Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mystery Game: Mansfield Manor Review

Games of MysteryMystery at Mansfield Manor
Marc Saltzman of the Gannett News Service recently reviewed the new online interactive mystery game, Mystery at Mansfield Manor.

This clever whodunit can best be described as an online interactive movie with nearly three hours of live-action video, Saltzman writes.

The game stars 14 real actors -- most of whom are suspects -- and it's your job as Detective Frank Mitchell to interrogate each one to solve the murder of a wealthy oil industrialist, Colin Mansfield Sr.

Saltzman adds, while a clever concept, Mystery at Mansfield Manor does suffer from occasional overacting, not to mention cliches, such as a renowned detective who is called to the case on the eve of his retirement; a lawyer who is holding unannounced changes to the deceased's will; and the attractive, young and money-hungry "companion" with eyes for other men.

He concludes his review by stating that this murder-mystery adventure is ideal for those in search of a fun challenge, though after you've solved the mystery, there is no reason to play again, unless you want to see the multiple endings.

Read the entire review as published on CNN.com here.

Games for Mystery provides information about all types of mystery-themed games including games for the PC, board games, mystery parties for adults, teens, and children, mystery vacations, and mysteries online.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Mystery Bestsellers for August 18, 2006

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending August 18, 2006 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

A few newcomers to the lists this week. Ricochet by Sandra BrownAt the top of the Borders/Amazon.com list is Ricochet by Sandra Brown. When Detective Sergeant Duncan Hatcher is summoned to the home of Judge Cato Laird in the middle of the night to investigate a fatal shooting, he knows that discretion and kid-glove treatment are the keys to staying in the judge's good graces and keeping his job. At first glance, the case appears open-and-shut: Elise, the judge's trophy wife, interrupted a burglary in progress and killed the intruder in self-defense. But Duncan is immediately suspicious of Elise's innocent act. His gut feeling is that her account of the shooting is only partially true -- and it's the parts she's leaving out that bother him. "No one does steamy suspense like Brown, as shown by this expert mix of spicy romance and sharply crafted crime drama," states Publishers Weekly.

At the top of the Barnes&Noble.com list is Triptych by Karin Slaughter. Triptych by Karin SlaughterFrom Atlanta's wealthiest suburbs to its stark inner-city housing projects, a killer has crossed the boundaries of wealth and race. And the people who are chasing him must cross those boundaries, too. Among them is Michael Ormewood, a veteran detective whose marriage is hanging by a thread- and whose arrogance and explosive temper are threatening his career. And Angie Polaski, a beautiful vice cop who was once Michael's lover before she became his enemy. But unbeknownst to both of them, another player has entered the game: a loser ex-con who has stumbled upon the killer's trail in the most coincidental of ways- and who may be the key to breaking the case wide open. Kirkus Reviews writes that, "The volcanic heroes and villains, who act both surprisingly and logically, are a welcome sign that Slaughter's trademark franchise (the Grant County crime series) only hints at the range of her gifts."

Finally, new to both lists is Mask Market by Andrew Vachss. Mask Market by Andrew VachssThey meet in a no-name diner. A shadowy man hands Burke a CD dossier of someone he wants found. Minutes later, as Burke watches from an alley, his client is gunned down by a professional hunter-killer team. Burke slips away, unsure if he's been spotted. Later, when he examines the dossier, he discovers that the missing woman is Beryl Preston, a girl he'd rescued from a brutal pimp twenty years earlier -- when she was only thirteen -- and returned to her father. Now he has to find her again -- not only because she might be in danger, but also because he has to prove to himself that his rescue mission hadn't been financed by a predator who wanted his "property" returned. His search will force him to confront a new kind of human ugliness and, finally, to practice the survivalist triage that has marked -- and cursed -- his life since childhood. Publishers Weekly states, "Despite a familiar plot, the sharp-edged prose and cutting insights into New York's underbelly elevate this above many similar crime novels."

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, August 17, 2006

Mystery Game: The Da Vinci Code Review

Games of MysteryThe Da Vinci Code
Ron Harris of the Associated Press recently reviewed the new adventure game from Take-Two Interactive, The Da Vinci Code.

The Da Vinci Code would benefit in the early stages from a time clock, or something to quicken the attempts to solve levels. And the level objectives could be better explained, Harris writes.

