Sunday, August 24, 2008

Compendium of Mystery News 080824

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles. Note that we're rapidly catching up on getting news items posted and once current plan on publishing once a week or so. This update includes news items from early- and mid-August 2008.

• We missed the premiere of Jane Seymour as Dear Prudence which aired last night on the Hallmark Channel. But fortunately Hallmark is airing the episode again this coming Friday, so set your DVRs! In Dear Prudence, Seymour stars as Prudence McCoy, a humorous, Martha Stewart-like TV personality, who, while on vacation in Wyoming, turns amateur sleuth when a young man is found dead, supposedly of a suicide. Dear Prudence is the latest in the Hallmark Channel Mystery Movie franchise which includes the , available on DVD from . For more information, visit the Dear Prudence site at HallmarkChannel.com.

(The Providence Journal) talks to thriller writer who says having a thick skin is a definite must for authors today. She also provides some pointers for new authors. [MBN note: has reviewed both of Gagnon's books: and .]

• As reported by Entertainment Weekly, BBC has abruptly cancelled The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. In an extended conversation with star Nathaniel Parker, he says "Well, it’s kind of strange because when we shot [the final season] we didn’t know it would be the end. They canceled the series after we finished shooting, so there is no tie-up to it." [MBN note: The first 6 seasons of are available on DVD at . The 7th season aired this summer and is expected to be on DVD either later this year or early next year.]

The Times has an interview with crime writer . She studied for her doctorate in in literature, but didn't complete it. She doesn't regret leaving academia. “If I had got my doctorate I wouldn't have become a writer. Had I continued I would probably be studying something like passivity and activity in the language of Jane Austen. In fact, in my next book (What Would Jane Do?) that's what the heroine will be studying - I am living vicariously through her."

NPR is reporting that the much-beloved murder mystery game Clue is getting a makeover. It's been on the shelves for 60 years, but game maker Hasbro has redesigned the game for a modern audience. The weapons have changed, the characters have bios and the mansion has new rooms, like a spa, a theater and a guesthouse. And the company added an element of suspense with a second deck of cards. [The new version of Clue is in stores now, and available from .]

• The Allentown Morning Call has a Q and A with author who, before setting off on his own, co-authored six bestselling novels with . [ picked as one of the best books of 2008, giving it our highest rating.]

• In other news, Variety is reporting that Columbia Pictures has acquired the rights to Patterson's Maximum Ride series for young adults. Though not mysteries, the Maximum Ride books are suspenseful and feature six children who have been genetically altered to be 98% human and 2% avian.


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Mystery Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonBuy from Amazon.com

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by
The Millennium Trilogy

Knopf (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-307-26975-2 (0307269752)
ISBN-13: 978-0-307-26975-1 (9780307269751)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue.

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden ... and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance ... and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism—and an unexpected connection between themselves.

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is Swedish noir at its best. But the very elements that fascinate some readers may shake up the more squeamish, especially in a couple of scenes of sadistic brutality, as necessary as they are to the integrity of the novel and to the understanding of the psychological complexity of twenty-four-year-old loner and world class computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. That being said, neither Salander nor her forty-three–year-old partner, investigative financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, will be easily forgotten as they research the forty-year-old unaccounted for disappearance of now eighty-year-old Swedish businessman Henrik Vanger’s then sixteen-year-old niece, Harriet. Nor will several bone-chilling, tension-filled episodes in the book be quickly laid to rest.

There is both breadth and depth to Larsson’s novel with its slyly embedded references to crime writers Val McDermid, Elizabeth George and Sue Grafton. The breadth comes from the sweep of the story that encompasses a wildly dysfunctional Vanger family and the missing Harriet, side trips with Salander, the computer whiz and decidedly eccentric private sleuth - as hardened and as sharp as Swedish steel - and Blomkvists’s forays as he rebounds from losing a libel suit to investigate Harriet’s disappearance while rattling every skeleton in the Vanger family closet, satisfying his sexual appetites, and avenging the loss of his reputation and the near ruin of his Stockholm-based weekly newsmagazine, Millennium. At any one time there are several balls in the air, including a cruel annual reminder to Henrik of Harriet’s disappearance and a number of detailed exposes of worldwide securities frauds, but all masterfully juggled by Larsson, with not a bad bounce in the bunch.

