Friday, February 23, 2007

News: Sara Paretsky to Speak at Library of Congress

News from the Library of Congress: Best-Selling Mystery Writer Sara Paretsky To Speak on Feb. 27.

What do basketball, a discount superstore, two runaway teenagers and an explosion that screams of foul play have in common? They are just a sampling of the twists and turns found in the latest mystery thriller by Sara Paretsky.

She will discuss and sign her most recent book, Fire Sale, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C.

The program, which marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of Paretsky’s fictional private detective V.I. Warshawski and the 20th anniversary of the Sisters in Crime organization, is part of the Books & Beyond author series sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Free and open to the public, the program requires no reservations or tickets.

Read more on this event on the Library of Congress website here.

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, February 22, 2007

News: Keanu Reeves to Star in The Night Watchman

Variety is reporting that Fox Searchlight and New Regency will co-produce The Night Watchman, a screenplay scripted by mystery author James Ellroy, and directed by David Ayer. The film will star Keanu Reeves portraying a cop who's always done what was needed to solve homicides and crack down on gang violence until he realizes that he can't play by his own dirty rules anymore, and that he may not be very effective in his job as a result. Filming is expected to begin in April.

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, February 20, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Watchman by Robert Crais

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

The Watchman by Robert Crais
A Joe Pike Mystery

Simon & Schuster (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-7432-8163-2 (0743281632)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-8163-8 (9780943281638)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $25.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When the U. S. Marshals and the finest private security firm that money can buy can't protect Larkin Conner Barkley from the men who want her dead, her wealthy family hires the one man money can't buy to protect their daughter - Joe Pike. Joe owes a bad man a favor, and the favor is to protect Larkin, a spoiled, self-centered, rich girl who happens to be a federal witness in a case the feds are putting together to bust a crime cartel linking organized mobsters and West Coast industrialists. And when Pike learns that the man he'll be working for is one of his oldest and most trusted friends - his former LAPD training officer, Bud Flynn - Pike signs on and commits himself to protecting the girl's life.

But Pike and the girl immediately come under intense fire, and Pike realizes that someone is leaking information that could get them both killed. Turning to his friend Elvis Cole for help, Pike's investigation soon reveals a web of lies and deceptions, half-truths and betrayals, and the stunning revelation that even the cops are not who they seem.

Review: Robert Crais, author of the Elvis Cole mysteries, takes Cole's partner Joe Pike and presents him center stage in The Watchman, a perfect vehicle for this cryptic and inscrutable character. Cole himself plays an important, though clearly subordinate, role in the book.

Larkin Conner lives the life of a billionaire's daughter. Think Paris Hilton, but sober and with a conscience. One night while returning home, she accidentally hits a car, injuring its passengers. Before she can call for help, the driver speeds off and a man in the back seat disappears down a nearby alley. Fast forward several days and The Watchman opens with Larkin under the protection of Joe Pike and running for her life. Pike's assignment is to keep Larking alive at all costs, and trusting no one, he takes refuge in a safe house, the location of which is known only to Pike, Larkin, and Elvis Cole. As Pike and Cole try to figure out why Larkin is a target, they realize that essentially everyone claiming to want to protect her is hiding behind a facade, withholding information that will save her.

Crais vividly portrays the primary characters in The Watchman, imparting into each unique and readily identifiable features. Yet Joe Pike remains largely an enigma. Methodical, thoughtful, intelligent, analytical, determined, meticulous, all surely describe Joe Pike. Yet he defies a visual identity in the reader's mind. Ask ten people to describe Pike after reading The Watchman, and there will be ten distinct answers. That Crais can create such a well-defined character and keep him virtually anonymous is truly remarkable.

Though the plot could have been overly complicated, Crais wisely chooses to keep it relatively simple. Pike is clearly mystified by the actions of everyone involved, but he keeps coming back to the basic question before him: Why is Larkin a target? The answer this simple question not only makes his task of keeping her alive that much more achievable, but provides clarity to other inconsistencies in this case as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

The Watchman is an outstanding example of a mystery thriller, and will certainly be remembered as one of the year's best novels.

