Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Hardcover Mysteries for February 2008

New Hardcover Mystery Books for February 2008

The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books has updated its list of scheduled for publication in February 2008. Mystery series continue to be very popular with 44 of the 59 new titles being new or continuing series.

We've summarized the new mystery series hardcover titles below:

A Kind of Acquaintance by David Armstrong. Frank Kavanagh (4th).

Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter by Nancy Atherton. Aunt Dimity (13th).

Wild Inferno by Sandi Ault. Jamaica Wild (2nd).

The Devil's Bones by Jefferson Bass. Bill Brockton, Body Farm (3rd).

Death of a Gentle Lady by M. C. Beaton. Hamish Macbeth (24th).

Unknown Means by Elizabeth Becka. Evelyn James (2nd).

The Ghost War by Alex Berenson. John Wells (2nd).

Gambit by Karna Small Bodman. Cameron Talbot (2nd).

Burn Zone by James O. Born. Alex Duarte (2nd).

Wash and Die by Barbara Colley. Charlotte LaRue (7th).

Of All Sad Words by Bill Crider. Dan Rhoades (15th).

The Alpine Traitor by Mary Daheim. Emma Lord (20th).

The Poisoner of Ptah by P. C. Doherty. Amerotke (6th).

Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno. Rakkim Epps, Assassin (2nd).

Stalked by Brian Freeman. Jonathan Stride (3rd).

Irish Tiger by Andrew M. Greeley. Nueala McGrail (11th).

Cool in Tucson by Elizabeth Gunn. Sarah Burke (1st).

Hell's Bay by James W. Hall. Thorn (10th).

Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris. Paula Holliday, Dirty Business (1st).

The Killing Ground by Jack Higgins. Sean Dillon (14th).

The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith. Holmes on the Range (3rd).

What Never Happens by Anne Holt. Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo (2nd).

Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland. Emily Tempest (1st). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Final Curtain by Richard Tyler Jordan. Polly Pepper (2nd).

The Vagabond Virgins by Ken Kuhlken. Hickey Family (5th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Betrayal by John Lescroart. Dismas Hardy (12th).

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang. Mei Wang (1st).

The Blood Ballad by Rett MacPherson. Torie O'Shea (11th).

The Killing Room by Peter May. Li Yan and Margaret Campbell (3rd).

Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina. Paddy Meehan (3rd).

Shades of Blue by Bill Moody. Evan Horne (6th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

As the World Churns by Tamar Myers. Magdalena Yoder, Pennsylvania Dutch (16th).

Bound by Blood by Blood by Rick Nelson. Jack Brenner (1st).

The First Patient by Michael Palmer. Medical thriller (13th).

Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker. Jesse Stone (7th).

L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker. California Crime (15th).

Hush My Mouth by Cathy Pickens. Avery Andrews, Southern Fried (4th).

A Grave in Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees. Omar Yussef (2nd). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

Strangers in Death by J. D. Robb. Eve Dallas, In Death (26th).

Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline. Rosato and Associates (10th).

Judas Horse by April Smith. Ana Grey (3rd).

Desert Cut by Betty Webb. Lena Jones (5th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

The Abyssinian Proof by Jenny White. Kamil Pasha (2nd).

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs (5th). Scheduled to be reviewed by .

For more information on any of these titles, please visit the page on our website. If you're interested in new paperbacks, visit where you can discover a library of new mysteries.

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 Marathon Murders by Chester Campbell

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

The Marathon Murders by Chester CampbellBuy from Amazon.com
The Marathon Murders by
A Greg McKenzie Mystery

Night Shadows Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-9799167-0-4 (0979916704)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9799167-0-0 (9780979916700)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $26.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Greg and Jill take on what appears to be a 90-year-old murder case, dragging them into a present-day conspiracy filled with chicanery in circles of power and chaos created by a frenzied killer.

It starts with a stash of yellowed records found during restoration of the long-defunct Marathon Motor Works’ buildings in Nashville. The documents vanish, and the construction foreman who had them is murdered. The McKenzies’ clients, Col. Warren Jarvis (who first appeared in Secret of the Scroll) and his girlfriend, Kelli Kane, believe the records would shed light on the fate of her great-great-grandfather. A Marathon officer who disappeared in 1914, he was accused of embezzlement and later found dead. More murders occur, appearing aimed at suppressing the secret behind the missing records.