The depth in the novel comes from its characters. Salander, with her tattoos and surly attitudes, is not the girl to bring home to mother, but with her tolerance for pain, her lightning-quick brain and her physical agility she’s definitely the one to guard your back. With Larsson she becomes a case study for a model noir heroine, especially when she manipulates multiple stock frauds of her own. Although Blomkvist is a sympathetic protagonist, North American readers may find his habit of bedding his female married business partner at Millennium with the knowledge and consent of her artist husband to be a bit of cultural shock and awe. A couple of other women become his bed mates as well, but never as more than passing fancies, albeit momentary passionate ones. The entire Vanger clan - from the patriarchal Henrik, with his self-imposed guilt over Harriet, on down to the distant family cousins - make Salander seem like a saint and provide any number of possible suspects for Harriet’s disappearance before the bittersweet conclusion to the novel and its implied promise of more harrowing adventures to come for Salander and Blomkvist.

Originally published in Sweden, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, received the 2006 Nordic Glass Key Award, sadly, a posthumous acknowledgment for Larsson who died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty in 2004. The next two titles in his series, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and Castles in the Sky (working title) have already been acclaimed in Europe and are due for future North American release.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and to Random House for providing a copy of the book.

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 Book Review: Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry GreenwoodBuy from Amazon.com

Queen of the Flowers by
A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-171-7 (1590581717)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-171-1 (978159058171)
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): St. Kilda’s streets hang with fairy lights. Tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the town’s first Flower Parade.

And who should be Queen of the Flowers but the Honourable Phryne Fisher? It seems that the lovely Phryne has nothing to do but buy dresses, drink cocktails, and dine in lavish restaurants.

Unfortunately, disappearances during this joyous festival aren’t limited to the magic shows. One of Phryne’s flower maidens has simply vanished. And so, Phryne is off to investigate aided by Bert and Cec and her trusty little beretta. When her darling adopted daughter Ruth goes missing, Phryne is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her investigation.

Phryne must confront elephants, brothel-life, and—perhaps worst of all—an old lover in an effort to save Ruth and her flower maiden before it is too late.

Review: Melbourne socialite and private investigator Phyrne Fisher is the Queen of the Flowers (at least for the town of St. Kilda's Flower Parade) but has a missing persons case to solve as well in the fourteenth mystery in this delightful series by Kerry Greenwood set in 1920s Australia.

There is excitement in St. Kilda as the town’s first Flower Parade is being planned as part of a gala festival with a bazaar, a small circus, picnics on the beach, music, dances, and more. Naturally Phryne will be the Honorable Queen of the Flowers. On the float with her will be her four flower maidens. Costumes are being made for the teenaged girls by Dot, Phryne’s maid and companion. A few days before the festivities, however, Rose Weston, one of her flower maidens, vanishes. Phryne is hired by Rose’s wealthy grandfather to find the missing girl. When it becomes evident that she has not simply run away from home, Phryne calls in her old friend Inspector Jack Robinson and her own experts on the “worst of company”, Ben and Cec. Their search takes them from the stylish home of Grandfather Weston to the local brothels, and down seedy roads to low sleazy, squalid saloons. Just when Phryne comes close to solving the disappearance of Rose, her own thirteen-year-old adopted daughter, Ruth, appears to be missing. The search deepens and becomes more wide-spread. Phyrne and her companions rummage around looking in the circus tents and the bazaar booths. Phryne knows that if the girls ran away from their homes, the chances of finding them are pretty good. If, however, they have for some reason been abducted, her only hope is to find them before any harm can come to them. For Phryne, it’s a race against time.

Phyrne is wealthy, witty, and sexy, and much of the appeal of the series, including Queen of the Flowers, is in her relationships with her daughters, her staff, her friends, and, of course, her lovers. Here she's involved with the very handsome, very loving, and very married Lin Chung whose wife doesn't mind his liaison with Phyrne as long as she has a life of her own. And an old friend returns to town, Dulcie Fanshawe, who is available to help Phyrne as Phyrne once helped her.

