Now Win <i>This</i>!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Crime HQ All I want for Christmas is you (to die)! <i>A Nip of Murder</i>: New Excerpt A Nip of Murder: New Excerpt Carol Miller A robbery gone wrong leaves Daisy scrambling. <i>Thief</i>: New Audio Excerpt Thief: New Audio Excerpt Mark Sullivan Could the secret to eternal life really reside in a remote South American tribe? Fresh Meat: <i>Kill 'Em with Cayenne</i> by Gail Oust Fresh Meat: Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust Rachel Kramer Bussel Murder wasn't supposed to be on the menu...
From The Blog
December 19, 2014
Number 1 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa Letter Scams
Terry Ambrose
December 18, 2014
Number 2 of the Scams of Christmas: Holiday Heartbreakers
Terry Ambrose
December 17, 2014
Number 3 of the Scams of Christmas: Season's Breachings
Terry Ambrose
December 16, 2014
Number 4 of the Scams of Christmas: Sly Shipping
Terry Ambrose
December 15, 2014
Number 5 of the Scams of Christmas: Grumpy Greeting Cards
Terry Ambrose
Dec 19 2014 12:00pm

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Broadly speaking, there are two types of mystery stories: whodunnits and whydunnits. We read a mystery story to find out who committed the crime (with the why, the motive, often serving to help the investigator find the culprit), or we read knowing from early on who the guilty party is as the story lays out the reasons, psychological and otherwise, that prompted the crime. An intriguing subclass of the whodunit is the inverted detective story. In this type, the howcatchem, the crime, and usually the perpetrator are shown at the story’s beginning. The main thrust of the drama here becomes how the detective goes about solving the crime and catching, or killing, the perpetrator. Nearly every episode of Columbo follows this format and, more recently, Luther. But what about a mystery story where, from the first pages, the reader knows who did the crime, why they did it, who they killed and how the person was killed – yet no detective solves anything? In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the setting is a small village in Columbia, South America, and to add to the excess of information known, not only does the reader know all the crime’s particulars, but the characters in the story, the village residents, know before the fatal act occurs who will be killed, by whom, and why. Everyone even remotely connected to the killing knows the pertinent facts, with the possible exception of the victim. When all the typical questions that a mystery story answers are answered from the get-go, what kind of mystery is left? What does the narrative’s investigator need to investigate? It’s precisely these enigmatic areas that are explored in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel.

[To South America we go...]

Dec 19 2014 8:45am

Number 1 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa Letter Scams

The Santa Letter scam takes the No. 1 spot on this list for several reasons. First, it victimizes parents just trying to do something special for their kids for Christmas, as well as the kids, who'll get bupkus from the Big Guy in the Furry Suit. Not only are people paying for a service the seller may not provide, but even worse, victims may have their identities stolen or their computer infected with malware. Real Naughty List type stuff.

Not surprisingly, the kind of people who run this scam also maintain tons of fake websites for life and health insurance, Medicare assistance, Russian brides, and much, much more. But the emails and websites offering to send custom, handwritten letters from Santa have become so numerous that the Better Business Bureau issued a special warning to consumers on December 1st:

You get an email selling a “Handwritten letter from Santa to Your Child.” It encourages you to make your child’s holiday by purchasing “Santa’s special package” for $19.99.

You click on the link, and it takes you to a website. The site promises the special package contains an “official” nice-list certification and customized letter from Santa. There’s even a free shipping special that ends (not coincidentally) in just few hours.

Since last year, blogger Simply Kierste has assembled and updated a long list of services to request letters from Santa which she and her commenters have used, including the USPS (sorry, their deadline's past), but also the Canada Post (who've processed millions) and the Santa Claus Museum, in Santa Claus, Indiana (where they're accepting letters until Dec. 20th—hurry!). Check her post for much more info, including print-your-own info if you really dropped the snowball. She also lists one e-mail service, a U.S. domain which has been registered since 1998 and seems to have a decent online reputation through user-contributed site Web of Trust, but, of course, always be diligent and alert.

For the present, the worst Santa Letter scammers operate with impunity in other parts of the world. With that in mind, we might need to band together and send our own correspondence asking for help.

