Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mysteries on TV: Introducing Amazon.com Video on Demand

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, is pleased to announce Video on Demand (VOD) from Amazon.com.

With Amazon.com Video on Demand, you can now instantly watch movies and television shows commercial-free on Macs or PCs. With this new service, you can enjoy instant playback of hit Hollywood movies and the latest TV shows. To make it even easier for you to decide to rent or purchase a movie or TV show, the first two minutes of videos automatically play at no charge when you visit the product detail page. At any time during this 2-minute viewing period, you can choose to purchase or rent the title to watch it in its entirety. If you are a TiVo customer, you can download movies and TV shows to your TiVo DVR and watch on your TV as always.

We're in the process of updating our entire library of Mysteries on TV series to indicate those that are currently available for video on demand. Look for the Amazon Video on Demand logo on these pages. In the meantime, click on the logo above to see the wide selection of mystery movies and television shows available from Amazon.com Video on Demand.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Mysteries on TV: CSI Miami

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, is profiling one series that has a season DVD being released this week.

was the first spin-off of the original and highly successful . The series stars David Caruso as Lt. Horatio Caine, the lead criminologist for this south Florida based team of forensic investigators. His team includes Calleigh Duquesne (played by Emily Procter), a bilingual Southern beauty with a specialty in ballistics; Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez), an underwater recovery expert who knows all the twists and turns of the Florida waterways, and Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo), a former patrol officer who specializes in blood and trace evidence. Together they work crimes amid the steamy tropical surroundings and cultural crossroads of .

The CSI: Miami Season Six DVD set of 6 discs contains all 21 episodes of the sixth season that aired from September 2007 through May 2008. The premiere of the seventh season is currently scheduled for Monday, September 22nd at 10 PM (ET).

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

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Mystery Book Review: Watches of the Night by Sally Wright

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

Watches of the Night by Sally Wright

Watches of the Night by
A Ben Reese Mystery

Severn House (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-7278-6618-4 (0727866184)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6618-9 (9780727866189)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $28.95

Review: A dedicated researcher and a finalist for the 2001 Edgar Allen Poe award, Sally Wright has taken the facts of a WWII biographical story told to her by a colleague, embellished them with her imagination, and turned out a gripping story of stolen industrial secrets, battlefield courage, identity theft and a series of callous murders. Switching back and forth between settings in the 1940s and the 1960s, the novel’s episodes of European wartime valour contrast with the tensions of postwar America where university archivist Ben Reese struggles with the memory of a front line incident that continues to bedevil him and a current power struggle that threatens his livelihood and future career. His situation worsens when he learns that author Kate Lindsay, the widow of his deceased long-time friend, has received a package mailed near war’s end that contains an eyeball, presumably her husband’s. The adventures the two friends encounter in determining who sent the grisly memento, when and why make for an exciting and entertaining read.

Wright’s sense of timing for maximum suspense is spot on. She knows how to pull the reader in and when to end one scene and begin the next while scattering clues along the way. There’s the scene early on, for example, with one GI stealing another’s dog tags and the immediate impression somebody’s up to no good. The climactic scenes of Ben in a commando style rescue of a trussed-up Lindsay are particularly tense and reminiscent of an action-filled James Bond sequence. Wright’s characters are well depicted too. Ben’s war-time heroism and his former struggles with his lengthy rehab for his war wounds make him all the more likeable as he tussles with his immediate supervisor and the President of Hillsdale Ohio’s Alderton University. The death of his wife four and a half years earlier elicits more sympathy, and helps explain his tentativeness in establishing a relationship with Lindsay. But the potential is there. He’s a horse lover as well which is another assist to his portrayal as an all round character. In the end, though, it’s his grit and determination to bring a murderer to justice that makes him such a compelling hero. Lindsay is right for her part too as a take-charge individual who can recognize a clue and chase down a suspect just like one of the characters in the novels she writes. And with Ben’s interest in Renaissance jewellery and rare books, and with the novel’s settings in the US, Rome, Scotland and Tuscany, there’s lots of scope for Wright to display the results of her intriguing research in support of her story.

