<em>A Great Reckoning</em>: New Excerpt A Great Reckoning: New Excerpt Louise Penny The 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. "Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" "Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" Lance Hawvermale Read the full story! Review: <i>Sorrow Road</i> by Julia Keller Review: Sorrow Road by Julia Keller Katherine Tomlinson Read Katherine Tomlinson's review! <i>Repo Madness</i>: New Excerpt Repo Madness: New Excerpt W. Bruce Cameron Ruddy McCann is back in this laugh-out-loud, thrilling adventure.
From The Blog
August 23, 2016
Page to Screen: Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Brian Greene
August 19, 2016
Thomas the Train is a Dick
Paul Jenkins
August 19, 2016
Woman Butt Dials Her Way into Jail
Teddy Pierson
August 18, 2016
Why Wait? Writing as a Second Career.
John Keyse-Walker
August 16, 2016
What If This Could Really Happen
Rick Mofina
Aug 24 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Purl Up and Die by Maggie Sefton

It’s been quite a while since I last had the chance to hang out with the Lambspun fabric artists who form the nexus of Maggie Sefton’s bestselling Knitting Mystery series, so I had a lot of catching up to do! Fortunately, Purl Up And Die treats fans, as well as more casual readers, to an in-depth look at their lives, even as they are affected by another shocking murder. 

Kelly Flynn is our sleuthing heroine, a CPA and amateur knitter whose own limited skills with the needles make her very relatable to novice knitters. She spends a lot of time at the House Of Lambspun—the fabric, fiber, and yarn shop just across the driveway from her home—with its attached Pete’s Porch Cafe. Kelly loves textures, and the book is full of sensual descriptions of the various wares available at Lambspun (which is based on a real Colorado knitting store). Kelly also loves her coffee, as well as playing and coaching softball with the various Fort Connor leagues that form a big part of the summertime social schedules of herself and her close-knit (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) circle of friends.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Aug 24 2016 2:30pm

A Deadly Thaw: Visual Guide

GIFnotes: Giving you the basic plot summary of an upcoming book with the help of the Graphics Interchange Format.

This week, there are murders, secrets, and mysteries—oh my! Take a visual tour through Sarah Ward's 2nd Inspector Francis Sadler novel, A Deadly Thaw!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Aug 24 2016 1:00pm

Collecting the Dead: Audio Excerpt

Spencer Kope

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope is a debut novel that introduces Magnus “Steps” Craig, a member of the FBI's Special Tracking Unit (Available June 28, 2016).

Magnus “Steps” Craig is part of the elite three-man Special Tracking Unit of the FBI. Called in on special cases where his skills are particularly needed, he works as a tracker. The media dubs him “The Human Bloodhound,” since Steps is renowned for his incredible ability to find and follow trails over any surface better than anyone else. But there's a secret to his success. Steps has a special ability—-a kind of synesthesia—-where he can see the 'essence' of a person, something he calls 'shine,' on everything they've touched. His ability is known to only a few people—-his father, the director of the FBI, and his partner, Special Agent Jimmy Donovan.

When the remains of a murdered woman are found, Steps recognizes the shine left by the murderer from another crime scene with a physically similar victim. And he uncovers the signature at both scenes—-the mark of a sad face. At the same time, another killer, one Steps has dubbed Leonardo and has been trying to track for over ten years, appears again, taunting Steps. But while Steps tries to find a clue that will lead him to Leonardo, the case of the Sad Face Killer heats up. The team uncovers eleven possible victims: missing women who fit the same pattern. Using his skill and the resources of the Bureau, it is a race against time to find the killer before it's too late.

[Listen to an excerpt from Collecting the Dead...]

Aug 24 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: August 23, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Aug 24 2016 10:00am

A Great Reckoning: New Excerpt

Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning by New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny is the 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the town of Three Pines (Available August 30, 2016).

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.


Armand Gamache sat in the little room and closed the dossier with care, squeezing it shut, trapping the words inside.

