Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mystery Book Review: A Twist of Orchids by Michelle Wan

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of A Twist of Orchids by Michelle Wan. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

A Twist of Orchids by Michelle WanBuy from Amazon.com

A Twist of Orchids by
A Death in Dordogne Mystery with Mara Dunn and Julian Wood

Doubleday (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-385-66484-2 (0385664842)
ISBN-13: 978-0-385-66484-4 (9780385664844)
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $29.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Mara Dunn, an ex-pat Montrealer and interior designer, with orchid-loving Brit, Juilian Wood, are back and are putting their talents as amateur sleuths to the test. Their winter days in the French countryside are immersed in fine food and ruggedly beautiful scenery. But before long they find themselves surrounded by unscrupulous orchid hunters, illegal drugs, and three mysterious deaths and counting ...

Mara and Julian have made a home together in France’s rustic Dordogne. Their relationship is strained when their lives are thrown off course by a series of horrifying events.

When their friend and neighbor, Amelie Gaillard, falls mysteriously to her death she leaves behind an alienated daughter and a husband battling Parkinson’s disease who is visited by an apparition. Then a local Turkish couple’s son disappears and is soon found dead of an overdose. How does his death tie-in with that of an undercover narcotics agent? Add to the mix a burglar on the prowl and eluding the police in their usually serene corner of the world.

Mara and Julian pull together the threads linking the spike in local drug traffic, murder and burglary only to find their relationship falling apart. They must now tackle a more personal conundrum: are they really meant to be together? As events overtake them, they learn that the choice may not be theirs to make.

Review: Fortyish ex-Montrealer Mara Dunn loves interior design and one-off antiques. Her recently acquired husband British expatriate, Julian Wood, the orchidist and landscape gardener she met earlier while investigating the disappearance of her twin sister, Bedie, is obsessed with finding a rare Cypripedium incognitum. But they both love each other, the French countryside of Dordogne, their homes – her house in Ecoute-la-Pluie (Listen-to-the-Rain) and his quiet-time refuge, a “poky little cottage” near the village of Grissac - their dogs, his a mongrel named Bismuth, hers the Pitbull sire of Bismuth named, Jazz - and French cuisine, including the wines. They’ve also gained a reputation among friends, neighbours and the local police as proficient amateur sleuths, and are now sorting out the red herrings from the real fish responsible for the murders of their 85-year old neighbour lady, Madame Gaillard, a 19-year-old French-born Turkish drug peddler named Kazim Ismet, and an undercover drug squad cop. Adding to their main menu challenge of murderous twists is a series of burglaries by a felon with a flair for doggerel vilifying the local police chief, a competition to acquire an endangered species of orchid, a lesbian alliance, ghostly visitations, and a plot to turn a pristine forest into an Americanized golf resort.

And while the action proceeds, the characters come alive and emotions reign. The elderly Monsieur Gaillard’s fear is palpable when he fights an apparition with a face that “is a tangle of colorless hair trailing like dead vines over a large, black hole.” Young Kazim’s terror is hair-raising when he is confronted by a cold blooded killer. Mara’s frustrated with Julian when he refuses to discuss their future; his discontent boils over when her cleaning lady disturbs his routines. Mara worries that she’s “destined to play second fiddle to a flower;” Julian’s distressed that Kazim’s death was somehow his fault. Over orders of escargots, plates of crayfish in tomato sauce and platters of aubergine fritters, they and their friends at the Chez Nous Bistro rant about the influx of drugs into the region. One friend claims there are, “too many damned immigrants in France,” and another proclaims, “Bigotry knows no home,” even as Kazim’s father raves about the, “Thugs! Racist thugs!”, who have trashed the family’s Turkish bakery. Then, there’s Madame Gaillard’s estranged daughter who refuses to attend her mother’s funeral because of some long ago grievance that could affect her inheritance of the family farm and its potential development by a company with connections world-wide and ties even closer to home. Even the dogs, Bismuth and Jazz, develop identifiable personas as does the mysterious burglar who taunts the police with left-behind pieces of poetry and items of artwork not taken.

