Monday, January 21, 2008

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for January 21, 2008

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 21, 2008A new has been created by the editors of the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is now available on our website.

Godoku is similar to Sudoku, but uses letters instead of numbers. To give you a headstart, we provide you a mystery clue to fill in a complete row or column (if you choose to use it!).

This week's letters and mystery clue: E F I L N O R S T. This is the title of the 3rd mystery in the Ben Abbott series by (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, January 20, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Mortal Groove by Ellen Hart

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Mortal Groove by Ellen Hart. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Mortal Groove by Ellen HartBuy from Amazon.com
The Mortal Groove by
A Jane Lawless Mystery

St. Martin's MInotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-34945-9 (0312349459)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-34945-5 (9780312349455)
Publication Date: December 2007
List Price: $25.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless is in the middle of ringing in the New Year the best way she knows how-with her family, friends, and some excellent champagne-when the biggest financial backers in politics break up the party with a little backroom proposition for her father: How'd he like to be the state's next governor? Flattered, Ray Lawless, a retired defense attorney, agrees to run, and the latecomer's sprint to the state capital is going great until reporters and opponents start digging up the kind of dirt that is more valuable than gold out on the campaign trail. He and his family are fair game, but worse than that, so are the men running his campaign. Their secrets, involving the mysterious death of a young woman, have been buried since the summer they all came home from Vietnam. Unfortunately for Jane and her father, those secrets won't stay that way for long.

Review: Jane Lawless investigates a 35-year-old murder in The Mortal Groove, the intriguing 15th mystery in this series by Ellen Hart featuring the Minneapolis restaurant owner.

Jane's father has been asked to run to be Governor of Minnesota following a stroke by the Party's original nominee. Though less than a year remains until the election, he agrees. A longtime associate of the family, Randy Turk, joins the campaign as a legal advisor who recommends a friend he's known since the Vietnam War, Del Green, as campaign manager. All seems to be going well until another Vietnam buddy shows up, Larry Wilton, broke and acting suspiciously. When a newspaper reporter, a former lover of Jane's close friend Cordelia, is brutally attacked, Jane begins to look into the story she was investigating and finds a link to her father's campaign staff: the murder of a young woman in the early 1970s in which Randy Turk's brother was accused, and then acquitted.

Some of the best mysteries have multiple, and often intricate, plot threads that weave in and out of each other until the very end when a complete picture is formed. The Mortal Groove is one such mystery. There are a number of instances where a subplot seems to arrive to a satisfactory conclusion only to have another one intersect with it and render the first active again. When done well, as it is here, it's really quite a remarkable reading experience. In terms of characters, Jane and Cordelia play off one another very well and make a terrific amateur sleuthing team.

The only discordant note in the book is the thriller action sequence that takes place in northern Minnesota. There's nothing necessarily wrong with the way it is written nor is it inappropriate to the story; it just seems out of place and somewhat inconsistent with the way the rest of the book is constructed. This minor point aside, The Mortal Groove is an outstanding example of amateur detective fiction.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of The Mortal Groove for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080119

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• In a press release, the Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2008 Edgar Awards honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2007. The Edgar Awards will be presented at a banquet on May 01, 2008, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. (MBN note: See a list of previous winners in major categories at the .

has been awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Cartier Diamond Dagger for her Kinsey Millhone series of mysteries. Grafton wins the Cartier Diamond Dagger in its twenty-third year. Previous winners include John Harvey, Elmore Leonard, Ruth Rendell, , John Le Carré and . The award presentation will take place in London on May 07, 2008.

• Reuters is reporting that the web yields deadly tricks for crime writers, such as street layouts, building locations, or the latest in guns, poisons and nuclear bombs. They can also learn how victims would react to acid or bullets or being pushed from a helicopter. Seasoned or aspiring writers also track blogs run by police officers where they can read tales and learn jargon -- something that was not possible a few years back.

• Adventure Gamers is reporting that two Japanese mystery adventures may be headed for the Nintendo DS. According to gaming magazine Famitsu, Flower, Sun, and Rain, an adventure game first released for the Playstation 2 in 2001, is being remade for the DS. In Flower, Sun, and Rain, players take the role of an assassin who relives the same day over and over again. Only when he can find a way to stop a bomb from exploding at an airport, the day will stop repeating. And The Silver Case, a detective adventure game originally released for Playstation in 1999, is being remade for Nintendo DS with a targeted release date sometime this year. (MBN note: Find more at .)

