Fresh Meat: <i>Goodhouse</i> by Peyton Marshall Fresh Meat: Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall Amy Eller Lewis In a school full of criminals, fear is all you learn. FM: <i>The Haunting Ballad</i> by Michael Nethercott FM: The Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott Doreen Sheridan 1950s Greenwich Village is at the backdrop of this musical mystery. Fresh Meat: <i>To Dwell in Darkness</i> by Deborah Crombie Fresh Meat: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie Janet Webb Smoke bombs aren't supposed to explode... Fresh Meat: <i>Crossing the Line</i> by Frederique Molay Fresh Meat: Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay Leigh Neely Going to the dentist is bad enough as it is...
From The Blog
September 19, 2014
Checking into The Knick 1.06: “Start Calling Me Dad”
Joe Brosnan
September 18, 2014
The Maze Runner Trailer
Crime HQ
September 17, 2014
Thief Robs Autistic Man's Birthday Money
Teddy Pierson
September 16, 2014
Denzel Washington Joins Cast of The Magnificent Seven Remake
Joe Brosnan
September 15, 2014
Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns
Edward A. Grainger
Sep 21 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall is a dystopian societal thriller where DNA testing weeds out potentially dangerous boys and forces them into boarding schools that resemble prisons (available September 30, 2014).

What’s immediately really strong about Peyton Marshall’s novel is the premise itself. But why tell you myself, when her first pages do such a good job at heavy lifting?

Goodhouse had come out of an idea— a program meant to map the genetic profile of prison populations. What the researchers had found was this: The worst inmates, the most impulsive, the most violent, the least empathetic, all shared certain biometric markers. But these were prisoners. They cost the state millions of dollars to ware house every year. And they’d been children once. They had not always been beyond help. It was too late for adults, but young boys were different. They could be molded, instructed, taught. If intervention occurred at an early age, they could be salvaged. 

Based (loosely from what I can tell) on the Preston School of Industry (one the country’s first reform schools), Goodhouse is really ripe with tension from the start. In the not too distant future, we’ve figured out how to identify DNA markers that might – just might – be able to predict violent and criminal behavior in male children. So they all get shipped off to these boys’ schools-cum-juvenile detention centers called “Goodhouses” located throughout the country. Our point of view character is James, a Goodhouse student who recently transferred as his original Goodhouse was burned to the ground by religious zealots. So every scene, every moment not just full of tension, but all sorts of different kinds of tension happening at once.

[And you thought high school was tough...]

Sep 20 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott

The Haunting Ballad by Michael Nethercott is the second supernatural mystery featuring the mismatched crime-solving duo of O'Nelligan and Plunkett (available September 30, 2014).

The second book in the O’Nelligan and Plunkett series is another well-crafted meditation on love (this time primarily romantic) and tragedy wrapped in a period murder mystery. Set in 1950s Connecticut and New York, we follow the somewhat hapless private investigator Lee Plunkett as he and his fiancee of three years explore, with varying degrees of interest, the bohemian scene of Greenwich Village. At a club named Mercutio, an uncomfortable Plunkett and a more enthusiastic Audrey, along with two of her friends, watch the act of a handsome young folk singer named Byron Spires:

Then, to seal the deal, he slid into a mournful ballad, which I have to admit was downright haunting. Phrases like the wind that stirred our wounded dreams and she was the girl I should have loved were I not so young and lost seemed to linger after Spires had strummed his last chord. His set finished, he took in the blend of applause and finger-snapping (a modern form of admiration, I was told), muttered a thanks, and sauntered off the stage.

Scanning the crowd, he seemed to take fast notice of our table, stocked as it was with its trio of comely females. My manly presence was seemingly no deterrent, and Byron Spires, guitar slung to his side, made his way to us directly. Three pairs of eyes widened at his approach. Mine—the only non-female set—narrowed behind the twin shields of my spectacles. Right off the bat, I wasn’t sure that I really loved this guy.

[His feelings might be founded...]

Sep 19 2014 11:00pm

Checking into The Knick 1.06: “Start Calling Me Dad”

The Knick debuted by giving its characters lofty secrets—ones that were too big and too interesting for them not to come to light. We’ve already seen some truths trickle through (Sister Harriet), but our main characters have managed to dodge discovery. But that changed in “Start Calling Me Dad” for Algernon. And if you could have asked Algernon who the last person he’d want to see find out about the secret clinic, I’m guessing he’d have instantly answered with Thackery.


