<i>Black Cat Crossing</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Black Cat Crossing: Exclusive Excerpt Kay Finch This debut cozy introduces Hitchcock the Bad Luck Cat! <i>Mr. Smith Goes to Prison</i>: New Excerpt Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: New Excerpt Jeff Smith A man can learn a lot when he's behind bars. <i>Vienna</i>: New Excerpt Vienna: New Excerpt William S. Kirby What is it about these wooden mannikins that would make murder worth it? Fresh Meat: <i>Jade Dragon Mountain</i> by Elsa Hart Fresh Meat: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart Debbie Meldrum Empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell.
From The Blog
August 26, 2015
From Page to Screen with Night and the City
Brian Greene
August 25, 2015
The ZINNG: Bank Heists and a Pit of Despair
Crime HQ
August 24, 2015
The ZINNG: Lolita and Victor Frankenstein
Crime HQ
August 21, 2015
The ZINNG: Cocoa and Improbable Weapons
Crime HQ
August 19, 2015
Drunk Man Lets 10-Year-Old Son Drive Home
Teddy Pierson
Aug 28 2015 9:00am
Original Story

Black Cat Crossing: Exclusive Excerpt

Kay Finch

Black Cat Crossing by Kay Finch is the debut cozy in the Bad Luck Cat Mystery Series (available September 1, 2015).

Sabrina has never been the superstitious type. Still, when she moves to Lavender, Texas, to write her first novel and help her Aunt Rowe manage her vacation rental business, Sabrina can’t avoid listening to the rumors that a local black cat is a jinx—especially after the stray in question leads her directly to the scene of a murder.

The deceased turns out to be none other than her Aunt Rowe’s awful cousin Bobby Joe Flowers, a known cheat and womanizer who had no shortage of enemies. The only problem is that Aunt Rowe and Bobby Joe had quarreled just before the cousin turned up dead, leaving Rowe at the top of the long list of suspects. Now it’s up to Sabrina to clear her aunt’s name. Luckily for her, she’s got a new sidekick, Hitchcock the Bad Luck Cat, to help her sniff out clues and stalk a killer before Aunt Rowe winds up the victim of even more misfortune…


I laced my fingers, cracked my knuckles, and stared at the few words on my laptop screen. Behind me, the hum of early morning conversation in Hot Stuff Coffee Shop went on as usual. Back when I was a kid visiting my aunt Rowena, the shop was called Das Kaffeehaus, in keeping with the German heritage here in Lavender, heart of the Texas Hill Country. Then a transplant from San Antonio bought the place and changed the name to Hot Stuff. He traded the old oom-pah-pah background music for seventies disco tunes. I’d choose listening to Donna Summer over any polka band in history, but I had to wonder why he didn’t go with a country music theme. After all, this was Texas.

[Continue reading Black Cat Crossing by Kay Finch...]

Aug 27 2015 2:00pm

Hurry! “Lesson Learned” Submissions Mailbox Closes Friday at Noon

At 11:59 a.m. tomorrow, The M.O. submissions close, so get to writing and tell us your “Lesson Learned.”

Two weeks after the submissions mailbox closes (see more info at the link), we'll have previews of the shortlisted stories, mug shots will appear in our Rogues' Gallery, and after the site visitors make their selections, one of the original short crime stories will be published here. We've learned our lesson, have you?

Aug 27 2015 11:30am

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: New Excerpt

Jeff Smith

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is a memoir by Jeff Smith about how a senator from Missouri ended up behind bars for one year, and what it taught him about America's prison crisis (available September 1, 2015).

In 2009, Smith lied to the Feds about seemingly minor campaign malfeasance and earned himself a year and a day in Kentucky's FCI Manchester. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is the fish-out-of-water story of his time in the big house; of the people he met there and the things he learned: how to escape the attentions of fellow inmates, like a tattooed Klansman and his friends in the Aryan Brotherhood; what constitutes a prison car and who's allowed to ride in yours; how to bend and break the rules, whether you're a prisoner or an officer. And throughout his sentence, the senator tracked the greatest crime of all: the deliberate waste of untapped human potential.

Smith saw the power of millions of inmates harnessed as a source of renewable energy for America's prison-industrial complex, a system that aims to build better criminals instead of better citizens. In Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, he traces the cracks in America's prison walls, exposing the shortcomings of a racially based cycle of poverty and crime. Smith blends a wry sense of humor with academic training, political acumen, and insights from his year on the inside. He offers practical solutions to jailbreak the nation from the financially crushing grip of its own prisons and to jump-start the rehabilitation of the millions living behind bars.

