Friday, November 07, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers for November 07, 2008

Mystery Bestsellers

A list of the top 15 for the week ending November 07, 2008 has been posted on the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books website.

No change in the top 5 mysteries this week with The Brass Verdict, the 14th mystery in the Harry Bosch series by remaining atop the list for a third week.

Salvation in Death by J. D. Robb

New this week and debuting in the 9th position is the latest adventure for Eve Dallas, Salvation in Death, the 27th "In Death" mystery by J. D. Robb set in 2060 New York City. When Detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas confirms that the consecrated wine contained potassium cyanide, she’s determined to solve the murder of Father Miguel Flores, despite her discomfort with her surroundings. It’s not the bodegas and pawnshops of East Harlem that bother her, though the neighborhood is a long way from the stone mansion she shares with her billionaire husband, Roarke. It’s all that holiness flying around at St. Christobal’s that makes her uneasy. A search of the victim’s sparsely furnished room reveals little— except for a carefully hidden religious medal with a mysterious inscription, and a couple of underlined Bible passages. The autopsy reveals more: faint scars of knife wounds, a removed tattoo—and evidence of plastic surgery, suggesting that “Father Flores” may not have been the man his parishioners had thought. Now, as Eve pieces together clues that hint at gang connections and a deeply personal act of revenge, she believes she’s making progress on the case. Until a second murder—in front of an even larger crowd of worshippers—knocks the whole investigation sideways. And Eve is left to figure out who committed these unholy acts—and why. Publishers Weekly calls Salvation in Death "unusually introspective" and adds, "Robb offers a multilayered solution to several crimes that serves as yet another reminder that wolves sometimes hide in sheep's (or priest's) clothing, but justice, like faith, has no expiration date."

Divine Justice by David Baldacci

Also new this week and coming in at number 11 is Divine Justice, the 4th Camel Club thriller by . Known by his alias, "Oliver Stone," John Carr is the most wanted man in America. With two pulls of the trigger, the men who destroyed Stone's life and kept him in the shadows were finally silenced. But his freedom comes at a steep price: The assassinations he carried out prompt the highest levels of the U.S. government to unleash a massive manhunt. Behind the scenes, master spy Macklin Hayes is playing a very personal game of cat and mouse. He, more than anyone, wants Stone dead. With their friend and unofficial leader in hiding, the members of the Camel Club risk everything to save him. Now, as the hunters close in, Stone's flight from the demons of his past will take him from the power corridors of , to the small, isolated coal-mining town of Divine, Virginia-and into a world every bit as lethal as the one he left behind.

On our bestseller page, we've added an icon next to every title that is available for immediate download onto the Amazon Kindle. To learn about this wireless reading device, visit the Amazon Kindle page for more information.

The top four mystery bestsellers this week are shown below:

The Brass Verdict by Michael ConnellyThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonBones by Jonathan KellermanRough Weather by Robert B. Parker

Please visit the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books where we are committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

First Clues Review: Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen

First Clues: Mysteries for Kids

is delighted to introduce a new feature for our website, book reviews written by students. These students offer their unique perspective on the book in their review and provide a valuable resource to parents looking for new mystery adventures for their kids to read.

Sammy Keyes and The Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen

Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen

Random House (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-375-80255-X (037580255X)
ISBN-13: 978-0-375-80255-3 (9780375802553)
Publication Date: May 2000
List Price: $5.99

Review written by Tiffany, Age 12, Grade 6. Date of review: November 2008.

Review: Want a book full of pranksters, dog-nappers, men with guns, police officers, and one cranky lady? Meet the crew. Heather Ascota: commonly known for mean streaks, violence, pranks, and all things that bug Sammy! Sammy Keyes: the sassy girl we all know and love. Crocodile Lady: Mrs. Landvogt of course. And Eylssa the Runaway Elf: A lonely little girl who really needs a friend. This wonderful book Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen is book #4 in the series.