In between battles are sliding word puzzles and jumbled anagrams that must be solved in the Louvre and other Parisian landmarks before advancing to the next level, he adds. "The word puzzles are simple if you're taking notes, and even easier if you've read the book or even listened to the audio book."

He concludes by saying that if you're looking for a game that is faithful to the book, The Da Vinci Code is for you. If you're looking for something fresh, that Holy Grail remains elusive.

Read the entire review as published on ABCNews.com here.

Games for Mystery provides information about all types of mystery-themed games including games for the PC, board games, mystery parties for adults, teens, and children, mystery vacations, and mysteries online.

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Mystery Book Review: Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diana Killian

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diana Killian. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diana Killian

Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diana Killian
A Poetic Death Mystery with Grace Hollister
Pocket Books (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7434-6680-2 (0743466802)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7434-6680-6 (9780743466806)
Publication Date: March 2006
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): For one of Innisdale's residents, a priceless sonnet means poetic license to kill ...

Grace Hollister's stay in England's picturesque Lake District has proven doubly fruitful -- the American literary scholar just sold her first book, and her romance with charming antiques dealer and ex-jewel thief Peter Fox has begun a new chapter. Sorting through a hoard of papers found in an old farmhouse, Grace and Peter discover an old letter that refers to a lost Shelley sonnet, "Sate the Sphinx." Before Grace can start tracking down this poetic treasure, though, Peter's shady past rears its head -- a particularly ugly head, belonging to a menacing Turk who's eager to see Peter dead.

But there's plenty more trouble in store. Suddenly Grace and Peter are suspects in a murder investigation, and someone has tried his level best to kill her -- not once, but twice. The hieroglyphics are on the wall: unless Grace can unravel an inscrutable riddle and unearth the villain amid a cache of likely suspects, her story might be at an end.

Review: Diana Killian continues Grace Hollister's scholarly exploits in England's Lake District in the highly entertaining Sonnet of the Sphinx, the third book in the Poetic Death mystery series.
The possibility of recovering a lost Shelley sonnet is too compelling for Grace even after she's suspected of murder, is run off the road and nearly drowns, and barely escapes from her home as it burns to the ground. Though there are a couple of murders along the way, the real mystery of Sonnet of the Sphinx remains the quest itself. Does the sonnet exist, and if so, where is it, and is it authentic? Grace's research and persistence pay off when she ultimately ascertains the answers to these questions.

The back story in Sonnet of the Sphinx is fascinating and illustrates Killian's notable ability to interleave literary fact into a novel of fiction.

The ending comes as something of a surprise though in retrospect it shouldn't have been since Killian cleverly interjects telling clues throughout.

The epilogue serves as a cliffhanger of sorts. Will there be a fourth Poetic Death mystery? If so, will it take place in Cumbria? And where is Grace's increasingly complex relationship with the mysterious Peter Fox heading? Another literary adventure with Grace Hollister would certainly help resolve these undecided issues.

Special thanks to Diana Killian for providing a copy of Sonnet of the Sphinx for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Murder She Writes

Marilyn Gardner of The Christian Science Monitor writes that almost half of the mysteries published in the US are written by women. In addition to creating intriguing new fictional roles for female crime-solvers, these whodunits are drawing more women to read mysteries of all kinds.

"We've helped grow the market for crime fiction. While fiction is stagnant or falling, crime fiction remains a very buoyant sub-genre," says Sara Paretsky, bestselling author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery series.

Women writers often offer unusual perspectives. Rochelle Krich, president-elect of Sisters in Crime, writes two series with Orthodox Jewish settings.

Libby Fischer Hellmann describes another sub-genre, the chick-lit mystery, as "Prada-type girls who happen to solve mysteries when they're not working in their wonderful Manhattan jobs."

Despite progress, women who write whodunits still have a few real-life mysteries to solve. One could be called The Case of the Changing Publishing Industry. Now that American publishers have consolidated into six conglomerates, their emphasis is on blockbusters.

For all authors, perhaps the biggest challenge involves The Case of the Diminishing Readership. "There's one underlying need we have to address," Hellmann says. "That is nurturing the next generation of mystery readers. We used to say, 'All these kids are reading Harry Potter. They'll be the next generation of mystery readers.' But they're not. They stop reading as teenagers. They're lured by iPods, the Internet, MySpace, and games."