• Here's something we'd never thought we'd hear (and aren't quite sure what to make of it now that we've heard it): Comedienne Joan Rivers wants to fulfill a life-long ambition to write crime stories. She says, "I want to write mystery stories. There's a series of books I want to write. There's so much work to do. That's what gets me up every morning and makes me crazy when I have more than two days off at a time." (MBN note: while this story was widely reported outside the US, we cannot find any local source to confirm this information. Here's the link from Metro.co.uk with all the details.)

• Nathalie Atkinson, writing in the National Post, reports on a new crop of Canadian mystery writers who've traded in gimmicks and gadgets for character-driven tension and sense of place.

• The Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle is reporting that mystery writer Edward D. Hoch has died. He was 77. Hoch's first published story appeared in 1955 in Famous Detective Stories. Though he wrote several novels, short stories were Hoch's passion. In 2001, Hoch received the Grand Master Award, the highest honor given annually by the Mystery Writers of America.

• Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal talks to Walter Mosley on book publishing, mysteries, and Yiddish.

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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Friday, January 18, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers for January 18, 2008

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top 15 for the week ending January 18, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Assuming the top spot on our list this week is Plum Lucky, the second "between the numbers" mystery (after last year's Plum Lovin') in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Last week's top 4 get shifted down a notch as a result.

Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods
Entering this week in the 8th position is the second book in the Rick Barron series by , Beverly Hills Dead. Set in the 1940s, Rick is a former Beverly Hills cop who's now head of production at a major Hollywood studio. When Rick's friend Sidney Brooks, a successful screenwriter, receives a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee, Rick isn't surprised. The witch hunt is spreading, and those under investigation are Rick's closest friends-even his wife, the glamorous starlet Glenna Gleason. Kirkus Reviews states, "Precious little mystery or suspense, but the book's momentum and the blacklist plot line will keep the pages turning."

The Pale Horse by Charles Todd
Moving up into the top 15 this week is the 10th atmospheric mystery in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series by mother and son writing team , A Pale Horse. In the ruins of Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey lies the body of a man wrapped in a cloak, the face covered by a gas mask. Next to him is a book on alchemy. Who is this man, and is the investigation into his death being manipulated by a thirst for revenge? Meanwhile, the British War Office is searching for a missing man of their own, someone whose war work was so secret that even Rutledge isn't told his real name or what he did. Here is a puzzle requiring all of Rutledge's daring and skill, for there are layers of lies and deception, while a ruthless killer is determined to hold on to freedom at any cost. states, "A Pale Horse is a brilliantly written mystery, carefully and meticulously plotted. It is highly recommended."

On our bestseller page, we've added an icon next to every title that is available for immediate download onto the Amazon Kindle. To learn about this wireless reading device, visit the Amazon Kindle page for more information.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are depicted below:


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, January 17, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by Kathleen Hills

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by Kathleen Hills. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by Kathleen HillsBuy from Amazon.com
The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by
A John McIntire Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-476-7 (1590584767)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-476-7 (9781590584767)
Publication Date: December 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): On a stifling mid-summer day in 1951, eleven-year-old Claire Hofer descends from her perch in a pine tree and sets out to take lunch to her father, who's raking hay. As she nears the field, she hears no rumbling tractor and sees only an unfriendly-looking stranger scuffling through the stubble toward her. She turns and runs, but there is no escaping the troubles to come. The man is Township Constable John McIntire, and Claire's father is dead.

McIntire finds the crime baffling. Reuben Hofer had only lived in the old St. Adele Schoolhouse since early May; hardly long enough to make enemies. His family had little contact with anyone in the community save the Catholic priest and Doctor Mark Guibard, who'd been attending Hofer's chronically ill, morbidly obese wife. But Hofer was not exactly the newcomer McIntire had believed. During the war, he'd been incarcerated only a few miles away in a CPS camp---a camp for the rebellious conscientious objectors that the church-run institutions couldn't handle. The spotlight of a murder investigation causes greater misery for already devastated by misfortune and poverty. And McIntire confronts a fumbling nemesis in the bewildered and frightened, but determined, Claire.

