Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Press Release: Previously Unpublished Mark Twain Work to Appear in The Strand Magazine

February 24, 2009: Birmingham (MI) -- The Strand Magazine announces the forthcoming publication of a previously-unpublished Mark Twain short story in an upcoming issue of The Strand. Adding to a long-running tradition of publishing works by such great writers as Conan Doyle (published in the original Strand -- 1891-1950), Ray Bradbury, Alexander McCall Smith, and Ruth Rendell, The Strand will feature Twain’s “The Undertaker’s Tale” in its March 2009 issue.

Andrew Gulli, editor of The Strand, said he grew up reading Mark Twain, and calls the opportunity to publish Twain’s work “an editor’s dream.” While “The Undertaker’s Tale,” will be published nearly 99 years after Twain’s death in 1910, Gulli notes that the work is both timely and timeless.

According to Gulli, “Though the story is called ‘The Undertaker's Tale,’ I would hazard against bracing for something gloomy—Twain uses his razor sharp wit to pen a tongue-in-cheek tale about the funeral industry, which could easily have been written today. After rereading several of Twain’s tales and essays, it became even clearer to me that Twain’s writings can never be dated. He tackles the same problems we're challenged with today, and pokes fun at the same characters that inhabit our present-day world.”

Moreover, added Gulli, “We are especially thrilled because this issue will also feature a P.G. Wodehouse story that has been lost for almost 100 years.”

Marking the first time an unpublished work of fiction by Mark Twain has appeared in years, The Strand will publish “The Undertaker’s Tale” in the March 2009 issue, available on March 10, 2009.

“The opportunity to publish something by such a literary icon as Mark Twain is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Frank Simon, Associate Publisher of The Strand. "We publishers just live for the chance to be a part of something like this."

Bob Miller, Publisher at HarperStudio, which will release Who is Mark Twain, a collection of Twain’s previously unpublished stories and essays later this year. commented, “The idea of publishing never-before-pieces by Mark Twain appealed to me for a number of reasons: I like the irony of starting something new with something old, as Twain was published from 1895 until 1910 by Harper Brothers, the company within which we are now starting HarperStudio. Also, the pieces themselves are wonderfully, hilariously contemporary, and deserve as wide an audience as possible.”

The Strand Magazine (www.strandmag.com) is the nation’s leading mystery publication. Published quarterly, The Strand Magazine brings to the forefront the best of today’s mystery fiction, articles, interviews and reviews. From hard-boiled detective stories to cozies, The Strand covers a broad spectrum of the mystery genre. A known and trusted name for fiction by some of today’s best authors, The Strand features in-depth interviews with best-selling writers, enlightening articles, as well as insightful reviews of the latest mysteries and thrillers, including children’s and young adult mysteries, and audiobooks.

For more information, please contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone -- (615) 297-9875, or by email -- [email protected].

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Agatha Christie's Summer Home, Greenway House, Opens to Public this Saturday

Greenway House, Agatha Christie's summer home

Greenway House, Agatha Christie’s summer home, is opening to the public for the first time beginning this Saturday, February 28th. Christie fans will be able to visit the house she described as "the loveliest place in the world". It is located on the bank of the River Dart in Devon.

Craftsmen have worked for two years to restore the house to gleaming 1950s condition. The rooms remain much as they were when the mystery writer lived there, complete with books, papers, boxes of chocolates and flowers. The house and grounds were the inspiration for the Hercule Poirot mystery Dead Man's Folly. Even the estate's boathouse is included in the story, where the victim, Marlene Tucker, is found murdered.

The house and grounds were donated by Christie's family to The National Trust in 2000.

More information about Greenway House can be found on the Agatha Christie website, or on The National Trust website.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany

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

Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany

by
A Molly Smith Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-595-X (159058595X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-595-5 (9781590585955)
Publication Date: February 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: In the pastoral mountain village of Trafalgar, British Columbia, Detective Sergeant John Winters and probationary Constable Molly Smith investigate the suspicious death of a young mother in Valley of the Lost, the second mystery in this series by Vicki Delany.