Read the entire article on CSMonitor.com here.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Death Angel by Martha Powers

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Death Angel by Martha Powers. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Death Angel by Martha Powers

Death Angel by Martha Powers
Non-series
Oceanview Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-933515-03-1 (1933515031)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933515-03-8 (9781933515038)
Publication Date: October 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The search for truth can be deadly. Kate and Richard Warner have a quiet life – a routine life – until the one afternoon that changes them forever. Within a few short hours they are thrust into the black hole of every parent’s worst nightmare. Suddenly they are at the center of attention of their community, the media, and the police . . . for all the wrong reasons. The chief of police has singled out Richard as the primary suspect in a heinous crime that took more than an innocent life. With Richard as a suspect, Kate’s life unravels into unbearable chaos, grief, and a whole new world of deception. Neighbors turn away, and only a small handful of close friends are there to help. Or are they? After a second murder and Richard’s disappearance, Kate sets out to find the killer in their midst and clear her husband’s name. She begins to piece together an eerie puzzle, finding clues in the heart of her own community.

Anguish, suspicion and death combine in the horrifying aftermath of a vicious crime that pits a mother’s love against a ruthless killer. In a stunning conclusion, Kate risks her own life to track down and kill the Death Angel.

Review: In Death Angel, Martha Powers has crafted a thriller that perfects the art of misdirection. Everyone in this small Chicago suburb has secrets, and until the killer is revealed on the final pages, his identity remains a mystery.

After Kate and Richard Wagner's daughter disappears and is later found raped and murdered, and as their lives slowly spin out of control when Richard is suspected to be involved in the crime, Kate remarks, "There's no reality to our lives anymore. The unthinkable has become commonplace." This simple statement is the constant element that unites the various storylines in this book and is the basis for much of the suspense.

Death Angel for the most part alternates between two perspectives: Kate's conviction her husband is innocent and her doubt he may be guilty, and police chief Carl Leidecker's on-going investigation of the crime. This literary approach is quite effective as it adds a measure of conflict between these two principal characters though they share a common goal: to see the girl's murderer brought to justice. Along the way the author takes a few shortcuts to advance the plot, but in the end, Death Angel is a compelling suspense novel.

The tragedy of child abduction and murder is all too real. In a preface, Martha Powers acknowledges a Chicago mother whose story was the inspiration for Death Angel.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing an ARC of Death Angel for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Investigation Uncovers 5 Sleuths Worth Reading

Almost 5000 mysteries were published in 2005, with over 5500 published the year before. Bill Eichenberger of The Columbus Dispatch asked, "With so many new mysteries flooding the market annually (based on statistics from bibliographical-information supplier R. R. Bowker), how can readers find the most promising new authors and their compelling crime solvers?" After a bit of investigative reporting, he found a consensus forming around five of the hottest new sleuths worth reading, listed together with their most recent books.

Vince Camden (Citizen Vince by Jess Walter; HarperCollins 2005).

Jack Taylor (The Dramatist by Ken Bruen; St. Martin's Press 2006).

John Ray Horn (Red Sky Lament by Edward Wright; Orion 2006).

Lydia Chin and Bill Smith (Winter and Night by S. J. Rozan; St. Martin's Press 2002).

Read the entire article, including information about each of these mystery characters, here.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for August 14, 2006

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for August 14, 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 letters and mystery clue: A B H I L N R T Y. This historical thriller with archaeology volunteer Alice Tanner was a bestseller for Kate Mosse in 2006 (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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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Press Release: James Patterson to Receive ITW's 2007 ThrillerMaster Award

The International Thriller Writers, Inc (ITW) is delighted to announce that the 2007 ThrillerMaster Award for outstanding contribution to the thriller genre will be presented to author James Patterson during ThrillerFest 2007, hosted by ITW.

(PRWEB) August 12, 2006 -- The International Thriller Writers, Inc (ITW) is delighted to announce that the 2007 ThrillerMaster Award for outstanding contribution to the thriller genre will be presented to author James Patterson during ThrillerFest 2007, hosted by ITW.