Though Queen of the Flowers is a light, fast-reading, mystery, it is weighed down by letters from people not mentioned in the immediate storyline that are interspersed through the narrative. Though the letters become meaningful in the end, some readers are likely to flip back through the pages to see if something was missed. Otherwise, it's a welcome return for Phyrne and her cast of genuinely likeable characters.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Queen of the Flowers 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, August 23, 2008

Mystery Savings: 40% Off All Games at Big Fish Games!

Mystery Savings: Discounted Products and Services on Books, Movies, and more!

Mystery Savings periodically provides our readers with current promotions that offer discounts or other incentives for purchasing mystery-themed products and services through our partner websites. Below is a list of offers recently received that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

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Big Fish Games is running a special promotion until September 3rd offering 40% off all games at BigFishGames.com. Use the coupon code BACKTOSCHOOL when buying games.

has two pages of mystery games available from Big Fish Games: games available to such as Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile, the Mystery Case Files series, and The Secret of Margrave Manor; and games available for download such as Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas, James Patterson's Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet, and Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Mummy. You can also visit our Big Fish mystery games page at MyGameSpace.com.

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First Clues: Fall Mysteries for Your Amateur Sleuths

First Clues: Mysteries for Kids

A 6th grade teacher (my sister, in fact!) provided us with a list of mysteries that her school district had issued to parents as recommended reading for their children over the summer vacation. Although only one of these books is a series title, we wanted to pass them all along as suggestions for fall reading for the amateur sleuth in your family.

The Enola Holmes Mysteries

Last year, Nancy Springer started a new series featuring 14-year-old Enola Holmes, sister to the famous consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, and of course, Mycroft Holmes. Like her older brother, she too has keen powers of observation.

In the first book of the series, The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola becomes a perditorian, or a finder of lost things or people and becomes involved in the disappearance of a young marquess who seems to have been kidnapped. Two additional titles were published earlier this year, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. The fourth book in the series, The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, is being published next month.

The are recommended for readers aged 10 and older.

Dead Girls Don't Write Letters by Gail Files

Controversial due to its unusual ending, Dead Girls Don't Write Letters is written by Gail Giles and was originally published in early 2003. 14-year-old Sunny doesn't seem heartbroken at the news of her too-perfect sister Jazz's death, though Jazz seems to have been the glue that held their disfunctional family together. But then when someone calling herself "Jazz" returns to the family, someone who isn't Jazz at all, Sunny begins digging, looking for answers, only to find herself questioning ... everything.

The author's website has an overview of the book, what inspired her to write it, a teacher's guide, and possibly most important of all, an explanation of the ending. Dead Girls Don't Write Letters is recommended for readers aged 12 and older.

The Ravenmaster's Secret by Elvira Woodruff

The Ravenmaster's Secret by Elvira Woodruff is a historical adventure with a unique and colorful setting, originally published in late 2003. They were eleven years old. The year was 1735. She was the enemy, a young Scottish prisoner. He was her jailer, the Ravenmaster's son. Escape was all but impossible. Or was it? Come see for yourself as you cross the drawbridge of time into England's most fortified castle: the Tower of London. A place where terror, not comfort, ruled the day. And a place where friendship could cost children their lives.

Reviews for The Ravenmaster's Secret were uniformly positive: Publishers Weekly said "The period touches will fascinate readers." School Library Journal added, "... suspense, excitement, and interesting characters." And Children's Literature stated, "Suspenseful and touching, this is a thrilling and wonderful read." This book is recommended for readers aged 12 and older.

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach was published in 2005. When Hero starts 6th grade at a new school, she's less concerned about the literary origins of her Shakespearean name than about the teasing she's sure to suffer because of it. So she has the same name as a girl in a book by a dusty old author. Hero is simply not interested in the connections. But that's just the thing; suddenly connections are cropping up all over, and odd characters and uncertain pasts are exactly what do fascinate Hero. There's a mysterious diamond hidden in her new house, a curious woman next door who seems to know an awful lot about it, and then, well, there's Shakespeare. Is it all in keeping with her namesake's origin - much ado about nothing? Hero, being Hero, is determined to figure it out.