Read this exclusive excerpt of the Introduction and Chapter 2 of Mr. Smith Goes to Prison and then comment for a chance to win a copy!

[Start reading Mr. Smith Goes to Prison!]

Aug 26 2015 5:00pm

From Page to Screen with Night and the City

In thinking about Jules Dassin’s 1950 work of film noir Night and the City in relation to the same-named 1938 novel by Gerald Kersh, one striking thing to consider is the fact that Dassin said he never read the book. He apparently fully relied on the screenplay of Jo Eisinger, and his own cinematic vision, to guide him as he took the story and adapted it to the big screen. Was Dassin just too busy to pore over Kersh’s novel, did he not want to get distracted from the tale as it read in the screenplay, or was there some other reason why he chose to not read the book? I don’t know, but the differences between book and film are interesting.

The first thing to establish – and not that many reading this likely need to be told as much – is that both Kersh’s novel and Dassin’s film are superb. Both are influential works of noir that take an unflinching look at a panorama of seedy characters in hardboiled situations. Any lover of edgy crime stories, and/or powerful works of social realism, needs to experience both versions of the tale. Ok, so that’s settled. Now let’s get on with a close look at how the two compare.

Both film and novel are set in London. And both concern a motley crew of hardened characters who are struggling in a joylessly desperate moneyed environment. Primarily occurring in nightclubs and professional wrestling environments, the tale depicts a host of hard-up men and women who are out to make a pound any way they can, within a seemingly hopeless (sewer) rat race. Nearly every person in the story seems to be in a constant state of looking at other people and wondering how many quid they might have on them, and what they might be able to do to get some of that dough. Things like morals and decency to your fellow man and woman get tossed in the gutter like yesterday’s betting sheet, and all in the name of the mighty pound.

[Now for the differences...]

Aug 26 2015 10:00am

Vienna: New Excerpt

William S. Kirby

Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna by William S. Kirby is a modern mystery that focuses on two women linked to a murder as they try to prove their innocence by solving the case while also being forced to flee throughout Europe (available September 1, 2015).

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she's never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she's never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine's current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins-the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna's own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


Awake under a hollow sunrise, Justine Am sought cover behind a hangover that wasn’t there. The previous night’s drinking had consisted of two sips of vodka drowning in peach liqueur. She’d switched to tonic water well before the pink eyedropper of liquid ecstasy made its rounds. Not that she would’ve taken part. Boredom was cheaper and it unleashed the same chaos. Sprawled across a stranger’s swaybacked bed, Justine still felt the subterranean echo of house electronica pacing behind her rib cage: boom, boom, boom. She’d fallen in with a post-tribal, post-trance, post-everything crowd. World-weary gods draped over the cherry and onyx pillows of Holler. They’d offered her a sucker’s bet and she’d raised the stakes right into this bed.

[Continue reading Vienna by William S. Kirby!]

Aug 25 2015 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Jade Dragon Mountain is the debut mystery by Elsa Hart set in China in 1708 featuring the exiled librarian Li Du (available September 1, 2015).

Here are some of things I know about China: Ming vases, Mao Tse Tung, calligraphy, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and they put on a spectacular Olympic opening ceremony. Not much for a country with a more than 4,000-year history.

I learned a bit more by reading Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart. Most surprising for me was the fact that Jesuit priests not only visited the country, but played a big role in China. As observers, and in an attempt to win converts to the Catholic church, of course. But also as respected advisors to the Emperor. And some Jesuit priests play a role in the book as well.

The protagonist, Li Du, is a Chinese scholar from a good family. After distinguishing himself at his studies—often with Jesuits—he becomes the Emperor’s librarian. At the beginning of the story, in 1708, Li Du is in exile from the capital of Beijing. He wanders the country, using travel books as his guides. Having visited the tea jungles of the far southwest region of China, he comes to the town of Dayan. He applies to the magistrate of the region, his older cousin, for a place to stay.

[Not the best timing...]

Aug 25 2015 2:00pm

The ZINNG: Bank Heists and a Pit of Despair

Check out this beautiful infograph that breaks down the biggest bank robberies of the 21st Century, courtesy of Fast Locksmith.

Over at The Lineup, True crime author Fred Rosen recounts his investigation into the murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Robinson, where the gruesome details almost made him quit his job.