Author Clive Cussler, 2006 ThrillerMaster Award recipient and a spotlight guest for ThrillerFest 2007, will present the award to Patterson during a gala Thriller Awards Ceremony on July 14, 2007 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. During the ceremony ITW also will present its Thriller Awards covering five categories including The Distinguished Literature Award; Best Novel; Best First Novel; Best Paperback Original and Best Script.

Founded in October 2004, at the Bouchercon World Suspense Conference in Toronto, Canada, the International Thriller Writers organization (ITW) was created by thriller authors to celebrate the thriller, to enhance the prestige and raise the profile of thrillers, to award prizes to outstanding thriller novels and authors, and to create marketing opportunities for authors within the thriller community.

Read the entire press release here.

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News: Hammett Prize Winner Prince of Thieves to be Filmed

Reuters is reporting that the winner of the 2004 Hammett Prize, Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, will be filmed with director Adrian Lyne attached to the project.

Hogan's brash tale of four men -- thieves, rivals, friends -- being hunted through the streets of Boston by a tenacious FBI agent, and the woman who may destroy them all, is a spectacular, stylish, heart-pounding thriller.

Lyne is the Oscar-nominated director of Fatal Attraction with Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, and most recently directed Richard Gere and Diane Lane in Unfaithful.

The Hammett Prize is awarded annually by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers for literary excellence in the field of crime-writing.

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Mystery Book Review: Where Truth Lies by Christiane Heggan

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Where Truth Lies by Christiane Heggan. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Where Truth Lies by Christiane Heggan

Where Truth Lies by Christiane Heggan
Non-series
Mira Books (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7783-2337-4 (0778323374)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-2337-2 (9780778323372)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Beneath the small-town charm is a big-time secret.

Museum curator Grace McKenzie is shocked when she receives word that her ex-fiancé, Steven Hatfield, has been murdered. In his will, Steven has left her his art gallery in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Anticipating that she would turn down the bequest, he asked that she spend a week at the gallery before making her final decision. Motivated by a sense of duty to a man she once loved, Grace agrees to go to New Hope for one week.

She isn't the only person drawn to the small town. FBI agent Matt Baxter has returned to his hometown for one reason only -- to clear his father of a bogus murder charge. While he and Grace seek answers, they discover that beneath the surface of this charming, peaceful town lies an old secret a few of its citizens would rather keep buried. And when their search takes an unexpected turn, they have only hours to find out where the truth lies -- or be buried with it.

Review: Christiane Heggan cleverly weaves several disparate plot threads together in Where Truth Lies, a very intriguing suspense novel.

When Boston-based art curator Grace MacKenzie inherits an art gallery from Steven Hatfield, her former fiancé, it comes with a stipulation—before she can refuse to accept it, she must spend a week running the gallery, located in New Hope PA.

Soon after arriving, Grace is faced with several aspects of Steven's life in New Hope that trouble her. A known womanizer, could Steven have been murdered by an outraged husband or jealous lover? Why did he have a forged painting for sale in the gallery? What was his relationship to a loner in the community? An outsider, why was he so adamant to prevent commercial development of a local farm? Grace, together with FBI agent Matt Baxter, devise an endgame that neatly answers these questions at the same time resolving the 20 year old disappearance of a young girl from the area.

Prologues are sometimes used to quickly grab the reader's interest or to provide continuity later in the book. In Where Truth Lies, the prologue achieves neither. It is not particularly provocative nor does it add any information that isn't otherwise disclosed elsewhere. If anything, it gives away too much too early, and should be avoided.

It has been reported that Christiane Heggan is retiring with the publication of Where Truth Lies. Though it is regrettable that she will no longer be writing outstanding suspense fiction, it is with pleasure to note that she ends her remarkable writing career on a high note.

Special thanks to Book Trends for providing an ARC of Where Truth Lies for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Press Release: Nancy Drew Goes Digital With Big Fish Games

Games of MysteryNumber One PC Adventure Gaming Franchise from Her Interactive to Expand Reach Online

Nancy Drew 13: Last Train to Blue Moon CanyonSEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 11, 2006--Big Fish Games, a leading developer and distributor of casual games, and Her Interactive, a creator of interactive entertainment for mystery lovers of all ages, today announced that Nancy Drew 13: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon is available for the first time as a digital download from Big Fish Games. The Nancy Drew game series is the #1 PC adventure game franchise in units, outselling Harry Potter, Myst, and Lord of the Rings for two consecutive years and winner of 13 consecutive Parents' Choice awards.

Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon sends players on a train ride filled with adventurous thrills. Players investigate the train and its hidden secrets, as well as explore old mining towns with deep mineshafts and hidden passageways, to unravel a century-old secret. Like all Nancy Drew games, Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon contains puzzles that yield clues when solved.

Read the entire press release here.

Find information about the entire series of Nancy Drew mystery games and more at Games of Mystery.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

News: Geraldine McEwan to Appear in 4 New Miss Marple Mysteries

ITV, the biggest commercial television network in the UK, is reporting that the celebrated actress, Geraldine McEwan, will reprise the role of the shrewd and inquisitive Jane Marple in a series of four adaptations of some of Agatha Christie’s most loved stories.

The Stage adds that Tom Baker, Alan Davies, Saffron Burrows and Julian Sands are among stars lined up for the first of the films, Towards Zero. The other three films have yet to be announced.

The previous Miss Marple mysteries starring Geraldine McEwan have appeared on Mystery! on PBS in the US.

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News: Real Case Inspires Seattle Mystery Author

John Marshall, in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writes that local author G. M. Ford's latest Frank Corso mystery, Blown Away, was inspired by a real case.Blown Away by G. M. Ford

The thriller's action is set in motion by an incident very similar to the one involving a Pennsylvania pizza delivery guy who robbed a bank with explosives wrapped around his neck, then, when cornered by police, pleaded that he had been forced to participate in the crime -- pleaded until the bomb around his neck went off and killed him, writes Marshall.

Ford says, "Was he a victim or a perpetrator? Had the police acted properly? What would happen if the scenario repeated itself? How does law enforcement deal with a bank robbery if the robber is a kidnap victim? The questions went on and on." The case remains unsolved to this day.

Ford adds, "As I had never written anything with a reality tie-in, I was somewhat reticent about mucking around in an unsolved case."

Read the rest of the article on SeattlePI.com here.

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Mystery Book Review: Targets of Affection by RG Willems

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Targets of Affection by RG Willems. We are reprinting it here for the convenience of our blog readers.Targets of Affection by RG Willems

Targets of Affection by RG Willems
A Shelby James Mystery
Cormorant Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-896951-98-8 (1896951988)
ISBN-13: 978-1-896951-98-0 (9781896951980)
Publication Date: June 2006
List Price: CDN$21.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Shelby James has a soft-spot for the underdog. Sick dogs, homeless cats, hurt birds, she goes to bat for them all as a veterinary nurse. So it's no surprise that Miranda Wall and her menagerie of needy animals appeal to her. But there's more to Miranda than meets the eye: a silent daughter named Jessie, and a stalking husband, among other disasters. When Shelby takes a closer look into Miranda's life, her search takes her into the sinister world of mental illness, child abuse, and domestic violence.

Review: Targets of Affection, RG Willems first mystery in a new series, introduces Shelby James, a veterinary technician working at a clinic outside of Saskatoon in northern Saskatchewan.

Shelby suspects a new client, Miranda Wall, of intentionally harming her pets in order to receive sympathetic attention in return when she brings them in for treatment. As Shelby is drawn into Miranda's world, an asthmatic daughter, recovering dog, and potentially abusive ex-husband complicate her investigation into why a woman would perform such acts.

Some mysteries defy simple classification. Targets of Affection has many elements of a cozy but also has a darker, harder edge to it. There is no overt violence, but the graphic descriptions of some of the procedures that take place in the veterinary clinic are definitely not for the squeamish.

Willems is a talented, articulate writer, though she takes well over half the book setting up the mystery in Targets of Affection. Once it becomes clear where the story is heading, the pace picks up and the ending, while not unexpected, has Shelby uncovering the necessary clues to confront Miranda about her suspicions.

There is every reason to believe that this Saskatchewan veterinary clinic will have its fair share of clients in need of Shelby's unique brand of sleuthing providing ample opportunities for Willems to write more mysteries in this series.

Special thanks to RG Willems for providing a copy of Targets of Affection for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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