In 2006, Shakespeare's Secret was nominated for an in the Best Juvenile Mystery category. This book is recommended for readers aged 10 and older.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper's brilliant Dark is Rising sequence of five books has enthralled readers since the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, was published more than forty years ago. The second book, The Dark is Rising, was named a Newberry Honor Book and is now a major motion picture. The fourth, The Grey King, won the Newbery Medal. All five books are available as The Dark is Rising Boxed Set.

In Over Sea, Under Stone (which is more fantasy than mystery and is targeted to a slightly younger audience of readers than the latter four), introduces Merriman, a pivotal character for the forces of the Light. He teams up with three young mortal children, Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, in a quest by the sea which will lead them over sea and under stone to find a grail of legend to help the Light in its struggle against the Dark.

is pleased to provide information on nearly 100 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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Mystery Book Review: A Darker Side by Shirley Wells

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

A Darker Side by Shirley WellsBuy from Amazon.com

A Darker Side by
A Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-509-1 (1569475091)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-509-6 (9781569475096)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy has given up police work for a quiet life in the Lancashire village of Kelton Bridge, but when Martin Hayden, a seventeen-year-old schoolboy, is murdered, DCI Max Trentham, Jill’s ex-colleague, wants her back at work. As they hunt Martin’s killer, they discover that nothing is as it seems.

When the killer strikes again, Jill and Max find themselves in a desperate race against time.

Review: When a mother and son are murdered and two of dead boy's classmates disappear, forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy returns to work with her old colleague, DCI Max Trentham, to solve the mystery in A Darker Side, the second book in this series by Shirley Wells.

But Jill doesn't return easily or quickly and it takes all of Max's cajoling and coaxing to get her involved. He believes that between them they have the intelligence, knowledge, and astuteness to bring the case to a close. The murdered boy was Martin Hayden, a "good boy" according to his parents who lived with their three children in virtual seclusion on the family farm. But appearances can be deceiving. He was a loner with few friends who was ignored by his father, hated by his brother, adored by his mother, and loved by his sister. His teachers and fellow students are questioned by Jill and Max, but to no avail. Then Martin's mother is found murdered, dead of multiple stab wounds. And still there are no leads and all suspects have solid alibis. Later two other schoolboys vanish. Jill cannot even begin to profile the culprit, or even hazard a guess as to what these four people have in common. Something in the case must break, and break soon, if Jill and Max are going to find the two boys alive and nab the killer of a mother and son.

The author interweaves secrets of the past with the fervor of the present investigation to great effect in A Darker Side. And there's nothing subtle about the title: everyone has a darker side of their life. The suspense level is kicked up a notch when it's revealed that Max's sons and the missing boys attend the same school. Now it's personal. But it's also a passionate story in some ways, dealing with relationships between family and friends, teachers and students, and ultimately between Jill and Max. Though somewhat predictable in spots, A Darker Side is a good mystery to read.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of A Darker Side and to Soho Press 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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Mystery Book Review: Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin CotterillBuy from Amazon.com

Curse of the Pogo Stick by
A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-485-0 (1569474850)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-485-3 (9781569474853)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): In Vientiane, Laos, a booby-trapped corpse, intended for Dr. Siri, the national coroner, has been delivered to the morgue. In his absence, only Nurse Dtui’s intervention saves the lives of the morgue attendants, visiting doctors and Madame Daeng, Dr. Siri’s fiancée.

On his way back from a Communist party meeting in the north, Dr. Siri is kidnapped by seven female Hmong villagers under the direction of the village elder so that he will, in the guise of Yeh Ming, the thousand year old shaman with whom he shares his body, exorcise the headman’s daughter, whose soul is possessed by a demon, and lift the curse of the pogo stick.

Review: While traveling, the national coroner of Laos, Dr. Siri Paiboun, is kidnapped en route to the capital while his staff seeks the person behind two acts of attempted murder at the morgue in his absence in Curse of the Pogo Stick, the exceptional fifth mystery in this series by Colin Cotterill.