Molly’s mother, Lucky, actually found the young woman's body, chancing across it in the woods. Next to her lies a crying infant, a boy. Lucky, who operates the Trafalgar Women’s Support Center, takes the boy under her care. His mother appears to have died of a heroin overdose. The autopsy reveals that she had indeed overdosed but there were also restraint marks on her wrists indicating that she may have been murdered. And most puzzling of all, she had never given birth. The infant boy could not be hers. Only the dead woman’s roommate can actually identify her, but by her first name only -- Ashley. She tells Winters and Smith Ashley had never revealed her last name. No one else in the small village will even admit remembering talking to her. How can they find the girl’s family if they cannot identify her? Winters and Smith make tentative links to a psychologist who worked with Ashley to help her kick her drug habit but who suddenly denies having seen her recently, and a number of people associated with the development of a huge resort that may endanger the habitat of some local wildlife species. The connections between these are not clear, but one thing is certain: a baby boy is their only clue.

The contrast between the peaceful, seemingly idyllic community of Trafalgar and big money land development, drug trade, and murder form the foundation for this riveting mystery. The author effectively integrates an engrossing whodunit within a social commentary on small town life. Her observations ring true primarily due to the credible characters she has created. The intricate, well thought out plot also helps, and will keep readers guessing until the surprise ending. Valley of the Lost is an impressive sequel to the first book in the series and is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Valley of the Lost and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Synopsis (from the publisher): In the bucolic mountain town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, a young woman is found dead of a heroin overdose, her baby lying at her side. While this should be an open-and-shut drug case, restraint marks on the victim suggest that the death might not have been completely accidental.

As the investigation into the young woman’s death and life grows, the case becomes increasingly personal for Probationary Constable Molly Smith and Sergeant John Winters. Only two things are known about the dead woman: her first name is Ashley, and she has a three-month-old baby boy. Who was she? And was this is just a drug deal gone wrong, or is there something more sinister at play? Smith’s mother, Lucky, has taken in the orphaned baby: does he hold the key to solving his mother’s murder?

Meanwhile, Winters’ wife, Eliza, is considering accepting a modeling contract with the same resort development that seems to be ripping the close-knit community apart. Has the controversial project pushed a member of this quiet community to murder?

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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Law & Order: UK Premieres This Evening on ITV1

Law & Order: UK

The latest addition to the Law & Order family of series television, Law & Order: UK, premieres this evening on ITV1. The series closely follows the original format combining a police procedural with the more complex dilemmas of mounting a successful prosecution.

Today's Telegraph has a background article on the new series featuring comments from the series creator, Dick Wolf. "Law & Order has always been shot in a specific way," he says. "So just as we previously have with New York, we’re using the landscape of London as an integral part of the stories."

The series is expected to run 13 episodes this season. We have no doubt that it will be available on DVD for those of us in the US to enjoy later this year. [MBN note: More information about the series, including interviews with the new cast, can be found on the Law & Order website on ITV.com. Season DVDs for the US-based series, currently the longest running crime drama on network television, can be found at .]

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Mystery Author Interview: Efrem Sigel

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, recently had the opportunity to talk to mystery author . We're delighted to share that conversation here first for our blog readers in advance of its publication on our website.

Efrem Sigel
Photo courtesy of Efrem Sigel.

Efrem Sigel has been a journalist, editor and founder, with his wife Frederica, of two business publishing companies. He is the author of four nonfiction books about communications technology, hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles, and, in recent years, a score of published short stories. The stories, which he began publishing in the late 90s, have won a number of prizes and have garnered six Pushcart nominations from various literary magazines where they have appeared.

Efrem’s first novel, The Kermanshah Transfer, a novel of Middle Eastern intrigue, came out in 1973. Now, 35 years later, The Disappearance is being published by The Permanent Press.

Mysterious Reviews: The disappearance of a child, the subject of your new novel, The Disappearance, is a tough subject for some readers to confront. Is it also a tough subject to write about?

Answer: The subject itself is tough but that doesn’t mean the writing is tough. Actually, the stark simplicity of the plot -- a 14-year old boy disappears from a tiny hamlet and for months no one knows what has happened to him -- set against the very small town in which it occurs created the tension that propelled the story forward. I felt there was a built-in momentum to the story that kept me moving in the right direction.

What is your process for writing such a novel? Did you see the beginning and end clearly, from the outset?

I saw the beginning clearly. As for the ending, I knew what had happened; I didn’t know who and more importantly, how and why until I got into it. It was very much trial and error to find a resolution that fit both the characters and the setting.