Author Jonathan Maberry lists five futuristic weapons that scare the bejeezus out of him, courtesy of The Hit List.

Tread carefully into these five books guaranteed to dump you into a pit of despair, from of Jason Sizemore at Tor.com.

Learn about one Brooklyn butcher's new cookbook with recipies taken directly from the pages of some of literature's greatest works.

Aug 25 2015 12:00pm

CSI Queensland: The Strip

Imagine Jerry Bruckheimer was so taken by producing The Amazing Race Australia (yes, there was one) that he creates a cop show set in Oz. It’ll have all the Bruckheimerish trademarks: lush, glossy production design, lots of pretty people, less-than-Chekhovian character development, stories that don’t tax the viewers’ minds overmuch. Could it be his next Without a Trace – or the second coming of The Forgotten?

Too late, Jerry. Someone beat you to it. They called it The Strip.

The setup should sound familiar. Jack Cross (Aaron Jeffery, Neighbours), a Sydney detective, moves to Queensland’s Gold Coast to try to glue back together his busted marriage. He lands in Main Beach CID Homicide with a sardonic new partner, Detective Senior Constable Frances Tully (Vanessa Gray, Dance Academy). Together they chase dead bodies up and down the Miami Beach-like strip of surf, marinas, high-rise condos, and nightclubs south of Brisbane while working out their own plentiful personal issues and those of Detective Constables Jessica Mackay (Simone McAullay, Broadchurch) and Tony Moretti (Bob Morley, Home and Away). Gruff, blokish Inspector Max Nelson (Frankie Holden, Blue Heelers) yells at them all at least once an episode when the case gets tough.

That Miami Beach reference isn’t accidental. The series looks a lot like CSI: Miami: tons of saturated blues and greens, palm trees, bright sunshine on white stucco and white sand. Swooping flyovers, ocean sunsets (even though the ocean’s off the east coast) and nighttime skylines are liberally interspersed with the story action on the ground, lest you forget Our Heroes are working just up the road from a place called (I swear!) Surfer’s Paradise.

[All we need is The Who...]

Aug 24 2015 5:15pm

The ZINNG: Lolita and Victor Frankenstein

The Radio Times Festival will be held in London from September 24—27, with highlights including panels featuring actors from both BBC's Endeavor and Sherlock.

Take a look at every single one of the 210 covers that have been used for Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita.

J.E. Irving took home the inaugural Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award on Saturday, August 15, during the Mystery Writers Key West Fest.

Bill Syken explains what elite athletes and master criminals have in common over at The Hit List.

Watch the newest trailer for Victor Frankenstein starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy:

Do you have a link that's perfect for The ZINNG? Send your suggestions to info@criminalelement.com!

Aug 24 2015 11:45am

Show Me a Hero: Parts 3 and 4

The meaty middle of Show Me a Hero begins and ends in the thick of battle, as Nick learns the hard way that everyone loves a winner and nobody wants to hitch their wagon to a loser. The embattled young mayor (played by Oscar Isaac, of A Most Violent Year) is on the phone to Albany, but the Democratic Party machine that loved him when he was a surprise winner of the Yonkers mayoral election has no time for him now that the voters have turned on him, because no one can give them what they want: a way to fight Judge Sand’s order for Yonkers to build low-income housing outside of the area they’ve segregated poor minorities into for decades, a square mile of projects that have become a haven for crime.

Nick calls on Mario Cuomo, the “Great White Hope” of the liberals in the late ‘80s, whose star fizzled before it had a chance to shoot. “I could use a little hope!” he yells into the phone, but he’s on his own. And things are beginning to get ugly, as the Save Yonkers campaign gets more desperate. Every appeal has been denied, and Albany’s only help is to send an “emergency team”who all but takes over the city government, demanding layoffs of 600 city workers so they can keep the fire and police departments running once the judge’s contempt order goes into effect, fining Yonkers a million dollars a day. Nick uses the layoff threats to his advantage; it makes the judge’s order real, ruining the lives of 600 families to satisfy the demands of angry voters. Vice Mayor Henry Spallone (played by Alfred Molina with great unctuousness, he must’ve foreseen the future, because he uncannily channels Donald Trump) never wavers, but Nick manages to pass the vote to comply with the judge’s order and save the city from bankruptcy. The voters already hate him for not shouting rhetoric, and telling him this is a bitter pill they will be forced to swallow. “I’m finally on the right side of something,” he says, but he has little time to enjoy it. Spallone sees the blood in the water, and Yonkers only elects mayors to a 2 year term.