There is a dog-napper on the loose and Sammy knows she has to set things straight, and fast because there are high stakes at risk; Grams, Sammy and the Highrise! But would Mrs. Landvogt really get Grams and Sammy kicked out of their home? Should she pay the 50,000 dollar ransom instead? Should she call the police and risk them killing her dog? Sammy doesn't want to wait around and find out! Sammy sets to work on this case, but has nothing to start with! She looks at photographs, videos, and even breaks into a mansion to get the job done! Creepy men dressed as cats and dogs dodge through alleys, and leave her threatening phone messages! Nonetheless, Sammy will try to put forth her best effort, but she only has 6 days to do it! Can she do it? Find out as you read this bone-chilling and heart-felt book!

I really did like this book, but if I had written it, I would have changed a few things. For example there is a lot of violence, guns and tears in this book. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying emotions are bad, just maybe not so many. I believe that all readers that do love a good book should read this book, or the rest of the series. You can relate, cry and jump with each twist in the story! For example, deaths of people who begin to feel like long lost friends, a runaway girl, and Sammy's up and downs with the crocodile lady. Since this book does contain a lot of violence I would suggest it for only older and more mature readers, ages 9-13.

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

is pleased to provide information on nearly 100 mystery series for children and young adults. Each series is conveniently listed under three different age categories (New Sleuth, ages 4 to 7; Future Sleuth, aged 7 to 10; and Sleuth in Training, ages 10 and older). If you have a favorite mystery series you'd like to see added to our site, please contact us.

All student book reviews are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any manner, print or electronic, without the express written consent of the copyright owner. Reviews are published here with permission of the copyright owner.

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Mystery Savings: Members Receive 15% Off One Item at B&N.com

Mystery Savings: Discounted Products and Services on Books, Movies, and more!

Mystery Savings periodically provides our readers with current promotions that offer discounts or other incentives for purchasing mystery-themed products and services products through our partner websites. Below is a special offer recently received by us that we're pleased to pass on at this time.

Barnes&Noble.com is offering a 15% discount on any one item for members (10% discount for non-members) for online purchases made from November 06, 2008 through November 16, 2008.

Members should use coupon code C3N4T4J to get their 15% discount. Non-members should use coupon code A3X3A9B to get their 10% discount.

The discount will be applied to one eligible item in the order as designated by the customer. Exclusions may apply. [MBN note: We're not sure what the exclusions might be so check your order carefully.]

Books You Want 300x250

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Murderous Passions by B. R. Stateham

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

Murderous Passions by B. R. Stateham

Murderous Passions by
Non-series

PublishAmerica (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-60672-357-X (160672357X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60672-357-9 (9781606723579)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Homicide detectives and partners Turner Hahn and Frank Morales attempt to deal with an overflowing caseload by simultaneously investigating multiple murders in B. R. Stateham’s Murderous Passions. Different cases proceed in very different directions in this realist-style crime novel, and readers scramble along with detectives to keep up with the action.

Hahn and Morales’ cases run the gamut of police homicide investigations. The detectives are called when an unlikable Professor of physics is found slumped over a supercomputer, his throat cut and the inaccessible room coated in blood. They also investigate the brutal stabbing of a young girl, where all clues point to her two-timing boyfriend until he also turns up dead. At the same time, they chase a group of murderous, gun-toting jewel thieves, and hunt down a sociopathic gangland killer. In spite of this heavy caseload, Hahn still manages to have time to develop an amorous relationship with one of the pair’s prime suspects.

And all this in just over two hundred pages! Stateham tries to create a realistic police detective story, in which cops are overworked and separate cases don’t always end up connecting neatly in the end. Yet, this strategy leads Stateham to experience some of the same problems as an overworked policemen- the work can get sloppy, attention to detail is lost, cases become less interesting and harder to keep straight, and some cases undoubtedly get more time and attention than others. This book badly needed an editor to catch some of the things that Stateham missed in his effort to keep up with everything the book juggles. It had an inordinate number of easily fixable problems, such as typos and awkward sentences, but not enough to really distract from the book. In the end, the author’s ambitious plans seem to have been a bit too much for him; although the back cover mentions four separate murders, by the end of the book I counted at least ten!

