Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mystery Book Review: The Deal Master by Gerard F. Bianco

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has published its review of The Deal Master by Gerard F. Bianco on its website. For our blog readers, it is reprinted here in its entirety.

The Deal Master by Gerald F. BiancoSynopsis (from the publisher): In New York City, women with red hair are being brutally murdered. Detective William Gillette and his team are on the case, but they remain clueless until a curious stranger proposes a series of tempting deals—an exchange of sorts—that will help solve the crimes.

Gillette accepts the offer and plunges into the game. One deal after the next, he draws closer to the killer. But each deal comes with a price. Soon the detective finds himself in a dark hole—one he can’t get out of without striking the ultimate deal. Is the Deal Master Gillette’s savior—or his worst nightmare?

Review: Gerard F. Bianco's debut mystery, The Deal Master, has a compelling premise with a plot that is generally well constructed but is fundamentally flawed by dialog and prose that could have used some professional editing.

Jonathan Hamlin is a deal maker. Rather, a deal master. He is the custodian of people's hopes and dreams, what they lust for, what they desire, and what they can't live without. When a serial killer strikes New York City, Detective William Gillette, himself the son of a famous NYPD detective, is convinced that Hamlin is involved in some way. But when months go by without an arrest, Gillette is desperate to prevent another murder and strikes a deal with Hamlin to deliver the killer to him.

To Bianco's credit, all events that take place in the book, while improbable, are plausible. And the ending is especially intriguing, with the reader asking the question, "Is it possible that ..." (To add anything more would give away too much.)

The problem with The Deal Master is with the writing. This could have been a stylish, atmospheric mystery, but instead was rather pedestrian. The dialog was artificial and the prose often insipid. The use of chapter titles in mysteries is tricky: they help define the plot in juvenile books and are charming in cozies, but in serious novels they often seem out of place. In The Deal Master, they are almost comical and detract from the tone the author was trying to set.

A decidedly mixed review for The Deal Master. On the one hand, such a promising outline for a psychological thriller; on the other, a mystery that could have been and should have been better written.

Special thanks to Author Marketing Experts for providing a copy of The Deal Master for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

Visit Mysterious Reviews for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Mystery Hardcover Titles for June 2006

New MysteriesA preview of new hardcover mysteries for June 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website. A few of the twenty new mystery titles listed in this first update ...

Shadow Man by Cody McfadyenCody Mcfadyen's debut mystery, Shadow Man, introduces Special Agent Smoky Barrett. In all her years at the Bureau, Smoky has never encountered anyone like him-a new and fascinating kind of monster, a twisted genius who defies profilers' attempts to understand him. And he's issued Smoky a direct challenge, coaxing her back from the brink with the only thing that could convince her to live. Publishers Weekly states, "This disturbing serial killer drama set in California marks a promising debut for McFadyen, who combines many conventions of the genre but with far more exquisite, intricate results than the norm."

The Highly Effective Detective by Rick YanceyInheriting a substantial fortune from his late mother, Teddy Ruzak quits his job as a night watchman to pursue his long-time dream of becoming a private eye in The Highly Effective Detective, the start of a new mystery series by Rick Yancey. Enlisting the help of his new secretary Felicia, a former waitress, to solve his first case, the hit-and-run of a family of geese, the case is soon complicated by an all-too-human murder. Publishers Weekly declares, "By turns touching, suspenseful and hilarious, this is sure to be one of the most well regarded-and enjoyed-mystery debuts of the year."

Twelve Sharp by Janey EvanovichAlready a bestseller even before it's published, America's favorite bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, is back in Twelve Sharp and sure to win more fans than ever before. Trenton, New Jersey's premier troublemaker is once again struggling with her tangled love life, her chaotic family, and her gift for destroying every car she drives. Not to mention her attempts to bring in the sometimes scary bail jumpers of Trenton, and the sudden appearance of a mysterious female stalker—who turns out to have a close connection to Ranger.

Blue Screen by Robert B. ParkerSunny Randall meets Jesse Stone in Robert B. Parker's Blue Screen. Buddy Bollen is a C-list movie mogul who made his fortune producing films of questionable artistic merit. When Buddy hires Sunny Randall to protect his rising star and girlfriend, Erin Flint, Sunny knows from the start that the prickly, spoiled beauty won't make her job easy. And when Erin's sister, Misty, is found dead in the lavish home they share with sugar daddy Bollen, there doesn't seem to be a single lead worth pursuing. But then Sunny meets Jesse Stone, chief of police in Paradise, Massachusetts, under whose jurisdiction the case falls. It immediately becomes clear that Jesse and Sunny have much in common. While searching for the killer, they learn an awful lot about each other-and themselves.