Sep 19 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie is the 16th mystery in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series (available September 23, 2014).

To Dwell in Darkness is a powerful story that forcefully lands the reader in a confused, smoke-filled, public arena of terror. No back story is needed to comprehend the insanity of a bomb going off at a public concert at St. Pancras International, a renovated railroad station. But like the best stories of J.D. Robb, P.D. James, and Louise Penny, knowing the cast of characters adds to the reader’s enjoyment.

Deborah Crombie conducts the interwoven strands of her 16th novel like a maestro wielding a baton. Kincaid and Gemma’s family, work colleagues, and friends, including their oldest son Kit, play a pivotal role in unraveling the twisted strands that envelop the bombing. Their contributions are integral to understanding the motivations behind the mystery of how a would-be smoke-bomb turned into a lethal weapon. There’s also time for St. Pancras Station, the place, the neighborhood that surrounds it, and its long history, to take a bow. Longtime readers will pore over the detailed, hand-crafted map of the St. Pancras world, complete with hand-drawn sketches of pubs and hospitals. As Crombie so aptly puts it, “Laura Maestro has once again brought the story to life with an enchanting endpaper map.”

[A bomb that wasn't supposed to be a bomb?]

Sep 19 2014 8:45am

Gotham: Join Us for the Journey Through Batman’s Origins

“The attraction of this story was the chance to tell the origin stories,” said Gotham Executive Producer/Writer Bruno Heller in an interview last week.

Gotham is the story of what went on before Bruce Wayne put on the cape and cowl, seen through the eyes of young Detective Jim Gordon. Not only is it the story of how Gordon struggled to bring some order to Gotham City’s chaos, but it’s the beginning of some of Batman’s iconic villains, such as the Penguin and the Riddler. The story is set against the backdrop of a Gotham City heavily influenced by New York City in the 1970s, a time of great tumult.

Heller says you don’t have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy the show. He’s hoping to grab a wider audience by the strength of the story and the characters.

So follow me here beginning with the premiere on September 22, as I recap each episode on Criminal Element. If the pilot is any indication, we’ll have much to discuss, from the major tweak on Batman’s origin, to the addition of characters who’ve never been seen on-screen before, like Crispus Allen and Barbara Kean, the eventual mother of Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon.

Sep 18 2014 2:00pm

Get Carter by Ted Lewis: Crime Fiction’s Open Source Blueprint

I’ll get right to the point here; Ted Lewis’s 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home (re-titled Get Carter so I’ll call it that from here on) is one of the most influential works of crime fiction in existence. In the world of U.K. hardboiled literature it’s had the kind of impact that books by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had on the genre in the U.S. In the new edition of Get Carter being put out by Syndicate Books, the back cover and inside pages contain jaw-dropping laudatory praise of the novel by the likes of Derek Raymond, Stuart Neville, Dennis Lehane, James Sallis, and John Williams, the last of whom says Lewis’s book is “the finest British crime novel ever written.” When I researched Lewis’s life and work several years back, one person I interviewed was David Peace; Peace told me, about Get Carter, “I very consciously used it as a blueprint for Nineteen Seventy-Four, my first novel.”

Before further discussion of the book, I’m going to pause and say a few things about the film that shares its title. Because you can’t say the words Get Carter without thinking of the 1971 big screen feature that stars Michael Caine and was directed by Mike Hodges (Hodges supplies the foreword to the new edition of the book). I’m not going to go into any detail about the movie, because a prolonged analysis or appreciation of it deserves its own space. Suffice to say that it is not only a classic film; it’s an institution. It holds high places on best-ever film lists issued by entities such as The British Film Institute, Empire magazine, Time Out, and The Guardian. If you’ve seen the movie, you likely don’t need me to try and convince you of its quality. If you haven’t, and if you care anything about film noir, gangster cinema, Michael Caine, or classic films period, just go watch it. If you’re like I was after my first viewing, when it’s over you’ll find you have a hankering to run it again.

[And probably a third time...]

Sep 18 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay

Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay is the second mystery in the Paris Homicide Series about a message discovered in the tooth of a murder victim (available September 23, 2014).