Despite the overly busy plot, Murderous Passions is an enjoyable read. Stateham’s characters, and especially his narrator, Hahn, are fun, even if they’re not particularly deep. The narration has a great voice and is entertainingly wise-guy, filled with a sarcastic humor that moves the book along. Yet Hahn lacks much of the introspection that would make him real for readers, and seems almost too good to be true. The descriptions of him as a well-read, independently wealthy police detective in peak physical condition, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant, detract from the overall realism of the book and from the quality of the character.

As a mystery, this book is worth the read. The main case, that of the murdered physicist, is a classic whodunit that will keep you guessing, especially as Hahn’s romance with a sexy suspect builds. My only complaint is that while the mystery revolves around the work of the physicists, both suspects and victims, the science discussed is clearly lacking in depth, accuracy, or realism in a way that sticks out obviously to the layman.

In the interests of time, Stateham neglects many of the other cases, mentioning them much more briefly and failing to introduce alternative suspects or clues. The book sometimes seems more like a police-thriller than pure mystery, relying on action, humor, romance and drama to keep cases interesting to readers. Although sometimes things can be over the top, in general Stateham succeeds in making Murderous Passions interesting and enjoyable, if not phenomenal. Stateham has created likable characters and an interesting plot backed up by solid, if not perfect, writing. If Stateham chooses to make this the first book in a new series, later books undoubtedly have potential. Hopefully, Stateham will have more time to flesh out his characters and his mysteries by learning to be more selective and less ambitious in his plotting.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Rebecca Henderson for contributing her review of Murderous Passions and to B. R. Stateham for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Rebecca Henderson — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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

Synopsis (from the publisher): Two cops. Four homicides. One case involves a brutally murdered college professor who was hated by everyone. The result? Six thousand suspects. The second case has a dead farm girl, a dead giggolo, and a grieving divorcee. The third has jewel theives who like big-caliber guns. The fourth has a drug-crazed gang member who thinks he's bullet proof.

Just another day at the office for detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Mystery Book Review: Death Roe by Joseph Heywood

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

Death Roe by Joseph Heywood

Death Roe by
A Woods Cop Mystery with Grady Service

Lyons Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59921-428-8 (1599214288)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59921-428-3 (9781599214283)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Grady Service encounters obstacles at every turn when he investigates a case of illegal mixing of salmon roe by a local processing facility in Death Roe, the sixth mystery in this series by Joseph Heywood.

The case starts with a simple violation of snagging salmon, catching the fish anywhere other than the mouth. But the fisherman wasn't interested in the flesh, only the eggs. Service offers to pull the ticket if the violator tells him what he intended to do with the eggs. A deal struck, Service later witnesses an illegal sale of the eggs and raids the company that purchased them. There he discovers something even more alarming: salmon eggs from New York State, deemed by the FDA to be unfit for human consumption, are being mixed with Michigan eggs and sold as prime roe. But the company, Piscova, is a major political influence in the state and has influential allies in powerful positions. Service quickly discovers that investigating this case will test not only his patience but also his resolve to see justice done.

The unnecessarily lurid (and largely irrelevant) dust jacket cover of Death Roe will likely put some readers off, but don't let it: this is a terrific police procedural. It's not, however, one that can be read quickly; the plot is intricate and complicated, there are dozens of characters working for a seemingly endless stream of government agencies, and there are politics, which Service wryly describes as "a minefield for which few people had an accurate map." The focal point, however, is the engaging Grady Service and everything that happens is told from his perspective.

The book is set up as a journal of sorts, with each chapter noting the current date and location. This helps convey to the reader the passage of time, something that frustrates Service who is anxious to see the case closed. And while no doubt reasonably accurate in real terms, the time issue is a minor problem for the plot. While Service is actively involved, the story moves along at a fairly brisk pace. But when he's ordered off the investigation, and later side-lined from a brutal attack unrelated to the case, the story seems to lose its way. No doubt this pause is intended to illustrate how Service feels about being inactive, but it actually doesn't quite work.

Though the pace picks up again towards the end, the conclusion doesn't quite work either. Service gets the closure he seeks and needs, yet there are several plot threads that aren't resolved and left hanging. Maybe this is intentional as well, but it's somewhat unsatisfactory. Still, Death Roe, dust jacket cover aside, is among of the best of its genre to be published this year.