There are two, separate, plotlines that never intersect but are related nonetheless. The story opens with the arrival of a body to the national morgue that has clearly been tampered with. An X-ray reveals a live grenade buried in the chest cavity that would have gone off had a typical autopsy been performed. Fortunately, Siri's nurse, Dtui, notices the anomaly in the body before any harm can come. Later, a box of poisoned treats arrives, but is consumed by government auditors before any of the staff can partake. Dtui and Siri's fiancé, Daeng, together with detective Phosy, set out to find the suspected murderer before any more lives are lost.

In the meantime, Siri, attending a communist party seminar in northern Laos, is returning to Vientiane, a multi-day journey at best, when his convey is ambushed and he is kidnapped. His superior, Judge Haeng, traveling with him, escapes into the countryside. But Siri's kidnapping doesn't have a hostile motive, rather, his abductors, indigenous Hmong, want to employ his resident spirit, Yeh Ming, to drive away evil that has settled upon the family clan. Siri knows he's not a shaman but understands his captors need to believe and goes about doing what's asked of him. "I'm a cynic," he says at one point. "[A]lbeit a cynic who is constantly confounded by the truth."

Curse of the Pogo Stick isn't strictly a whodunit-style mystery (though there are clearly elements present that make it seem like one) but rather a fascinating and absorbing tale of perception and acumen on the part of Siri and, separately, Dtui and Daeng. The story goes off in unexpected and delightful directions and is quite simply a joy to read. The author has a remarkable ability to introduce a rhythm, a cadence as it were, into his narrative. Consider the following exceptional passage, typical of many:

Siri knew he had no choice. He prayed to the ancestors for a way out but nothing was immediately forthcoming. So he lofted his ax and stood before the buffalo, who suddenly realized all eyes were upon her. With a beard of grass hanging from her mouth she looked up at the old man in front of her. In his hand she saw the hoisted ax and, through whatever process an ox makes connections to past events, something seemed to register in her slow brain. And when she realized what was about to happen, her heart, already heavy with hay, gave out. She keeled to one side, took one more chew of her grass, and passed away. To Elder Long it was confirmation. One more miracle. Yeh Ming had felled a buffalo with his mind. He became even more convinced that the trouble that haunted their village could be cured.

Curse of the Pogo Stick is set in the mid-1970s, following the withdrawal of western forces from the region and after the Lao kingdom was overthrown by the communists. It's a fascinating and unique period in which to set any story, let alone a mystery. Throughout the book the author makes searing, if frequently humorous, observations at the hypocrisy of communism in general and specifically as it applies to the characters, in particular the Hmong. That the comments have broad relevance today, 30 years later, is all the more enlightening.

Seek out Curse of the Pogo Stick: it's one of the year's best novels, mystery or otherwise.

Special thanks to Soho Press for providing a copy of Curse of the Pogo Stick 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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Friday, August 22, 2008

Mystery Savings: Up to 50% Off Select Blu-ray Movies at Amazon.com

Mystery Savings: Discounted Products and Services on Books, Movies, and more!

Mystery Savings periodically provides our readers with current promotions that offer discounts or other incentives for purchasing mystery-themed products and services products through our partner websites. Below is a list of offers recently received that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

Shop at Amazon.com

Now through August 29, 2008, Blu-ray fans can take advantage of the up to 50% off sale on select Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com (with most priced from 40-45% off, while supplies last). This is a great opportunity for you to build your Blu-ray library from Amazon’s great selection of titles including such suspense movies as The Prestige with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, Deja Vu with Denzel Washington, and Enemy of the State with Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Also explore hundreds of titles available in Amazon's Blu-ray store, all at least 30% off.

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Mystery Bestsellers for August 22, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

A list of the top 15 for the week ending August 22, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website. Note that there was no bestseller's list published last week as a result of our vacation.

There's no change in the top three this week with Moscow Rules by retaining the top spot.

Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman

New this week and debuting at number 4 is The Mercedes Coffin, the 17th case for detective Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus, by . Billionaire genius Genoa Greeves never got over the shocking death of her favorite teacher, Bennett "Dr. Ben" Alston Little, murdered execution-style and stuffed into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. No arrests were ever made, no killer charged for the brutal crime. Fifteen years later, the high-tech CEO reads about another execution-style murder; this time the victim is a Hollywood music producer named Primo Ekerling. There is no obvious connection, but the case is eerily similar to Little's and Genoa feels the time is right to close Dr. Ben's case once and for all—offering the L.A.P.D. a substantial financial "incentive" if justice is finally served for Little. Lieutenant Peter Decker resents having to commit valuable manpower to a fifteen-year-old open case simply because a rich woman says "Jump!" Still, the recent murder of Primo Ekerling does bear a disturbing resemblance to Little's case, even though two thug suspects are currently behind bars for the Ekerling murder. Decker can't help but wonder about a connection. His first phone calls are to the two primary investigators in the Little case, retired detectives Calvin Vitton and Arnie Lamar. Lamar is cooperative, but Vitton is not only reluctant to talk, he winds up dead of a suspicious suicide twelve hours later. Plunging into this long-buried murder, Decker discovers that even though the two slayings are separated by a decade and a half, there is still plenty of greed, lust, and evil to connect the dots. Decker's team of top investigators not only includes his favorite homicide detectives, Scott Oliver and Marge Dunn, but also his newly minted Hollywood detective daughter, Cindy Kutiel, whose helpproves to be invaluable. His wife, Rina Lazarus, continues to be his backbone of support, offering a cool, rational outlook despite her growing concern for her husband's welfare and safety. Rina's worries and fears begin to build at a fevered pitch as past and present collide with a vengeance, catapulting an unsuspecting Peter Decker closer and closer to the edge of an infinite dark abyss.

Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown

Also new this week and debuting at number 7 is Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown. When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston police department, she remembers nothing of how she got there ... or of how Jay wound up dead. Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston's police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety. Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay's lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley's world was shattered. Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he'd dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers -- and ruin his -- had festered, but he was helpless to set things right. That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess's shocking death and Britt Shelley's claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay's death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay's last sexual conquest, mightbe his only chance to get personal vindication -- and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire. But there are powerful men who don't want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they're not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.

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 shown below:

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva Fearless Fourteen by Janet EvanovichSwan Peak by James Lee BurkeThe Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman

Please visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books where we are committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Heaven Preserve Us by Cricket McRae

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Heaven Preserve Us by Cricket McRae. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Heaven Preserve Us by Cricket McRaeBuy from Amazon.com

Heaven Preserve Us by
A Home Crafting Mystery with Sophie Mae Reynolds

Midnight Ink (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7387-1122-5 (0738711225)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7387-1122-5 (9780738711225)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $13.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): A reputation as a small town busybody sleuth. A gum-cracking boss who keeps calling her "babe." Now a suicidal phone stalker? Great.

After solving the messy mystery of her neighborhood handyman's lye-induced death, thirty-something Sophie Mae Reynolds makes preserves by day and answers phones at a crisis center by night. What better way to keep a low profile? But on her very first night, Sophie Mae gets a call from a man who is threatening suicide . . . and her. Overhearing the caller's irate outbursts, her morally bankrupt boss Philip Heaven severs the line. As harassing calls to her home increase, Philip comes down with a deadly case of food poisoning. And his eerie last words keep ringing in Sophie Mae's ears: "Threat. Meant it." Now stirring up the town with talk of murder-by-preserves, Sophie Mae and her hunky boyfriend Detective Barr are on a blood-red trail of rancid beets to find and stop the crafty killer.

Review: In Cricket McRae's second home crafting mystery, Heaven Preserve Us, soap maker and amateur sleuth Sophie Mae Reynolds investigates the "death by natural causes" of a man who died in her arms, supposedly of food poisoning.

Sophie Mae is volunteering her services to the Heaven House Helpline (HHH, for short) where people in distress call for advice and help. It appears, however, that just as much help is needed inside the HHH as on her second day there, the night of the preserve exchange, Philip Heaven, who created the foundation, falls gravely ill. Sophie Mae goes to his assistance and while waiting for an ambulance he mutters to her, "Threat. Meant it.” He dies the very next day. Although the medical examiner rules the death natural due to a botulism toxin brought on by eating tainted beets in some of the preserves, Sophie Mae cannot get his last words out of her mind. So, as is her vigorous and usual custom, she sets out to discover the source of the tainted beets. The police, including her new boyfriend Detective Barr Ambrose, who also becomes ill from the same beets, tell her to back off but Sophie Mae is sure Philip was murdered. How could she convince the police of what she believes to be true? And just who is the stranger outside her window, watching her every move?