Review: The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies is the fourth mystery in this series by Kathleen Hills, featuring Township Constable John McIntire. The series is set in the early 1950s.

Reuben Hofer didn't have a friend in the world. Though new to the community, he was disliked to the point of being hated by everyone who knew him, including his own family. When he was found dead, shot in the back while on a tractor in his fields, no one mourned his death. McIntire and local sheriff Pete Koski begin an investigation into the man's life and find he's not the newcomer they originally thought. During the war, Hofer had been confined as a rebellious conscientious objector in a nearby facility. On the rare occasions when men were allowed to leave, they frequented a local bar and poker room. Those who remembered him, including a former camp guard and saloon owner, recalled he couldn't hold his liquor but was very adroit at playing poker, but ill-tempered and unlikeable. McIntire and Kosky have a difficult time sorting out fact from fiction in determining who wanted to kill Hofer, and why.

Though the plot of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies in intriguing and has its moments, particularly when it incorporates sometimes obscure historical facts into the story, it pales in comparison to the book's rich character development and setting. As in previous books in the series, McIntire is an exceptionally well drawn, complex character that fits perfectly into his remote, mid-20th century environment. But in this novel, the character of Claire, the dead man's daughter, stands apart from the rest. She's really quite special, with deep emotions and a story unto herself.

Readers who live in, or are familiar with, Michigan's Upper Peninsula will take special delight in reading The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies. Everyone else will simply take pleasure in a remarkably well written book.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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, January 16, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080116

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• Brunonia Barry, the Salem (MA) author of The Lace Reader, a self-published mystery, recently signed a $2 million deal with William Morrow for world English publishing rights. The original trade paperback version was published by Flap Jacket Press in September 2007 and may be hard to find; an updated version with editing changes will be published in hardcover this fall by Morrow. As for the process of self-publishing and marketing her book, her husband stated, "It's not for the faint of heart." (MBN note: Visit to find resources that will help you write and publish your mystery novel.)

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was awarded GameSpot's "Best of 2007" award for "Best Use of a Creative License." The game blends the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. P. Lovecraft to create a dark and mysterious world of adventure. Find more mystery games at .

• Otto Penzler profiles master of suspense writer Cornell Woolrich in his column on NYSun.com.

Anna Mundow of the Irish Times interviews Ray Banks whose second novel, Saturday's Child, published this month in the US by Harcourt, introduces private investigator Cal Innes. Publishers Weekly said of Saturday's Child, "Banks is updating the noir novel with an utterly original sensibility." Ray Banks is currently working on his fourth title in the series, the second of which, Donkey Punch, was published last year in the UK and the third of which, No More Heroes, is scheduled for publication next month in the UK. The interview appears on Boston.com, the online version of The Boston Globe.

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 Book Review: The Shell Game by Steve Alten

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Shell Game by Steve Alten. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Shell Game by Steve AltenBuy from Amazon.com
The Shell Game by
Non-series

Sweetwater Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59955-094-6 (1599550946)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59955-094-7 (9781599550947)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $26.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The story opens in 2007 when two CIA spooks meet with an American Colonel in military intelligence. The war is going badly, and President Bush, who steadfastly refuses to back down, remains unchallenged at home as Democrats and Republicans continue to toss verbal grenades – positioning themselves for the 2008 elections. Meanwhile, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy will yield enriched uranium within five years -- uranium that can be used to manufacture suitcase nukes.

The United States’ military is too drained to invade Iran, and a preemptive strike is out of the question...unless a nuclear detonation were to occur on in American city -- the enriched uranium traced back to Iran. A U.S. reprisal would strike a death-blow against radical Islam, quell the insurgent violence in Iraq...and yield more oil. Yes, the cost is unthinkable – but if we sit back and do nothing then one day a dozen suitcase bombs could go off in a dozen American cities – bringing with it anarchy and the collapse of Western civilization.