And many more including the 13th Gideon Oliver mystery (Unnatural Selection) by Aaron Elkins, the 2nd Faye Quick mystery (Too Darn Hot) by Sandra Scoppettone, the 3rd Cottage Tale Mystery in the Beatrix Potter series (Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood) by Susan Wittig Albert, and others!

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Mystery Book Contests

Mystery BestsellersTwo new giveaways have been posted on The Mystery Book Contest Website.

Cryptid by Eric PenzThe Cryptozoology Contest features a hardcover copy of Cryptid inscribed and signed by Eric Penz. Cryptid tells the riveting story of conspiracy theorists who have new evidence of a centuries-old cover-up. When a cryptozoologist, a paleontologist, and a Jefferson descendant begin connecting the dots, they threaten to do more than unveil the well-guarded scientific discovery that lies at the heart of the ancient secret; they threaten to rewrite American history. Included in the prize package are several other resources to help in your search of other mysteries of nature.

Green 61 by Cody Fowler DavisThe Green 61 Contest features a hardcover copy of Green 61 signed by the author Cody Fowler Davis. Green 61 is a real “I know it’s late, but I just don’t want to put it down” kind of a book. It’s all the more so because it was written by a successful attorney who knows the legal system inside and out, and is well acquainted with the tactics—savory and less so—of those who work in it. It’s authentic, it’s believable, and it’s absolutely engaging from the first sentence through to the last. Included in the prize package are other products that feature locations mentioned in the book.

Both contests may be entered daily, one entry per person or e-mail address.

The December in Florida Contest, featuring three prize packages including signed copies of Blondes Have More Felons by Alesia Holliday, concludes at the end of this month.

Visit The Mystery Book Contest Website daily to enter your name into our contests. And please pick up copies of these fine mysteries at your local bookstore or order directly from by clicking on the book titles or images.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

News:, a New Broadband Service from Bravo

In a recent press release by Bravo TV, the cable network announced it will launch, a new broadband service that celebrates the small screen's best-loved but short-lived series. will be anchored by a critically-acclaimed line-up of some of television's most daring programs, described by Bravo as "too smart, too edgy or too hip for TV" when they hit the airwaves.

Included among the series expected to be available is "Gideon Oliver" which aired on ABC in 1989 and starred Louis Gossett Jr. as an anthropology professor at Columbia University who uses his knowledge of other cultures to solve crimes, aided by his daughter/assistant Zina. Gossett has won an Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe. Features pre-"ER" performance by Eriq LaSalle. Based on Aaron Elkins' award-winning series of novels. Shot in exotic locales including the Caribbean, Central America, etc.

Read Bravo TV's entire press release here.

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Weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle for 05/22/2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for May 22, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

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

This week's mystery clue: This John Connelly thriller had Charlie Parker unraveling a brutal crime committed in the Deep South: (9 letters).

Previous puzzles are stored in the Mystery Godoku Archives.

Enjoy the weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle from the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, and Thanks for visiting our website!

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

News: Novelists Weaving Real Recipes into Books

When Diane Mott Davidson wrote her first mystery novel, she had to fight with her editors to include recipes. Now, 12 books later, readers identify Davidson’s novels, which feature a crime solving caterer, with tasty recipes, writes Paige Lauren Deiner on

Recipes and writing about food give authors a chance to develop characters, plot or setting, said Carolyn Marino, senior vice-president and executive editor at HarperCollins Publishers. “There are writers who use food as a metaphor. They are able to use food the way a different writer uses a setting,” she said.

Davidson said she always tries out the recipes she puts in her books a couple of times at least. She said she asks the UPS man, the post man and anyone who stops by, “Do you like cookie A or cookie B? Did you like this cake filling?” And when Davidson started writing her books about caterer Goldy Schulz and her culinary misadventures, she worked with a caterer to learn the business. “It’s not just about the cooking. You’re running a business,” she said.

Read the entire article on novelists weaving real recipies into books on here.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Mystery Hardcover Bestsellers (05/19/2006)

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending May 19, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

New this week ...

The Hard Way by Lee ChildThe Hard Way: Lee Child's 10th mystery features ex-military cop Jack Reacher who sees more than most people would ... and because of that, he's thrust into an explosive situation that's about to blow up in his face. For the only way to find the truth- and save two innocent lives- is to do it the way Jack Reacher does it best: the hard way. Publishers Weekly states "... the author's atmospheric descriptions make Manhattan a leading player, with menace lurking at every intersection." And adds, "The inevitable showdown ... ranks as one of Child's most thrilling finales."