Publish and Perish, Pride and Predator, Pursuit and Persuasion and Out of the Ruins are the previous titles in the Ben Reese series. A sixth volume, entitled Code of Silence, a prequel to the series, is due for US release in January 2009. Worth watching for, given Wright’s track record.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of Watches of the Night and to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of the book for the review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Watches of the Night from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Ben Reese, university archivist and part-time investigator, has to use his combat experience learnt as a war scout after his old friend Kate Lindsay receives a disturbing package. Who would pull out a dead man’s eye during the Second World War – then seal it up and mail it off to his wife to arrive twenty years later?

Kate intends to ask Ross MacNab, one of her husband’s commandos, who’s still at a mental hospital and won’t speak of the war. But someone from the shadows of his past seems to want Ross silenced for ever. And hunting the traitor takes Ben and Kate from America and Scotland across the Tuscan countryside to make the killing stop.

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 September 08, 2008

A 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!).

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for September 08, 2008

This week's letters and mystery clue:

A B E M N O R S U

This is the pen name used by journalist Jonathan Freedland on his novels of international intrigue (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, September 07, 2008

First Clues: The 39 Clues

First Clues: Mysteries for Kids

We've updated our website by adding one of the most anticipated series to be published in years.

The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones

Minutes before she died Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her decendants an impossible decision: "You have a choice: one million dollars or a clue."

Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world's most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 clues hidden around the world will reveal the family's secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what's important: hunting clues or uncovering what really happened to their parents.

The 39 Clues is Scholastic's groundbreaking new series, spanning 10 adrenaline-charged books, 350 trading cards, and an online game where readers play a part in the story and compete for over $100,000 in prizes.

The 39 Clues books set the story, and the cards, website and game allow kids to participate in it. Kids visit the website, 39clues.com, and discover they are lost members of the Cahill family. They set up online accounts where they can compete against other kids and against Cahill characters to find all 39 clues. Through the website, kids can track their points and clues, manage their card collections, dig through the Cahill archives for secrets, and "travel" the world to collect Cahill artifacts, interview characters, and hunt down clues. Collecting cards helps: each card is a piece of evidence containing information on a Cahill, a clue, or a family secret.

Every kid is a winner! Scholastic will give away prizes through the books, the website and the cards, including a grand prize of $10,000!

Scholastic is simultaneously launching the series in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand with a 1 million copy first printing, half in the U.S. The first book in the series, Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, is being released this Tuesday together with the first 39 Clues Card Pack that covers books 1 through 3 of the series. In addition to penning the first book, Rick Riordan was entrusted with mapping out the storyline for the series. Subsequent books will be written by different authors and are scheduled to be published every three months or so over the next two years. The books in the series are recommended for readers aged 9 to 12.

Earlier this summer, reported that Dreamworks had acquired the movie rights to the 39 Clues with Steven Spielberg directing.

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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Mysteries on TV: Review of Monk

Mysteries on TV

Later this month we'll be introducing a new website with reviews of mystery TV shows and movies. We may even set up a separate blog as well. In the meantime, we'll post these television and film reviews here on and advise you of when the new site is up.

Monk (TV Series)

TV Series:

Episode 707: Mr. Monk's 100th Case
Original air date: 09/05/2008

Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)
Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard)
Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine)
Lieutenant Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford)

Guest Star(s): James Novak (Eric McCormack), Ambrose Monk (John Turturro), Hal Tucker (Andy Richter), Ralph Roberts (Howie Mandel), Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley)

When Monk first aired during the summer of 2002, I eagerly watched each episode, delighted by the premise and drawn in by the well-written cases. But sometime between the second and third seasons, Monk drifted off my radar and other than the occasional rerun I didn't watch the show. I'm not sure why; maybe the novelty wore off and the cases seemed all too similar. Monk is now in its 7th season and, despite losing a once regular viewer, still seems to be going strong. The title of last Friday's episode caught my attention and I decided it was time to take a fresh look at Monk. And I'm glad I did.

Scene from Monk

Titled Mr. Monk's 100th Case, the episode is (not coincidentally) the 100th of the series and is cleverly conceived. A television newsmagazine-type show called In Focus is doing a profile on Adrian Monk who faces his 100th case since leaving the San Francisco Police Department. Viewers who have never seen the show before will welcome the quick background on how Monk came to leave the department but return as an independent consultant. The department has granted the show and its host, James Novak (smartly played by Eric McCormick who portrays the character with a mix of snide and charm, not unlike a real host), access to the case, allowing them to tag along and film what happens.