December 2011: Ashley “Ace” Futrell is an oil expert working for PetroConsultants, married to Kelli Doyle, a former National Security Advisor and one of the CIA spooks from the opening scene. When Kelli threatens to expose the plot, Ace finds his existence hurtling down a rabbit’s hole of deceit where the orchestrated lies of the powerful few could lead to the darkest days of human existence... and the death knell for billions.

Review: Steve Alten's near-future thriller, The Shell Game, is such a ridiculous shambles of a novel that it's hard to take it seriously. It's even harder to objectively review.

Conspiracy theorists, radical left-wingers, and the cultural elite will believe Alten speaks the gospel truth in The Shell Game and need read no further here. Everyone else, regardless of political ideology, will likely find the book an aimless and insipid mess.

The Shell Game takes place, for the most part, in late 2011 and early 2012. John McKuhn (a very thinly disguised John McCain) is President, having been elected over his Democratic opponents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (no name substitutions apparently required) in 2008 due to voting machine fraud, vicious personal attack ads, and countless other dirty deeds attributed to the Republican Party. Leaders of that very same party later assassinate McKuhn ensuring that the Vice President, a hard line conservative in the mold of an even more thinly disguised Dick Cheney, assumes office prior to the election in 2012. None of this is important to the story, but Alten includes it (and much, much, much more) as political fact disguised as political fiction in an effort to get his decidedly one-sided point of view across.

The Shell Game reads more like an unfinished outline for a book than a book itself with chapters that seem almost randomly placed. There are a number of intersecting storylines, none of which are credible and none of which make a lot of sense, that seem half sketched out and not entirely completed. The two primary ones are a plot to bankrupt the ruling monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and a plot to detonate a nuclear weapon on American soil. Alten, not so subtly, pins both of these plots on the Republicans, specifically "neo-cons", a term he uses with such contempt that killers of baby seals are model stewards of the planet in comparison.

Alten might be forgiven for writing such an appalling and tasteless novel had he not tried to make his futuristic allegations more believable by beginning each chapter with quotes from government documents (some "secret"), mainstream literature, historical figures, pop culture leaders, even the Bible. The quotes are, of course, taken completely out of context and serve only to justify Alten's unrelenting bashing of the Republican Party in general, and the current Bush administration in particular. The more credible he tries to be, the more incredible (in the strict definition of the word) he becomes.

Regardless of whether one agrees with Alten's politics or not, The Shell Game is a poorly written and plotted book with one-dimensional characters, mindless dialog, and vapid narrative. It is not a thriller in any sense of the word and is noteworthy only because it is likely to be the worst book of the year, if not the entire decade.

Special thanks to Blanco and Peace for providing an ARC of The Shell Game for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mystery Book Review: A Pale Horse by Charles Todd

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

A Pale Horse by Charles ToddBuy from Amazon.com
A Pale Horse by
An Ian Rutledge Mystery

William Morrow (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-123356-0 (0061233560)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-123356-2 (9780061233562)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Late on a spring night in 1920, five boys cross the Yorkshire dales to the ruins of Fountains Abbey, intent on raising the Devil. Instead, they stumble over the Devil himself, sitting there watching them. Terrified, they run for their lives, leaving behind a book on alchemy stolen from their schoolmaster.

The next morning, a body is discovered in the cloisters of the abbey–a man swathed in a hooded cloak and wearing a gas mask. There are no clues other than the left–behind book. In an effort to uncover the dead man's identity, one of the police constables, who fancies himself a portraitist, sketches a likeness to send to other police stations. It turns out there's a strong chance the man worked on poisoned gases for the British government after the Germans had used them at Ypres during the late war.

Scotland Yard dispatches Inspector Rutledge to confirm the ID and to find out why the man died in such mysterious circumstances. Rutledge begins his investigation, dealing with villagers who clearly have something to hide and trying to decipher if the death links back to the Great War. And what does the huge chalk sculpture of a pale horse of the Apocalypse have to do with the crime?

Review: The mother and son team of Caroline and Charles Todd (writing as Charles Todd) have crafted a wonderfully atmospheric story in A Pale Horse, the tenth mystery in this series featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge.