Sophie Mae is a confident woman with an appetite for mystery and Heaven Preserve Us is a good one. The author shows that in Sophie Mae, one can find the good in most people, young and old, and that she'd rather laugh than cry when things beyond her control go wrong. The characters are engaging, the story intriguing, and the book a pleasure to read.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Heaven Preserve Us and to Midnight Ink 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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Games of Mystery: More Mystery Parties for Kids

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed games, parties, and vacations, has updated its website with four new mystery parties for kids available from Host-Party.com.

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The four new parties include one for Halloween and another with an Egyptian theme. There's also a new scavenger hunt party perfect for family gatherings.

There are now more than 20 mystery parties for kids to choose from in many theme formats including old West, pirate, medieval, Christmas, tropical isle, and more!

All kid's parties are either rated E for everyone or eC for early childhood.

We also have parties for teens and adults available (with more to be added soon).

Visit  for all types of mysterious fun!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Boneyard by Michelle Gagnon

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

Boneyard by Michelle GagnonBuy from Amazon.com

Boneyard by
A Kelly Jones Mystery

Mira (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7783-2539-3 (0778325393)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-2539-0 (9780778325390)
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): On the trail of a serial killer, the path splits in two …

FBI special agent Kelly Jones has worked on many disturbing cases in her career, but nothing like this. A mass grave site unearthed on the Appalachian Trail puts Kelly at the head of an investigation that crosses the line—from Massachusetts to , from wealthy vacationers to poor transients, from a serial killer to a copycat nemesis.

Assisted by law enforcement from both states and a forensic anthropologist, Kelly searches for the killers. But as darkness falls, another victim is taken. Kelly must race to save him before he joins the rest … in the boneyard. 

Review: All of FBI agent Kelly Jones' investigative and diplomatic skills are put to the test when she is assigned to a serial killer task force with victims found in three states (and three jurisdictions, each with their own special brand of bureaucracy) in Boneyard, the second thriller in this series by Michelle Gagnon.

Though the remains of the victims were found in multiple locations, Kelly and her team quickly determine they have something in common: they were all young men who had criminal records including solicitation. But there are some significant differences that puzzle the team: some of the bodies appear to have been buried then unburied, and the age of some of the bones seems to indicate that the killings took place years earlier. Could a serial killer be at large for so long a time yet no casework filed? The way the men died also presents a twist: some appear to have been meticulously tortured and others quickly killed. Is it possible there are two killers at work here?

Boneyard has several unusual elements that elevate it above the standard serial killer thriller. For much of the book, the focus is on relationships, primarily between Kelly and her team members, and between the team members themselves. This creates a character-driven story that is deeper and more complex than merely the search for a serial killer. And it has the effect of drawing the reader in, making them part of the team. For the most part, and to her credit, the author minimizes much of the graphic detail of the torture the young men experience prior to their deaths. It's not necessary anyway and it works to the benefit of the book as a whole.

If there's a weakness here it's in the motivation of the killer which isn't well established. A hate crime to be sure, but it could have been better outlined and defined. And Kelly's romantic element, introduced in the first book of the series, is furthered in this one but is still more of an intrusion than not.

Kelly Jones is not a typical FBI agent and this is not a typical serial killer series. Both Boneyard, and its predecessor The Tunnels, are recommended.

Special thanks to Mira Books, an imprint of Harlequin, for providing an ARC of Boneyard 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 Book Review: The Salisbury Manuscripts by Philip Gooden

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

The Salisbury Manuscript by Philip GoodenBuy from Amazon.com

The Salisbury Manuscript by
A Thomas Ansell Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-512-1 (1569475121)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-512-6 (9781569475126)
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): In 1873 a canon dies violently while sneaking artifacts out of an ancient burial chamber on the outskirts of Salisbury. London lawyer Tom Ansell discovers the body and comes under suspicion for the murder. To clear himself, he must find the killer.