Dear Santa:

I know you’re terribly busy right now getting ready for Christmas. However, I wondered if you could think about a special present for some very naughty boys and girls. They pretend to send letters from you and I’m sure you have them on your Naughty List, but instead of just leaving coal in their stockings, could you perhaps consider something special? How about arrest warrants?


That concludes my 12 Scams of Christmas list, and unlike the real holiday, we wouldn't be a bit sorry to see them go. May your holidays be merry and bright and always scam-free!

Mug shot image via ThriftShopCommando.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 18 2014 5:00pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.10: “Orphans”

 Jimmy (Evan Peters) has been jailed for murdering several housewives in the winter finale of American Horror Story: Freak Show Season 4 Episode 10 "Orphans."

Dear American Horror Story,

I know I praised you several weeks ago for not rushing into hanging plot lines, throwing in everything including the kitchen sink (and aliens), and really devoting yourselves to character development. All of that was super great.

But if we could please get to the plot line, that would be awesome.

For three weeks, I’ve been waiting for something to happen, and I have to say, this last episode did nothing for me. I appreciate Pepper (Naomi Grossman), the first character to exist in two incarnations of American Horror Story, finally getting some attention and backstory, but it feels too much, too late. I love how her story connects between seasons, but I don’t think an entire episode needed to be devoted to it. It felt like everything else related to the central plot has been put off on the back burner or given two minutes of screen time before moving on to lengthy examinations on singular characters.

[Pumping the breaks was fine. You weren't supposed to slam on them!]

Dec 18 2014 8:45am

Number 2 of the Scams of Christmas: Holiday Heartbreakers

As the holidays roll in, some people get lonely. With our emotions out of control, online dating scams are one of the easiest cons to fall for. Just last month, and not that long after having attended a presentation on how to avoid scams and cons, I heard from a guy in North San Diego County I'll call Frank, who went to an online dating site. One of the profiles he found was for a gorgeous woman who went by the name of “Teri.”

Frank responded to Teri’s inquiry on the website and received a reply the next day. “Thanks so much for the interest! you sound really like a nice man with a good and loving heart of kind, care and honesty..I am so sorry for the late reply... open attachment for my pictures...Distance is not a problem for me..... because i am ready to relocate with my right man…….”

The email described Teri’s background, the fact that she was on a business trip in China, her desire to establish a friendship before a serious relationship, and reiterated her concern about finding an honest man several times.

Fully taken in by his luck in finding such an open and seemingly honest woman—and who doesn't want a little extra holiday sparkle—Frank proposed that they get together upon Teri’s return from China.

That’s when the bad news came with Teri’s next email. “Thanks for your respond......Well i have bad trip in China right now.. .....This is my first time i will be visit China....I have a check of $86,000 here with me.. i try to get it cash..... but the bank here told me that, they don't accept that.” She also asked Frank for $900 for travel expenses to return to LA. She promised…really, really promised, to pay him back when he picked her up at the airport.

Thank goodness Frank wised up at this point, realizing he’d been played. Probably by a guy who bore little resemblance to the gorgeous blonde Frank thought he’d be meeting. With any luck at all, “Teri” is still waiting for a ride at LAX.

Last, and certainly least, on this 12 Scams of Christmas list are the Santa Letter swindlers. Who would stoop so low?

Leading image via

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 17 2014 12:00pm

Dark Christmas: 7 Noir Holidays Films

I’m not sure why there are so many noirs set around the holidays, but maybe it has something to do with seasonal depression. We all know that this time of year can be especially hard on people, when our usual American propensity toward surface cheer becomes something of a national obligation. After all, we quite literally force each other to be—or to appear to be—“merry” (which, when you think about it, is a weirdly antiquated word that we never use in any other context) and to conform to our national religion of positive thinking. All that forced good cheer just gives some folks the winter blues.

Ah, that’s where film noir comes in. As a genre, noir has always been about what’s found underneath the surface of safe and secure facades. Are you tired of the 24-hour The Christmas Story marathon? Don't have it in you to spend another Christmas with the Cranks, or Fred Claus, or Will Ferrell? Join the club. Maybe this year, try on some film noir to cleanse your holiday palate. Here's an overview of some films that are either Christmas themed noir or are holiday movies with a strong touch of the dark side. Either way, just about everyone on this list has been naughty.

[It's time for a vacation from Christmas Vacation...]