Special thanks to FSB Associates for providing an ARC of The Watchman for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominees Announced

Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine has announced its nominees for the Reviewers' Choice Awards recognizing the best in women's fiction, romance, mystery, fantasy and more for 2006.

For the mystery categories, the nominees are: (a link on the book's title indicates a review was written by Mysterious Reviews)

• Amateur Sleuth

UNPLUGGED
Lois Greiman
Dell (February 2006)

STEAMED
Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
Berkley Prime Crime (March 2006)

DEFINITELY DEAD
Charlaine Harris
Ace (May 2006)

ANTIQUES ROADKILL
Barbara Allan
Kensington (August 2006)

ALL MORTAL FLESH
Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin's Minotaur (October 2006)

SIZE 14 IS NOT FAT EITHER
Meg Cabot
Avon Trade (December 2006)

• Contemporary Mystery

DIRTY BLONDE
Lisa Scottoline
HarperCollins (March 2006)

TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon and Schuster (April 2006)

THE LAST SPYMASTER
Gayle Lynds
St. Martin's (June 2006)

SNOW BLIND
P. J. Tracy
Putnam (August 2006)

KIDNAPPED
Jan Burke
Simon and Schuster (October 2006)

KEEPER OF THE KEYS
Perri O'Shaughnessy
Delacorte (November 2006)

• First Mystery

BLOWN AWAY
Shane Gericke
Pinnacle (May 2006)

A FIELD OF DARKNESS
Cornelia Read
Mysterious Press (May 2006)

SEQUENCE
Lori Andrews
St. Martin's Minotaur (June 2006)

THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER
Jed Rubenfeld
Henry Holt (September 2006

• Historical Mystery

MARK OF THE LION
Suzanne M. Arruda
NAL (January 2006)

NORTH BY NORTHANGER
Carrie Bebris
Forge (March 2006)

TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD
Elizabeth Peters
William Morrow (April 2006)

DARK ASSASSIN
Anne Perry
Ballantine (April 2006)

• P. I. / Procedural Novel

THE FINISHING SCHOOL
Michele Martinez
Morrow (January 2006)

THE ART OF DETECTION
Laurie R. King
Bantam (June 2006)

END IN TEARS
Ruth Rendell
Crown (July 2006)

THE MEPHISTO CLUB
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine (September 2006)

• Suspense

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
Andrea Kane
Morrow (January 2006)

GONE
Lisa Gardner
Bantam (February 2006)

THE CRIMSON CODE
Rachel Lee
Mira (February 2006)

THE KILL
Allison Brennan
Ballantine (March 2006)

PRIOR BAD ACTS
Tami Hoag
Bantam (April 2006)

COPYCAT
Erica Spindler
Mira (June 2006)

KITTY GOES TO WASHINGTON
Carrie Vaughn
Aspect (July 2006)

Winners will be listed in the June 7th issue of Romantic Times BOOKreviews, just prior to the 24th Annual Booklovers Convention in Houston, Texas, April 25 to 29, 2007.

For previous winners, visit The Reviewers' Choice Award page on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

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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Monday, February 19, 2007

News: The Prestige Available This Week on DVD

Mysteries on DVDNew this week on DVD: The Prestige, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie, will be released tomorrow, February 20th. The movie is based on The Prestige by Christopher Priest, published by St. Martin's Press in 1986.The Prestige on DVD A paperback edition was released last October. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly stated, "... a complex tale that must have been extremely difficult to tell in exactly the right sequence, while still maintaining a series of shocks to the very end. Priest has brought it off with great imagination and skill."

Also available in high-definition: The Prestige: Blu-ray Disc.

Information on both the book and the movie is available from Mysteries on DVD: The Prestige.

Visit the Mysteries on DVD website to discover more movies that have been adapted from mystery books. Also visit our latest website, Mysteries on TV, to purchase television mystery series available on DVD.

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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for February 19, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for February 19, 2007A 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 C E N O R Y Z. The Nameless Detective has two mysteries to solve in the 26th book in the series by Bill Pronzini (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, February 17, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Commission by Michael Norman

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

The Commission by Michael Norman
A Sam Kincaid Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-358-2 (1590583582)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-358-6 (9781590583586)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Levi Vogue, Chairman of the powerful Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, is gunned down in the driveway of his home as he returns from a late evening tryst with Sue Ann Winkler, an exotic dancer employed in a Salt Lake City strip club.

Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the Utah Department of Corrections, is assigned to help Salt Lake City Police Department homicide detective Lt. Kate McConnell solve Vogue's murder.

The investigation soon leads Kincaid and McConnell into the seedy world of prostitution and strip clubs. Ultimately, the investigation focuses on Charles (Slick) Watts, a violent ex-convict with a long criminal history and a score to settle with Levi Vogue. But before Watts can be apprehended, his body is discovered at an abandoned military base in Wendover, Nevada.

When the medical examiner concludes that Watt's death was a homicide elaborately staged to look like a suicide, Kincaid and McConnell are forced to turn their attention to a complex conspiracy behind the murders.

Ultimately, the investigation leads Kincaid and McConnell inside the Utah state prison to a small group of corrupt prison employees known as the Commission. As the police close in, Commission members turn, first on each other, and then on Kincaid.

Review: Michael Norman introduces a rather unique character in the annals of police procedurals, Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Department of Corrections, based in Salt Lake City, in The Commission. This is not a typical job description, and it makes for a unique and largely successful approach to this genre of mystery fiction.

Following the execution-style murder of Levi Vogue, the chairman of the Utah Pardons and Paroles board, Kincaid is asked to assist in the investigation. Despite the outward appearance of being an upstanding citizen of the community, Kincaid soon discovers that Vogue had a darker side. The convoluted trail ultimately leads to a rogue group of prison employees called The Commission who administer their own brand of justice to those whom they deem deserve it.

The primary appeal of The Commission is in the character of Sam Kincaid. Norman writes in a relaxed, almost folksy first person narrative that suits the principal character well. As a police procedural, the reader is taken step-by-step through the investigative process and participates with Kincaid in the unfolding investigation. The story is competently plotted, and serves well as an introduction to a new series.

However, there are a few stylistic flaws which mar this otherwise strong debut that could have, and should have, been corrected during another round of editing. Excepting the prologue that sets up the murder of Vogue, Norman uses first person narrative for the first third of the book. Then, suddenly, there's an italicized passage that presages danger for Kincaid. It's jarring and unnecessary. Following this, and with increasing frequency, Norman scatters third person narrative sections that seem to have been inserted after the completion of the book. It's as if he thought that additional explanation was needed and tossed in a paragraph or two to help fill in some blank spots. Without exception, each of these sections could have been rewritten from Kincaid's perspective, providing a smooth, cohesive narrative throughout.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of The Commission for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

Visit for other reviews of current and upcoming mystery books. The 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 February 16, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending February 16, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

There's something of a divergence in the lists this week, with a bit of shuffling of bestsellers at Amazon.com and the introduction of three new bestsellers at Barnes&Noble.com. Both lists have James Patterson's latest mystery, Step on a Crack, at the top of their lists.

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne FlukeNew mysteries this week include Key Lime Pie Murder, the 8th entry in the Hannah Swensen mystery series. It's Tri-County fair time and Lake Eden, Minnesota, and it promises to be a busy week for Hannah Swensen. Not only is she whipping up treats for the chamber of commerce booth at the fair; she's also judging the baking contest; acting as a magician's assistant for her business partner's husband; trying to coax Moishe, her previously rapacious feline, to end his hunger strike, and performing her own private carnival act by juggling the demands of her mother and sisters. Moments before the fair closes one night she realizes that she's not alone among the shuttered booths and looming carnival attractions. She goes snooping, only to discover Willa Sunquist, a student teacher and fellow bake contest judge, dead alongside an upended key lime pie. But who would want to kill Willa and why? As fair week draws to a close, Hannah cranks up the heat, hoping that the killer will get rattled and make a mistake. If that happens she intends to be there, even if it means getting on a carnival ride that could very well be her last. As with all mysteries in this series, the book includes 12 original recipes for you to try.