The Disappearance by Efrem Sigel
The Disappearance
by Efrem Sigel
The Permanent Press
February 2009
ISBN-10: 1579621505
ISBN-13: 9781579621803

What exactly is the setting, and how did you choose it?

The story takes place in Smithfield, a fictional town of 500 people in western Massachusetts. It’s an area of natural beauty, of hills and farms and vistas, but surprisingly isolated from the larger world around it. It’s an area I know well, and the fascination for me was the question of how and why a terrible event would take place in such a bucolic setting.

It's been noted that The Disappearance is both a character study and a mystery. Was that always your intention or is it something that developed in the course of the writing?

Daniel Sandler is the child who disappears but the story really revolves around his parents, Joshua and Nathalie. From the outset I knew that I could not just write another “Child disappears, who did it and why?” mystery. I’m the father of two sons, and as soon as I began writing the book, I knew the real drama involved the parents: Can they cope? Can their marriage survive? Out of tragedy can there be love and hope? By creating two characters with very different feelings and motivations, I was striving for a degree of tension between the parents that would parallel and even accentuate the tension of not knowing what had happened to their son.

What is your writing routine? Did you encounter any periods when you were stymied and unable to work on the book?

When I am really into something I try to write every day or at least six days a week. The problem is that you inevitably hit days when you produce words and pages but know that you’re not making progress. I’m not the kind of writer who can move a story along day by day so that in six or nine months it’s done. It really took seven or eight years and many drafts until I felt I had finished the book. For me it’s write and revise, write and revise, and only when I look back on it do I realize that some of my most creative work was simply discarding what didn’t work.

Thirty-five years between your first novel, The Kermanshah Transfer, and your second, The Disappearance, is a long time by any reckoning. Can we expect to see a third novel?

During those 35 years I wrote four nonfiction books and started and managed a couple of business newsletter companies, so I was always writing. I only went back to fiction in a sustained way about 10 years ago, first with short stories and then The Disappearance. And yes, I have started on a third book and I have promised myself it will not take anything like 35 years.

What advice do you have for people who want to write a mystery?

Why aren’t you writing it today? Lots of people say “I have a book in me.” But the work is getting the book out.

Was it hard to find a publisher for The Disappearance?

Don’t ask! I’m just lucky to have found The Permanent Press, whose co-publishers have a great love of fiction and the guts to publish it against all odds.

---

We'd like to offer our thanks to Efrem Sigel for taking the time to visit with us. For more information about the author and his novel The Disappearance visit EfremSigel.com.

To read our , or to peruse our , 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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eHarlequin Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense Titles for March 2009

eHarlequin.com has released the March 2009 titles in their Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense series. Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense books combine suspense, romance, hope and faith to create a unique page-turning series that today’s readers love. To purchase any of the books below, click on the book title. (Previous months titles can be found on the backlist page.)

Perfect Target by Stephanie Newton

Perfect Target by Stephanie Newton (book cover shown)

The corpse in her path was Bayley Foster's first warning. The second? A break-in at Bayley's own home! She's certain that the stalker who once tormented her has returned to toy with her again. But has her stalker truly escalated to murder? Her fiercely protective neighbor, police detective Cruse Conyers, is determined to get answers. Even if it takes him into the murky depths of the criminal underworld. What he uncovers adds a terrifying twist to the case that could land both Cruse and Bayley in the cross fire.

Poisoned Secrets by Margaret Daley

Maggie Ridgeway has spent years searching for her birth mother. And now, thanks to an anonymous tip, she's finally found her. Taking the apartment across the hall from her mother's family, Maggie is determined not to leave until she gets some questions answered. Who is her father? Why did her parents abandon her? And what item in her new apartment is provoking multiple burglaries? After an interrupted break-in leaves Maggie unconscious, the building's owner, Kane McDowell, promises to protect her. But then he learns who she really is. When the past is unveiled, the shocking disclosures could tear Maggie and Kane apart.