Dec 17 2014 8:45am

Number 3 of the Scams of Christmas: Season’s Breachings

Nobody's merry about this year's data breaches... nobody.

If you have a credit card—and who doesn’t?—you’ve probably been affected by at least one of the infamous data breaches at Home Depot, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, or Target—need I go on? What many people might not realize is that the stolen credit card information is eventually sold online at “card shops”—no, we’re not talking Hallmark.

In fact, just as we have the “internet,” the bad guys have the “darknet.” That’s where those who believe in honor among thieves other can hang out and do business. In the spirit of the holidays, these card shops are also having sales. The one at “goodshop” has thousands of credit cards up for sale in what it calls a “Happy Winter Update.” (By the way, note that its domain name ends in “[dot]bz,” which stands for Belize, and is definitely not the same as “[dot]biz.”) Brian Krebs, a journalist who blogs at Krebs on Security, goes into great depth about those online activities.

Also typical of most card shops, this store’s home page features the latest news about new batches of stolen cards that have just been added, as well as price reductions on older batches of cards that are less reliable as instruments of fraud...

...buyers were offered the ability to search for cards by the city, state and ZIP of the Target and Sally Beauty stores from which those cards were stolen. Experienced carders (as buyers are called) know that banks will often flag transactions as suspicious if they take place outside of the legitimate cardholder’s regular geographic purchasing patterns, and so carders tend to favor cards stolen from consumers who live nearby.

Read all of his Peek Inside a Professional Carding Shop for more info and a helpful glossary, too.

Anytime there’s a data breach, fingers will point and accusations will fly. That’s definitely the case with the fact that the personal information for 800,000 postal workers was recently stolen (hat tip: Engadget).  The FBI is saying they’re not sure who’s behind the attack. The press has already decided it was China. The postal workers union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Politicians are claiming this case proves that the government needs to reform their data security standards. And the Postal Service itself says there's no sign that the data was used maliciously. The postal workers would probably be better off having their credit card numbers stolen, at least that way they’d be offered a free year of credit monitoring.

Down to No. 3 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list, Holiday Heartbreakers, online dating at its worst.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 16 2014 1:30pm

Alexis Smith: A Dynamite Girl’s Film Noir

Alexis Smith (June 8, 1921 – June 9, 1993) was a versatile, Canadian-born actress who was equally at home playing in Hollywood Westerns, comedies, and noirs or just about any genre Tinseltown tossed her way. She played opposite many of the biggest Silver Screen draws including Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Errol Flynn, and Cary Grant. The publicity machine of the era dubbed her the Dynamite Girl—casting her most often in the role of “The Other Woman”—and after two decades, she met her ultimate critical acclaim for 1959’s The Young Philadelphians opposite Paul Newman. Later, she turned to Broadway where she won a Tony Award in 1972 and in the very early 1990s was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on an episode of Cheers. For nearly fifty years she was married to Peter Gunn’s Craig Stevens.

Here are three of the award winning actress’s films with the right mixture of crime, mystery, and noir.

[Now we're talking...]

Dec 16 2014 1:00pm

Now Win This!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes

The best way to spread holiday fear is screaming loud for all to hear.

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins December 16, 2014, at 1:00 pm ET, and ends December 30, 2014, 12:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Getting run over by a reindeer is the least of your problems...]

Dec 16 2014 11:00am

A Nip of Murder: New Excerpt

Carol Miller

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller is the second installment in the Moonshine Mystery Series where amateur sleuth Daisy McGovern continues to struggle in converting her diner into a bakery (available December 16, 2014).

As Daisy McGovern knows all too well, it isn’t easy being a young, small-town waitress at a local diner in Virginia. It becomes even harder as she’s trying to stitch her life back together and salvage her job by converting the diner into a bakery. She’s preoccupied with snickerdoodles and cinnamon buns, trying to feed a group of geocachers in town, when a mysterious robbery occurs in the back room and one of the thieves ends up dead with a chef’s knife in his chest. With the sheriff out of town, Daisy, distrustful of the cop left in charge, takes it upon herself to follow up on clues and find out who the robber was and why he was there. While she’s investigating, she meets a handsome geocacher and is commissioned to bake a cake for the unlikely wedding of one of the Balsam boys, at the same time trying to avoid the charms of his moonshine-brewing brother.