Be sure to check out our new, updated Mystery Bestsellers aStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

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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Friday, February 16, 2007

News: Introducing Mysteries on TV

If you're like us, whatever free time isn't spent reading mysteries is spent watching them. Last year we created a website, Mysteries on DVD, that featured mystery books that had been adapted as screenplays and filmed as movies. Each page of this site features information about the original book and the movie made from it. Associated with this website is an Amazon.com aStore, Buy Mysteries on DVD, where all the movies featured can be easily purchased.

aStores are a recent innovation by Amazon.com that allow the inclusion of highly targeted products for purchase within the framework of a website, or optionally, as a stand-alone online store. We've embraced aStores as a convenient way for our customers to search for, and purchase, mystery-related products.

Our newest aStore is Buy Mysteries on TV, a collection of mystery-themed television shows that are available on DVD. You might wonder why this site is even necessary since Amazon.com directly provides several search methods for identifying TV mysteries. One reason is that Amazon.com tries to be all things to all people, and in creating their categories they often overlook products that may be relevant and of interest to those searching, or include products that are at best only peripherally related. By selectively picking only those series that are most related to this category, we've provided a convenient single site for customers wanting to find television mystery series available on DVD.

Some terrific series may be easily overlooked using Amazon.com's standard search options. For example, consider the outstanding mystery series Foyle's War, set in England during World War II. The acting and writing is first rate, yet this series has received very little attention here in the US. The first three seasons are currently available on DVD.

The first season of Murder One is also particularly noteworthy. The entire season covered a single murder trial and is marked by stellar performances by Daniel Benzali, Gason Gedrick, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, and Barbara Bosson.

We've started with 23 series in our Mysteries on TV aStore and will add more in the future. We may expand the store in the future to include a complete website with additional features.

If you're looking to purchase TV mysteries available on DVD, we hope you'll check out our store. We appreciate your business and look forward to any comments you may have to improve our selection and service.

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, February 13, 2007

Mystery Book Review: How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre

How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre
A Lee Bartholomew Mystery

Mysterious Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-89296-014-0 (0892960140)
ISBN-13: 978-0-89296-014-9 (9780892960149)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Londoner Lee Bartholomew is a loner by nature who prefers to live vicariously through other people. Content with her job as a ghostwriter, Lee is always eager to coax secrets and scandals from showbiz personalities and sports greats. And ghosting writing former rock star Shotgun Marriott's autobiography could be the plum job of her career-if he reveals what really happened one tragic night.

Leaving the comforts of home, Lee travels to New York to attend her mother's wedding to a rich American businessman. Yet she's also there for an even more important gig-an interview with Shotgun to write his story. Cruising along the beach on the tip of Long Island, Lee stumbles upon a newsbreaking story when the body of a man wearing a wedding dress washes ashore. Even more shocking is that the man is Shotgun's estranged son.

But fear soon strikes her after another killing hits much closer to home. Now the darkness around her lonely beach house seems alive with prying eyes and malevolent visitors. As for Shotgun Marriott, he's a charming, talented rogue who's also lying through his teeth. And probing too deeply into his dark world may be last thing Lee ever does …

Review: Ghostwriter Nathalie "Lee" Bartholomew travels from London to the Hamptons in her second mystery, How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre, to interview for the opportunity to write the autobiography of legendary rock star Christopher "Kip" Marriott, also known as Shotgun Marriott to the media and his fans. Her primary reason to visit to the US, however, is to attend the commitment ceremony of her Mother to Philip Abernathy, her beau of 6 months, a local billionaire whom Lee has dubbed the "Phillionaire". It is, perhaps, mere coincidence that Shotgun and the Phillionaire are neighbors.

Soon after Lee gets settled in the area two murders occur. The first is the discovery of the body of Shotgun's estranged son who has washed up on shore, wearing, somewhat inexplicably, a wedding dress. The second is of Lee's rival in the ghostwriting business, Bettina Pleshette, whose body is found in the woods near the edge of Shotgun's estate. The most likely suspect in both murders is Shotgun himself, yet Lee discovers there may be other reasons why someone would want these two people dead.

