Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

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

Fire Prayer by
A Storm Kayama Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-402-3 (1590584023)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-402-6 (9781590584026)
Publication Date: August 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Storm Kayama's old high school friend, Tanner Williams, wants a favor. He's asked her to come to Moloka'i to make sure his ex-wife is taking good care of his adolescent son, a newly diagnosed diabetic. In the meantime, Storm's law partner and lover, Ian Hamlin, is investigating the possibility that a Moloka'i kayaking company's negligence played a part in the disappearance of Brock Liu, the son of an O'ahu shipping magnate. It looks like a great excuse for Storm and Hamlin to get away from Honolulu for the weekend.

But Storm soon finds that Tanner has bigger problems than he let on, including his bitter wife Jenny Williams, a history of mental illness, and ties to a local protest group linked to an unsolved ten-year-old homicide. A few hours after Storm's visit to Jenny's home, twelve-year-old Luke Williams finds his mother dead on their living room floor. Luke calls the police, then he disappears.

Storm believes Luke may have seen his mother's killer and is in grave danger from both the murderer and his fluctuating blood glucose levels. Her chase after Luke-and answers-leads through the dense rainforests, pristine beaches, and untamed wilds of Moloka'i. Are Brock Liu's disappearance and Jenny Williams' death linked to the old homicide?

Review: Deborah Turrell Atkinson's third mystery featuring Storm Kayama has the Honolulu lawyer honoring a favor and becoming involved with a murder that may be related to a 10-year-old fire that resulted in an unsolved homicide.

Much of the story takes place in a small town on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. The people there, mostly native Hawaiians, want to retain the character of their town: unpaved streets, no traffic lights, and no large condominiums. They have their traditions, their lore and history, which supports their beliefs. One of the strengths of Fire Prayer is in Atkinson's vivid descriptions of the island and its people. This beautifully written mystery isn't just set in Hawaii; Hawaii is an integral part of the mystery.

Storm and her partner Ian Hamlin travel to Molokai for different reasons: Ian to locate the missing son of a shipping executive, Storm to check up on Luke, a 12-year-old boy and the son of a high school friend who's now living with his ex-wife Jenny on the island. Soon after arriving, Storm and Ian ride horses along the beach and into the forests but they are forced to turn back after an accident dislocates Ian's shoulder. Upon their return, they find Jenny has been murdered, her son Luke finding the body. Luke himself soon disappears, apparently in hiding from his mother's killer. The police soon find another murder victim, the missing man Ian was hired to locate. Are these murders related? And if so, do they have anything to do with an unsolved murder from 10 years ago?

Though the primary plot in Fire Prayer is quite intriguing and the disparate pieces of the mystery puzzle all come together, it's a little disappointing that the subplot involving Luke wasn't expanded a bit more. Luke is a very appealing character that the reader greatly cares about yet in the end his story seems incomplete. But it is a minor disappointment; this is a fine mystery and is highly recommended.

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

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

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Mystery Bestsellers for August 31, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten for the week ending August 31, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Three new titles debut this week on the list of bestselling mysteries.

Bones to Ashes by Kathy ReichsIn 7th position (and certainly to be higher next week) is the 10th forensic thriller in Kathy Reich's series featuring Temperance Brennan, . The discovery of a young girl's skeleton in Acadia, Canada, is more than just another assignment. √Čvang√©line, Tempe's childhood best friend, disappeared when they were both 8 years old. Tempe was warned not to search for her, that the girl was "dangerous." Thirty years later, flooded with memories, Tempe cannot help wondering if this skeleton could be the friend she lost so many years ago. And what is the meaning of the strange skeletal lesions found on the bones of the young girl? Publishers Weekly states that Reichs "has produced another winner in one of the genre's most satisfying series."