Scene from Monk

A serial killer has struck San Francisco, strangling three women and taking their lipstick. There seems to be nothing to link them. The police are puzzled and even Monk seems at a loss. But then he takes note of something the women have in common that gives them a suspect. But before the police can arrest him, a fourth woman is strangled and the suspect is found dead of a self-inflicted bullet through the head.

With Monk's 100th case successfully solved, the cast and crew of In Focus together with Monk and the police department gather at the home of James Novak to watch the completed show. But something bothers Monk, something that doesn't seem quite right. Something about that fourth murder doesn't fit and he now he knows exactly what it is. Returning to the scene of the crime (via a DVR playback of the show), he points out exactly why this murder is different from the others.

Scene from Monk

The final scene of the show plays off Monk's OCD tendencies to great effect. A very good episode indeed.

USA Network wisely breaks the season of Monk into two parts of approximately equal episodes, half running early in the year and half starting mid-summer. For the past three seasons, there has also been holiday episode airing in December. While Monk and his idiosyncrasies are the foundation of the show, the supporting cast are not nearly as interesting. They seem to exist to provide comic relief but it's largely unnecessary and, quite frankly, often annoying. Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, for example, both managed to provide years of entertainment solving mysteries without the support of regular series characters. One wonders how much more enjoyable Monk the series might be if it were simply Monk the character.

Mr. Monk's 100th Case is the penultimate episode of this half-season and airs again tomorrow night; the finale airs this coming Friday.

The first 6 seasons of are available to purchase on DVD from Mysteries on TV, your source for one of the largest selections of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense television mystery series that are now available or coming soon to DVD.

Reviewed on 09/06/2008 by Mr. E., television and movie critic for Mystery Books News.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Omnimystery — All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Blood Alone by James R. Benn

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

Blood Alone by James R. Benn

Blood Alone by
A Billy Boyle Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-516-4 (1569475164)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-516-4 (9781569475164)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.00

Review: Billy Boyle awakes to find himself in a strange land on an unknown mission and worse, not even sure of his own identity, in Blood Alone, the third mystery in the World War II mystery series by James R. Benn.

With his head bandaged and bleeding, feeling like someone has hammered a nail into it, and his arm blood-stained from elbow to wrist, Billy Boyle looks around to discover he's in an army field hospital tent but not knowing how he got there, where it is, or how badly he is wounded. He doesn’t even know who he is. He’s dressed in a faded green uniform, not at all like the other wounded men around him. Plus he has no insignias or dog tags. The only thing he does have is a gold colored silk handkerchief with the letter “L” emblazoned on the center of it. He quickly discovers, however, that there is something particularly important about this handkerchief and that there are those in the hospital who want it, badly, and nothing, not even murder, will stop them.

As Billy slowly regains his memory he remembers that he's a military investigator and the handkerchief was a gift of American mob boss, Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano, a top-ranking member of the Sicilian Mafia, and that it was given to Billy as a signal of some sort. What to what end? It must have something to do with his being in Sicily. By the time he's released from the hospital, he knows that he must proceed to the home of the Mafia in the Sicilian hills and along the way encounters both German and Italian foes, enemies of a very different sort and with means to different ends, to the success of his mission.

The Billy Boyle novels have quickly established themselves as best in class for those seeking historical mysteries that seamlessly blend fact with fiction, are replete with period details, incorporate an engaging, intricate and suspenseful story, and most importantly, have as its central character, the redoubtable Billy Boyle. The author exposes the horror of war yet brilliantly shows the camaraderie men in the face of danger can find. Blood Alone is classic World War II crime fiction and readers will be anxious to discover where Billy finds himself next.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Blood Alone and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Blood Alone from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Billy Boyle awakens in a field hospital in Sicily with amnesia. In his pocket is a yellow silk handkerchief embroidered with the initial L. He must struggle to learn his identity while staying one step ahead of the shadowy figures pursuing him. Gradually he remembers: he has been sent ashore in advance of the troops with this token from Lucky Luciano to contact the head of the Sicilian Mafia. But he must also thwart a murderous band of counterfeiters of Army scrip led by Vito Genovese.

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 September 05, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

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

Some significant changes near the top of this week's bestseller list, but Moscow Rules by retains the top spot for the fourth straight week. Only one new title enters the top 15.

Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

Coming in at number 14 is Sweetheart by , a sequel to her first novel, Heartsick. When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland’s Forest Park, Detective Archie Sheridan is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. This body can't be one of Gretchen's—she’s in prison—but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman's identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can't focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison. Archie hadn't seen her in two months; he'd moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he's relieved. He knows he's the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Publishers Weekly calls Sweetheart "superb" and adds, "With its brisk pacing, carefully metered violence and tortured hero, Cain's sophomore effort will leave readers desperate for more."

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 SilvaDevil Bones by Kathy ReichsSilks by Dick Francis and Felix FrancisLaughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

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, September 04, 2008

Mystery Savings: Up to 55% Off Emmy-Nominated TV DVDs 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 Amazon.com

Amazon.com has unveiled its 2008 Primetime Emmy Event which will focus on TV DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video downloads. In addition to featuring the 2008 nominees on DVD, the Emmy Central store will act as the hub for one of the biggest TV DVD sales events of the year which is available now through September 30. Save up to 55% on Emmy-nominated television shows including such suspense series like 24, Alias, Crime Story, Lost, Cagney & Lacey, and one of our favorite shows, Murder One. [MBN note: All these series and more can be found at , your source for one of the largest selections of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense mystery series that are now available or coming soon to DVD.]

Shop A&E and Get Up to 60% Off Midsomer Murders, Hitchcock & More!

And a quick reminder that through September 17th, 2008, A&E is having a Mystery DVDs sale with prices that are almost criminal: up to 60% off. Choose from a wide selection of series and titles, including Midsomer Murders, Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Rosemary & Thyme, and many more. Check out these DVD set prices: The Complete Nero Wolfe, originally priced $99.95, now only $39.98. Or the Agatha Christie Crime Anthology Collection, originally priced $199.95, now only $79.98. Quantities are limited so hurry to A&E.com and shop their Mystery DVDs Sale today.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Fix by Tod Goldberg

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

The Fix by Tod Goldberg

The Fix by
A Burn Notice Mystery with Michael Westen

Signet (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22554-6 (0451225546)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22554-2 (9780451225542)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Covert spy Michael Westen has found himself in forced seclusion in Miami—and a little paranoid. Watched by the FBI, cut off from intelligence contacts, and with his assets frozen, Westen is on ice with a warning: stay there or get “disappeared.” Driven to find out who burned him and why, he’s biding his time helping people with nowhere else to turn. People like socialite Cricket O’Connor whose own husband has vanished, along with her fortune.

Cricket fell for a handsome world traveler who claimed to be just back from Afghanistan, where he was on a hush-hush government mission. She was charmed—who woudn't want an action hero for a lover? She's been having some doubts, though, since he disappeared off the face of the earth with most of her money. She needs help, but Michael's having doubts too. Because Cricket may not be exactly who she claims to be, either. And when a shadowy Russian woman from Michael's past shows up in Miami with secrets that might just lead to the truth about his burn notice, things really get hot.

Review: Tod Goldberg pens the first in a planned series of tie-in books for the television show Burn Notice with The Fix featuring ex-covert agent Michael Westen who has been "burned" by the government, his identity all but erased from official records, but not (yet) terminated.

Michael isn't sure who burned him, but as long as he stays in Miami he's reasonably safe ... reasonable being a relative term. The Russian agent who recently set up shop in a local hotel gives him cause to pause. But he has to make a living so he uses his finely honed people skills to help others in need, mostly those who can't get help from the very same government that burned him. Such as Cricket O'Connor whose new husband took off with a million dollars and who gets middle of the night visits from his "associates" demanding two million more. Michael believes extorting money from older women doesn't show off the criminal profession in the most positive light and sets out to teach her extortionists (including her husband) a lesson in ethics.

As a book tie-in to Burn Notice, The Fix readily achieves its primary goal of being an extended, albeit written, version of a series episode without sacrificing the identity of the show itself. Arguably in many ways it is better, thought it has an edge to it that will appeal to some, and turn off others. The written Michael Westen is similar in style to the televised version, though in print he has the luxury of being able to expound on his life and his case in far more detail than on television. It should be said, however, that it probably isn't necessary to punctuate every situation in the present with a colorful, though often entertaining, story from the past. His way of dealing with clients is short and to the point. When asked by Cricket where to start her tale of woe, he says, "Why not start at the beginning? But skip over the bits you don't think I'll care about."