[It might be a quick reign...]

Aug 24 2015 9:30am

Hannibal 3.12: “The Number of the Beast is 666”

Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) envisions killing his wife and so consults the second-deadliest therapist in Baltimore. Supposing this is only his dragonic killer-empathy in overdrive, nonetheless, I didn't want to believe he'd seek the advice of Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier (Gillian Anderson) in her dispensary of smug.

The two spar over who is hurt more, who is more vulnerable, who is more beloved, who means more to Hannibal as object of affection or menu item. A pathetic sort of competition between two intimates who each chose to bend to Hannibal before breaking. Will sells out his new family as already lost to him—how loyal and kind, when they haven't even died. Molly's wounded and anxious and Walter's angry, but to consign them away rather than digging in with loyalty and love seems pretty conveniently cowardly. (Jack's no angel, but he didn't desert Bella, even though she betrayed him by trying to kill herself.)

Anyway, here are these two with their shining eyes, neither able to help each other or to capitulate. Bedelia, aka Bluebeard's wife, says Hannibal's in love with Will, provided that love equates to insatiable hunger. An accurate enough description of some relationships, but does Will ache for him, she asks? That's the question, because Will is the feeling one, not the hungering one.

[Are Hannibal's ears burning?]

Aug 23 2015 12:00pm

Godless Country: New Excerpt

Alaric Hunt

Godless Country by Alaric Hunt is the 2nd thriller in the Guthrie and Vasquez series about a NYC stalker who seems to have developed a taste for more than just idle observation (available August 25, 2015).

Clayton Guthrie is a private fixer for the aristocracy of New York City. His latest job is to protect a Manhattan heiress from a dangerous stalker. He hires retired bodyguard Abraham Swabe to protect her while he runs a trap operation assisted by his young operative, Rachel Vasquez, who juggles her new responsibilities while suffering from the shaky aftereffects of a shootout.

Guthrie and Vasquez pursue the stalker across the city, from watching a quiet townhouse on the Upper East Side, to staking out New York University around Tompkins Square, and even crawling through the grimy industrial guts of Brooklyn. Searching for the stalker's hideout, they learn the identity of one of his previous victims. She was murdered, but the killer is still at large.

Chapter One

If anyone had asked, Rachel Vasquez would have been forced to admit the stupidity of getting drunk and picking up college boys; good Puerto Rican girls in the city didn’t cruise. So she dodged the question before it was asked.

[Continue reading Godless Country now!]

Aug 22 2015 12:00pm

The Drowning Ground: New Excerpt

James Marrison

The Drowning Ground is the debut mystery by James Marrison set in a tranquil English town and focused on Detective Chief Inspector Guillermo Downes (available August 25, 2015).

For two decades after being forced to leave his native Argentina, Detective Chief Inspector Guillermo Downes has sought tranquility in the orderly life of the English Cotswolds. But violence can strike just as suddenly in the countryside as it can in Buenos Aires.

When the body of wealthy landowner Frank Hurst is found with a pitchfork through his neck, it brings back disturbing memories of former mysteries. Hurst's wife drowned in their swimming pool-an official accident, though many villagers have their doubts. And what about the two young girls who were abducted years before, with some possible links to Hurst that were never proven?

It's something truly terrible to make someone disap­pear,'' Downes tells his partner. Because the family never know, you see." Years ago he had promised the vanished girls' mothers to find their daughters, and as the ripples from Hurst's death spread through the village, there is fresh hope that he might finally make good on that promise, no matter what it costs the community or himself.


Carefully tucked out of view so that it did not ruin the garden’s neat symmetry, Frank Hurst’s swimming pool was positioned to one side of a raised patio. It was completely surrounded by a tall wooden fence. The sound of our footsteps echoed loudly around the pool’s edges as we stepped between a number of blood-stained towels, which were curled up along the granite. Two medics were standing above the body, and when they saw us they moved away so we could have a better look at her. The sun shimmered on the water. A bird called out shrilly and unexpectedly from the fields beyond. It was a hopeless sound somehow.

[Continue reading The Drowning Ground by James Marrison...]

Aug 21 2015 12:00pm

Slaughter: Exclusive Excerpt

John Lutz

Slaughter by John Lutz is the 10th thriller featuring NYPD Detective Frank Quinn where a madman's fatal, bloody puzzle terrorizes New York City (available August 25, 2015).