Hard Row by Margaret MaronAlso new this week: , the 13th mystery in the Deborah Knott series by . As Judge Deborah Knott presides over a case involving a barroom brawl, it becomes clear that deep resentments over race, class, and illegal immigration are simmering just below the surface in the countryside. Mutilated body parts have appeared along the back roads of Colleton County, and the search for the victim's identity and for that of his killer will lead Deborah and her new husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, into the desperate realm of undocumented farm workers exploited for cheap labor. These newlyweds will discover dark truths that threaten to permanently alter the serenity of their rural surroundings and their new life together. states that is "a singularly satisfying crime novel."

The third new title appearing on the list this week is actually an old one: Delacorte Press is reissuing a hardcover version of , the second Myron Bolitar mystery by . It was originally published by Dell in paperback in 1996.

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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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane

Death at the Old Hotel by
A Brian McNulty Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-32300-X (031232300X)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-32300-4 (9780312323004)
Publication Date: June 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Tensions are high and the dangers multiply as New York City bartender and man-about-the-mean-streets Brian McNulty---always a sucker for the plight of the little guy---joins forces with a motley crew of workers from the old Savoy Hotel.

McNulty has once more run afoul of the powers that be in the New York City hotel and restaurant industry and finds himself exiled to a down-at-the heels hotel in, for him, the far reaches of civilization---Manhattan, west of Eighth Avenue. Not long into his tenure, a vicious attack on one of his fellow bartenders raises the stakes and puts everyone on edge, and it doesn’t take much for the hotel manager to provoke the outraged workers into a strike. Once they hit the bricks, all hell breaks loose, and it isn’t long until the bodies start to fall.

The cops focus in on two of McNulty’s pals, a renegade Irishman and a pretty, young waitress from Brooklyn, both with closets full of secrets and buckets full of problems of their own. McNulty thinks the cops, as usual, are barking up the wrong tree, but that’s the least of his problems. The hits in this particular instance have angered the gods of gangsterland, and someone has determined that McNulty is a problem.

Review: Bartender Brian McNulty comes to the aid of Barney Saunders, a fellow barman, in Death at the Old Hotel, the third mystery in this series by Con Lehane.

It is Christmas-time in New York City. The hotels are all booked up and the restaurants have reservations for holiday parties. The bars are crowded – which is good news for Brian McNulty who tends bar at the Savoy Hotel. When goons attack his friend Barney, Brian decides it is time to make this outrage his business. Barney, Brian and others have been trying to get new blood in the union hierarchy because the present bosses are blatantly corrupt as are the hotel owners who trade favors and money with each other and members of the mob. Brian believes this is why Barney was beaten as he had been more vocal than others about the problem. Neither Brian nor Barney are anti-union; in fact they feel they need the union, just not a corrupt one.

When one of the Savoy’s nastier bosses creates an ugly scene with one of the waitresses on an exceptionally busy night, the kitchen staff, wait staff, bus boys and bartenders walk out and start a picket line the next day. Everyone except Barney, that is, who has gone into hiding. Brian tries again to talk to the union bosses, but is told to get out and follow the union’s orders. No more talking! But when the talking stops, the murders begin. Not only does Brian feel he has to investigate the disappearance of Brian, he commits himself to help solve the murders that follow.

Lehane seamlessly interleaves several storylines in Death at the Old Hotel, including illegal immigration, the problems of a divorced couple with a teenage son, an illicit love affair, and even an alley cat, into an intriguing murder mystery. There are any number of suspects, and McNulty – the bartender and confidant – must distinguish between what is true and what isn't in order to solve the crimes.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Death at the Old Hotel and to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

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Mystery Book Review: Tahoe Silence by Todd Borg

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

Tahoe Silence by
An Owen McKenna Mystery

Thriller Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-931296-15-4 (1931296154)
ISBN-13: 978-1-931296-15-1 (9781931296151)
Publication Date: August 2007
List Price: $16.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Seventeen-year-old Silence Ramirez is an exceptional artist. She also has autism and has never spoken a word in her life. When she is kidnapped, it appears she's been taken by a gang of bikers whose charismatic leader quotes Aztec commands from Aztec gods. Detective Owen McKenna seems unable to learn anything about the case until Silence figures out how to sneak drawings of her kidnappers out of the house where she is held captive. Owen uncovers the identities of the biker-kidnappers, but that doesn't help him find Silence or even learn why she was taken. Silence knows why she was kidnapped, but that knowledge is locked up inside her mind.