How to Marry a Ghost is a complex mystery that has a promising start but will likely lose some readers along the way. The murders take place very early in the book, yet the story meanders for long periods without any obvious effort to bring about a resolution to the crimes. The author deserves credit for creating an intricate plot with generally interesting characters and atmospheric settings, and those willing to stick with it will be rewarded in the end. But the many tangential subplots, and especially the seemingly endless, largely irrelevant, and at its best, wearisome storyline about Lee and her on-again/off-again relationship with Tommy, make the book feel far longer than it really is.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group USA for providing an ARC of How to Marry a Ghost for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Monday, February 12, 2007

News: Mystery Festival Announces Finalists for Writers Competition

BroadwayWorld.com is reporting that the finalists of the 1st International Mystery Writers' Festival have been selected. All six will have their plays performed on stage this June in Owensboro (KY). RiverPark Center has announced that it will host auditions for the plays February 16-17, 2007. Rehearsals are scheduled for the last week of April, and performances will take place during the festival June 12-17, 2007.

"The committee was overwhelmed by the quality of submissions – both from established writers and new talent," said RiverPark President and CEO Zev Buffman, who produced 40 Broadway shows receiving 27 Tony Award nominations. "This festival will help bring the mystery back to live performances on Broadway and London, much as the Sundance Film Festival has invigorated creativity for new independent films."

There were nearly 1000 submissions to the festival's judging committee, whose founding members include Sue Grafton, Ira Levin, William Link, Stuart Kaminsky, John Jakes, Samual Liff, and James W. Hall.

The finalists include Final Curtain by Ed McBain, a funny and frightening mystery that involves intriguing characters where everyone is a suspect for a dark-and-stormy night murder. This was McBain's only stage mystery and has never been produced, said Buffman. McBain, who also wrote under his real name of Evan Hunter, died in 2005.

The five other plays to be produced are Columbo Takes the Rap by William Link, co-creator of the Murder She Wrote and Columbo television mystery series; Death by Darkness by Elizabeth Orndorff, who wrote her play specifically for this competition; Panic by Joseph Goodrich, a deceitful drama that unravels a scheme of blackmail, betrayal and murder; Widdershins by Don Nigro, in which a family of four has disappeared in Wales in 1902; and If/Then by David Foley, a fast-paced thriller with twists and turns that will keep you guessing through to the very last deceitful moment.

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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Mystery Godoku: Weekly Puzzle for February 12, 2007

Mystery GodokuMystery Godoku Puzzle for February 12, 2007A 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 C D E J K R W Y. Ed Gorman wrote this mystery series with this ex-cop and part-time actor (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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Friday, February 09, 2007

Mystery Bestsellers for February 09, 2007

Mystery BestsellersA list of the top ten mystery hardcover bestsellers for the week ending February 09, 2007 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

Step on a Crack by James PattersonJames Patterson introduces a new series with Step on a Crack which debuts at the top of the Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com mystery bestsellers lists this week. Detective Michael Bennett-father of ten-faces the most sinister challenge of his career: a criminal who kills without hesitation and counters everything the NYPD and FBI throw at him with impunity. As New York descends into chaos, Bennett learns that the great love of his life, his wife, is battling a terrible disease and he may have to raise their children alone. Now with the entire world watching and the tension reaching a boiling point, Bennett must quickly find a way out-or become responsible for the greatest debacle in history. Publishers Weekly states, "Short on credibility on the crime front, long on sentimentality on the home front."

High Profile by Robert B. ParkerAlso new this week is High Profile, the 8th entry in Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone mystery series. The book also features in a minor role another of Parker's series characters, PI Sunny Randall. When the body of controversial talk-show host Walton Weeks is discovered hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Paradise, police chief Jesse Stone finds himself at the center of a highly public case, forcing him to deal with small-minded local officials and national media scrutiny. When another dead body-that of a young woman-is discovered just a few days later, the pressure becomes almost unbearable. Though the crimes are perhaps the most gruesome Jesse has ever witnessed, it is the malevolence behind them that makes them all the more frightening. Forced to delve into a world of stormy relationships, Jesse soon comes to realize that knowing whom he can trust is indeed a matter of life and death.

Be sure to check out our new, updated Mystery Bestsellers aStore to purchase any of the bestselling mysteries featured on our website!