It’s a tale of greed, misplaced pride, family loyalty, and the unpredictable violence of an irrational mind.

Review: Greg and Jill McKenzie's new business as a private investigation service in Nashville unexpectedly gets a case involving a 90-year-old embezzlement and murder in The Marathon Murders, the 4th mystery in this series by Chester Campbell.

Bored with retirement, Greg and Jill open a storefront in a suburban mall offering their services as private investigators, most of their business coming from local legal firms. One day, however, Colonel Jarvis, Greg’s commanding officer in the Air Corps, brings them a young woman, Kelli, who has a nearly century-old case to solve. Her great grandfather, eighty-four year old Sydney Liggett, had called Kelli and asked her to come to Nashville. Now in a nursing home, he had received a call from Pierce Bradley, a foreman on a reconstruction job of the old Marathon Motor Works, manufacturers of a popular touring car, formerly owned by the Liggetts. Bradley had found a stash of papers with the name of Sydney’s grandfather on them. He thought Sydney would want them as with just a glance it looked as if Arthur, Marathon’s assistant treasurer, had discovered discrepancies totaling $200,000. Evidently Arthur was going to take the papers to the District Attorney, but for some reason hid them behind the paneling in his office where a member of the construction crew found them. Arthur was found dead in an abandoned garage five years later. Although the Liggetts lost Marathon Motors, and Sydney accused of embezzlement, the family never believed it was true. Now, Bradley has disappeared and so have the papers. Greg and Jill are hired not only find Bradley and the papers, but to figure out what really happened so long ago.

This intriguing mystery takes Greg and Jill into Nashville's high society as the couple pursue their missing persons investigation that ultimately leads to the murder of three other people who may, or may not, be part of their case. Despite their relatively recent status as professionals in the field, they make a terrific team as private investigators.

The Marathon Murders is a pleasure to read. The are a number of interesting twists and turns, and deciphering the clues to the puzzle presented to the McKenzies, and determining what is true and what is fiction in the stories told to them, is a real thrill. Also the fact that Marathon Motors was once a real company in Nashville, and had its own somewhat mysterious financial difficulties resulting in its closing in 1914, adds to the authenticity of the story.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Marathon Murders and to Chester Campbell 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 30, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080130

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

The Associated Press is reporting that Margaret Truman has died. She was 83. Truman, the daughter of President Harry Truman, was the author of a series of mystery novels set in and about Washington DC. (MBN note: See for a list of her mysteries, the first of which was published in 1980 and the most recent last year.)

• As reported by BroadwayWorld.com, Rupert Holmes has agreed to join the International Mystery Writers' Festival Executive Committee. Holmes will be bringing his Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Edgar Award talents of writing for the festival through the production of unique and special events. For more information on the International Mystery Writers' Festival, visit NewMysteries.org.

Otto Penzler in his column on NYSun.com writes about the richness of the historic and emotional elements of World War I that have served to enrich more than a few works in the detective genre including a review of Charles Todd's latest Ian Rutledge mystery, A Pale Horse. (MBN note: , "... a brilliantly written mystery, carefully and meticulously plotted.")

• The Digital Spy is reporting that ITV has commissioned a new three part psychological thriller based on the novel A Place of Execution. The production team behind the drama is also responsible for the television series which is also based on books by McDermid. (MBN note: According to , A Place of Execution was the winner of several awards including the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, the Dilys Award, and more.)

• The returns to network television tomorrow, Thursday January 31st at 8 PM (ET/PT), for a 2-hour special season premiere. For more information on the series, visit the Lost homepage on ABC.com.

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: State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

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

State of the Onion by Julie HyzyBuy from Amazon.com
State of the Onion by
A White House Chef Mystery with Olivia Paras

Berkley Prime Crime (Mass market paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-425-21869-4 (0425218694)
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-21869-3 (9780425218693)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $7.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Never let them see you sweat—that's White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras's motto, which is pretty hard to honor in the most important kitchen in the world. She's hell-bent on earning her dream job, Executive Chef. There's just one thing: her nemesis is vying for it, too. Well, that and the fact that an elusive assassin wants to see her fry.