The King of Lies by John HartThe King of Lies: A debut mystery by John Hart who has written a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is poignant, a riveting murder mystery layered beneath the southern drawl of a humble North Carolina lawyer. Publishers Weekly calls The King of Lies "... [a] stunning debut, an exceptionally deep and complex mystery thriller, [that] compares favorably to the best of Scott Turow."

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Editorial Reply: Susan Wittig Albert - Books Truly Can't Be Judged by Covers

Last week we posted a summary of an editorial by Linda Brazill of the Madison (WI) Capitol Times where she took a critical look at gardening mysteries. One of the mysteries she took exception with was Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert. Ms. Albert wrote a letter to the editor, which was published on The Capitol Times (on, and is summarized here:

Dear Editor: In Linda Brazill's recent review of my book, Bleeding Hearts, she complains that the book's cover depicts one species of a plant while the text refers to another, "a mistake that only a non-gardener would make," she says.

Ms. Brazill needs to know that fiction writers are rarely consulted about their cover art. It is downright unfair (as well as uninformed) to attempt to judge the author's gardening experience from the artist's cover design. In fact, I've gardened extensively for over 20 years.

There are lots of things about plants that I don't know, and I'm just as capable of making an error as the next person. But I do know enough about the publishing business to be wary of judging a book by its cover.

Susan Wittig Albert
Burnet County, Texas

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Profile: Antiques Lover Mystery Author Deborah Morgan

Will people kill for antiques? Whitmore Lake (MI) crime writer Deborah Morgan certainly thinks so, writes the Ann Arbor News.

The Majolica Murders by Deborah MorganMorgan has just published her fifth antiques lover mystery, The Majolica Murders, in which Seattle-based ex-FBI agent and antiques picker Jeff Talbot investigates the murder of a local antiques dealer.

Majolica is a type of colorful, glazed earthenware that originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Morgan chose it for the series after watching TV. "I'd seen the turtle reservoir and bowl on Martha Stewart and fell in love with that particular set. Just seeing something like that can trigger an entire mystery for me,'' Morgan says.

The Majolica Murders may be the last of the antiques lover's mystery, adds Morgan, who is still deciding what to do with the series. However, whatever happens, you'll still be able to spot her at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market on a weekend.

Deborah Morgan is married to mystery author Loren D. Estleman who writes, among other series, the long-running and well-received Amos Walker mysteries.

Read the rest of profile of Deborah Morgan, as published on, here.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Press Release: Hard Case Crime's "Say It With Bullets" Optioned By Caribou Films

Say It With Bullets by Richard J. PowellNew York, NY; Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) May 15, 2006 -– Hard Case Crime announced today that Caribou Films has optioned the movie rights to Richard Powell’s classic comic crime novel Say It With Bullets and has attached veteran filmmaker Blaine Novak as screenwriter and producer. Films written by Mr. Novak include They All Laughed, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Audrey Hepburn, and Strangers Kiss, starring Peter Coyote. Mr. Novak also wrote and directed Good to Go, starring Art Garfunkel, as well as Blue Champagne, produced by Jack Nicholson.

Originally published in 1953 and reissued for the first time in half a century by Hard Case Crime earlier this year, Say It With Bullets tells the story of Bill Wayne, an army officer who tries to shut down a smuggling operation and winds up shot in the back and left for dead by one of his fellow soldiers. When he recovers, Bill sets off to find out which of his former army buddies was behind the shooting, using a bus tour of the west as camouflage. But when the beautiful tour guide stumbles onto Bill’s scheme and a mysterious figure starts picking off the suspects at each stop along the way, events spiral out of control.

"Say It With Bullets combines the best elements of great comedy and great suspense storytelling,” said Blaine Novak. “It’s got an irresistible plot, characters you just love, fantastic dialogue, and a breathtaking climax at Yosemite National Park that’s just begging to be put on film. This is one hell of a book and I’m very excited to work on bringing it to the screen.”

For more information about Hard Case Crime or Say It With Bullets, visit

Read the entire press release here.

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Press Release: 22nd Annual Chicago Tribune Printers Row Book Fair Announces Featured Authors

CHICAGO, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- From toddler-wielding parents to antique book collectors to fiction aficionados, the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Book Fair has something to please book lovers of all kinds. The Fair -- the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest -- is expected to draw nearly 90,000 visitors to the two-day showcase, set in Chicago's historic Printers Row neighborhood June 3-4.

As always, the Fair tackles timely topics, including immigration, the death penalty and the environment; features panels of au courant bloggers-turned-authors and graphic novelists; and welcomes more than 100 literary luminaries. Among the authors scheduled to appear are:

Michael Connelly: The bestselling mystery author switches to nonfiction for a collection of articles written during his tenure as a crime reporter in "Crime Beat." Readers will learn how real life influences fiction.