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, February 08, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten

The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten
A Texas Hold 'Em Mystery

Mysterious Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-89296-070-1 (0892960701)
ISBN-13: 978-0-89296-070-5 (9780892960705)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $24.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Jimmy Spain was known as one of the luckiest guys in professional poker--until he landed in prison. Then his wealthy cellmate made him a deal he couldn't refuse: mentor his only child in the high-stakes game of Texas Hold'em and he'll set Jimmy up in a condo with 10 grand a month as spending money and pay all his expenses on the poker tour. Done deal.

Suddenly, Jimmy's back on the circuit and in charge of a cocky kid named Kat--that's right, a girl! As the unlikely pair battle their way to the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, it seems like nothing can stop them from cashing in. Then a fellow player is found dead with a three-card "Picasso Flop" in his shirt pocket, casting suspicion on the new Hold'em wiz kid, Kat. Now, amid building pressure to win the tournament, it falls to Jimmy to prove her innocence. Will the distraction cost him his big break? Or send him back to jail? Maybe worse?

Review: Vince Van Patten, host of the World Poker Tour (WPT), teams up with author Robert J. Randisi to pen the first Texas Hold 'Em mystery, The Picasso Flop, featuring poker player Jimmy Spain. Though Jimmy Spain is fictional, the book features a number of real-life characters including Van Patten's co-host on the tour, Mike Sexton.

Jimmy Spain, off the pro-poker circuit for 10 years due to a stint in prison for manslaughter, is persuaded by a former cellmate, Harold Landrigan, to take his estranged daughter, Kat, under his wing. Her passion in life is poker, specifically, Texas Hold 'Em, and Landrigan wants to see that she has a chance to succeed. Jimmy's incentive: a condo, $10K a month, and all expenses paid to Las Vegas for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. And there's a stipulation: Kat can't know that Jimmy is being paid by her father. Shortly after the tournament begins, a hot-shot internet poker player is found murdered, his neck broken. A day later his partner is thrown off a balcony into the hotel's pool. The only thing connecting the two murders is a set of cards found on their bodies: a jack, queen, and king, or in the vernacular of Texas Hold 'Em, a Picasso flop.

The Picasso Flop is a reasonably entertaining mystery that will likely appeal to anyone who plays Texas Hold 'Em or enjoys watching the players on television. There is a lot of insider information, and the book is peppered with poker phrases and slang. As might be expected in a book of this sort, there are fair number of characters to manage and the authors do a fine job of giving them individual traits, allowing the reader to readily distinguish between them. What might be over-the-top caricature in another setting seems comparatively mainstream here.

The plot is not as tightly constructed as it could be and is dependent upon a number of largely improbable, and at times highly coincidental, circumstances. And portraying the Las Vegas police and Bellagio hotel security as rather inept organizations certainly helps keep the murderer hidden in plain sight for as long as possible.

The Picasso Flop is subtitled a "Texas Hold 'Em" mystery, but will presumably return with most of the main characters as their personal storylines are left unresolved at the end of the book. The crimes presented here may be concluded, but what the future holds for Jimmy Spain and Kat Landrigan remains a mystery.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group USA for providing an ARC of The Picasso Flop for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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News: Nancy Drew Mystery for the Nintendo DS

Games of MysteryMajesco Entertainment has announced that a new Nancy Drew game will be released for the Nintendo DS later this year. Titled Nancy Drew and The Deadly Secret of Olde World Park, it is the first touch screen-based mystery for the teen detective.

According to the company's press release, in Nancy Drew and The Deadly Secret of Olde World Park, players assume the role of the teenage super sleuth as she works to solve the mystery of the missing billionaire, Thaddeus Belmont. Players must collect clues, decipher puzzles, follow suspects, sneak into areas and much more as they use their deductive reasoning skills to progress through 15 increasingly difficult chapters. Touch Screen play is incorporated into unique conversation and unlocking mini-games, but players will also use the stylus in Nancy's Clue Journal to access maps, inventory and tasks.

For other Nintendo DS mystery games, visit Games of Mystery which provides information on more mystery games of all kinds as well as mystery parties, mystery-themed vacations, and more!

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