than in What does it mean?, and How does it fit? The Aud books could, conceivably, be called crime fiction. To the extent that Aud is progressing from near-sociopath to almost-hero, she is learning to do good in the world.

Seattlest: Do you have a grand plan for Aud – more novels, and a narrative arc? Or does Always complete her story?

Griffith: I'd always imagine Aud as a sequence of five novels. I had another two after this one all mapped out. But Always took a turn I hadn't expected and now I'm not sure how to proceed. I think I'll have to sit with Aud a while and try to work out what she'll do in light of my deeper understanding. But I'm definitely not done with her. There's at least one book to come.

Read the rest of the interview with Nicola Griffith on Seattlest.com here.

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News: Rules on Using Spoilers?

Rob Owen, reporting for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recently wrote a very interesting article on the use of spoilers in reviews. He was specifically referring to a television series (Twin Peaks), but his comments are applicable to movies, books, and other forms of entertainment that are routinely reviewed.

We raise the question: Is there a statute of limitations on the use of spoilers in a review?

Consider the classic crime mystery Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The book has been reprinted endlessly and has been made into several movies (both theatrical and for television). The plot twists are known to tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of people. But if a new edition comes out, or an existing movie adaption is included in a collection of DVDs, is it permissible to discuss the "whodunit" or "howdunit" aspect of the story? Does a certain amount of time have to pass before it is acceptable to reveal spoilers, or should they never be mentioned?

Read Owen's article here, and let us know what you think about spoilers.

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Mystery Bestsellers for May 04, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten for the week ending May 04, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

All Together Dead by Charlaine HarrisNew this week: All Together Dead, the 7th mystery in the entertaining Southern Vampire series by . Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has her hands full dealing with every sort of undead and paranormal creature imaginable. And after being betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Sookie must not only deal with a new man in her life-the shapeshifter Quinn-but also contend with the long-planned vampire summit. The summit is a tense situation. The vampire queen of Louisiana is in a precarious position, her power base weakened by hurricane damage to . And there are some vamps who would like to finish what nature started. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe.

Also new on the Barnes&Noble.com mystery bestsellers list: Tumbling Blocks by , the 13th entry in the winning Benni Harper mystery series.

We've upgraded our website to allow you to easily purchase any bestselling mystery book featured on our site over the past 8 months. Let us know what you think!

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Island Blues by Wendy Howell Mills

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

Island Blues by
A Sabrina Dunsweeney Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-396-5 (1590583965)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-396-8 (9781590583968)
Publication Date: April 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Sabrina Dunsweeney desperately needs a job. After moving to isolated Comico Island with her parakeet Calvin to start a new chapter of her life, Sabrina is discovering that life in a beautiful, tropical environment isn’t all fun and games.

When the town council offers her employment as the island’s first official ombudsman to cope with the burgeoning tourist influx, Sabrina is thrilled. Her first order of business is to deal with a number of burglaries. But as she digs deeper into the theftless break-ins, she begins to suspect that this mystery originated in the rum-soaked days of prohibition.

Then, Sabrina must face the “Hummers” who have booked a week at one of the local hotels. The Hummers claim that they can hear a hum that no one else can, and they believe they can only rid themselves of the annoying, persistent noise by following very private rituals.

When the spokesman of the Hummers is murdered, Sabrina develops a theory that makes her the target of a killer’s rage. Will survive her first week on the job?

Review: Island Blues is the second mystery in this series by Wendy Howell Mills that features former Cincinnati native Sabrina Dunsweeney. The series is set on fictional Comico Island, situated (presumably) somewhere in the Caribbean though its actual location is not important to the story.

Idyllic Comico Island is experiencing both the joy and pain of increased tourist trade. To investigate and attempt to resolve local complaints and problems, Sabrina is hired as the island's ombudsman. First up: a number of burglaries that are unique in that nothing is missing have the authorities puzzled. Could these break-ins have anything to do with an organization representing "Hummers", people who hear a persistent noise likened to a diesel motor idling, who have booked a local hotel for the week? When Sabrina asks what the hum is, the spokesman for the organization replies matter-of-factly, "the voice of the universe".

That same spokesman is later found murdered on a nearby isolated island offering Sabrina an opportunity to use her amateur sleuthing skills. Though the story tends to meander in places and the back stories are at times unnecessarily confusing, Mills does a fine job keeping the reader's interest while Sabrina goes about gathering information that will help her solve both the puzzle of the burglaries and the mystery of the murder.

The cast of characters, while decidedly odd and just a little bit exaggerated, is for the most part sympathetic and endearing. And the book concludes in an unexpected, thought-provoking way. It's a nice touch.

Island Blues likely won't appeal to all traditional mystery fans, but it is a pleasant way to escape the real world for a while.

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

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

News: Nominees for the 2007 Arthus Ellis Awards Announced

The Crime Writers of Canada have posted the nominations for the 2007 Arthur Ellis Awards on their website.

The awards, named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman and recognizing excellence in Canadian crime writing, are presented in six categories for works in the crime genre published for the first time in the previous year by authors living in Canada, regardless of their nationality, or by Canadian writers living outside of Canada.

For Best Novel, the nominees are:

Linwood Barclay, Lone Wolf (Bantam/RHC)
Emma Cole, Every Secret Thing (Allison & Busby)
Barbara Fradkin, Honour Among Men (RendezVous Press)
Kathy Reichs, Break No Bones (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Peter Robinson, Piece of My Heart (McClelland & Stewart)

For Best First Novel, the nominees are:

Glen Bonham, The Elvis Interviews (Battlefield Publishing)
Anne Emery, Sign of the Cross (ECW Press)
Stephen Kimber, Reparations (HarperCollins Canada)
Grant McCrea, Dead Money (Random House Canada)
David Russell, Deadly Lessons (Rendezvous Press)

A new category has been created this year: Best Unpublished First Crime Novel. This award is being called the Unhanged Arthur and the nominees are:

Jennifer Hemstock, Murder in a Cold Climate
Meika Erinn McClurg, Ego Tenderloin
Rosemary McCracken, Last Date
Phyllis Smallman, Margarita Nights
Kevin Thornton, Condemned

The winners will be announced at the Arthur Ellis Awards dinner on Thursday, June 7, at Mysteriously Yours…Dinner Theatre in Toronto.