A beautiful jogger, drained of blood, dismembered, then meticulously reassembled on the grass in Central Park. Subway derailments, plummeting elevators, collapsing construction cranes, apartment explosions—all creating a bloody, senseless puzzle. Detective Frank Quinn knows that even while the slayer is taunting the cops and the public, he’s also screaming to be caught. But Quinn will have to risk everything he holds precious to bring in this killer. . .


Rose Darling knew she’d begun jogging too late. Unless she lengthened her stride, she’d be caught in Central Park after dark. Not that she hadn’t been warned, but hadn’t everybody at some time or other been warned not to be in Central Park after dark?

The trouble was, she had a date, and if she turned her daily jog into a track meet with the clock, her long dark hair would become a sweaty, unmanageable mass in the summer heat.

[Continue reading Slaughter by John Lutz...]

Aug 21 2015 11:00am

The ZINNG: Cocoa and Improbable Weapons

At Mystery Fanfare, the Macavity nominees for Best Short Story discuss the importance of first lines.

The home of KISS's Gene Simmons is being searched by the LAPD, because something bad may have occurred there while he and his family were away.

Jon Jordan has an interview with Linda Fairstein over at Crimespree Magazine.

Anne Hillerman has taken over her father Tony's Leaphorn and Cree Navajo mysteries, and Theodore Feit of Spinetingler Magazine reviews the result, Spider Woman's Daughter.

Mystery Playground's Friday Drink with Reads is Cari Dubiel's recipe for sweetheart cocoa based on her short story “The Happiest of Endings,” which you can go read over at Kings River Life.

Hat tip to Gizmodo for referring us to this montage of the weirdest movie weapons:

An Improbable Weapon Supercut from Burger Fiction on Vimeo.

Aug 20 2015 2:00pm

The Nature of the Beast: Exclusive Excerpt

Louise Penny

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny is the 11th Chief Inspector Gamache mystery, in which a boy known for his constant lying disappears, and turns out to have told dangerous truths (available August 25, 2015).

Please log in or register to read the exclusive three-chapter excerpt, and when you're done reading, comment for a chance to win a copy! As an added bonus, you can also listen to the audio recording of Chapter 1 below! 

Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.

And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.

A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

Chapter 1

Running, running, stumbling, running.

Arm up against the wiry branches whipping his face. He didn’t see the root. He fell, hands splayed into the moss and mud. His assault rifle dropped and bounced and rolled from sight. Eyes wide, frantic now, Laurent Lepage scanned the forest floor and swept his hands through the dead and decaying leaves.

He could hear the footsteps behind him. Boots on the ground. Pounding. He could almost feel the earth heaving as they got closer, closer, while he, on all fours, plowed the leaves aside.

“Come on, come on,” he pleaded.

And then his bloodied and filthy hands clasped the barrel of the assault rifle and he was up and running. Bent over. Gasping for breath.

It felt as though he’d been on the run for weeks, months. A lifetime. And even as he sprinted through the forest, dodging the tree trunks, he knew the running would end soon.

But for now he ran, so great was his will to survive. So great was his need to hide what he’d found. If he couldn’t get it back to safety, at least, maybe, he could make sure those in pursuit wouldn’t find it.

He could hide it. Here, in this forest. And then the lion would sleep tonight. Finally.

Bang. Bangbangbang. The trees around him exploded, ripped apart by bullets.

He dove and rolled and came up behind a stump, his shoulder to the rotting wood. No protection at all.

His thoughts in these final moments did not go to his parents at home in the little Québec village. They didn’t go to his puppy, no longer a puppy but a grown dog. He didn’t think of his friends, or the games on the village green in summer, or tobogganing, giddy, down the hill while the mad old poet shook her fist at them in winter. He didn’t think of the hot chocolate at the end of the day in front of the fire in the bistro.

He thought only of killing those in his sights. And buying time. So that maybe, maybe, he could hide the cassette.

[Please login or register to read full exclusive excerpt of Chapters 1-3 of The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny...]

Aug 20 2015 10:00am

Fresh Meat: X by Sue Grafton

X by Sue Grafton is the 24th mystery in the Kinsey Millhone series about the California-based private eye (available August 25, 2015).