Cold Case Murder by Shirlee McCoy

Cold Case Murder by Shirlee McCoy (book cover shown)

Her hometown of Loomis, Louisiana, holds no charm for Jodie Gilmore. Why be reminded of her mother's abandonment? Then the novice FBI agent is assigned to a missing person's case, and refusal isn't an option. Her coworkers are counting on her. Surely the tight-lipped locals will talk to one of their own. Or will they? A decades-old double homicide is discovered, and Harrison Cahill, the handsome forensic anthropologist on the case, thinks Jodie knows more than she's saying. But speaking freely can be deadly in Loomis.

A Silent Terror by Lynette Eason

When Marianna Santino's roommate is killed, Detective Ethan O'Hara can't fathom the motive. Then he realizes the deaf teacher was the intended target. Marianna must have something the murderer desperately wants. But what? Digging for the truth, the guarded cop tries to learn everything he can about Marianna. Her world. Her family. Her beauty, faith and fierce independence. In spite of himself, Ethan finds that he can't keep his feelings at bay. Soon, he's willing to risk everything -- including his heart -- to lay the silent terror stalking Marianna to rest.

If you enjoy this series, you can get 2 free Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense books plus 2 free gifts just for giving the automatic program a try. Accepting your two free Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense books and mystery gifts places you under no obligation to buy anything. You may keep the books and gifts and return the shipping statement marked cancel. If you do not cancel, about two months later, and then every other month, eHarlequin will send you four additional Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense books.

Keep up to date by subscribing to eHarlequin.com's free newsletter that contains the latest information about their series of books as well as informing you about subscriber-only special offers and new products. Click on the banner below to subscribe for free:

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Mysteries on TV: Canterbury's Law and Trial & Retribution, New This Week on DVD

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 two series that have season DVDs being released this week.

Another casualty of the writers' strike of 2007/2008 was which ultimately ended airing only 6 episodes on Fox. Julianna Margulies starred as defense attorney Elizabeth Canterbury, a woman haunted by the disappearance of her son. As a result, she wasn't afraid to push the boundaries of the law if she believed it would protect her clients.

Set in Providence, Rhode Island, the series also starred Ben Shenkman, Trieste Dunn, and Keith Robinson as her co-workers and Aidan Quinn as her husband Matthew.

The Canterbury's Law: The Complete Series DVD set of 2 discs contains the 6 episodes that originally aired during March and April, 2008.

Crime to court suspense is the hallmark of , a drama created by Lynda LaPlante who was also responsible for the long-running series . It remains in production today having begun its most recent set of episodes last month.

Similar in format to , each episode follows cases from the commission of the crime and the police investigation to the trial of the accused. The series stars David Hayman as Detective Superintendent Mike Walker and Kate Buffery as Detective Inspector Pat North.

The series premiered on ITV1 in 1997 and was produced as a once or twice a year episode until 2006 when additional episodes were produced and aired annually.

The Trial & Retribution: Set Two DVD set of 4 discs contains the 4 episodes that originally aired in June and October 2002, September 2003, and October 2004.

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

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for February 23, 2009

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 February 23, 2009

This week's letters and mystery clue:

A B C D I K L N W

Indians believed it carried the voices of evil spirits in this short story by Bill Pronzini (9 letters).

We now have two weeks of our puzzles on one page 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, February 22, 2009

eHarlequin Silhouette Romantic Suspense Titles for March 2009

Sparked by danger, fueled by passion, eHarlequin.com has released the March 2009 titles in their Silhouette Romantic Suspense series. Let yourself be swept away with characters who fall in love under larger-than-life circumstances. In Silhouette Romantic Suspense, suspense, emotion and glamour combine to create these highly charged books! To purchase any of the books below, click on the book title. (Previous months titles can be found on the backlist page.)

Safe by His Side by Linda Conrad

Safe by His Side by Linda Conrad (book cover shown)

"Twinkle twinkle little star. I know where you are."

Another threatening note sent to a beloved child star. But this time, the stalker got inside the house. Desperate to protect her young charge, guardian Blythe Cooper is grateful for the tall, strong bodyguard now standing sentinel at their door. Until Ethan Ryan awakens feelings in Blythe she can't acknowledge.

The former secret service agent turned bodyguard makes it his mission to protect children. The rules: never make it personal, and everyone walks away alive. Amendment: somehow, someway, keep beautiful Blythe and the little girl out of his heart -- and safe by his side.