The secondary plot involving the Russian agent doesn't quite fit. It almost seems written as an afterthought, something to fill in the gaps in the main story, and for the most part it is a distraction. That it might have something to do with Michael's burn notice is not readily obvious and in any case doesn't further the plot or add value in any meaningful way. Though everything ties together in the end, sort of, one wonders how much stronger the book might have been without it.

Finally, it's worth noting some of the sage advice Michael periodically offers the reader: "In a situation where it seems like the best course of action is to call the police and let them protect and serve, you should call the police. Seems is a nebulous emotion one should ignore." Or: "If you're at home and don't have access to the bomb squad, the best way to open an envelope that you think might contain an explosive charge is to not open it at all." And there are many more. These words of wisdom alone are worth the purchase price.

Special thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of Burn Notice: The Fix for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing The Fix from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

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, September 02, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Rock & Roll Homicide by R. J. McDonnell

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Rock & Roll Homicide by R. J. McDonnell. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Rock & Roll Homicide by R. J. McDonnell

Rock & Roll Homicide by
A Jason Duffy Mystery

Killeena Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-9814914-1-3 (0981491413)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9814914-1-7 (9780981491417)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $25.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Just as the rock band Doberman’s Stub was about to reach stadium tour status, its leader was brutally murdered when his headphones exploded during a recording session. The widow, who inherits $5 million, is the Police Department’s number one suspect. She hires Jason Duffy, a 27-year-old PI in his first year of private practice, in spite of his background as a former musician.

Jason learns that the victim was also a very skilled contract negotiator, who was in the middle of an acrimonious renegotiation with the record company at the time of his death. He also finds that the record company has a very unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia.

As an inexperienced detective, Jason does not yet have the contacts within the police department to gather vital information. He is forced to mend fences with his estranged father, an opinionated ex-SDPD detective.

Review: R. J. McDonnell introduces singer and guitarist turned private investigator Jason Duffy in Rock & Roll Homicide, an investigation set along the sunny shores and towering cliffs of La Jolla, California.

Terry Tucker, the leader of an up and coming heavy metal rock and roll band, has been viciously murdered. Someone had outfitted his new, heavy-duty, headphones with blasting caps and explosives. When he turned them on, his brains were blown out by the explosion. Terry’s widow Chelsea is the sole beneficiary of his recently purchased five million dollar insurance policy. The San Diego police immediately tag her as the prime suspect in her husband's murder. Rookie PI Jason finds himself with his first high-profile case when Chelsea hires him to go out and find the real killer. Determined to succeed, he proceeds with the gusto of a tried and true professional. First, he finds that Terry was renegotiating the band’s current contract in order to make a better deal for himself, plus a rider that allows him to arbitrarily remove one of the band members. He was doing this without the knowledge of the band, through his lawyer and, in a roundabout way, the Russian Mafia. Then, after a little arm-twisting, Jason's father, a former San Diego detective, introduces him to Walter Shamasky, a current detective with the department, who decides to work with Jason. Together they make a list of suspects, eliminating those who they know have alibis or have no obvious reason to kill Terry. While pursuing leads, Duffy is shot at, his office is broken into and his secretary bound and gagged, his computers stolen, and a close friend and associate beaten badly and hospitalized. Not exactly what he expected for his first real case as a private investigator.

Filled with insider details of the entertainment industry, music and mystery fans alike will be thrilled with Rock & Roll Homicide. But even those readers simply looking for a fast-paced story with likeable characters will appreciate the book. The dialog, in particular that of the impatient widow Chelsea, is sharp and witty and plays well off of the more laid-back Jason. Jason himself has issues with his father who takes a very narrow view of who in the world he trusts. It's an interesting relationship and its inclusion adds depth to the story.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Rock & Roll Homicide and to R. J. McDonnell for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you interesting in purchasing Rock & Roll Homicide from Amazon.com, please click the button on the right side of the column.