With its sensuous language and evocative imagery Wan’s story of its twist of orchids and twists of fate has action galore and sustenance aplenty to tickle the palates of even the most discriminating of Francophobes and mystery lovers.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of A Twist of Orchids and to Random House Canada for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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, June 06, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers for June 06, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

A list of the top 15 for the week ending June 05, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

A shuffling of last week's top 4 books with 's 18th mystery in the Lucas Davenport series, Phantom Prey, assuming the top position this week and one new title entering the bestseller list.

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Debuting at number 11 this week is Nothing to Lose, the 12th mystery in the Jack Reacher series by . Two lonely towns in Colorado: Hope and Despair. Between them, twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher never turns back. It's not in his nature. All he wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets is big trouble. It wasn’t the welcome Reacher expected. He was just passing through, minding his own business. But within minutes of his arrival a deputy is in the hospital and Reacher is back in Hope, setting up a base of operations against Despair, where a huge, seething walled-off industrial site does something nobody is supposed to see . . . where a small plane takes off every night and returns seven hours later . . . where a garrison of well-trained and well-armed military cops—the kind of soldiers Reacher once commanded—waits and watches . . . where above all two young men have disappeared and two frightened young women wait and hope for their return. Joining forces with a beautiful cop who runs Hope with a cool hand, Reacher goes up against Despair—against the deputies who try to break him and the rich man who tries to scare him—and starts to crack open the secrets, starts to expose the terrifying connection to a distant war that’s killing Americans by the thousand. Now, between a town and the man who owns it, between Reacher and his conscience, something has to give. And Reacher never gives an inch. Reviews have been uniformly positive, with The New York Times saying Nothing to Lose is "Mr. Child's steepest feat of escalation thus far" and Publishers Weekly calling it "solid".

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. And don't forget to check our page where you can save an additional 5% when you purchase your mystery books prior to their publication date.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are shown below:

Phantom Prey by John SandfordCareless in Red by Elizabeth GeorgeThe Whole Truth by David BaldacciThe Front by Patricia Cornwell

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, June 04, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Case Study by C. R. Cardin

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Case Study by C. R. Cardin. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Case Study by C. R. CardinBuy from Amazon.com

Case Study by
A Taylor Case Mystery

Evolution Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-9797412-6-2 (0979741262)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9797412-6-5 (9780979741265)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $23.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The childhood abduction of her brother has left Dr. Taylor Case desperate for her father’s redemption and denying her own desire to find love. While teaching forensic science at Georgetown University, she secretly hunts down child predators ensuring justice is served -- one way or another. As Taylor prepares to wrap-up fall semester, she finds herself in the middle of yet another treacherous child abduction, and this one is close to home.

During a birthday celebration for her niece, Taylor learns of the suspected abduction of her nephew’s playmate, Kevin. She grows impatient with the FBI’s efforts to track down the missing boy in spite of the evidence she collects and shares with the dashing Agent Anderson.

Driven by obsessive desire and unwilling to let history repeat itself, she initiates her own plan, knowing she must find Kevin soon if she is to find him at all. Taylor’s efforts toward saving the missing boy draw her further and further into a chilling international web of child brokering, and this time she may have gone too far.

In her dangerous attempt to rescue Kevin, Taylor finds herself the hunted, captured by a vengeful killer who intends to silence her permanently. Will it be too late for Kevin?

Review: C. R. Cardin introduces forensic science professor Dr. Taylor Case who becomes involved in an investigation of a kidnapped boy in Case Study.

Teaching students is Taylor's day job but she leads a secret double life bringing child pornographers to justice. Despite lacking any official capacity, she is instrumental in ensuring that the criminals are arrested, even to the point of planting evidence for the authorities to find. She believes that her own brother was kidnapped years ago for the purposes of being forced into pornography and is obsessed with finding him, or at least knowing what happened to him. When a young boy living on the same street as her sister goes missing, she's convinced he's been kidnapped and undertakes a secret investigation separate from the FBI to locate him and return him to his home.