Special thanks to Globe Pequot Press for providing a copy of Death Roe for this review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Grady Service finds himself with an unexpectedly complex, truly rotten, and important case on his hands. This time tainted eggs are showing up in caviar and Service must expose a ring of corruption in state government and perhaps within his own beloved DNR, one that could lead him all the way to the top.

Making enemies at every level of the state, Service rousts out the people on the take. Can he get to the source of the contaminated eggs and prove it? Pitting corporate greed against the health of the general public isn’t something Service takes lightly. He doesn’t rest until there has been full exposure in a case that takes him from the wilds of the to the jungles of the state capital, into the maw of the Ukrainian mafia in New York City and onto distant beaches of Central America.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Games of Mystery: Redrum, New at Big Fish Games

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed games, parties, and vacations, is pleased to announce the availability of a new mystery game from Big Fish Games released today. You can find out more about these games from our page or by clicking on the links provided below.

Redrum

Rose sees dead people. Unfortunately her visions have landed her in an asylum. You must help Rose to use her psychic powers and ghostly visions to solve a series of grisly murders and thwart the plans of an evil doctor in Redrum, a pulse-pounding hidden object game. Warning: Redrum is an intense psychological murder mystery with dark surreal graphics intended for mature audiences.

Redrum, a Big Fish Games exclusive, may be downloaded and purchased for as little as $6.99 with the Big Fish Game Club Jumbo Pack. A demonstration version (53.10 MB) is available to play free for one hour.

Other popular games on our page include several Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew games, James Patterson's Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet, The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, Veronica Rivers: Portals to the Unknown, and Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas.

Visit for all types of mysterious fun!

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Mysteries on TV: CBS Orders 6th Jesse Stone Movie

Mysteries on TV

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that CBS has agreed to produce a sixth Jesse Stone made-for-television movie, this despite the fact that the fifth movie has yet to air. The Jesse Stone mystery movies are based on the character created by and star Tom Selleck as the police chief of the small coastal town of Paradise, Massachusetts.

According to THR, Jesse Stone: No Remorse will find Jesse Stone having been suspended by the Paradise town council and working for the state investigating a series of murders in . Selleck co-wrote the script which doesn't appear to be based on any of the current Jesse Stone books. Production has already begun in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The real mystery here is why CBS hasn't aired Jesse Stone: Thin Ice yet. About a year ago, Parker on his blog indicated the movie would air in February, 2008. Various reports thoughout 2008 suggested the movie would air "sometime this year". IMDB now lists the date as simply 2009. We'll let you know the exact date as soon as we do. Still, we're delighted to know that CBS has such confidence in the series to order a sixth episode.

The first four movies (Stone Cold, Night Passage, Death in Paradise, and Sea Change) are all available on DVD from and are highly recommended by all of us here at Mystery Books News.

Please visit 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.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mysteries on DVD Review: A Thief of Time

Mysteries on DVD: Mystery Books that have been Adapted into Screenplays and Made into Movies

We're still in the process of setting up a new website with reviews of mystery TV shows and movies which may (or may not) have a separate blog. In the meantime, we'll continue to post our television and film reviews here on and advise you of when the new site is up.

Film: . Original release date: 07/11/2004 (a PBS Mystery! made-for-television movie); DVD release date: 11/15/2005.

A Thief of Time

Joe Leaphorn (Wes Studi), Jim Chee (Adam Beach), Emma Leaphorn (Sheila Tousey), Slick Nakai (Graham Greene), Harrison Houk (Peter Fonda). Directed by Chris Eyre. Screenplay adapted from the novel A Thief of Time by .

In news items reporting the , it was noted that three of his books had been adapted into movies: The Dark Wind, Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time. The latter three were made-for-television movies that aired on PBS Mystery! in 2002, 2003, and 2004. I remember seeing the second, and my recollection is I was impressed, but I hadn't seen the first or third. I checked the Netflix catalog, saw A Thief of Time was available, and ordered it to be sent.