It was a thin file. Just a few pages. Like all the rest surrounding him on the old wooden floor of his study. And yet, not like all the rest.

He looked at the slender lives lying at his feet. Waiting for his decision on their fate.

[Read the full excerpt from A Great Reckoning...]

Aug 23 2016 4:00pm

Page to Screen: Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

When I read that Criterion Collection was releasing a new Blu-Ray edition of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1964 film Woman in the Dunes, I tracked down and read the 1962 novel by Kōbō Abe on which it is based. I thought I might write about the Criterion release, and I knew that if I did, I’d want to comment on the ways the screen version differs (or not) from the page version. I’d seen the film many years earlier, but had never read the novel, although I’d read some of Abe’s other books.

As it turns out, there’s not a whole lot to say in comparing and contrasting book to film here. Abe wrote the screenplay based on his own novel, and Teshigahara was extremely faithful to the written version of the story in adapting it for the big screen. The two men were close associates at the time. They were leading members of a circle of forward-thinking Japanese artists, and Teshigahara made three other movies from Abe’s books. This film is a true collaboration between the two men, rather than a case of a movie director taking an author’s novel and completely reshaping it through his or her own vision.

[Read Brian Green's review of Woman in the Dunes...]

Aug 23 2016 2:30pm
Original Story

“Monopoly: Go Directly to Death”

Lance Hawvermale

In accordance with the release of his debut novel, Lance Hawvermale has written a short story exclusively for Criminal Element! Read “Monopoly: Go Straight to Death” and make sure to grab your copy of Face Blind—out today!

“Monopoly: Go Straight to Death”

I found him dead at St. James Place, just east of the rails of the old Pennsylvania line. He lay in a pool of orange light.

Standing on the pale green ground, I stared at the body and reached for my lighter. Too bad I’d quit smoking, because now thumbing the lighter’s striker wheel was as close as I could get to the real thing.

“You ever going to give that up?” Ramsey asked.

I turned the wheel with another satisfying scrape, bringing a flame to life. “Old habits.”

“Yeah, so my wife was an old habit, and she wasn’t so hard to give up.”

This time I didn’t take the bait. Usually Ramsey and I go on for hours trading what he calls old wives’ tales. My particular old wife lives around two hard right turns on ritzy Pacific in a patch of sweet emerald real estate. She married a lawyer. Most folks think that’s a step up from living with a cop. Most folks are right.

[Read the full story here!]

Aug 23 2016 1:00pm

What Is Your Favorite True Crime Series?

Reading about a fictional murder in a mystery novel doesn't resonate the same way that exploring the details and evidence of a real-life homicide does. In true crime, we can't just close the book and convince ourselves that the evil is only on the page. There's something about the relatability of the victim—while we may not have known them personally, we know they're real, with family and friends and loved ones affected by every aspect of the process, from the crime to the trial to the verdict and after. 

And, with the news of the overturned conviction of Brendan Dassey and the new trial for Adnan Syed, the true crime phenomenon continues to grow. We know our readers love their true crime, so we wanted to know what YOU thought was the best true crime series that has aired recently. 

See also: Robert Durst was Reading about Himself before Arrest

[Vote for your favorite true crime series below!]

Aug 23 2016 12:00pm

Review: Sorrow Road by Julia Keller

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller is the 5th book in the Bell Elkins series (Available today!).

James Iacobelli designed the cover for Julia Keller’s latest Bell Elkins mystery, and it’s striking. Black and white and shades of gray, with a shocking touch of red; it is a cover that draws the eye, which is what a cover is supposed to do.

But, covers are also the public “faces” of books, the picture that is worth a thousand words. Here, Iacobelli’s work immediately provokes questions: Where are we? Who is this woman? What is she doing out in the snow? While the default assumption to a fourth question—When is this story taking place?—is always present day, you can’t necessarily tell that from the image. The woman’s coat is a silhouette that hasn’t much changed in seventy-two years. There are other figures in the background but they offer us no clue.