The Chicago Tribune Printers Row Book Fair is presented in association with the Chicago Public Library. Sponsors of this year's fair include Target, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Jewel-Osco, C-SPAN and Columbia College Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune operates the Printers Row Book Fair as part of the company's ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavors. For more information about the Fair and a complete list of programs and exhibitors, go to

Read the entire press release which lists all featured authors here.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

News: Elmore Leonard Gets Lifetime Nod

Elmore Leonard, the doyen of crime thriller writers, received a lifetime achievement award Wednesday, May 10th, from the UK Crime Writers Association, writes the Hollywood Reporter.

Leonard, who has seen many of his novels such as Get Shorty, Rum Punch, and 3:10 to Yuma turned into movies, received the 21st Diamond Dagger during a packed reception at London's Savoy Hotel.

The Michigan-based Leonard, who has previously been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, released his latest book, The Complete Western Stories, this month.

Read the entire article, as published by Reuters UK, here.

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New Mystery Hardcover Titles for May 2006 (updated)

New MysteriesAn updated list of new hardcover mysteries for May 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website. Twelve additional titles have been added including ...

In Plain Sight by C. J. BoxThe sixth outing for Wyoming game and fish warden Joe Pickett in C. J. Box's latest mystery, In Plain Sight. Kirkus Reviews states that Box "... continues to write the sharpest suspensers west of the Pecos. " Publishers Weekly adds that the author "... expertly evokes Wyoming's landscape, wildlife, people and politics."

Cold Mooon by Jeffrey DeaverThe seventh Lincoln Rhyme mystery, Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver, pits the quadriplegic NYPD detective against a brilliant criminal mastermind called the Watchmaker. Kirkus Reviews asks the question, "Which of the leads, revelations, twists and confessions can be trusted, and which have been planted for purposes best known to the Watchmaker? Deaver, an old pro at pulling rugs out from under readers, adds a piquant complication this time ..."

Bishop's Reach by Kathryn R. WallKathryn R. Wall's sixth Bay Tanner mystery, Bishop's Reach, finds the Hilton Head Island (SC) inquiry agent up to her lovely green eyeballs in clients with hidden agendas. Adds Publishers Weekly, "Oozing Southern charm, this whodunit flows like hot molasses to a deliciously clever conclusion."

Bishop's Reach by Kathryn R. WallAnd though it is folly to judge a book by its cover, sometimes a dust jacket evokes powerful yet subtle images of mystery. Such is the case with The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. Baltimore lawyer Quentin Clark explores the puzzling circumstances of Edgar Allan Poe’s demise and discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions.

Visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books often where we provide readers and collectors of mysteries with the best and most current information about their favorite mystery authors, books, and series.

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Weekly Mystery Godoku Puzzle for 05/15/2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for May 15, 2006A new Mystery Godoku Puzzle has been created by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and is available on our website.

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

This week's mystery clue: Holly Winter became a dog trainer to the Mob in this mystery by Susan Conant (with “The”). 9 letters: A D E F G H O R T.

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, May 14, 2006

Editorial: Garden Whodunits Need to Get Details Right

Linda Brazill of the Madison (WI) Capitol Times recently took a critical look at gardening mysteries, and concluded that several came up a bit short, horticulturally speaking.

"Gardens seem like the perfect setting for mysteries.", she writes. "There are any number of poisonous plants, like foxglove and monkshood, that make ideal murder weapons to say nothing of deadly cocktails conjured up to kill weeds. There are mazes to hide in, borders to bury the body in, and an endless supply of historical allusions and poetic inspiration."

She adds that three recent horticultural whodunits all have something to recommend them but none of them quite made a compelling argument for setting their stories in gardens.

Of the three books mentioned, Brazill notes that in Susan Wittig Albert's most recent mystery, Bleeding Hearts with China Bayles, she gets all the garden and herb information correct. In addition, "The very last pages [of the book] contain the lovely lemony recipes that China's catering crew made during the course of the story."

Anthony Eglin's second English Garden mystery, The Lost Gardens, is more problematic. She notes that, "On a visit to the famed English garden Hidcote Manor to show the American homeowner what a grand estate garden looks like, our sleuth points out cherry trees, cannas, oriental poppies and skunk cabbage all apparently blooming at the same time. I don't believe that even the Brits could manage that gardening sleight of hand."

Finally, Brazill looked at Carol Goodman's The Ghost Orchid. She found that the sense of the garden and the detail and description of it overwhelmed the characters. Goodman's earlier mysteries were complex but not confusing, a critical distinction and one that mars The Ghost Orchid. In short, "A glorious mix if a bit of a mess."

Read the entire article, as published on, here.

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