A Thief of Time

Hillerman's mysteries feature two Navajo tribal police officers, the older Joe Leaphorn and the younger Jim Chee. Somewhat paradoxically, Leaphorn takes a more modern approach to the beliefs of his culture; Chee tends to take a more traditional view. Initially the characters appeared separately in Hillerman's books. A Thief of Time was only the second book in which they appeared together.

One of three field scientists who are studying the Anasazi culture has failed to return from an extended trip away from their camp. The other two scientists seem unconcerned, but Joe Leaphorn is worried. The missing scientist is thought to be dealing illegally obtained pottery on the black market. Meanwhile, Jim Chee is looking for a missing backhoe. The two cases intersect when the backhoe is found at the scene of two murders, men who were clearly digging for ancient pottery, artifacts highly prized by collectors.

A Thief of Time

Leaphorn's investigation takes him to a known fence of pottery and subsequently to two wealthy collectors, one of whom was likely the last person to see the missing woman. Chee's battling his own demons, urged by his girlfriend to accept a position in Washington with the Bureau of Indian Affairs but unwilling to leave his home in the Southwest. Leaphorn figures out what must have happened to the scientist but, trapped in forbidden territory, is unable to do anything about it.

The PBS Mystery! movies were executive produced by Robert Redford and display his trademark touch of a well told, leisurely paced story in a beautifully photographed setting. Wes Studi is excellent as the dedicated Joe Leaphorn; Adam Beach has a sort of charming innocence as Jim Chee. The other characters are less memorable. The panoramic vistas are stunning and add immeasurably to the story which, admittedly, is rather slow in places. When the focus is on the investigation, whether it be Joe Leaphorn's or Jim Chee's, there's something to keep the viewer's attention. When the focus drifts away, it's easy to be distracted. I realize that well-rounded movies have well-rounded characters, but here the personal scenes lack depth and interest and seem to exist as filler more than anything else. This is particularly true for Jim Chee whose relationship with his girlfriend is never credible.

A Thief of Time

Seeing A Thief of Time will prompt me to order the first one originally aired, Skinwalkers, before year's end. The movies (at least the two I've now seen) are well made, easy on the eye, have intricate plots that capture the viewer's imagination, and present appealing characters that make you want to see more.

The DVD of A Thief of Time is available to purchase from Mysteries on DVD, your source for movies that have been adapted from mystery books.

Reviewed on 11/03/2008 by Mr. E., television and movie critic for Mystery Books News.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Omnimystery — All Rights Reserved.

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Mystery Book Review: The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb

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

The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb

The Clockwork Teddy by
A Bear Collector's Mystery with Brad and Ashleigh Lyon

Berkley Prime Crime (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-425-22429-5 (0425224295)
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-22429-8 (9780425224298)
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $6.99

Review: Brad and Ashleigh Lyon return to their former hometown of San Francisco to exhibit their hand-crafted teddy bears (and investigate a murder or two) in The Clockwork Teddy, the fourth mystery in this series by John J. Lamb.

Brad was once a San Francisco cop who was forced into retirement after being shot in the leg. He and his wife Ashleigh moved to the Shenandoah Valley in , together collecting and creating whimsical teddy bears. They return to the city by the bay to attend the Teddy Bear Flag Republic, but also to visit their daughter, Heather, who has followed in her father's footsteps and is a detective with the SFPD, and Brad's old partner on the force, Gregg Mauel. But murder intrudes when Gregg is called to the scene of a murder, accompanied by Brad. A dead body is in the room of a seedy motel and found in the alley, a 2 foot teddy bear robot. Brad helps steer the direction of the investigation to a local firm, Barbeary Coast Bears. The owner's son is a designer of computer games for Lycaon Software and for fun, had combined his expertise of gaming with his father's knowledge of teddy bears resulting in the robot. But there's commercial interest in the robot with one firm having paid $400,000 for the prototype. When a man from Lycaon is shot, and the cash stolen, Gregg and Brad are determined to solve the crimes ... and is it possible the teddy bear robot may be able help?