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, September 01, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Map Thief by Heather Terrell

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

The Map Thief by Heather Terrell
Buy from Amazon.com

The Map Thief by
A Mara Coyne Mystery

Ballantine (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-49468-7 (0345494687)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-49468-9 (9780345494689)
Publication Date: $25.00
List Price: July 2008

Synopsis (from the publisher): Beijing, China, 1421: It is a momentous time for the Ming Dynasty. Honoring the completion of the Forbidden City, a fleet of unprecedented size sets sail under Admiral Zheng He. Zheng’s mission is to chart the globe, trading for riches and bringing glory to China’s emperor. Among the crew is the talented cartographer and navigator Ma Zhi, whose work will lead to the first true map of the world–but whose accomplishment will vanish when the fleet returns to a very different China than the one it left.

Lisbon, Portugal, 1496: At the height of Portugal’s maritime domination during the Age of Discovery, the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama embarks on a quest to find a sea route to India. On board is navigator Antonio Coehlo, who guards Portugal’s most secret treasure: a map that already shows the way.

New York, present day: Mara Coyne’s new client has left her uneasy. Republican kingmaker Richard Tobias has hired her, he says, because of her skill in recovering stolen art and advocating for the rightful owners, but Mara senses that he is not telling her everything. Tobias reveals that a centuries-old map was stolen from an archaeological dig he is sponsoring in China, and he wants her to get it back. But as Mara begins her investigation, she uncovers the shocking truth: The map is more valuable than anyone has ever imagined, and her client’s motives are more sinister than she suspected.

Review: Heather Terrell crafts an intriguing tale of the fascinating journey of a historic map in her second suspense thriller featuring fine art negotiator Mara Coyne in The Map Thief.

Richard Tobias, a wealthy political insider, is funding an archaeological dig in China which discovers a map of the world that pre-dates the voyages of European explorers. The map promptly disappears, presumably stolen. Tobias hires Mara to find it and return it to him. She agrees but stipulates that she'll only return it to its rightful owner. Meeting up with the archaeologist who found the map in China, Ben Coleman, together they embark on a quest that ultimately leads them to Portugal where they locate a secret society whose leaders may know more about the map than they are willing to admit.

There are three narratives presented in The Map Thief: one from the early 15th century featuring Chinese cartographer Ma Zhi, one from the late 15th century featuring Portuguese navigator Antonio Coehlo, and one from the present day with Mara and Ben. The first two narratives, somewhat unexpectedly written in the present tense but to great effect, are elegantly symmetrical in telling the tales of their respective characters. Their stories are compelling, at times riveting, richly detailed, and fill the reader with the same sense of wonder and awe the characters must have felt during their journeys. They come to life in a way fictional characters rarely do. When both narratives end, there is a real sense of sorrow and loss.

The final narrative, the present day one, isn't nearly as exciting though there are several inventive scenes and suspenseful passages. And the brilliant conception of The Map Thief is marred only by the seriously flawed foundation upon which Mara is asked to do her search. The disappointment comes towards the end. Without giving away too much, there's a "But if ... then why ..." situation that seems to make Mara and Ben's entire adventure rather pointless. Or maybe the point was to make a politician appear evil and manipulative. If so, that's hardly innovative and ultimately doesn't serve the story very well. After creating such an astonishingly original story, it's incredibly disappointing the author didn't develop a more adroit manner of wrapping it up, instead relying on tired clichés. Still, The Map Thief is a remarkable story and, despite its poorly conceived conclusion, is highly recommended.

Special thanks to Random House for providing a copy of The Map Thief 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: Seasonal Parties and Halloween Costumes

Games of Mystery

Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer but also the unofficial start to the fall holiday season! It's not too early to plan your parties for October and , your source for mystery-themed games, parties, and vacations, has some great ideas for your Halloween party, including costume recommendations and an online source to purchase your costumes.

Halloween Parties for Kids

For a kids party, consider hosting the alliterative Horrible Happenings in the Haunted House. A fancy dress party is being held by Horrorwood Studios to celebrate the success of their latest film Hal O'Ween and the Deadly Shrunken Head. Hal O'Ween himself has invited you and your friends to join him for an evening of fright and horror. A spooky mystery party for 8 to 12 children. (Costume suggestions: Characters from music, TV and film.)

Or how about The Mystery of the Vanishing Vampire. To celebrate the opening of the scary new theme park, Vampireland in Transylvania, the guests have been chosen by Jack Ular, the owner of Castle Alucard and Vampireland, to spend a night in one of the rooms in the haunted West Wing of Castle Alucard in Vampireland. A vampire-themed mystery game for 10 to 14 players, perfect for Halloween. There's also a teen version of this party game titled Death of a Vampire. (Costume suggestions: Vampires and anything in black.)