Review: Julie Hyzy provides an inviting behind the scenes look at the life of a White House chef in State of the Onion, her debut mystery featuring Olivia "Ollie" Paras that ultimately proves to be something of a disappointment.

The current Executive Chef in the White House is retiring and Ollie is a strong contender to be his replacement. There are only two things standing in her way: a former staff chef who is now a television personality is also under consideration for the position, and a potential threat against the President in which Ollie played a key role: she knocked out an unauthorized intruder with a frying pan. But as Ollie is drawn deeper into the assassination plot she finds her dreams of being the first female Executive Chef slipping further away ... and her life increasingly in danger.

State of the Onion is marketed as a cozy (it's in the "cozy" section on the publisher's website), has a clever play on words title, and includes recipes for a complete presidential menu. All this suggests a book that might be fun and light-hearted with a bit of wry humor. But it's really more of a "hard-boiled cozy" and at that, rather depressing. The problem is squarely on the central character, Ollie. She goes on and on about how critical the job of a White House chef is, how desperately she wants the job of Executive Chef, and that a meaningful relationship with the man in her life is important to her happiness. And yet she does everything in her power to jeopardize all that and more. She constantly states that she should be doing something (related to one of the many things that she claims are important to her) and yet she cannot resist doing something else. Of course that something else is in direct conflict with everything she wants and believes in but if she didn't do it, there wouldn't be a story. As a result of all this irresponsible behavior, Ollie comes across as a not very likable character. And in something of an ironic twist, the "evil" characters introduced to play off of Ollie engender a sympathetic response in return.

Ollie aside, State of the Onion is a well-written book with a reasonably credible plot. And the inner workings of the White House kitchen are absolutely fascinating. It's possible that this is simply a case of an author attempting to accomplish too much in the first book of a new series and trying to appeal to too wide an audience. For cozy readers to enjoy this series the narrative needs to be lighter in tone and Ollie is advised to take a fresh, more positive, approach towards the important things in her life.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of State of the Onion 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 28, 2008

Mysteries on TV: Blue Murder, Damages and JAG

Mysteries on TV

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

Blue Murder: Set 2

Caroline Quentin plays Manchester Detective Chief Inspector Janine Lewis on , an ITV production in the UK. In addition to commanding a police department, Lewis is the single mother of 4 children who must juggle the demands of family life with her high-profile job. The series also stars Ian Kelsey as her second in command, Detective Inspector Richard Mayne.

The Blue Murder Set 2 DVD collection contains the four episodes of the series that aired during the fall of 2006. For more information on the series, visit the Blue Murder home page on ITV.com.

Damages: Season 1

One of the most highly anticipated new TV shows to air last summer was . Glenn Close plays high-stakes lawyer Patricia "Patty" Hewes and Rose Byrne plays her bright, ambitious protege Ellen Parsons in this legal thriller set in New York City.

The primary case before them in the first season was a class action lawsuit targeting the allegedly corrupt Arthur Frobisher (played by Ted Danson), one of the country's wealthiest CEOs. As Patty battles with Frobisher and his attorney, Ellen witnesses just what it takes to win at all costs, and it becomes clear that lives, as well as fortunes, may be at stake.

The Damages Season 1 DVD set is being released on 3 disks and consists of all 13 episodes that aired from July through October 2007 on FX. Also available: Damages Season 1 on Blu-ray.

JAG: Season 5

(short for Judge Advocate General) was an adventure drama about an elite legal wing of officers trained as lawyers who investigate, prosecute and defend those accused of crimes in the military, including murder, treason and terrorism. The series aired on CBS from September 1995 through April 2005 and included 227 episodes over 10 seasons.

The series starred David James Elliott as Navy Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, a former ace pilot turned lawyer, and Catherine Bell as by-the-book Marine Lt. Commander Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie.

JAG Season 5 is being released as a 7 disk DVD set that contains all 24 episodes that aired during the 1999-2000 television season.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for January 28, 2008

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for January 28, 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: C D I L N O P R T. In the title of the 28th Roger West mystery by John Creasey, death was in this (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 27, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Desert Cut by Betty Webb

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

Desert Cut by Betty WebbBuy from Amazon.com
Desert Cut by
A Lena Jones Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-491-0 (1590584910)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-491-0 (9781590584910)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): While scouting locations for a film documentary on the Arizona's Apache Wars, private investigator Lena Jones and Oscar-winning director Warren Quinn, discover the mutilated body of a young girl. The gruesome manner of the child's death evokes memories of Lena’s own rough childhood. Clashing with the local law, Lena's investigation uncovers a small town with a big secret.