Books about teddy bears may bring to mind cute, early chapter readers, but The Clockwork Teddy is a strong mystery albeit written with a light touch. The bear names, for example, are fun and truly ingenious. But the best aspects of the story are the well-developed characters and the carefully plotted mystery that cleverly incorporates the theme of the series. Brad and Ashleigh are a delightful investigative team who play off each other's strengths very well. The plot twists are not overly complicated and consistent within the context of the story with readers likely to be kept guessing at the outcome right until the final pages. The Clockwork Teddy is really an exceptional mystery and highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Clockwork Teddy and to Penguin Group for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

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

Synopsis (from the publisher): Sometimes you shouldn’t go home again. Brad and Ash have returned to for the first time since moving to the Shenandoah Valley and their visit has suddenly turned ugly. While attending a teddy bear show, they witness a robbery and then have a menacing encounter with an ex-SFPD cop with an ax to grind against Brad. That night, a man is murdered at a seedy motel and Brad’s former partner doesn’t quite know what to make of the unique teddy bear left at the scene. Although they’re on vacation, Brad and Ash offer to share their fur-ensic expertise…especially since it will give them the opportunity to work with their daughter, Heather Lyon, an undercover detective on the force.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

First Clues Review: Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen by Wendelin Van Draanen

First Clues: Mysteries for Kids

is delighted to introduce a new feature for our website, book reviews written by students. These students offer their unique perspective on the book in their review and provide a valuable resource to parents looking for new mystery adventures for their kids to read.

Sammy Keyes and The Psycho Kitty Queen by Wendelin Van Draanen

Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen by Wendelin Van Draanen

Random House (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-440-41910-7 (0440419107)
ISBN-13: 978-0-440-41910-5 (9780440419105)
Publication Date: April 2006
List Price: $5.99

Review written by Tiffany, Age 11, Grade 6. Date of review: October 2008.

Review: Have you ever read a dull book? Too boring to comprehend? Well if you want some change and spice in your book selection, Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen by Wendelin Van Draanen is the book for you! Sammy's back and she's got attitude! Sammy and Holly don't mess around when they find a dead cat in a dumpster! They decide to get to the bottom of this mystery and go digging around for clues. Read along as Sammy and her friends find the sick minded person who did this!

Wendelin Van Draanen manages to pull you into the story as you read this book. In the following excerpt you can see how well Van Draanen captures the moment of fear and excitement: "But then a very scary thing happened. The guard started walking our way. And just as we're starting to panic, thinking maybe he's spotted us, something bumps inside the van." See that moment of excitement and fear? When you read this book you feel as though you're there, going through all the emotions Sammy does. I would suggest this book to older and more mature children (ages 10-14) due to mild language and violence.

All in all, this was a fabulous book and once I told my friends about it they just couldn't stop reading! It has a sense that all children can relate to; being trapped, not knowing what to do, falling behind, living through middle school, and of course dealing with your arch enemy. I would suggest this book any day.

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

is pleased to provide information on nearly 100 mystery series for children and young adults. Each series is conveniently listed under three different age categories (New Sleuth, ages 4 to 7; Future Sleuth, aged 7 to 10; and Sleuth in Training, ages 10 and older). If you have a favorite mystery series you'd like to see added to our site, please contact us.

All student book reviews are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any manner, print or electronic, without the express written consent of the copyright owner. Reviews are published here with permission of the copyright owner.

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Mysteries on TV, New This Week: JAG

Mysteries on TV

, your source for the most complete selection of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense television mystery series now available or coming soon to DVD, is profiling one series that has a season DVD being released this week.

(an acronym for Judge Advocate General) is an elite legal branch of military officers trained as lawyers who investigate, prosecute and defend those accused of crimes in the military, including murder, treason and terrorism. Navy Cmdr. Harmon "Harm" Rabb (played by David James Elliott), an ace pilot turned lawyer, and Marine Lt. Col. Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie (Catherine Bell), a strictly by-the-book officer, are colleagues, both with similar high standards, that often find themselves clashing with one another as they take different routes to solve cases..

The JAG Season 7 DVD set of 5 discs contains all 23 episodes that originally aired on CBS from September 2001 through May 2002. JAG eventually ran for 10 seasons, ending in April 2005.

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

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Ann Littlewood Brings Mystery to the Zoo

An article in The Sacramento Bee profiling caught our eye this morning. Littlewood is the author of Night Kill, her first mystery, which we recently reviewed (Mysterious Reviews: ).