Review: Philip Gooden introduces a new character, London attorney Thomas Ansell, in The Salisbury Manuscripts, the first in a series of Victorian mysteries set in British cathedral towns.

Tom Ansell, a fledgling attorney associated with the London law firm of Scott, Lye and Mackinzie, is summoned to Salisbury by Canon Felix Slater on a matter of law. A box given to Felix by his older brother, Percy, who had inherited it as part of their father’s estate, is in question. This box contained relics, various and sundry papers, plus a diary written by their father. This diary, in the form of a series of manuscripts, relates the history and traditions of the Slater family. It also has some references to some dubious escapades that Felix now thinks should not be revealed to the public, should the manuscripts ever be published. Percy is demanding that Felix return the manuscripts inasmuch as it was his originally. Felix wants to know where the law stands on this issue. Shortly after Tom talks with Felix, Felix is murdered in his den with all his papers and correspondence strewn across his desk and the floor. The box with the manuscripts, not surprisingly, is gone. Because Tom was alone in the den and the last person (besides the murderer, of course) to see Felix alive, he becomes the police’s prime suspect. But Tom believes there should be other suspects. Where was Felix's wife that evening? Where were the household servants? Where was Walter, Felix’s nephew, who lived with him?

Helen Scott, the daughter of one of the law partners and the love of Tom's life, rushes to Salisbury. A fan of mysteries herself, she knows that if Tom is to be cleared she, and Tom, must find the murderer and together they are determined to do so, with, or without, the help of the police.

It takes an incredibly long time for the plot of The Salisbury Manuscripts to get going, as it were. Much of the first hundred pages or so seems to have little to do with the story such that some readers may opt to put it down before it gets interesting. Once the investigation starts, however, the pace picks up a bit and the disparate plot threads start to come together. Still, this mystery may only appeal to those patient enough to keep turning the pages.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Salisbury Manuscript and to Soho Press 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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Compendium of Mystery News 080820

A compendium of recently published mystery news articles. Note that we're rapidly catching up on getting news items posted and once current plan on publishing once a week or so. This update includes news items from late July and early August 2008.

The Boston Globe reported on an unusual joint marketing campaign for a mystery that links the book, its publisher, and the city in which the book takes place, Salem (MA). The Lace Reader was already somewhat rare in that it was originally self-published by its author, , before William Morrow purchased the rights for $2 million.

• In a press release, reflected on the 12 lessons he learned from reading . Don's second mystery featuring 20-something pals James Lessor and Skip Moore (Hardy Boys for the 21st century as it were), Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, is being published next month.

• In a press release, Her Interactive announced that Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice was the bestselling PC game in mid-July. They also announced the next title in the popular series, Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy, expected to be available for sale in October, 2008. [MBN note: All Nancy Drew games are available for purchase or download from our partner site, . are also available.)

• Here's a site we came across that we think may be interest: Distributed Proofreaders. Distributed Proofreaders provides a web-based method to ease the conversion of public domain books into e-books. Volunteer editors are presented with a scanned page image and the corresponding OCR text on a single web page. This allows the text to be easily compared to the image, proofread, and sent back to the site. A second volunteer is then presented with the first volunteer's work and the same page image, verifies and corrects the work as necessary, and submits it back to the site. The book then similarly progresses through two formatting rounds using the same web interface. Once all the pages have completed these steps, a post-processor carefully assembles them into an e-book and submits it to the Project Gutenberg archive. A fascinating and worthwhile endeavor!

• Nominations for the 2008 Ned Kelly Award have been posted on the Crime Writers Association of Australia website. [MBN note: For a list of previous winners of the Ned Kelly Award, as well as nearly 30 other awards, visit .]

Variety ran an article on one of the Grande Dames of mystery: . "Somehow I've been very lucky that after each book the next idea just comes popping along," says James of her detective series. "But I'm 88, so they'll have to stop sooner or later." Her next Adam Dalgliesh mystery, The Private Patient, is due to be published this November.

• A press release announced the details of an interactive internet game, ClueChaser.com, that combines a mystery storyline and a series of unique puzzles with a message board which allows players to communicate with each other. The second game ran from August 5th through 9th and more are planned. Sample puzzles are available.

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