Iacobelli combined two photos for the cover—one of a snowy winter road and one of a woman walking down a road with an umbrella—creating one seamless visual that echoes what the author has done in her narrative: weave two seemingly disparate stories into a tale that resonates through seven decades and multiple lives.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Sorrow Road...]

Aug 23 2016 10:00am

Repo Madness: New Excerpt

W. Bruce Cameron

Repo Madness by W. Bruce CameronRuddy McCann is back in Repo Madness—the laugh-out-loud, thrilling adventure from bestselling author W. Bruce Cameron (Available August 30, 2016).

Ruddy McCann, former college football star, now Kalkaska, Michigan repo man, is finally getting his life back on track. He has a beautiful fiancé, Katie Lottner, a somewhat stable job stealing cars, and a lazy, lovable basset hound.

With his job suddenly in jeopardy, his fiancé wanting a break, and a new court-ordered psychiatrist insisting he take his medication or violate the terms of his probation, Ruddy finds himself missing the one thing he thought he would be happy to be rid of—the voice of Alan Lottner, dead realtor and Ruddy's future father-in-law.

When a woman tells Ruddy that the tragedy that defines his life may, in fact, be a lie, Ruddy starts to investigate the disappearances of women in the area and soon discovers that his own redemption may be within reach. Alan's voice returns, and Ruddy and Alan work together to bring down a corrupt banker, win back Katie's love, and stop a serial killer before he can strike again.


Nothing Like You in the Literature

I flipped the light under the little sign that said JOHNSTON and then took my seat, pensively glancing at my watch. I was close to fifteen minutes late.

The small anteroom had a coffee table layered with magazines for every possible sort of person who might be seeking psychotherapy: fishermen, people who cared about fashionable clothing, people who wanted their houses to look like someone else’s house, women who were pregnant or wanting to be pregnant or had recently been pregnant. I picked up one whose cover had a snowmobile straddled by a woman in a bikini. The girl and the machine were both impressively muscular. Maybe where she lived, that’s how everyone dressed for snowmobiling.

[Read the full excerpt from Repo Madness...]

Aug 22 2016 4:00pm

Review: Waking Up Dead by Nigel Williams

Waking Up Dead by Nigel Williams is both a screamingly funny cozy mystery and startlingly strange ghost story asking the question: What would you do if you could bear witness to your own demise? (Available August 23, 2016)

On the morning of Jessica Pearmain's ninety-ninth birthday, her eldest son—George, a retired bank manager aged sixty-five—wakes to some terrible news.

It appears that, at some point in the night, an intruder broke into his Putney home, where several generations of the Pearmain clan have gathered to celebrate their matriarch's momentous milestone, and murdered the birthday girl.

George's wife, Esmerelda, discovers her on the kitchen floor surrounded by blood and broken glass. The house promptly descends into outraged chaos. A chaos that only becomes more confused and strident when Esmerelda rushes upstairs to tell George...

[Read Angie Barry's review of Waking Up Dead...]

Aug 22 2016 2:30pm

Agatha Raisin 1.03: “The Wellspring of Death” Episode Review

“The Wellspring of Death” opens in the village of Ancombe, as we toggle back and forth between a young mother taking her child for a walk in a baby carriage and an Ancombe Water Company tanker truck careening through the village. Thankfully, the truck narrowly misses flattening both villager and her child, but we are immediately aware that the villagers have a slight problem with the new water company that is in town to tap their spring water and sell it on the open market.

By the way, and this might just be me, but who else thought that having a skull as the logo on the water bottle might be a bit of bad luck? Even if it is a cartoon version of the one on the spring, which has water flowing out of its mouth.

The big controversy is that the spring owner has already sold her water rights to Ancombe, but the Parish council is split on whether or not to grant access to allow the tanker trucks passage through the village. Robert Struthers (Tom Chadbon), the Chairman of the Parish Council, has the deciding vote on the issue. He says he will think about his decision overnight and let them know in the morning, which we all know is tantamount to signing his own death warrant.