The Rancher Bodyguard by Carla Cassidy

Fiercely independent, determined, driven and…betrayed. Grace Covington vowed never again to lay eyes on the arrogant, hotshot defense attorney who'd broken her heart. But everything changed when her stepfather was murdered, her sister found holding the bloody knife. Charlie Black was the only one who could help.

Accepting the case would shatter the simple life Charlie established after taking charge of the family ranch in Cotter Creek, but he couldn't deny Grace's pleas. Discovering who was bent on destroying the Covington clan might be the only way to prove he was a changed man capable of protecting her -- body and soul.

Claimed by the Secret Agent by Lyn Stone

Claimed by the Secret Agent by Lyn Stone (book cover shown)

COMPASS agent Grant Tyndal had been dispatched to Germany to rescue CIA translator Marie Beauclair from her terrorist captors. But the mission had already been accomplished. The resourceful undercover agent not only escaped, she vowed to go after her kidnappers. Tyndal wouldn't let that happen. One, it was too dangerous. And two -- he worked alone.

Marie didn't need a bodyguard or a babysitter. What she needed was someone to help her complete a critical mission of her own. But the former Navy SEAL was already shattering her defenses. He awakened passion and tempted her to let down her guard…to risk everything for the promise of forever in his arms.

Suspect Lover by Stephanie Doyle

Eager to start a family, Caroline Sommerville marries Dominic Santos in a whirlwind courtship. Then the unthinkable happens: her husband becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his business partner.

With Dominic on the run from the police, Caroline is his last hope. Though she's only known him a short time, she's certain he was framed.

But there's so much about him she doesn't know. And when a damning secret in Dominic's past surfaces, Caroline has to decide whether she believes in the man she married. Is he the murderer he's accused of being? Or is he the husband who needs her trust…and love?

Keep up to date by subscribing to eHarlequin.com's free newsletter that contains the latest information about their series of books as well as informing you about subscriber-only special offers and new products. Click on the banner below to subscribe for free:

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Mystery Book Review: Absinthe of Malice by Pat Browning

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

Absinthe of Malice by Pat Browning

by
A Penny Mackenzie Mystery

Krill Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9821443-1-8 (0982144318)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9821443-1-2 (9780982144312)
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $15.95

Review: Setting her debut mystery in a small town in California's central valley, Pat Browning introduces newspaper reporter Penny Mackenzie in the almost but not quite a cozy Absinthe of Malice.

Penny's friend and colleague Maxie Harper are on a midnight stake-out in a cotton field. Maxie's looking for that one hard-hitting story that will be picked up by the national news services and get her out of the small town in which they live and work. When a few boys show up to smoke some weed and dig around in the dirt in secrecy, they're disappointed. But when they suddenly run off, they're intrigued. What Penny and Maxie find are the bones of an old skeleton, unexpectedly uncovered by the boys. An old body would hardly seem all that newsworthy, but when Maxie is later found dead, possibly of food poisoning, Penny's not so sure. Then old secrets start to come to light and Penny realizes her small, unexciting town may be hiding more than just a body in a field.

The primary problem with a mystery like Absinthe of Malice is that it is a punny title in search of a plot. Worse for a mystery, with a title like this, it usually dictates not only how the victim was killed, but often who the culprit was, eliminating any element of surprise that may have been attempted. This isn't to say Absinthe of Malice isn't a pleasant read. The setting is appealing and creatively drawn, and the characters are interesting and well-developed. Penny Mackenzie in particular would seem to be a series lead worthy of following. But there's a lack of focus here; there are too many plot threads, most of them obviously tangential to the murder mystery, that seem to exist simply to fill out the narrative. It's unfortunate that the emphasis seems to be more on the clever title of this mystery than on constructing a strong plot to support it.

Special thanks to Krill Press for providing a copy of Absinthe of Malice for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Absinthe of Malice from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right. Absinthe of Malice (Kindle edition) is also available. Learn more about the Kindle, Amazon's Wireless Reading Device.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Old crimes come back to haunt a small California town in this intriguing urban cozy. Absinthe of Malice introduces Penny Mackenzie, Lifestyle reporter for The Pearl Outrider and a cast of unforgettable characters who find their lives turned upside down when old secrets and new secrets all come to light after chance discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder ... and romance.