As McKenna studies her drawings, he comes to a horrible conclusion. The kidnappers plan to kill Silence in a ritual Aztec sacrifice at the next full moonrise, an event that is only hours away ...

Review: Former detective turned private investigator Owen McKenna investigates the kidnapping of an autistic young girl in Tahoe Silence, the fifth mystery in this series by Todd Borg, set on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

SalAnne Ramirez, a 17-year-old girl diagnosed with autism and nicknamed Silence since she's never spoken a word in her life, and her younger brother Charlie are outside their home when they are suddenly kidnapped, the only clue being that the roar of a motorcycle was heard at the same time they were taken. Fearing the police won't take their disappearance seriously, their mother hires McKenna to find them. Though the leader of a motorcycle gang seems to be the most likely suspect, McKenna begins his investigation by assuming she was not taken at random, but for some specific purpose. When her brother Charlie is found murdered, McKenna's forced to rethink his position, that maybe the gang is responsible and as a result he starts down a path that puts his own life in danger.

When speaking to someone about Silence's autism, McKenna is asked how her condition figures into the kidnapping. He replies, "I don't know. But because her autism is such a prominent facet of her personality, the better I understand autism, the better I will understand how she will respond to her current situation, how she will react if we can make a rescue attempt. It may even suggest why she was targeted in the first place." That statement summarizes both the strong and weak points of Tahoe Silence. On the positive side, the author recognizes that autism is likely to be a little understood disorder by readers of his book and thus makes an effort to educate them on what autism is and how it is diagnosed. But Borg seems too eager to show off the considerable research he has put into the subject. A more tightly edited version of the book would have eliminated a large number of extraneous pages without compromising how autism factors into McKenna's investigation and without any loss of continuity in the plot.

Borg cleverly uses an Aztec ritual that is performed on the night of a full moon as a way of introducing a time element into the story. At several points, McKenna notes the number of days until the full moon which effectively generates and maintains a sense of urgency in locating Silence. And as is typical of books in this series, Spot, McKenna's Harlequin Great Dane, plays an important role.

Far too much incidental information and the oddly incongruous happily-ever-after epilogue prevent Tahoe Silence from being the best in this series, but it is very good nonetheless.

Special thanks to Thriller Press for providing a copy of Tahoe Silence for this review.

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

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Compendium of Mystery News 070827

Today's compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• PBS will air the last two episodes of the Inspector Lynley mysteries from last season before airing the four new episodes that comprise Season 6. Check your local listings for dates and times. (MBN note: Season 5 of the will be available from the website on 10/02/2007.)

Hallie Ephron reviews three new mysteries in her column on Boston.com.

• More in the Times Online on the new Agatha Christie graphic novels being published by HarperCollins. Eight are planned for this year, with another eight to be published next year.

• The home in which Kate Mattes has lived in and been selling mystery books from since 1983 is up for sale. As a frequent visitor to Kate's Mystery Books when we lived in the area, we're thrilled to learn that Kate simply needs more space and will continue to operate in a new location.

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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Monday, August 27, 2007

Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for August 27, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for August 27, 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 C E J L N O R Y. NSW homicide detective Scobie Malone is featured in a series of mysteries by this Australian author (9 letters).

New! We now have our puzzles in PDF format for easier printing. Print this week's puzzle here.

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, August 26, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Day Will Come by Judy Clemens

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Day Will Come by Judy Clemens. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Day Will Come by Judy Clemens

The Day Will Come by
A Stella Crown Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-299-3 (1590582993)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-299-2 (9781590582992)
Publication Date: August 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): If Stella Crown loves anything as much as her farm, her Harley, and her friends, it's a good dose of rock-and-roll. But when the chance arrives to see a legend in concert, she gets more than she bargained for. A bomb threat empties out the club, and when the panic subsides, a member of the band is missing.