When a second murder occurs, Daisy finds herself in a twisted game of cat and mouse that takes her from secretive nip joints overflowing with moonshine to weathered Appalachian mountaintops overflowing with history and guns. She must figure out who is the murderer and how her bakery is involved before she becomes the next victim.

Chapter 1

“I’m gonna need a red velvet cake, Daisy.”

[Continue reading A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller...]

Dec 16 2014 8:45am

Number 4 of the Scams of Christmas: Sly Shipping

Dear Customer,
Your parcel arrived on December 17.
Courier was unable to deliver the parcel to you.
To receive your parcel, print this label and go to the nearest office.

During the holidays, “phishing” emails like this can catch many off guard. This scam is used by crooks pretending to be virtually every package delivery service: FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the USPS. Apparently, consumers are becoming more savvy about these email scams, however, which is forcing some shipping scammers to resort to a more personal approach, i.e., the good old telephone. The Postal Inspection Service uncovered a telemarketing scam in which fraudsters masqueraded as USPS employees while actually phoning residents and requesting birth dates and Social Security numbers as requirements for package delivery. (hat tip: NBC Chicago)

What’s odd is that people fall for this last scam at all. For one thing, have you ever tried to call your local post office? Good luck. And judging by how often new carriers deliver other people’s mail to our house, how in the world could I ever expect them to find my phone number?

But when speaking of miraculous holiday mail deliveries, we must never forget the classics...

And that brings us all the way to No. 3 of the 12 Scams of Christmas, Season's Breachings.

Leading image via NY Daily News and Carlo Allegri for Reuters.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 15 2014 2:30pm

Thief: New Audio Excerpt

Mark Sullivan

Thief by Mark Sullivan is the 3rd book in the Robin Monarch series about a world-class thief who may have stumbled onto the secret to immortality (available December 16, 2014).

Robin Monarch is a man with a complicated past and dangerous present. He’s been a soldier, a CIA agent, a freelance operative but first and foremost, Robin Monarch is a thief of the highest order. Orphaned at twelve, Monarch originally stole for survival, then he stole for his friends and cohorts, now he steals to order, and to give back to the to the woman who saved his life many years ago.

With the help of his team, Monarch breaks into the legendary Christmas party of Beau Arsenault, a shady investor and behind-the-scenes player at the very highest levels of power politics. Arsenault is not above bending or breaking the rules if there’s illicit profit to be made. Monarch has decided that those illicit profits will be better used to take care of orphans and street kids. Using the party as cover to break into Arsenault’s secret vaults, Monarch comes away with two unexpected things. One is a bullet—he gets shot when he’s caught trying to escape with tens of millions of negotiable instruments. The second is a lead on what might be his most audacious exploit ever. A previously undiscovered tribe in South America may well have the secret to the most sought after knowledge in history—that of eternal life. And Robin Monarch must use all his skills—as an operative, as a thief—to keep this secret from falling into the worst possible hands.

[Click here to listen to an exclusive audio excerpt of Thief...]

Dec 15 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Kill ’Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust

Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust is the second cozy in the Spice Shop Mystery Series featuring Piper Prescott in the aftermath of the murder of a barbecue competition contestant (available December 16, 2014).

Kill ‘Em with Cayenne, the second in Gail Oust’s flavorful Spice Shop Mystery Series, finds the small town of Brandywine Creek, Georgia, gearing up for an upcoming barbecue festival. Piper Prescott is busy running Spice It Up! and looking forward to advising barbecue fans on how to best make their meal sizzle, while also juggling two potential love interests and a teenage daughter starting to explore her independence. Her delight comes to a halt when she finds one of the festival contestants, Becca Dapkins, dead in the street during a jog.

[Talk about getting getting the heart going...]

Dec 15 2014 8:45am

Number 5 of the Scams of Christmas: Grumpy Greeting Cards

Remember the good old days when the holidays were approaching, we went to our mailboxes everyday, checked for greeting cards, then rushed inside to see what our friends had written to us in the card? Maybe you even snuck a peek at the back of the card to see which brand your friends had chosen. The days of the paper greeting card might be waning, but the e-card is going strong. E-cards are cheaper, faster, and as we’ll see, more dangerous than paper.