Los Perdidos is not the Eden it first appears. Founded by the descendants of pioneers who fought Geronimo, the townspeople have now armed themselves against the hordes of illegal immigrants streaming across the Arizona/Mexico border. A significant population of documented foreign-born residents also lives and works in Los Perdidos at a modern plant. Lena senses a sinister force at work in the town—but where? Then two more girls disappear from Los Perdidos, and as the death toll mounts, Lena is tempted to implement some frontier justice of her own. When she finally unmasks the killer, she discovers a chain of horrific crimes responsible for subjugating millions of girls and women around the globe.

Review: Arizona private investigator Lena Jones discovers the body of a young girl and the disturbing manner of her death while on a working vacation in Desert Cut, the 5th mystery in this series by Betty Webb.

Lena and Oscar-winning director Warren McQuinn are in southern Arizona scouting areas in the foothills of Dragoon Mountain. Warren wants to set the scene for filming his latest effort: a historical documentary dealing with the Apache Wars in the 1800s. While exploring the area they stumble across the dead, mutilated body of a dark skinned child they guess to be about seven years old. Lena calls the Sheriff of Cochise County who is not shocked by the discovery. He tells Lena and Warren that this is a haven for people wanting to cross the border from Mexico to the US. Not only do Mexicans cross here, but also Africans and immigrants from the Middle East. Many children do not live through the experience and are buried in shallow graves where they die. Coyotes and vultures take over from there. Warren decides they should leave the area and return to their homes. Lena, however, devastated by the sight of the child and driven by the sporadic memories of her own embroiled childhood, cannot and will not leave. She is told that two other children have died or are missing. Lena, once a cop herself, senses a portentous power developing and without the permission or help forges on. Inasmuch as the local officials will not share the physical or forensic evidence with Lena, she asks questions of doctors, field officers, families, friends, and even drunks in a bar. When Lena realizes what crimes have been committed, she sets out, more determined than ever, to find the criminal. The Sheriff does everything he can, short of putting her in jail, to stop Lena’s “meddling” fearing that she would be the next trophy on the killer’s agenda.

Desert Cut is a powerful, albeit very disquieting, book. The characters are true, the multi-layered plot fast paced and memorable. Webb blends paganistic, very real facts into her fictional murder mystery with the result being an unforgettable story. For readers who want more information, she concludes the book with resources for more information.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Desert Cut 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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Compendium of Mystery News 080127

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• File this under dubious ideas for a television show: TheBookseller.com is reporting that a new Apprentice-style reality show will be shown during March on BBC-2 that will turn one of six celebrities into a mystery author. The series will star bestselling crime writer Minette Walters and the resulting book will be published by Pan Macmillan. The show is intended to highlight World Book Day (March 6th).

• Mark David, writing for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, talks to author Tim Dorsey whose latest book in the Serge Storms series, Atomic Lobster, was published this month. (MBN note: will publish its review of Atomic Lobster by next week.)

• The Adventure Company has released a new trailer for its highly anticipated release of (.wmv format). The game is currently scheduled for release on 02/25/2008 and will be available from .

• In related Agatha Christie news, The Times Online is reporting that Geraldine McEwan has announced her retirement as Miss Marple after appearing in 12 made-for-television mysteries for ITV. Mathew Prichard, Christie’s grandson and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd., said, "Geraldine has been a wonderful Miss Marple – the sixth actress to play her on screen in my lifetime. I think she brought a humanity and playfulness to the role that worked beautifully. We will miss her but are looking forward to seeing what new aspects of Jane Marple’s character our new Miss Marple might be able to explore." An ITV spokesman said: "We will search far and wide for a new Marple."