Night Kill introduces zookeeper Iris Oakley who investigates the mysterious death of her husband at the zoo where they both worked. Littlewood, 62, is a retired zookeeper herself. "I missed the zoo," she says. "It takes a year or more to write a novel and your head is in that place. ... It was very wonderful to go back in my mind and be at a zoo. And I got to make up my zoo and put the animals I like in it."

She notes that one's first full-length novel is quite the juggling act with so much to learn – character, plot, themes, setting. When asked what the biggest mistake a new writer makes, Littlewood replies, "Not focusing on moving the plot forward." She says it took about five years to get her book published. Night Kill is published by Poisoned Pen Press which says it receives about 400 submissions a year and accepts 5 or 6 new authors annually.

The full text of this interesting article is available at SacBee.com.

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Mystery Godoku Puzzle for November 03, 2008

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

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

Mystery Godoku Puzzle for November 03, 2008

This week's letters and mystery clue:

A E I J L P R S Z

She is the author of the Underdead mystery series featuring science teacher Jo Gartner (9 letters).

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Last Enemy by Grace Brophy

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

The Last Enemy by Grace Brophy

The Last Enemy by
An Alessandro Cenni Mystery

Soho Crime (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-496-6 (1569474966)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-496-9 (9781569474969)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $13.00

Review: In her “Author’s Note” to The Last Enemy Grace Brophy quotes Dorothy Sayers as claiming that mystery writers “are obliged by their disagreeable profession to invent startling and unpleasant incidents and people.” Brophy’s book, its characters and story amply prove Sayer’s point but to be fair Brophy has created as many pleasant and engaging characters as unpleasant ones. So many, in fact, that readers will be clamouring to learn more about them and their adventures in future volumes of the Commissario Alessandro Cenni series set in Italy.

Commissario Cenni – “Alex” to his friends and team members– has all the characteristics for detective stardom. An avid footballer, he thinks for himself, has a pet and a domineering mother. He operates as a maverick with the smarts to confound political interference from his immediate superior, even to push the envelope with political masterminds in Rome. His wife Chiara was kidnapped and has never been found. And his twin brother, Renato, is being anointed in the hierarchy of the church even as Alex and his team of Elena Ottaviani, Piero Tonni, and Sergeant Genine Antolini investigate the death of forty-five year-old American Rita Minelli, an apparent rape-murder victim found strangled on Easter weekend in the crypt of her Italian aristocratic family relatives. Her early pregnancy provides additional shock for the crime as well as increasing the pool of potential suspects and motives. And as Cenni and his crew sort the sand from the salt in their painstaking investigations, the unpleasant people and even the unpleasant sides of the pleasing ones are exposed. A much younger male Canadian companion of Rita’s is jailed for suspicion on the weakest of grounds while members of the Casati family with their trappings of nobility run free. A priest proves he’s only too human in succumbing to sins of the flesh. A Croatian woman, a staniera, is a top of the list suspect but an attractive distraction for the Commissario, even though a rival colleague of his, Fulvio Russo, the womanizing “il lupo to his friends, of whom he had none,” insists she should be arrested as the obvious murderer. Then too, there are Lucia, a Casati maid, gossip and liar; the Count and Countess Casati; their ambitious daughter Artemesia; and Paola her niece with connections to a bomb plot at a McDonald’s, with each bringing the secrets of their baggage for Cenni, Elena, Piro and Genine to assiduously pick through. In the end their sorting is successful and the readers get to know who the guilty party is. But they also learn that not every murderer gets to be appropriately punished and that Italian Commissarios, no matter how well-intentioned, may have to wait for another day and for the next book in the series to see justice properly served.