Though Case Study is a routinely plotted mystery, it is unusual both in how it is written and a specific tangential subplot that is introduced along the way. The narrative is roughly evenly divided between the perspective of Taylor and that of the FBI. When Taylor is in the picture, the prose is terse, almost brusque, as if she is emotionless or at best humorless. This may be partly intentional to illustrate how she developed as an adult, from her relationship with her father to the loss of her brother. It's unnerving at times to read. About midway through, the FBI takes over and the writing style reverts to that more commonly found in a police procedural. The subplot involves a visiting scientist to whom Taylor finds herself sexually attracted. She fears the scientist may in some way be associated with child pornography, yet she allows her physical desire to overtake her intellectual and emotional revulsion. It's a bit of a rollercoaster ride for both Taylor and the reader yet at the same time seems oddly incompatible with the mystery.

In large part Case Study reads as if sections of two or three different and incomplete outlines for books were melded here, the result being a not quite cohesive story that works at some level but appears unfinished nonetheless.

Special thanks to for providing a copy of Case Study 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, June 03, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Rough Collier by Pat McIntosh

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Rough Collier by Pat McIntosh. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Rough Collier by Pat McIntoshBuy from Amazon.com

The Rough Collier by
A Gil Cunningham Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-507-5 (1569475075)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-507-2 (9781569475072)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Gil Cunningham, a young notary, has escaped a life in the Church to become the Archbishop’s Questioner only to be accused of causing a man’s death by witchcraft. Gil and his young wife must solve the crime to save him.

Review: Gil Cunningham, legal advisor to the Archbishop of Glasgow, sets out to find answers surrounding a dead body in The Rough Collier, the fifth medieval mystery in this series by Pat McIntosh.

Due to the red hair on the otherwise badly decomposed body, it is thought to be that of Thomas Murray, a landowner missing for more than a month. When Gil examined the remains, however, he assured everyone that they were wrong. The hands were those of a laborer and besides, the bones were clearly much older than just a month or so. Gil and his wife Alys then begin a journey following what should have been Thomas' route to collect rents on his land. But the questions remain: whose body was found, and where is Thomas?

The mystery deepens after Gil and Alys locate someone who had seen Thomas recently and they ultimately discover his body in the home of his friend. Both are dead, presumably poisoned. It seems that several other members of Thomas' family had also been poisoned. Was this just a coincidence? And why would anyone want to kill them? Gil and Alys know they are close to a solution when Alys is lured into a mine shaft with the intent to keep her silent - permanently.

The Rough Collier is a credible whodunit with plenty of red herrings and well-placed misdirection. The rolling hills of the countryside and the small towns around Glasgow are beautifully depicted. However, in an attempt at authenticity, the characters' speech is written in a local Scottish brogue and likely to be unfamiliar to most readers. While most of what is said can be reasonably accurately interpretted (translated into the King's English as it were), it is likely that some of the nuances of the plot are completely lost due to the incomprehension of some of the dialog. Still, those readers willing to make do with the dialect will be rewarded with a fine mystery novel.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Rough Collier and to Soho 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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Mysteries on TV: CHiPs and Mannix

Mysteries on TV

, your source for the most complete selection of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense television mystery series now available or coming soon to DVD, has two series that have a season DVD being released this week. 

Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada played California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops Jon Baker and Frank "Ponch" Poncherello in , a series that aired for 6 seasons on NBC from 1977 through 1983. Highlights (of a sort) from this season include a deadly chain-reaction crash, the appearance of a nettlesome TV-news crew, Ponch’s disco dancing, Halloween patrol; and a caped-biker daredevil.

The CHiPs Season Two DVD set of 4 discs contains all 22 episodes of the second season that aired from September 1978 to March 1979. Extras include the featurette "The Real ChiPs" and a feature-length special episode recounting the best cases of the first two seasons.

Finally available on DVD is Mike Connors as the ultra-cool private detective Joe Mannix. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link (who were also responsible for other classic television mystery series such as and ), , which aired on CBS for 8 seasons from 1967 through 1975, was at the time considered one of the most violent shows on television.

The Mannix Season One DVD set of 6 discs contains all 24 episodes of the first season that aired from September 1967 through March 1968, including the rarely seen pilot episode.