• When the nominees for the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Awards were announced earlier this month, all three nominees in the Best Play category premiered at the International Mystery Writers Festival last June in Owensboro. "This is the first time in the 62-year history of the Edgars that an entire category was swept by one entity" said Festival Co-Chair Stuart Kaminsky, a past Edgar winner and Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America. The 2008 festival has been chosen for the U.S. premiere of Agatha Christie’s lost thriller Chimneys. The play was missing for more than 70 years until the original handwritten manuscript was discovered in Calgary in 2003 and authenticated recently by the Christie estate. (MBN note: Visit for a list of past winners of the Edgars as well as for over 25 other awards that honor the best of mystery.)

Comics2Film talked to prolific mystery author Max Allan Collins about his Hard Case Crime novel Deadly Beloved that featured Ms. Tree, a comics character he created with artist Terry Beatty. "Ms. Tree is appealing because she is, frankly, a strong, well-realized character -- a true hero or heroine or whatever, but flawed," Collins says. "She really is a female version of Mike Hammer, but she's smarter than Mike." According to Collins' website, a made-for-television film version of the book is in development with the Oxygen network.

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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Saturday, January 26, 2008

First Clues: Mysteries for Kids by Carole Marsh

We've updated our website First Clues: Mysteries for Kids by adding several mystery series written by Carole Marsh. All are appropriate for future sleuths aged 7 to 10.
Travel around the world with Christina and Grant as they visit famous places in 80 countries in the mystery series. Eight books are currently available in the series with adventures to Europe, Egypt, China, Japan, and the Amazon rainforest. Four new books are scheduled to be published this year taking Christina and Grant to new locations including Dracula's Castle and Antarctica.

A similar series is titled . Four real kids find mysterious adventure in real places around the United States, some historic (such as The Alamo, Jamestown, and the Underground Railroad) and some merely fun (such as Disney World and Hershey, Pennsylvania). Four additional titles are scheduled for publication this year bringing the total number in the series to 24.

A fantasy series appropriately designated have Ms. Bogus and her diverse class of students take fantastic field trips to extraordinary places in this adventure series. As the students learn about the places they visit, they begin to discover who they are on the inside and build confidence in themselves.
Two similar series, one targeted towards girls and the other towards boys, are the and .

Best friends Leah Criss, Sara Cross, and Aimee Applesauce are the Criss Cross Applesauce Detective Agency who solve cases involving people in their neighborhood. Grant, Weng-Ho, and Seve are the Three Amigos and best friends who use their detective skills to learn more about unique people. There are currently three titles in each of these series.
The feature Peter and Piper Post who are the curious children of Mom who owns a postcard company and Dad who is a postmaster. They look for clues on postcards addressed to mysterious names. There are currently three books available in this series.

The are 11-year-old Curie and her 8-year-old brother Copernicus "Nick" who encounter mysteries when they accompany their somewhat mad scientist father Dr. Artemis Masters as he investigates natural phenomena around the world. Three titles are currently available and three more are scheduled for publication later this year.

Finally, and possibly for slightly older children, are the . The books in this series are spooky fun! The stories are fiction, but the historical facts are true. (There are no series characters in these books.) There are four books in this series.

is pleased to provide information on over 80 mystery series for children and young adults. Each series is conveniently listed under three different age categories (New Sleuth, ages 4 to 7; Future Sleuth, aged 7 to 10; and Sleuth in Training, ages 10 and older). If you have a favorite mystery series you'd like to see added to our site, please contact us.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death Before Wicket by Kerry GreenwoodBuy from Amazon.com
Death Before Wicket by
A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-170-9 (1590581709)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-170-4 (9781590581704)
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Phryne Fisher is on holiday. She means to take the train to Sydney (where the harbour bridge is being built), go to a few cricket matches, dine with the Chancellor of the university and perhaps go to the Arts Ball with that celebrated young modernist, Chas Nutall. She has the costume of a lifetime and she's not afraid to use it.

When she arrives there, however, her maid Dot finds that her extremely respectable married sister Joan has vanished, leaving her small children to the neglectful care of a resentful husband. She rescues the children, but what has become of Joan, who would never leave her babies? Surely she hasn’t run away with a lover, as gossip suggests?

Phryne must trawl the nightclubs and bloodtubs of Darlinghurst to find out. And while Phryne is visiting the university, two very pretty young men, Joss and Clarence, ask her to find out who has broken into the Dean's safe and stolen a number of things, including the Dean's wife's garnets and an irreplaceable illuminated book called the Hours of Juana the Mad. An innocent student has been blamed.