It is April, 1920. A man has been murdered in an abbey in Yorkshire. The unusual circumstances of the crime are that he was clothed in a monk's robe and a gas mask, similar to those worn by the Germans when they released their lethal gasses in the Great War. He was also found with a book on alchemy. His identity is unknown. And he was not killed where he was found, rather his body moved there sometime after his murder. Meanwhile, a man has gone missing in Berkshire, over 200 miles to the south of Yorkshire. Inspector Rutledge is sent to investigate but isn't even given the name of the missing man. A link between these two cases seems unlikely and yet, as Rutledge begins to ask questions, he's not sure they aren't. In nearby Wiltshire, a village lies beneath a green knoll where centuries ago a chalk white horse was etched into the limestone. Below the horse is a community of old homes originally built for lepers, outcasts from society. The current residents also want to separate themselves from others, but for reasons known only to them. With no one admitting to knowing anything, Rutledge must use every resource available to him to determine what has happened and why.

A Pale Horse is a brilliantly written mystery, carefully and meticulously plotted. Rutledge, who suffers from shell shock from his service in the Great War, and his inner self, Hamish McLeod, make a terrific investigative "team". Other characters are equally memorable and add immeasurably to the thrill in following the investigation as it crosses the counties of England. At times Rutledge isn't even sure he's pursuing someone, yet he must continue as he believes that he has to speak for the dead.

The title no doubt refers to the horsemen of the apocalypse, the fourth of which, Death, rides a pale horse. It's deceptively clever. A Pale Horse is a hard book to set down as seemingly each page offers another opportunity for intrigue. It is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of A Pale Horse and to HarperCollins for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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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Monday, January 14, 2008

Mysteries on TV: Crime Traveller and The Rockford Files

Mysteries on TV

Two new DVD sets of mystery and suspense television series are being released this week.

Crime Traveller: The Complete Series

Michael French starred as Detective Jeff Slade, the , a series created by, and every episode written by, Anthony Horowitz, who also developed and wrote the television series. The series also starred Chloe Annett as Holly Turner, the inventor of a time machine that allows one to travel back in time by a random but short time interval. See the entertaining Crime Traveller trailer for more information about this series.

Despite being very popular with viewers, Crime Traveller lasted only one season and consisted of 8 episodes that aired on BBC-1 from March through April, 1997. The complete series DVD set consists of 3 disks.

The Rockford Files: Season 5

James Garner starred as private investigator Jim Rockford in , one of our favorite series from the 1970s. The series also starred Noah Beery Jr. as Rockford's father, Rocky, and Joe Santos as police detective Dennis Becker. Stuart Margolin, who had a recurring role as Rockford's former cellmate, received an Emmy for his performance during this season.

The fifth season of The Rockford Files is being released on 5 discs and consists of 21 episodes (including 2 2-part episodes) that aired on NBC from September 1978 through April 1979. Before he became two years later, Tom Selleck appeared in one episode this season as Lance White, the handsome private investigator for whom everything always seemed to go right. And Dennis Dugan returns as the boyish private investigator Richie Brockelman in a 2-part episode. Richie Brockelman, Private Eye was a spin-off of The Rockford Files but lasted only 6 episodes in the spring of 1978.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for January 14, 2008

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 14, 2008A new has been created by the editors of the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is now 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 B D G H I N S T. The 2nd mystery in the Hank Thompson series by featured 6 of these (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, January 13, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Fiddle Game by Richard A. Thompson

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Fiddle Game by Richard A. Thompson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Fiddle Game by Richard A. ThompsonBuy from Amazon.com
Fiddle Game by
A Herman Jackson Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-455-4 (1590584554)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-455-2 (9781590584552)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Herman Jackson has chosen as his place of permanent exile from , where his former life as a bookie got too hot to hold. Now he leads a respectable, low-profile life as a bail bondsman, selling second chances to losers and looking over his shoulder. When a young woman named Amy Cox leaves Jackson a priceless antique violin as security for her brother’s bail bond, it’s really the beginning of an elaborate con game. But the game is barely underway when she is brutally murdered in front of Jackson’s office. And for reasons that make no sense, the police are calling him the prime suspect. That is, unless he gives them the violin “as evidence.”