[Sign on the dotted line...]

Aug 22 2016 12:30pm

Inspector Lewis 8.03 Series Finale: “What Lies Tangled” Episode Review

Youthful professor Adam Capstone, being all perky first thing in the a.m., glances out his office window to see a young woman cast a dubious look in his direction. Paying her little mind, he goes to his desk and opens an innocuous-looking package that came in the morning mail. Only, that package isn’t innocuous at all. It contains an explosive device that...


We have our first corpse in “What Lies Tangled,” the this-time-we-mean-it final episode of Inspector Lewis.

Everything here is tangled up in knots, mathematical knots that are the basis for a field of study known as knot theory. It’s a complicated, mind-bending thing that even smarty pants DI Hathaway (Laurence Fox) can’t explain easily.

The central question, which we do understand, is this: Who would want to murder a 34-year-old professor of geometric topology?

[You might better ask, “Who wouldn’t?”]

Aug 22 2016 11:00am

Trailer: Kidnap, Starring Halle Berry

“You took the wrong kid.”

If the adrenaline of a mother’s love for her child can cause superhuman strength enough to lift a car, imagine what Halle Berry could do when she sees her son get kidnapped. It’s every mother’s worst nightmare, and it’s the plot of the upcoming suspense thriller, Kidnap.

Directed by Luis Prieto and starring Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, and Lew Temple, Kidnap appears to be the latest attempt at cashing in on the successful suspense of the Taken series, albeit with a little less punching, shooting, and killing. However, based on the trailer, this film looks like it delivers the thrills, with several heart-stopping car chase scenes.

It’s hard to imagine the lengths a parent would go to ensure the safety of their child.

[Watch the trailer for Kidnap below...]

Aug 22 2016 10:00am

Wedding Bell Blues: New Excerpt

Ruth Moose

Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth MooseWedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose is the 2nd Dixie Dew Beth McKenzie Mystery (Available August 23, 2016).

Beth McKenzie, owner of the Dixie Dew Bed and Breakfast, is enjoying an exciting affair with her new love, Scott. Meanwhile, the town of Littleboro, North Carolina is abuzz with gossip about Crazy Reba's upcoming nuptials. Most brides go crazy at some point, but Littleboro's resident homeless lady has had a head start: she's beloved, indulged, and most of all, eccentric. But at almost 60—or thereabouts—her marriage seems a little peculiar. Sure, she's sporting a diamond big enough to choke a horse, but no one can tell if it's real, or just a Cracker Jack prize she pilfered from a yard sale.

Crazy Reba's wedding plans go confirmedly awry when the bride-to-be is arrested for her fiancé's murder. Beth, determined to clear Reba's name, gets in over her head when a lady wrestler who threatened to kill her books a room at the Dixie Dew, and Robert Redford, her neighbor's white rabbit, disappears.

Then Littleboro's First Annual Green Bean Festival gets up and running, a famous food writer becomes deathly ill, and Beth must battle through madcap mayhem to apprehend the culprit and save the day.

Chapter One

When I heard Crazy Reba’s voice on the phone I knew immediately something was wrong. Really wrong. My first thought was where in the world did Reba ever get a cell phone? The homeless and street sleepers like Reba weren’t flush with extra cash (if any) each month. Maybe somebody had given her one of those phones where you buy the minutes up front. A phone for her own protection. Some kind person, the thought of which made me feel bad since I had not been the one to think of it. Any other place I might have thought of a cell phone for safety. Protection for all kinds of things. But Littleboro? Not my Littleboro. Except these days it wasn’t safe to be alone and on the loose … even in Littleboro.

[Read the full excerpt from Wedding Bell Blues...]

Aug 21 2016 10:00pm

The Night Of: “Ordinary Death” Episode Review

I’ll take evidence over a confession, every time.