An apt subtitle for Sue Grafton’s latest book X is the oft-repeated quote that “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” In the 24th in her series of alphabet mysteries, private eye Kinsey Millhone, based In Santa Teresa, California, is pursuing a con artist, a sociopathic serial killer, and a couple of small time crooks, all of whom repeat the past with varying consequences.

In Grafton’s version of a time machine, Kinsey is forever stuck in the 80s. A is for Alibi was published and set in 1982, and 33 years later, X is set in 1989. Technology has improved at lighting speed in the decades since 1982, making it tough for crime writers everywhere. Cell phones are ubiquitous, cars come with emergency releases inside the trunks to put a crimp in a kidnapping plot; the days of hotwiring cars is long gone, and CSI has taken some of the fun out of the detective game. But Kinsey Millhone, with no high-tech devices to aid her, still gets a kick out of being a private eye. And readers who tag along will enjoy the ride.

[Just don't get locked in the trunk...]

Aug 19 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Savage Lane by Jason Starr

Savage Lane by Jason Star is a thrilling noir that offers up a searing satire of a declining marriage, suburban life, and obsessive love (available October 13, 2015).

“Every town has its secrets.” That’s the tagline that appears across the top of the cover to Jason Starr’s new crime novel Savage Lane. But some words straight out of the book could have served that function just as well: “you never knew what was going on in other people’s lives.” Savage Lane is a work of suburban noir that looks at the dark side of the goings-on in seemingly “normal” peoples’ existences.

Because this is a new book and one that’s not being released until October, I want to be especially careful not to commit spoilers in writing about it. So I will just detail the basic setup and then avoid giving away more plot. There are several minor characters in Savage Lane, which has four major players. Two of those four are a married couple named Mark and Deb Berman. Both 44, the two have been wedded for 17 years. They have two kids, aged 16 and 12, and they live in the New York suburb of Westchester, on Savage Lane. Mark is in middle management for Citibank and Deb is a stay-at-home mom. Their marriage is in trouble. Deb has a drinking problem. Another of the primary characters is Mark’s and Deb’s neighbor, Karen Daily. Karen is a 42-year old divorcee and mother of two kids who are close in age to the Berman children. She works as a speech pathologist at an elementary school. Karen dates a lot, using online services to find potentially appropriate men. She’s not necessarily looking for her next husband but is open to the idea if she meets the right guy. Finally, there’s Owen Harrison. Owen is 18 and not doing much with his life since graduating from high school. He has a crap job at the country club to which the Bermans and Karen Daily belong. At home he is routinely victimized by his physically abusive stepfather; and his mother, who is also bullied by the slovenly man, doesn’t do anything to protect herself or Owen from the egregious mistreatment her vicious husband visits upon them.

[Now that we've met them, let's see how they interact...]

Aug 19 2015 11:30am

Last Ragged Breath: New Excerpt

Julia Keller

Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller is the 4th mystery in the West Virginia Prosecutor Bell Elkins series (available August 25, 2015).

Royce Dillard doesn't remember much about the day his parents-and one hundred and twenty-three other souls-died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. He was only two years old when he was ripped from his mother's arms. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He's on trial for murder

Royce's future lies in the hands of Prosecutor Bell Elkins. Will she overcome her toughest case yet?

Chapter One

Goldie was a six-year-old shepherd-retriever mix with a thick yellow coat that had inspired her name, a riotous tail, and chocolate-brown eyes that suggested profound depths of mysterious wisdom. At present that wisdom had coalesced into a conviction that something smelled mighty good—that is, powerful and unusual—somewhere along the slanting bank of Old Man’s Creek. Wet black nose plowing a shallow trench across the rugged terrain, body balanced expertly to accommodate the steep grade, Goldie rammed forward along the upper brow of the creek bank, sniffing and quivering. The smell, as it intensified, became even more intoxicating. It was like a string pulling her along, winding itself tight on a bobbin at the other end. Everything else dropped out of Goldie’s thoughts.

[Continue reading Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller!]

Aug 19 2015 8:45am

Drunk Man Lets 10-Year-Old Son Drive Home

Police in Stillwater, New York arrested a man after he allegedly allowed his 10-year-old son to drive him home because he was too drunk to drive.

According to Yahoo! news, someone alerted the police that the child was driving on Route 9P in Stillwater, New York. Police say they were able to stop the truck and found the child in the driver's seat with John Barling, 46, drunk in the passenger's seat.

Barling was charged with permitting unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and endangering the welfare of a child.