With his criminal past, Jackson can’t afford to be a prime suspect for jaywalking. But neither is he prepared to give in to extortion. Soon he is on the road and on the run, trying to solve Amy Cox’s murder, pursued by one real and one crooked cop, a band of urban Gypsies who claim to have first rights to the violin, and an unknown killer who also wants Jackson dead. Nobody is who he claims to be, nothing is what it seems, and the violin, which is reputed to carry a 400-year-old curse, begins to take on a life of its own. While Jackson tries to sort it all out, the killing continues, and suddenly his old life back in Detroit doesn’t look so dangerous at all.

Review: Fiddle Game is Robert A. Thompson's first mystery that introduces Herman Jackson, a bail bondsman living in St. Paul, and it is a winner. Jackson is someone who is smart enough to stay just above the law but not quite smart enough that the police keep an eye on him.

Jackson generally leads a quiet life. That is, until one day when Amy Cox came in for an $18,000 bond for her brother Jimmy. She has no cash, but she's willing to put up something worth far more, a 400-year-old Amati violin with a certificate of authenticity. Together, Amy and Jackson visit a pawn shop when they receive the necessary cash. After the transaction is complete, Amy leaves Jackson's office and is killed by a hit-and-run driver. To Jackson's surprise, the police accuse him of murdering Amy, and want him to turn over the violin as part of their investigation.

And so begins a thrilling, cross-country adventure as Jackson uses numerous fake IDs to keep one step ahead of the people following him, at least one of which wants him dead. He takes off for Seattle, and then rents a car to Arizona where he meets his incarcerated uncle who advises him to have piece of pecan pie at local cafe. Be sure to ask for Rosie. Rosie's pecan pie is actually a selection of guns, and she accompanies Jackson to the suburb of Skokie which has a large gypsy population. As a band of gypsies have claimed the Amati was theirs to begin with, Jackson thinks he'll find the answers there to all his questions, and who killed Amy Cox.

Fiddle Game is a face-paced caper that keeps the reader guessing as to what happens next. The characters are original and well drawn; each has a bit of a rough side and no one is quite who they seem on the surface. Though the plot moves along at breakneck speed, the writing is surprisingly well balanced, especially for a first novel.

If Thompson can continue this level of excellence in subsequent books, this will definitely be a series to look forward to. In the meantime, enjoy Fiddle Game; it's a real treat.

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

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mysteriosi: Digital Audio Mysteries Website Updated

Mysteriosi: Digital Audio Mysteries Available on MP3 CDOur partner audio mystery website, Mysteriosi: Digital Audio Mysteries, has reformatted and updated its website adding hundreds of new mystery titles available on MP3 CD.

MP3 CDs are rapidly replacing standard CDs as the media of choice when selecting a CD-based audiobook. More players now accept MP3 CDs and because of the compressed format used to write the audio information on the disk, most novels can be stored unabridged on a single disk in contrast to multiple disks required for standard CDs.

Although only MP3 CD versions of mysteries are listed on the Mysteriosi website, a link is provided to Amazon.com that opens a page listing all available versions of the book title.

Some of the new mysteries being published on MP3 CD this month include:


Please visit to select your next mystery on MP3 CD.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080111

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

Left Coast Crime has posted the nominees for The Lefty (best humorous mystery published in 2007), The Rocky (best mystery set in the Left Coast Crime geographical region in 2007), and The Arty (best cover art for a mystery published in 2007) on its website. The winners will be announced at Murder on the Rocks, the Left Coast Crime convention in Denver from March 6-9, 2008.

• In more award news, the Lambda Literary Foundation has posted the nominees for the Lambda Literary Award on its website. Categories include best women's mystery and best men's mystery. (MBN note: See for a list of past winners of the Lambda Literary Award as well as winners of awards from over 20 other literary organizations.)

• Variety is reporting that after a gap of 4 years ABC is bringing back The Mole, one of the best reality shows ever produced. The new season, expected to air this summer, will revert to its original format (i.e. without celebrities) and feature new "whodunit" game elements as well as a new host. The first season of and the first celebrity season, , are available for purchase on our website.

• Monk and Psych return for the second half of their regular seasons on USA Network tonight. In related news, USA Network announced that it would air an animated short based on the characters in Psych during a break in each episode this season. The shorts, titled The Big Adventures of Little Shawn and Gus, would range in length from just under 1 minute to about 2 minutes and would also be available on USANetwork.com and other syndicated outlets. Previous seasons of and are available on our website.