When the body of the singer, Genna, is found in the club later that night, Stella's friend Jordan Granger is the prime suspect. Jordan had no official relationship with the victim, but Stella is convinced he was in love with her. The drummer of the band, a talented but volatile man, was Genna's actual boyfriend, and Stella doesn't trust him. Did the drummer kill his girlfriend after setting the bomb? Were the two crimes even related?

Stella finds herself acting not only as Jordan's keeper, but as an investigator into his life, as well as her own. Meanwhile, Stella's boyfriend has a secret of his own. Why isn't he returning her calls? And why was he so exhausted and edgy even before the disastrous concert?

The answer isn't something Stella ever dreamed of.

Review: Cow farmer Stella Crown comes to the aid of a good friend accused of murder in her fourth mystery, The Day Will Come by Judy Clemens.

Stella's life revolves around her farm, her friends, her Harley-Davidson bike, and rock-and-roll music. When a small, but very popular, band returns to Philadelphia where their success began, Jordan, the sound technician and a good friend of Stella's, is able to get Stella and her boyfriend Nick tickets even though it is a sold out performance. Between sets, Jordan takes them backstage to meet the group in person while he checks on some problems with the sound system. When a bomb is found, the area is immediately evacuated with no apparent casualties. Later, however, the police discover the band's manager missing, money from a vault taken, and the lead singer, Genna, dead, beaten to death. When it becomes clear that Jordan is the prime suspect in all the crimes, Stella goes to his aid and begins asking questions.

The Day Will Come is a lot about interpersonal relationships, and though the murder is the central point of the mystery, the story includes several subplots that add to the depth and appeal to Stella's character. The most poignant of these involves Nick who fears he must break off his relationship with Stella. The most amusing involves another good friend who's getting married and has "nothing to wear".

This well written book should appeal to a wide range of mystery readers. The whodunit aspect is well done, and background information about farming, bikers, and even rock-and-roll, any of which may be unknown to readers, is presented in an easy to appreciate and understand manner.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Day Will Come and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

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

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which 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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Friday, August 24, 2007

Compendium of Mystery News 070824

Today's compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• NPRs 4-part series Crime in the City, crime novelists and the places they and their characters inhabit continues with John Burdett's Bangkok, Laura Lippman's Baltimore, and Michael Connelly's Los Angeles.

• Jamie Portman of the CanWest News Service talks to mystery author Howard Engel who continues to recover from a stroke six years ago that rendered him able to write but unable to read. He humorously states that he's setting next year's Benny Cooperman mystery on the Malaysian peninsula. "There, it doesn't much matter whether he can read the signs or not because he doesn't know the language anyway!"

• USA Today's latest book roundup covers four new mysteries.

• Otto Penzler writes about Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer in his most recent column on NYSun.com.

• The BBC has some images of Agatha Christie's crime novels that have been adapted as comic strip editions.

• And on a related subject, Pam Hobbs in the Globe and Mail writes about the upcoming Torquay's Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Festival.

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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Mystery Bestsellers for August 24, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten for the week ending August 24, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

regains the top spot this week, but in contrast to last week when no new titles appeared on the list, two new mysteries debut this week.

Force of Nature by Suzanne BrockmannFirst up: Suzanne Brockmann's romantic suspense novel is the 11th entry in the Troubleshooters series. Florida private investigator and ex-cop Ric Alvarado finds himself deep undercover with Annie, his beautiful new Girl Friday who is far more interested in fieldwork than filing. They're working for notorious crime boss Gordon Burns. One mistake from his painfully inexperienced partner, and they're both dead. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Jules Cassidy's life isn't in much better shape. For years, the FBI has been trying to prove Gordon Burns's ties to terrorist activity. Now, thanks to Ric and Annie, Jules has found a way into the lion's den. As the heat rises, so do the risks they're all willing to take - in the line of duty, for the sake of loyalty, and in the name of something that runs even deeper.

Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott DavidsonAlso new this week: , the 14th culinary mystery in the Goldy Schulz series by . Goldy Schulz is thrilled to be catering a holiday breakfast feast for the staff of the Aspen Meadow Library. But little does she know that on the menu, alongside the Great Expectations Grapefruit, Chuzzlewit Cheese Pie, and Bleak House Bars, is a large helping of murder. But the holiday madness is only just beginning for Goldy. Soon she's drawn into the dangerous, double-crossing world of high-end map dealing. And like the ghost of Christmas past, Sandee—yes, the Sandee Brisbane who killed Goldy's ex-husband, the Jerk, but is supposed to be dead—keeps making an appearance. Could she be out to prove that revenge is sweet? Publishers Weekly says that Davidson is "at the top of her form" and adds, "Readers will happily sink their teeth into Goldy's latest case and come away hungry for more."

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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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Stuff to Die For by Don Bruns

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

Stuff to Die For by
A James Lessor and Skip Moore Mystery

Oceanview Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-933515-10-4 (1933515104)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933515-10-6 (9781933515106)
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Best friends James Lessor and Skip Moore are hardly on the fast track. While James works as a line cook at Cap'n Crab, Skip spends his days selling—or rather, attempting to sell—security systems to people who (a) have no money, and (b) have nothing they care to protect.

James and Skip aren't upwardly mobile, but they're about to get literally mobile when James spends a surprise inheritance on a white box truck. An investment in the future, he surmises, as these two are starting a business—solely devoted to hauling other people's stuff.

But the fledgling business takes a shocking turn when James and Skip unload the contents of their first moving job and find some unexpected cargo—a bloody human finger.

James and Skip must scramble to stay one step ahead of the perpetrators of the gruesome crime in this witty, gritty mystery about big dreams, big ideas—and big trouble.

Instead of chasing the American dream, James and Skip will be running for their lives.

Review: Don Bruns, author of the Mick Sever rock-and-roll mysteries, introduces a new series featuring James Lessor and Skip Moore, two underemployed best friends and roommates living in south Florida, in Stuff to Die For, a comedy-buddy-mystery that for the most part works on all three levels.

It sounded like a good idea at the time. Skip (who narrates the story) and James decide to get into the hauling business. Everybody's got stuff they need to move and they (mostly James) think what with a little luck and hard work they can parlay their newly acquired box truck into a fleet in a few years. Never mind that neither one knows how to back up a truck without damaging something. Their first job comes via a reference: their friend Emily knows a woman who's going through a divorce and wants her husband's stuff hauled away. Seems easy enough, until while putting the stuff into storage, they discover a human finger with a class ring attached bearing the name of same school and graduating year as Skip and James. Maybe this plan of hauling other people's stuff wasn't such a good idea after all.

The plot gets a little complicated at this point. The finger belongs to the class jock, Vic Maitlin, who, unbeknownst to but a few, saved Skip's life in high school. Consequently, Skip feels obligated to find out what transpired to cause Vic's finger to be in his possession. He and James end up getting hired to locate Vic by his father, an investor who is mixed up with a group of Cuban exiles plotting an invasion of their homeland. This all could have ended up being rather silly, or worse seriously dull, but Bruns handles it reasonably well, keeping the plot moving briskly forward, avoiding (with one notable exception) tangential plot points that would detract from the story, and instilling the characters with endearing qualities. The one exception is the incongruent subplot involving Emily's pregnancy that serves no relevant purpose being in this book.

Stuff to Die For doesn't pretend to be more than it is, escapist fun in the form of a generally entertaining mystery. If for that reason alone, it deserves considerable credit.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing a copy of Stuff to Die For for this review.