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, February 21, 2009

Harlequin Intrigue Titles for March 2009

eHarlequin.com has released the March 2009 titles in their Intrigue, breathtaking romantic suspense series. Get these edge-of-your-seat reads today with characters who conquer everything from kidnappings to murder mysteries, only to find themselves irresistibly drawn to one another! To purchase any of the books below, click on the book title. (Previous months titles can be found on the backlist page.)

Renegade Soldier by Pat White

Renegade Soldier by Pat White (book cover shown)

Secret operative Dalton Keen had never met a woman like Sydney Trent: sweet, innocent and so beautiful he couldn't look away. Trying to complete his latest mission meant he needed Sydney's help. But it was hard to control how his body responded when she turned to him with her violet eyes and looked at him with both awe and desire. Rather than crossing the line, though, he needed to protect her. Someone had discovered that she knew more than she was telling … and they didn't like it. Dalton regretted involving Syd in what was quickly becoming a very dangerous mission, but she couldn't back out now. And, secretly, he didn't want to let her go.

Multiples Mystery by Alice Sharpe

Olivia Capri knew giving birth to quads would cause a stir in her media-starved small town. But she didn't realize it would bring back Zac Bishop, the boy she'd once loved with all her teenage heart. Luckily, as sheriff, he'd returned just in time. It seemed someone was after her and her babies thanks to a past she knew nothing about. And though she knew whoever it was didn't stand a chance against Zac and his protective nature, reminiscing about old times stirred up too many long-buried emotions. Still, Zac assured her everything would be okay, all she had to do was trust him. And she did. With everything but her heart.

Snowed In with the Boss by Jessica Andersen

Snowed In with the Boss by Jessica Andersen (book cover shown)

CEO Griffin Vaughn knew Sophie LaRue was trouble the moment he agreed to hire her. Still, he hadn't become one of the wealthiest men in the world by being distracted by silky blond hair and legs that didn't quit, and he refused to start now. But thanks to a freak blizzard, he and Sophie were trapped in his Colorado mansion … and they weren't alone. With someone watching from the shadows, Griffin attempted to ignore their building attraction and focus on protecting Sophie. A successful businessman, Griffin thrived on challenge -- until his innocent assistant made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Desert Ice Daddy by Dana Marton

Billionaire Akeem Abdul's arrival at the McKade ranch went from business to personal when he learned Taylor McKade's little boy had disappeared. Taylor had only become more beautiful over the years, and Akeem couldn't stand seeing the pain on her face. As they followed the kidnappers' orders and trekked through the Texas heat, Akeem admired the strength it took for Taylor not to fall apart. But he was there when she did -- and vowed to bring her son home. Still, all the money in the world couldn't eliminate his secret fears: that if they didn't find her son, this woman he'd finally found again could be lost to him forever.

Cowboy Commando by Joanna Wayne

Cowboy Commando by Joanna Wayne (book cover shown)

On navy SEAL missions Cutter Martin had been a warrior. But when it came to Linney Kingston, he was just a red-blooded Texas cowboy with bad luck at love. Linney had walked out on him six years ago. Now she was back -- with a motherless child and a crazy story.

Linney's theory of murder and scandal was as preposterous as her body's traitorous response to Cutter. Still, when she was shot at, the cowboy came to her rescue. Cutter -- her hero. And the only man who could break her heart again. Trusting him a second time was more frightening than the killers stalking her every move.

Secret Delivery by Delores Fossen

Sheriff Jack Whitley hadn't seen Alana Davis in nearly a year. Not since he'd saved her life and helped to deliver her baby. And when she'd mysteriously disappeared, he'd raised her son as his own. So despite the way Alana's vulnerability tugged at his heart, Jack vowed he wouldn't let her claim his child. But with a dangerous killer hot on her trail, he found himself wanting to be her protector. Keeping her safe meant he ran the risk of losing his son. And ultimately his heart.

If you enjoy this series, you can get 2 free Harlequin Intrigue books plus 2 free gifts just for giving the automatic program a try. Accepting your two free Intrigue books and mystery gifts places you under no obligation to buy anything. You may keep the books and gifts and return the shipping statement marked cancel. If you do not cancel, about two months later, and then every other month, eHarlequin will send you four additional Intrigue books.