Greeting cards make excellent vehicles to transmit malware. Malware is a computer program that can allow someone else to control your computer. One of the most famous cases involving malware is that of Jared James Abrahams, who was able in 2013 to infect the computers of twenty young women and use their own webcams to take compromising photos of them without their knowledge. Among the victims was a Miss Teen USA. In Abrahams’ case, the software he used could be purchased on the internet for $40.

No one wants malware for Christmas, so if you receive an e-card, be sure to ask yourself a few questions before you click any links. Do you know the person? Is it the real email address of a friend? Is the card personalized? Is it from a reputable e-card dealer or someone you’ve never heard of? If an email has a link, hover over it comparing the text shown to the corresponding link. Make sure they're the same and for legit sites. If there’s any doubt whatsoever, don’t click anything and delete the message.

Your online besties might complain because you didn’t open their oh-so-personal e-card they sent to everyone, but better to let them carp than have to deal with a malware-infected computer.

Next up in the 12 Scams of Christmas is another candy-cane twist on this theme, No. 4, Sly Shipping Notifications.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 14 2014 10:30am

Number 6 of the Scams of Christmas: Coal-Deserving Charities

The holidays are the season of giving. Unfortunately, there are those who think charity begins at their homes and goes no further.

On a large scale, online scammers set up fake charitable websites designed to collect donations and personal information for those who visit the site. However, sometimes, that conman is waiting for you at your corner market.

According to this report from necn, police arrested Gary L. Fincher, 52, after he set up a table in front of a local grocery story to solicit donations. Perhaps he crossed the wrong path, because in a stroke of bad luck—or judgement—Fincher solicited a donation from an off-duty policeman who’d seen a similar scheme the previous month.

Fincher was at a table covered in flags with homeless veteran pamphlets and business cards wearing a baseball hat with ‘veteran’ above the bill. Fincher sat quietly as he collected donations.

Following investigation it was determined the charity [Help for Homeless Vets] did not exist.

The culprit was a veteran, sort of. He did spend 29 days in the US Army in 1980 before he flunked out of basic training. But it's hard to understand his claim of homelessness. When they froze his bank account to investigate the fraud, he had over $10,000 in it.

Make sure your donations go to a legitimate cause by always donating to reputable organizations. If you find a new charity, remember that the Better Business Bureau rates charities as well as businesses.

Next on the 12 Scams of Christmas, we're counting down those 5... gold... er, grumpy greeting cards.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 13 2014 10:30am

Number 7 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa’s Spyware

A few years ago, online security firm McAfee began compiling their 12 holiday cyberscams, including “not-so-merry-mobile apps.

Call these little collections of computer code apps and they don’t sound so bad. Use the names surveillanceware, ransomware, or adware, and they start to sound more grinch-like than helpful.

Surveillanceware? According to an Assistan Attorney General, via a report at ArsTechnica, a recent one was “expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers.” The FBI recently arrested Hammad Akbar, the chief executive officer of Pakistan-based InvoCode, which made the app for the Blackberry, the iPhone, and phones running Android. According to the indictment: recorded all incoming/outgoing voice calls; it intercepted calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place; it allowed the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius; and it allowed the purchaser to monitor the user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos. All of these functions were enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.

StealthGenie grabbed even those very candid selfies, which adds new meaning to the term “oversharing,“ not to mention ”seeing you when you're sleeping."  Even's Santa's NaughtyNice3000TM isn't that good.

The app in question required surreptitious installation by someone with physical control of the phone, but besides trying to keep your devices out of the hands of creeps, don’t connect to unknown wireless networks, which can be used to capture information before it is sent to a legitimate server.

Next up on this 12 Scams of Christmas list,  No. 6 is “Coal-Deserving Charities.”

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 12 2014 3:00pm

MWA Announces 2015 Grand Master, Raven, and Ellery Queen Award Winners!

Mystery Writers of America has just announced its new Grand Masters for 2015, and authors Lois Duncan and James Ellroy will be honored at the Edgar Awards banquet next April 29th.

In addition, Ruth and Jon Jordan from Crimespree Magazine and Kathryn Kennison, the founder of Magna Cum Murder, will be awarded Ravens for outstanding achievements in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

And finally, the Ellery Queen Award recipient is Charles Ardai, founder of Hard Case Crime!

It's shaping up to be a great Edgars already! Have you bought your tickets yet?