So there is no rest for the wicked, and Phryne girds up her loins, loads her pearl handled .32 Beretta, and sallies forth to find mayhem, murder, black magic, and perhaps a really good cocktail at the Hotel Australia.

Review: Ostensibly on holiday Phryne Fishers travels from her home in to Sydney in Death Before Wicket, the 10th mystery in this entertaining series by Kerry Greenwood.

In fact, Phryne has been summoned to Sydney through a circuitous route of introductions to look into the disappearance of an eclectic assortment of items from a safe at a local university. A classmate of two young men who act as Phryne's escorts in Sydney has been accused of the crime. No sooner has Phryne agreed to investigate then her personal and confidential maid, Dot, reports that her sister is missing, abandoning her husband and children. As a personal favor to Dot, Phryne also agrees to find her, determine why she disappeared, and bring her home. It hardly seems like an ideal way of spending a holiday for most people, but Phryne is certainly in her element.

Death Before Wicket is definitely one of the better books in this series, possibly because, despite the heat of Sydney, Phryne seems fresher and more energetic than in recent outings. Much to her surprise, the theft turns out to be far more complicated that she originally imagined. "I began to investigate it at the insistence of two young men anxious to clear their friend's name. Now I'm up to my elbows in black magicians, tarot cards, foretellings and secrets, and I'm beginning to get quite cross", she says to one of the university professors. Greenwood has clearly done a considerable amount of research on ancient Egyptian mythology and modern Australian cricket and seems to draw parallels between them. Maybe they exist but they're likely to be lost on those readers not intimately familiar with both. Not understanding won't affect one's appreciation of the overall book, but it's possible that having some familiarity with either or both will enhance it. At times the plot appears to be more complicated than it needs to be but that's possibly the author's purpose since the motive behind the crime is really quite simple and the identity of the culprit foreshadowed early in the book. As for locating Dot's missing sister, Phryne shows a lot of imagination and resourcefulness in tracking her down and ultimately reuniting her with her family.

Phryne's sexual proclivities are a standard part in these mysteries and, while their inclusion often seems gratuitous and unnecessary, for the most part they are fairly innocuous. In Death Before Wicket, however, they appear to be particularly distasteful and are the only significant distraction (and not in a good way) to an otherwise terrific book.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Death Before Wicket 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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Mystery Bestsellers for January 25, 2008

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top 15 for the week ending January 25, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

A quiet week. No change in the top 5 books and only 1 change in the top 15.

Blue Heaven by C. J. Box
The newcomer this week is a stand-alone thriller by the author of the Joe Pickett mysteries, Blue Heaven by . A twelve-year-old girl and her younger brother go on the run in the woods of North Idaho, pursued by four men they have just watched commit murder--four men who know exactly who William and Annie are, and who know exactly where their desperate mother is waiting for news of her children's fate. Retired cops from Los Angeles, the killers easily persuade the inexperienced sheriff to let them lead the search for the missing children. William and Annie's unexpected savior comes in the form of an old-school rancher teetering on the brink of foreclosure. But as one man against four who will stop at nothing to silence their witnesses, Jess Rawlins needs allies, and he knows that one word to the wrong person could seal the fate of the children or their mother. In a town where most of the ranches like his have turned into acres of ranchettes populated by strangers, finding someone to trust won't be easy. Kirkus Reviews calls Blue Heaven, "... a suspenseful tour de force."

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 24, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Bowled Over by Kasey Michaels

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

Bowled Over by Kasey MichaelsBuy from Amazon.com
Bowled Over by
A Maggie Kelly Mystery

Kensington Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7582-0884-7 (0758208847)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-0884-2 (9780758208842)
Publication Date: November 2007
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Mystery author Maggie Kelly had enough on her mind wondering how she was going to keep her fictional Regency Era creation from dropping to one knee with a marriage proposal. Then a murderer crosses the foul line—way too close to home …

Another day, another crime scene.