For younger kids, there's Which Witch Did The Switch? Miss Terry, the head mistress of Miss Terry's School of Magic will take charge of the usual end of term assembly. The whole of the school, staff and pupils will gather to see who wins the annual school awards. What could possibly go wrong with all of those witches and wizards around? Harry Potter fans will be delighted by this Halloween-themed party. (Costume suggestions: Harry Potter characters, witches, warlocks.)

Older kids and teens may enjoy A Devilish Masquerade. Monty Argent, teen-aged son and heir of ridiculously wealthy Pierce Argent, is inviting kids who are, or pretend to be, his friends to an over-the-top Halloween costume party at the family estate. As the party is under way, the scary special effects become truly terrifying, however, when their wealthy host suddenly disappears. Was this a simple accident, a prank gone wrong, or perhaps attempted murder? This non-murder mystery game is a great choice as a Halloween party for teens, and can be expanded to include an unlimited number of characters. (Costume suggestions: Wide open; use your imagination!)

And for adults, there's Death of a Wizard, a murder mystery party game for 8 to 14 players set in the magical world of witches and wizards. The night is October 31st and the cream of the world of witches and wizards are gathering at the studios of WIZ TV in Magic World for the Merlins, the 51st annual awards of the Academy of Magic. Put on your best evening robes and see who's walking down the red carpet for a night they will never forget. What shocks await the magical audience? Join hosts Wizard Oscar Winner and Witch Enva Lope and see who wins one of the coveted Merlins. (Costume suggestions: High fashion, vintage wear.)

Halloween Parties for Kids

Looking for an online costume source for your Halloween-themed party? The best parties often have the best costumes and for a large selection of Halloween 2008 costumes for kids, teens, and adults, check out BuyCostumes.com, the web's most popular costume store. They are a leading distributor of costumes and costume accessories and offer a large variety of themed costumes designed for children, adults and even pets at very competitive prices. So whatever style you're looking for, be it angels from Heaven or pirates of the Caribbean, pretty in pink or dashing in black, Hollywood glamour or Transylvania chic, look no further than BuyCostumes.com.

And don't forget to visit for all types of mysterious fun!

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Mysteries on TV: Honey West, Inspector Lewis, and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries

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, is profiling three series that have season DVDs being released this week.

As television's first female PI, (played in perform form by Anne Francis) would take on any tough case. After the death of her father, the sexy private investigator took over his high-tech firm. Being assisted by the rugged Sam Bolt (John Ericson) and her pet ocelot Bruce, she could handle herself mingling with millionaires just as well as scaling a thirty foot wall. Honey West originally appeared as a character on an April 1965 episode of Burke's Law. The series itself was based in part on the Honey West novels by G. G. Fickling (the husband and wife writing team of Skip and Gloria Fickling).

Honey West ran for just one season on ABC. The Honey West Complete Series DVD set of 4 discs contains all 30 episodes that aired from September 1965 through April 1966.

Following the 2002 death of John Thaw who starred as the initimable Inspector Morse in the long-running series of the same name, and the decision not to replace his character with another actor, ITV aired in 2006 a special made-for-television movie featuring Morse's partner, Detective Inspector Robert "Robbie" Lewis. It was a runaway success and ITV immediately put into production a series based on this character, simply titled . As with the series, Inspector Lewis (played by Kevin Whately) takes place in and is set chronologically five years after the death of Morse.

The Inspector Lewis Set One DVD set of 4 discs contains the four episodes that originally aired during the spring of 2007 plus the pilot that aired in 2006.

As reported by , the abrupt cancellation of by the BBC means the 7th season of the series that is currently wrapping up production in England will be its last. Starring Nathaniel Parker as Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Sharon Small as Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, the series was based on characters created by , and early episodes in the series were adapted from her books.

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Set Six DVD set of 2 discs contains the 2 episodes of the sixth season that aired in early summer 2008.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for September 01, 2008

A new has been created by the editors of the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is now available on our website.

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for September 01, 2008

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

This week's letters and mystery clue: E G H I N R S T U. Shell Scott investigates one of his wildest cases in this 1975 thriller by Richard S. Prather (with “The”, 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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