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

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Mystery Book Review: Last Breath by Mariah Stewart

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

Last Breath by Mariah Stewart
The "Last" Trilogy

Ballantine Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-49224-2 (0345492242)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-49224-1 (9780345492241)
Publication Date: July 2007
List Price: $19.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): As renowned archaeologist Dr. Daria McGowan readies the most important project of her career–a University museum exhibit showcasing the priceless artifacts her great-grandfather unearthed a century earlier in the Middle East–she makes a shocking discovery: many of the most significant pieces have vanished. Panicked, Daria turns to the FBI.

Solving the mystery is an assignment that Connor Shields is more than happy to accept: Daria is the same intriguing blonde archaeologist he’s had on his mind since their paths first crossed two years ago. Working together to track down the stolen artifacts, Daria and Connor discover a trail of bodies–collectors who have met brutal, bizarre ends at the hands of a killer whose murderous methods are based on the rituals of an ancient civilization.

Amid rumors of a curse and mounting pressure from both the FBI and the University, Daria and Connor race to unmask their enemy and unravel a mystery stretching across oceans and centuries. All the while, an ingenious murderer follows a sinister plan to gather the coveted antiquities and one last acquisition–Daria.

Review: Archaeologist Daria McGowen returns from a dig in Iran to oversee the display of artifacts unearthed by her great-grandfather a century ago in Last Breath, the third and final entry in this trilogy of thrillers by Mariah Stewart.

The fabled city of Shandihar in the Middle East had been buried beneath the desert sands after an earthquake a thousand years ago, its treasures presumably lost forever. In the early 20th century, Alister McGowen, with the backing of a wealthy patron, Benjamin Howe, discovered the city and its artifacts, the most important of which he carefully cataloged and crated to be shipped to the US. 100 years later, these artifacts are to be displayed in a new museum at the university founded by the patron, Howe University. Daria, McGowen's great-granddaughter, is asked to coordinate the effort. To her shock and dismay, she finds several important artifacts missing ... possibly stolen. She immediately calls FBI Agent Conner Shields, a man she had met in Morocco on her way home. Working together, they discover a number of "collectors" who have acquired the pieces. Visiting each of their homes, Daria and Connor find the owners dead, tortured by methods described in the annals of the ancient city, and the artifacts gone. As they continue their investigation, they learn of a woman who calls herself the Goddess of Darkness, a high priestess of Shandihar, and her guardians who obey her every command, including one to kill Daria and Connor before they can expose her.

Last Breath is an excellent book in so many ways. The archaeological information is detailed enough to be interesting without being overwhelming, and significantly enhances the overall plot. The emotional highs and lows Daria experiences are realistically portrayed and add value to the story. And finally, and maybe most important of all, the mystery of who stole the artifacts and why make for a compelling and fast paced thriller.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Last Breath and to Book Trends for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which 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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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Compendium of Mystery News 070822

Today's compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• The Associated Press is reporting that Magdalen Nabb, author of the Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia mystery series, has died of a stroke in Florence, Italy. She was 60. Nabb also wrote stories for children and young adults. See also this profile of the author on the Telegraph.co.uk.

Belinda Goldsmith interviews mystery writer Mary Daheim for Reuters. Mary Daheim says the best advice she received when she embarked on a writing career over 20 years ago was to not confuse her work with literature.

• Bill Keveney, writing for USA Today, says that television viewers love a good mystery, but with song? He reports on the upcoming CBS series Viva Laughlin. The CBS website calls the series (which is based on the BBC show Viva Blackpool) part drama, part thriller, part musical.

• Variety is reporting that James Patterson is entering the videogame business. Oberon Media has signed a deal with the author to produce numerous games with Patterson's brand name, most likely in the mystery or romance genres. Some will be based on Patterson's existing books, others on original stories.

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, August 21, 2007

Compendium of Mystery News 070821

Today's compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• Laura Thompson writes in the Telegraph about Agatha Christie, a woman she says can be understood but not solved. Her book about the author, Agatha Christie: An English Mystery, will be published next month in the UK.

Gaming Today provides some beautifully rendered screen shots for the upcoming PC game, Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun. This third installment of the series from The Adventure Company is scheduled for release in October 2007.