Seven episodes, and we have no idea who stabbed Andrea to death in the bedroom. It’s to the show’s credit that we keep tuning in. The story is strong, but the beams are built entirely of character:

  • Chandra, the strong but unsure lawyer who gives it her all this episode. 
  • John Stone, who no longer stands on feet of clay (or eczema, for that matter).
  • Freddy, the boxer-turned-criminal who runs Rikers Island. (Even though it’s a jail, they treat it like it’s a prison where he’s a long-timer, but I’ll let that pass. Suspects have lingered in Rikers for up to 3 years before trial, but it’s unlikely Freddy would get transferred there from upstate prison, even if he had a buddy pin a murder on him and he’s waiting for trial). 
  • And, of course, the mysterious Naz, whose good boy exterior has transformed into a tattooed, head-shaved, heroin-smoking, hard-faced man over the months, with a street name of “Sinbad.” 

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of “Ordinary Death”...]

Aug 20 2016 10:00am

Mirror Image: New Excerpt

Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose

Mirror Image by Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth RoseA mirror that feeds on human souls wreaks destruction on those around it in Mirror Image, the new novel from internationally bestselling author Michael Scott and Melanie Ruth Rose (Available August 23, 2016).

In an auction house in London, there is a mirror no one will buy. Standing seven feet tall and reaching four feet across, its size makes it unusual. Its horrific powers make it extraordinary. For centuries, the mirror has fed off of the lives of humans, giving them agonizing deaths and sucking their souls into its hellish world.

When Jonathan Frazer, the wealthy owner of a furniture and antiques shop in Los Angeles, buys the mirror at an auction, he believes he is getting the bargain of a lifetime. With its age and size, it is easily worth eight times what he paid for it. At this point, the mirror has sat dormant for years. But within days of Jonathan's purchase, the deaths begin again. One employee is crushed when the mirror falls on top of him. A few days later, the corpse of another is found in front of the mirror, brutally stabbed. A third is burned beyond all recognition. All the while, an enormous man with a scarred face is following Jonathan, demanding that he give him the mirror and killing any police officer that gets in his way.

The police are becoming desperate. As the death toll rises, Jonathan himself becomes a suspect. He knows there is something wrong with the mirror. He knows it's dangerous. But he cannot bring himself to get rid of it. Everyday he becomes more captivated by the mirror.

For the mirror is awakening, and its powers are resurfacing.


THE MIRROR stood seven foot tall, four foot wide, the glass dirty and speckled, warped so that the images it showed were slightly distorted and blurred. It was quite grotesque.

And Jonathan Frazer knew he had to have it.

He stood at the back of the small crowd in the foul-smelling auction room and waited impatiently while the bored auctioneer made his way through the catalogue of the Property of a Gentleman.

[Read the full excerpt from Mirror Image...]

Aug 19 2016 4:30pm

“The White Rook” Cocktail

“Every pawn is potentially a queen.” – James Mason

Castle up with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel— “The White Rook” cocktail, inspired by Andrew Gross's upcoming WWII historical thriller, The One Man!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Aug 19 2016 2:00pm

Review: Face Blind by Lance Hawvermale

Face Blind by Lance Hawvermale follows a man with a neurological disorder, prosopagnosia, that prevents him from recognizing human faces as he confronts an enigmatic killer in Chile's Atacama desert—the most lifeless place on earth (Available August 23, 2016).

I’ve always thought two of the more intriguing protagonists finding themselves in a world of mierda were from the 1966 stage production of Wait Until Dark (later adapted into the Audrey Hepburn film), featuring a blind woman going up against three men who have invaded her home, and Jonathan Nolan’s 2001 short story “Memento Mori” (also made into a movie—Hollywood knows a good thing), where a man with backwards amnesia continually tattoos himself to remember imperative details related to his wife’s murder. Both of these individuals persevered without the benefit of certain functions that most of us take for granted. In Face Blind, Lance Hawvermale should have Hollywood warming up their keyboards because he has tapped into a different, brilliant deprivation plot device: prosopagnosia. 

[Read David Cranmer's review of Face Blind...]