Brophy’s talent is not only for teasing out mysteries but for exploring human behaviour as well. Her characters are not only rounded but fully rounded. They can exude faults and foibles but some can be charming, gracious and likeable too. And whether it is the story or the development of the characters that Brophy deals with, she writes with an elegance and richness of language and depth of thought. Readers will be hard pressed to find a more powerful passage in current literature than the description of the war crimes transcript for the murder of Sergio Orlic and the rapes of his wife, Sophie, and their daughter, Christina that Commissario Cenni uncovers in his investigation of Rita Minelli’s death. Brophy’s book has major literary merit and deserves a major audience for her ingenious invention of the delightfully “startling and unpleasant incidents and people” in her book.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of The Last Enemy and to Soho Press for providing a trade paperback edition of the book for the review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Rita grew up in Brooklyn, the only child of a narcissistic Italian mother and the GI she married at the end of World War II. After her mother's death, she quits her teaching job and descends upon her poor but aristocratic relatives, the Count and Countess Casati, in Assisi. It takes a while before they realize, to their chagrin, that Rita has come to stay. When the family assembles to watch the penitentes procession in the town square during Easter Week, a Casati tradition, Rita does not join them as planned. Her corpse is later found in the family mausoleum.

Alessandro Cenni, a commissario in the State Police of Umbria, and a handsome bachelor whose twin brother is about to become a bishop, must penetrate the secrets of the Casati family and their circle if he is to discover who killed Rita and why. But he is blocked by their powerful right-wing connections, and by a superior who prefers to arrest a scapegoat rather than risk political suicide. Aided by a loyal staff in his quest for that rarity-justice-he still must acknowledge that no one can defeat the last enemy, death itself.

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, November 01, 2008

Mystery Book Review: George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

George Washington Stepped Here by K. D. Hays

George Washington Stepped Here by
A Karen Maxwell Mystery

Heartsong (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59789-594-6 (1597895946)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59789-594-1 (9781597895941)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $4.97

Review: K. D. Hays introduces novice private investigator Karen Maxwell in George Washington Stepped Here, the first of three in a series and originally released as a book in the Heartsong Present Mysteries book club but now available for purchase separately.

Karen works for her brother Dave, a private investigator with his own agency but a little overworked after his partner retires. An office administrator, she's hoping to step up her career by taking on more of the investigative duties. Dave surprises her when he assigns Karen to a case of a missing Revolutionary War artifact, a piece of leather that purportedly was written on by George Washington. The house, now a museum staffed with volunteers in period costumes, where it was on display needs it to prove that the residence has historical significance; without it, it's merely an old house. Some of the volunteers think the piece of leather cannot possibly be attributed to Washington, and its existence diminishes the house's historical value, not enhances it. Others, including their client, believe otherwise. Karen goes undercover at the house to do a bit of snooping, but then another theft occurs and she realizes that "the dedicated volunteers all wanted to share the site's history with the public; they just disagreed about the best way to accomplish this goal." For at least one of them, the end doesn't justify the means.

Readers looking for a clean, wholesome, non-violent, non-murder mystery will find all that and more in George Washington Stepped Here. Karen is a comfortably familiar heroine combining the joys and challenges of being a mother to two children with the joys and challenges of being a newly minted private investigator. The story, however, has a paint-by-numbers feel to it, as if it was crafted by carefully, closely, and unerringly following some "How to Write a Mystery" outline of dos and don'ts. To be sure, it's competently written with clear prose and dialog and a picture postcard setting, but it's all a little perfect. Too perfect. It's missing a spark, an edge, something to differentiate it from all the other amateur sleuth series and capture the reader's imagination. Even most of the supporting characters have a cardboard feel to them. This isn't to say George Washington Stepped Here isn't a good or even eminently readable mystery; it simply isn't a memorable one.

Special thanks to K. D. Hays for providing a copy of George Washington Stepped Here for this review.

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

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing George Washington Stepped Here from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): For years after her divorce, Karen Maxwell handled administrative paperwork for her brother’s private investigation agency while he ran around town doing the “fun” part—the investigation. When his partner retires, he finally offers her a chance to take a case of her own. She soon finds out why.

The assignment involves the theft of the local historical society’s most treasured artifact, and her brother figures everyone involved is a little crazy. While Karen poses as a volunteer at the site to catch the thief, she meets a host of dedicated historical re-enactors, one of whom happens to be tall, handsome and unmarried. Unfortunately, he is also a prime suspect.

And not only does she have to spend her Saturdays running around in funny clothes, she has to somehow get her kids to go along with it, too.

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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