• Roberta Isleib, author of the Cassie Burdette golf mysteries, writes an essay in the latest series of Chicken Soup books, Chicken Soup for the Woman Golfer's Soul. (MBN Note: find all of Roberta Isleib's mysteries as well as many more sports-related mystery books at our partner website, .)

• Margaret Cannon reviews 5 recently published mysteries in her column on TheGlobeandMail.com.

• The Associated Press is reporting that J. K. Rowling has been spotted at cafes in Scotland working on a detective novel. (This information has been published on many websites; our link here is to FoxNews.com.)

• NPR begins a four-part series, Crime in the City, about crime novelists and the places they and their characters inhabit. First up: Donna Leon's Venice.

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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Mysteries on TV: JAG and Dexter

Mysteries on TVMystery television series being released this week on DVD:

starred David James Elliot as Cmdr. Harmon "Harm" Rabb, a former Navy pilot turned lawyer for the Judge Advocate General (JAG). The series also starred Catherine Bell as Lt. Col. Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie.

The fourth season of JAG aired on CBS from September 1998 through May 1999. This DVD set includes all 24 episodes from this season on 6 disks.

Watch the opening credits (from season 2) on YouTube.com here.

starred Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a blood splatter expert for the Police Department who also has a darker side: he locates and kills criminals that have escaped justice. The series is based on the crime thrillers Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

The first season of Dexter aired on HBO in the fall of 2006. This DVD set includes all 12 episodes from this season on 4 disks.

Watch the opening credits on YouTube.com here.

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

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website. (MBN Note: Enter to win one of two copies of The Hellfire Conspiracy with bookplates signed by the author, generously provided by the publisher, that we are giving away this month on our Mystery Books Sweepstakes website.)The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas

The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas
A Barker and Llewelyn Mystery

Simon & Schuster (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-406-54805-X (141654805X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-406-54805-8 (9781406548058)
Publication Date: July 2007
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Barker and Llewelyn are hired to find a girl from the upper classes who has gone missing in the East End, they assume her kidnapping is the work of white slavers. But when they discover five girls have been murdered in Bethnal Green, taunting letters begin to arrive in Craig's Court from a killer calling himself Mr. Miacca.

Barker fears that Miacca might be part of the Hellfire Club, a group of powerful, hedonistic aristocrats performing Satanic rituals. He must track the fiend to his hideout, while Llewelyn confronts the man who put him in prison.

Review: Private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn take on assignment to find a missing upper class twelve year girl in The Hellfire Conspiracy, the fourth mystery in this series by Will Thomas.

The girl was abducted from the East End, a low class, seedy part of London. Barker and Llewelyn had heard that the white slavers were back who may have taken her to sell her to someone who would whisk her out of the country and concentrate their efforts there. During their intense search, however, they come upon knowledge that five other girls between the ages of eleven and fourteen had been found murdered and tossed in the river. They were nude, raped, their faces painted like some satanic ritual, and one finger cut off at the first knuckle. This was definitely not the work of the white slavers. They finally find the missing girl in the River Thames, nude, raped and strangled, with her face painted and one finger cut off at the knuckle. Though convinced the white slavers were not responsible for this crime, there are other sinister secret cults at work. Their search goes on in the darkest, most barbaric, desolate, and uncivilized parts of London. When another child, age eleven, disappears, Barker pledges to the parents that they will find her before she, too, is killed.

Though the crimes here are against children, the author doesn't dwell on the murders but instead focuses on the investigation by Barker and Llewelyn. When they discover who the malicious murderer is, Llewelyn professes surprise though Barker claims he knew it all along; most readers will as well.

Set in late 1880s London, the period and location details add a mysterious atmospheric layer to a well-paced plot. Despite the horrific nature of the crimes, The Hellfire Conspiracy is a pleasure to read.

Special thanks to Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for providing a copy of The Hellfire Conspiracy for this review.

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

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which 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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