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

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Assassins at Ospreys by R. T. Raichev

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Assassins at Ospreys by R. T. Raichev. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Assassins at Ospreys by R. T. RaichevBuy from Amazon.com

Assassins at Ospreys by
A Country House Crime Mystery with Antonia Darcy and Hugh Payne

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-505-9 (1569475059)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-505-8 (9781569475058)
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When one of mystery writer Antonia Darcy’s admiring readers, Bee Ardleigh, becomes over friendly, Antonia finds it just a bit of a bore. But when she and her husband Major Hugh Payne are persuaded to visit Bee at Millbrook House, they begin to suspect it’s something more sinister. Is the lovely Bee, newly wed, really an invalid? Where does her female live-in companion go on her frequent outings? Why would the mortally ill master of nearby Ospreys estate decide to change his will and leave his vast fortune to Beatrice? Hugh and Antonia become embroiled in a gruesome death in their perilous pursuit of the truth.

Review: The challenge in writing a mystery genre “cozy” is to retain the often shop worn conventions of the form but with liberal doses of imagination, experimentation, intelligence and perhaps even sprinklings of irony, satire and fun. In Assassins at Ospreys, the third volume in the Antonia Darcy – Hugh Payne series, R. T. Raichev has more than met the challenge with a novel that combines the best of Agatha Christie’s detective work, the sparkle-in-the-eye fun of Alexander McCall Smith, and the riveting attention of a game of Clue.

Raichev’s story is to be read as much for the side trips it takes in presenting a writer writing about other writers and making remarks about them, as for the comfortable pace at which the story moves, the relative ease with which the mysteries are solved, and the sense of comfort that the guilty parties will inevitably be caught and punished to return the world to its rightful order. As with other cozy who-dunnits, Raichev’s depends on the self-reliance of the main protagonists, in this case mystery writer Darcy and her husband, Major Payne, to solve the current mystery, as they have done for two earlier ones, without too much outside intervention from the local police. And the murder and mayhem mystery at the Ospreys estate, thanks to Raichev, is clearly laid out and easy to follow, although there are sufficient red herrings, potential suspects and disguised characters to trap the unwary reader. There are also coincidences and exaggerations which stretch credibility but the novel is after all, a comfort-zone cozy, and one with tinges of irony and satire as well. Even chapter titles like Lord of the Flies, The Mortification of Moriarty, and The Hound of Death elicit a certain levity, especially in light of the contents of the relevant chapters. And then there are the characters. Wealthy and dying Ralph Renshawe “had made all the arrangements for his own funeral”. And to ensure the old man gets to his final resting place sooner rather than later, his “nefarious nephew” Robin has teamed up with a rogue cleric, Father Lillie-Lysander, who sells tidbits from the confessional to Robin and others. But in a comedy of errors, a doppelganger of Ralph’s ex-girlfriend Beatrice “Bee” Ardleigh, a friend of Antonia’s and an on-again, off-again invalid, gets caught up in the dastardly deeds as well, leaving the final few pages of the novel for the Darcy and Payne duo to sort out who the assassins at Osprey were and how and why a missing nurse, a jealous husband, a set of knitting needles, a Polaroid photograph and a Taj Mahal necklace fit into the scheme of things.

Raichev’s story is a light and entertaining read, cleverly done, and worthy of a weekend read.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of Assassins at Ospreys and to Soho Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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 Godoku Puzzle for June 02, 2008

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for June 02, 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 C F G N O R T W.  This writer, whose daughter Sue also writes mysteries, had his own series featuring lawyer Gilmore Henry (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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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mystery Bookshelf: New Paperback Mysteries for June 2008

New Paperback Mystery Books

has updated its website to include about 50 new mass market paperback mystery books scheduled for publication in June 2008. Below is a preview of these mysteries:

Though the scheduled publication date is reported to be June for these books, actual available dates tend to be somewhat fluid with some books already on the shelves and a few not shipping until the following month.

For more information on any of these titles, please visit website. Paperback mysteries published over the past 6 months are also available for browsing, conveniently sorted by author, series character, and date.

Discover a library of new mysteries at the !

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