• In a press release, AuthorHouse announced that it is offering a free web site to authors who start the publishing process in 2008. The free author web site includes tools for providing real-time news and events about the featured book, content control features like active blog posting, and a portal where readers can purchase and review the book. Additionally, AuthorHouse hosts the site for free. (MBN note: For more information on resources for self publishing mystery books, visit .)

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 January 11, 2008

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top 15 for the week ending January 11, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich
Debuting in the 7th position this week is the second "between the numbers" (and third non-numbered) book in the Stephanie Plum series, Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum has a way of attracting danger, lunatics, oddballs, bad luck ... and mystery men. And no one is more mysterious than the unmentionable Diesel. He’s back and hot on the trail of a little man in green pants who’s lost a giant bag of money. Problem is, the money isn’t exactly lost. Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur has found it, and like any good senior citizen, she’s hightailed it in a Winnebago to Atlantic City and hit the slots. With Lula and Connie in tow, Stephanie attempts to bring Grandma home, but the luck of the Irish is rubbing off on everyone: Lula’s found a job modeling plus-size lingerie. Connie’s found a guy. Diesel’s found Stephanie. And Stephanie has found herself in over her head with a caper involving thrice-stolen money, a , a car chase, and a bad case of hives. Kirkus Reviews states, "[N]obody reads Evanovich for plots or characters, and the frantic, anything-for-a-laugh jokes are brand new and nonstop."

Also new this week is a non-series thriller by , Touchstone, a gripping tale of intrigue, terrorism, and explosive passions begins with a visit to a recluse upon whom the fate of an entire nation may rest.

On our bestseller page, we've added an icon next to every title that is available for immediate download onto the Amazon Kindle. To learn about this wireless reading device, visit the Amazon Kindle page for more information.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are depicted below:


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, January 09, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Dying to Be Thin by Kathryn Lilley

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Dying to Be Thin by Kathryn Lilley. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Dying to Be Thin by Kathryn LilleyBuy from Amazon.com
Dying to Be Thin by
A Fat City Mystery with Kate Gallagher

Signet (Mass market paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22240-7 (0451222407)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22040-4 (9780451222404)
Publication Date: October 2007
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): In just a week, plus-sized TV producer Kate Gallagher has been laid off because of her weight and dumped by her boyfriend. So she enrolls in a weight loss clinic in Durham, . Soon, Kate's ready to sell her soul for some sweets. But when a diet guru turns up dead with fondue forks where his eyes were, Kate loses her appetite-and has a breaking story on her hands ...

Review: Overweight television producer Kate Gallagher, laid off by her station and jilted by her boyfriend, heads to Durham North Carolina, the "Diet Capital of the World", in Kathryn Lilley's debut mystery in this series, Dying to Be Thin.

Kate has been promised a job at Durham's Channel 12 as a news specialist, reporting on a weight loss program and her success in it. Assuming, that is, she succeeds. The spa she chooses is run by Dr. Victor Hoffman who promotes fresh fruit and exercise as part of his diet regimen. On her second day there, she and another dieter are off for a brisk early morning walk when they come across the dead body of Dr. Hoffman, a fondue fork jammed into each eye. Her new boss at the station immediately knows a good story when he hears one, and asks Kate to act as an on-the-scene investigative reporter. When Hoffman's personal assistant is found dead shortly thereafter, Kate discovers that the more learns about the spa, the bigger target she is to the killer.

There is so much going on in Dying to Be Thin that it's easy to forget that this is a murder mystery. The obligatory love interest is (no surprise) the detective investigating the murder, Lt. Reed, who advises Kate to (no surprise) leave police work to the professionals. There's also the distinguished, older gentlemen, the spa's attorney Lou Bettinger, who takes a personal interest in her. It's a bit disingenuous, however, to initially portray Kate as an overweight outcast yet have her appear almost svelte in comparison to the "obese" women at the spa.

Dying to Be Thin is a pleasant enough mystery, though there is little in the way of originality or excitement. The guidelines on eating habits that open each chapter, on the other hand, are well worth taking note of.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Dying to Be Thin and to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — 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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