Keep up to date by subscribing to eHarlequin.com's free newsletter that contains the latest information about their series of books as well as informing you about subscriber-only special offers and new products. Click on the banner below to subscribe for free:

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Mystery Book Review: The Actress by Elizabeth Sims

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

The Actress by Elizabeth Sims

by
A Rita Farmer Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37727-4 (0312377274)
ISBN-13: 978-0-31237-727-4 (9780312377274)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Rita Farmer, a part-time actress, had her charge card declined at the grocery store and pawned Grandma Gladys’s brooch for $400, which might put food on the table for herself and Petey, her four-year-old son, but it won’t cover the late rent. But after her puppet performance for story time at the L.A. Public Library, she meets defense attorney Gary Kwan who offers her a difficult but lucrative job using her acting expertise to help his client appear more sympathetic to a jury. The media and public seem to have already convicted Eileen Tenaway who is beautiful, rich and accused of murdering her 18-month-old daughter. No easy task since Rita finds her cold and unfeeling, but for a thousand dollars a day and a bonus if she’s acquitted, Rita will give it her all.

But that’s just part of what’s going on here. Eileen’s husband, Richard, a Los Angeles jewel magnate, turned up dead in Brazil and a lot of gems went missing. Eileen and Richard’s business partner received a fat payment from the insurance company. But George Rowe, an insurance investigator, suspects there’s more to the story, and perhaps Richard faked his death. George travels to Brazil to research details of the case and recruits Rita, whose life and that of her son, might soon depend on her finding out the truth of Richard’s disappearance, the missing gems and who killed the little girl.

Elizabeth Sims has created a wonderful character and a terrific start to a new series with Rita Farmer and The Actress. It’s easy to sympathize with Rita’s situation especially given today’s economic circumstances, but above and beyond that she’s funny, loving, insecure, smart and tough when she needs to be: calling Eileen a bitch in one of their early meetings to elicit an emotional response. Rita has a lively supporting cast as well in her best friend Daniel a gay man with whom she can talk about everything including men; Gary Kwan, a flashy, smart defense attorney for whom she has a serious attraction; George Rowe, the fiercely determined and quirky investigator and Jeff, her easy-to-dislike ex-husband who has much to do with her self-esteem and wants to use Rita’s financial situation as a means to gain custody of their son. Pfew!

Sims has written a tightly plotted tale with multiple layers. The story maintains a fast pace except for a few places in the middle, but it’s not enough to distract from the story’s enjoyment. The sassy Rita takes some risks that seem a bit out of character, but perhaps none of us thinks too clearly about our actions when our loved ones are in danger.

The narrative switches viewpoints from Rita’s first-person voice to other characters in the third-person. This technique works especially well near the end when Sims switches back and forth between two simultaneously gripping situations, keeping the reader on pins and needles as to the resolutions. She uses all of our senses to bring the book’s settings to life from the sounds of the waves of traffic at the corner of Santa Monica and Rodeo where Rita frequently has consultations with Grandma Gladys’s spirit to the smell of the pawn shop and the feel of Petey’s soft skin. The dialogue rings true, especially the quips Rita shares with her best friend, Daniel. The plot has an engrossing complexity with lots of characters to keep track of and some surprises for the reader to discover. I look forward to reading The Extra, the second book in the series, due out this spring.

Special thanks to Katherine Petersen for contributing her review of The Actress.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Katherine Petersen — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Aspiring actress and single mother Rita Farmer has gone from struggling to find work to downright desperate. If she doesn’t land a paying job soon---horror movie, soap commercial, anything---she’s afraid her ex-husband will use her dire financial straits to take away Petey, her cherished four-year-old son.

While she’s charming the crowd at storytime at the L.A. public library, a celebrity defense attorney approaches her with an unusual job offer: So long as she’s discreet, Rita can rake in a thousand dollars a day preparing his client for her appearance in court. Easy money? Hardly. His client, Eileen Tenaway, is not only a wealthy heiress and a queen of the tabloids but she’s been charged with the murder of her own child. The attorney needs Rita to coach Eileen secretly to help her seem more sympathetic, more human. He needs the jury to believe not only her words but the subtle cues of body language, facial expressions, even vocal style. Rita knows she can do it, but what she doesn’t know is how determined she’ll become to find out what really happened to Eileen’s family---once her own life and Petey’s life depend on it.

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