Maggie wouldn’t mind putting a little distance between herself and the hunky Regency hero of her novels, Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, who has miraculously come to life with talk of sweeping her straight down the aisle. But now that her parents have split up, Maggie is having trouble resisting Alex’s tender loving care. So she invites him along to visit her family. Unfortunately, they arrive just in time to watch her father being taken away in handcuffs as a murder suspect!

Thank goodness she has her very own romance hero.

The local police are convinced Evan Kelly has killed his bowling buddy, who happened to be having an affair with Maggie’s mom. It doesn’t help that Evan’s bowling ball was found next to the dead body. Her dad may have had motive, but Maggie knows he’s definitely no killer. Luckily, she has Alex riding to the rescue—and making her wonder if a happily ever after might not be out of her league after all …

Review: Bowled Over is the sixth (and according to the author, the last) romantic - comedy - mystery in the Maggie Kelly series by Kasey Michaels. This time the crime hits close to home when Maggie's father is accused of murder!

New readers of this series are likely to be confused by the relationships between the principal characters, so the author tries to provide an introduction. Maggie Kelly is the author of historical mysteries featuring the dashing Regency-era aristocratic detective Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just. Although originally just a character on the pages of her books, Alexandre (Alex) has come to life and brought with him his faithful friend and assistant Sterling Balder. Alex and Sterling live in a condo adjacent to Maggie's in Manhattan and share in her adventures. In Bowled Over, the trio travel to for the Christmas holidays with Maggie's family only to find her father, Evan, arrested for killing a bowling buddy, Walter, Evan's bowling ball being the murder weapon. Naturally it falls to Maggie and Alex to find out who really killed Walter.

This series has (had) a clever gimmick but the author (or maybe the publisher or editor) allowed it, the gimmick, to become more important than the characters or the plots. When Alex was new to the 20th, and later 21st, century, it was a treat to watch him get acquainted with the modern world in which he was living and his new-found knowledge was often incorporated directly into the plots. When he and Maggie were sparring with each other, there was a romantic tension that enhanced the storyline but never became the story. But in Bowled Over and the previous book in this series, Alex no longer sees the world through Regency eyes, and as a result he's become rather tedious. Worse still is the relationship between Alex and Maggie which now lacks the spark evident in the earliest books and seems strained and contrived.

Are Maggie's adventures real? Or are they imagined, and is each book in the series merely Maggie's previously written fictional book within an idea for another book to be written? An intriguing possibility. But readers late to the series will no doubt find Bowled Over perplexing and not only for the gimmick for it's all a bit overwhelming. Better yet, start with Maggie Needs an Alibi (the "A" book in what was clearly intended to be an alphabet sequence until the fourth book was inexplicably renamed) before judging this one.

Special thanks to Book Trends for providing an ARC of Bowled Over for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080122

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles:

• Reporting for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Regis Behe talks to Steve Berry about his latest novel, The Venetian Betrayal. Berry, a practicing attorney who doesn't outline books before writing them, admits, "The problem with doing it this way is you can write yourself into corners you've got to be prepared to write yourself out. ... In the course of a trial, if things aren't going right with Plan A, you go to Plan B."

A new television series debuted this week in Canada, Murdoch Mysteries. Set in 1895 , Murdoch Mysteries explores the world of William Murdoch, a dashing young detective who uses then-radical forensic techniques, such as fingerprinting and trace evidence, to solve the city's most gruesome murders. Call it a 19th-century version of CSI. (MBN note: Visit for a list of television mystery series available on DVD.)

• Here's a site we'll be checking out in the near future: GoodReads.com. Jim Washington of The Virginian-Pilot reported on the website this week, noting that is has almost 1 million members who have recommended (or not) more than 10 million books. The site was mentioned as one of Time magazine's 10 top sites of 2007.

• Several Australian news organizations have reported that non-fiction crime writer Sandra Harvey has died of cancer. She was only 49. Last year Harvey was awarded the Ned Kelly Award for her body of work in the genre.

• In a press release, Borders Books has announced it will launch an internet television channel in collaboration with Simply Media, owner of BookZone.tv which will be rebranded as Borders Book Zone. Borders Book Zone will feature interviews with authors and have other original content. (MBN note: The press release specifically refers to the Borders UK site; it isn't clear if it extends to the US or not, but it's hard to believe it won't. Borders has previously announced it is launching its own website which to date has been managed by Amazon.com.)

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