Dec 12 2014 2:30pm

Reviewing the Queue: City of God (2002)

With the digital libraries of online streaming services expanding more and more, choosing which movie to watch has become difficult. I will be digging through these online queues in hope of bringing you a movie worth watching. This time we’re taking a look at City of God, a violent, sobering, and surreal drama from directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund and available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video.

Beginning in Brazil in the 1960s, City of God spans two decades telling the story of Cicade de Deus (the eponymous title in Portuguese) – a low-class section of Rio de Janeiro governed by illegal drug trade. While that may sound like the premise of a film you’ve watched plenty of times before, I can guarantee the location of the film is like nothing else you’ve seen. Shot on location in Brazil and using amateur actors recruited from the actual Rio de Janeiro favelas (slums), City of God shines brightly with its rays of gritty realism.

[It’s an intense ride, so be prepared…]

Dec 12 2014 8:45am

Number 8 of the Scams of Christmas: Counterfeit Cheer

The unbeatable bargain has been a lure used by con artists since even before 19th-century Europeans recognized the commercial value of a topical preparation used by foreign laborers, an oily substance derived from the Chinese Water Snake.

Fast forward and you can get a brand new iPad for $20! A Louis Vuitton purse for 90% off! If your first thought was, that’s too good to be true, congratulations. Fake or stolen designer goods can take the ho-ho-ho out of the holidays faster than Santa can get his sleigh off the ground.

According to, police arrested Paulo R. Barbosa and Kristy Barbosa, both of Harrison, New Jersey, and Paula Ligotti, of Levittown on Thanksgiving night. The suspects were each charged with four counts of counterfeiting in the second degree. Their holiday operation had a pop-up store in an office building, but also had an online presence. According to WABC's

The website Lavish Creations says it is an online boutique carrying handmade and store-made merchandise specializing in children's products. But police say much of what was being sold was fake, from purses to watches and children's clothing and shoes.

“They came directly from China, and they were put on her shelves to sell to the consumer,” Detective Sergeant Patrick Ryder said.

After importation, Ligotti warehoused the fakes from China in her home. The raid, dubbed “Operation Black Thursday,” netted the police more than a million dollars in counterfeit goods. It also made Turkey Day a real downer for the three suspects.

If you’re one of those people who “never pays retail,” remember that there are plenty of real hot holiday deals to be found. Just be sure to verify the provenance and authenticity of products before you pay for anything.

We’re going to turn our sights on technology and No. 7 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list, “Santa's Spyware.”

Leading image via PyrateWench's Etsy store.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 11 2014 1:00pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.09: “Tupperware Party Massacre”

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) makes the worst type of uninvited guest in Season 4 Episode 9 of American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.09 "Tupperware Party Massacre."

Man, this show is sure fond of massacres. I wish I could scoop up all the good bits of this episode and keep them fresh in the fridge, ready to reheat when things get stale. I don’t think I have enough Tupperware to clean up this mess. This episode was all loose ends and random occurrences, and I am desperately hoping we get somewhere (anywhere) before the winter break.

We open this week with our beloved Dandy (Finn Wittrock) paying our far less likable Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) a visit. Oh, Dandy, I’d hardly classify your antics as “misadventures,”and Esmerelda, you do know him! Remember that time you were almost sawed in half? That’s one failed murder I can’t quite forgive Dandy for…

And of course, Dandy’s got it out for Jimmy (Evan Peters), but I don’t think Dandy’s got to put in the effort. Jimmy’s in mourning over his mother and perpetually drunk off his ass. Don’t you want more of a challenge, Dandy?

[We sure know you can handle it...]

Dec 11 2014 12:00pm

Hands Off That Series, We’re British

We’re the Sweeney son, and we haven’t had any dinner. You’ve kept us waiting. So unless you want a kickin’ you tell us where those photographs are.

Detective Inspector Jack Regan knew how to make a point. If he were writing this he’d be telling you, “We’re British son, and we haven’t had our BAFTA. You’ve kept on stealing. So unless you want a kickin’, stop takin’ our programs.” That’s what I’d be telling you as well. Thankfully The Sweeney hasn’t been Americanized, although there was an appalling cinema remake, but you’ve taken the next best thing. So let’s start there.

[Remember Life on Mars?]