Visit the CWC website to see a list of all nominees in all categories.

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News: James Lee Burke Says New Movie Screenplay is Great

Steve Bandy, writing for The Daily Iberian, reports that James Lee Burke is very pleased with the movie that's currently being filmed in Louisiana and based on In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead, the 6th mystery in the Dave Robicheaux series.

“It’s pretty much right on with the book,” Burke says. “Nearly every line in the screenplay comes from the book, or right close to it. I’ve seen the script, and it’s a great screenplay.”

Shortened to In the Electric Mist, the movie is being filmed in and around New Iberia, hometown of Dave Robicheaux and part-time home of the author. The film, scheduled for release in December 2007, stars Tommy Lee Jones as Robicheaux.

Published in 1993, Burke's mystery is set in the early 1990's. The film adaptation has a more contemporary feel. “The movie is set in modern-day New Iberia,” Burke said. “The director and producer felt that we had to include Hurricane Katrina in the story line because nothing of that magnitude can be omitted today in any treatment of Louisiana.”

Read the complete story on The Daily Iberian here.

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News: Inspiration for C. J. Box Mystery a Legal Loophole

Brian C. Kalt, a Professor of Law at Michigan State University, in 2005 published an article in the Georgetown Law Journal in which he described Yellowstone National Park’s “Zone of Death,” a 50-square-mile strip of land in the remote Idaho portion of the park that contains a potentially deadly loophole.

“In 1894, Congress put this part of Idaho in the judicial district of Wyoming,” Kalt said. “Because it sits in one state, but in the district of another, the Sixth Amendment requires that any crime committed there must be tried before a jury drawn from that strip of land – but nobody lives there. Also, because it is in a federal park, there is no state jurisdiction.”

This article became the inspiration for 's latest Joe Pickett mystery, Free Fire, in which the Wyoming game warden is called to investigate an attorney who admitted murdering four campers in the remote area of the park, but convinced the courts that he could not be prosecuted.

Kalt assisted Box with the technical legal aspects of Free Fire and as a result of the novel, inspired U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) to take interest in possibly fixing the loophole.

Please visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books where we are 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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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Disturbing the Dead by Sandra Parshall

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

Disturbing the Dead by
A Tom Bridger and Rachel Goddard Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-378-7 (1590583787)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-378-4 (9780580583784)
Publication Date: March 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Tom Bridger, who is half Melungeon, thought he had escaped his mountain community's lingering prejudice against the mixed-race group when he left to join the Police Department. Tom was moving up the detective ranks when a family tragedy brought him back home and moved him into his father's job as chief deputy in the Mason County Sheriff's Department. Now the bones of a Melungeon woman who disappeared ten years ago have surfaced on a remote mountaintop, and all evidence points to murder. Violence escalates as the victim's poor family and the wealthy white family she married into scramble to protect their secrets from Tom's scrutiny. As he probes into his father's investigation of the case, he finds his father was not the man he idolized.

The woman Tom is falling in love with, Rachel Goddard, is struggling to start a new life in a place that holds no memories for her. She puts herself in danger when she befriends the dead Melungeon woman's teenage niece, Holly. As a child, the girl witnessed something that could implicate her aunt's killer, but she is too terrified to tell anyone what she knows. While Rachel is determined to keep Holly safe and help her piece together past events, the guilty are equally determined to silence the girl -- and Rachel too, if necessary.

Will this murder investigation be Tom's and Rachel's undoing or will it free them to look to the future?

Review: Disturbing the Dead, Sandra Parshall's second mystery, takes place in a small town in the foothills of the Virginia mountains. The crime is a 10-year old “cold-case” murder, and the hatred, fears and jealousies that were present then are still prevalent today. It’s a story of a mixed race people, the Melugeons, dark in color with black hair and dark eyes. The Caucasians of the town believe they are a mixed race of American Indian, black and white trash. Tom Bridger is such a man. He left his home town for Richmond where he became a part of the Virginia Police Force but had to return when his father, the deputy sheriff, died unexpectedly. Tom took over his dad’s post.

A skull and bones have been found in the mountain above the small town. They are the remains of Pauline Turner who vanished ten years ago. Pauline, a Melungeon, had fallen in love and married very wealthy Adam McCauley, a Caucasian, who adored her. Adam’s family, two brothers and their wives never accepted Pauline. Adam’s mother finally became somewhat friendly when Pauline presented her with her first grandchild. Now that Pauline's remains have been located, the lies, deceit and anger begin again. Both Pauline’s family and Adam’s family have secrets that they refuse to share with anyone, even each other.

Sandra Parshall portrays her characters in such a way that readers will think they really know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But in all likelihood, they will be wrong. She takes us to the little town in the foothills and describes the lone, grimy café, and the broken-down wooden homes where the impoverished live. One can almost get claustrophobic reading about them. We see their old cars and trucks. Then we go to the city, away from the foothills where the elite live in mansions with servants and big beautiful cars. When she writes about the snow falling so beautifully, you can look out the window and almost see it.

This is a good mystery. It stays suspenseful until the very end. The reader can associate with the characters and can feel the mountain breeze in the same way they do.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty for contributing her review of Disturbing the Dead and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 - Hidden Staircase Mystery Books - All Rights Reserved.

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