I fell in love with Chief Nico Sirsky when I met him the first time in The 7th Woman. I’m happy to delve more into his life with Crossing the Line, the sequel and the second book in the Paris Homicide Mystery. He is an intriguing character, and I found myself not only enjoying getting to know him better but really liking his family, friends, and coworkers.

It’s just before Christmas, and the weather is cold and bracing. Nico has returned to work at La Crim or the Criminal Investigation Division, after being off for three months after getting shot during his last big case.

I like Nico because he’s a tough, pit-bull of a detective, but he is very romantic in his thoughts of the lovely Caroline, the woman he loves. The beauty is that Molay conveys the detective’s romantic soul with little tidbits like this one, “Caroline closed the door behind her, and Nico breathed in her lingering scent, as if to capture it forever.”

[How far is too far?]

Sep 18 2014 8:45am

“What If We Were Sent Here for a Reason”: The Maze Runner Trailer

Back in February, Kate Voss talked about seven books that we would be coming to screen in 2014, and The Maze Runner made it onto the list. Now, for fans of the book, the wait is finally over!

The trailer features some familiar faces including Dylan O'Brien of teen thriller Teen Wolf, Kaya Scodelario, from the UK drama Skins, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster of Game of Thrones (and the voice of Ferb on Phineas and Ferb). Do you like to see books adapted? Will you be seing The Maze Runner?

Sep 17 2014 4:00pm

The Noir Geek’s Guide to The Big Lebowski

The Coen Brother’s 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski has many cultural touchstones—the sixties, hippies, Vietnam, CCR, weed, Busby Berkley musicals—but the underlying structure of the movie goes back further to the days of 40s film noir. In a movie full of touches of genius (full disclosure: I’m a Lebowskiphile from way back), the initiating act of genius was the decision to make the film a modern day update of the hardboiled L.A. crime story. Of course, the Coens were well aware that Robert Altman did this back in the seventies when he brought Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe to the grimy, drugged-out LA of 1973 in The Long Goodbye. The Coens did Altman one better by celebrating/satirizing/sending-up every noir trope they can get their hands on.

Here then is a noir geek’s guide to the land of Lebowski:

1. The Big Lebowski, The Title: In the film itself, “The Big Lebowski” refers to the character played David Huddleston, the rich old man who hires “The Dude” to find his missing wife. The title, however, is a throwback to The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler’s novel about a rich old man who hires private eye Philip Marlowe to find his missing son-in-law. It’s evocative, too, of other noir titles like The Big Bluff, The Big Combo, and The Big Heat.

[Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.]

Sep 17 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Wouldn’t it be Deadly by D. E. Ireland is an historical mystery and the 1st in a series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins that picks up where My Fair Lady left off (available September 23, 2014).

Many of us know the story of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, which was made into the movie My Fair Lady. From the original story we know that Henry Higgins used his mastery of phonetics to teach Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, to speak properly and even passed her off as a duchess at the ball. D. E. Ireland takes the story from here, and creates one of the best new traditional mystery series I have had the pleasure of reading this year.

Once Eliza completes her transformation, she decides to leave Professor Higgins and his good friend Pickering , and get a job teaching phonetics lessons. She becomes the assistant to Higgens’ rival, Emil Nepommuck. Higgins is not happy about the arrangement and when Nepommuck takes credit for Eliza’s transformation, Higgins writes the newspaper denouncing Nepommuck as a fraud. When Nepommuck is found murdered, it’s the unfortunate Higgins who is the chief suspect. Knowing him to be innocent, Eliza feels it her duty to assist the police and prove her friend innocent. The fact that he claims to have been wandering around London listening to accents doesn’t help matters. Since he can provide no solid alibi or anyone who remembers seeing him, and the police are under pressure to solve the case quickly, Higgins is the natural suspect.

[But he won't be the only one...]

Sep 17 2014 8:45am

Thief Robs Autistic Man’s Birthday Money

Surveillance video from a Connecticut shopping mall captured a truly disgraceful act — someone robbing an autistic man's birthday money.

The despicable robbery happened in broad daylight, around 3:45PM last week. Police say the victim was on his way into a mall when the suspect approached him. It appears the victim pulled out the $100, excited about spending the money he got for his birthday.

That is when the suspect took the money, and began taunting the victim with it. Then it almost looked as though there was a change of heart, but didn't and he kept the money. He was later seen running away.

A short time later the autistic man figured out what happened and started screaming for someone to help him.

Thanks to a video released by the local authorities, the thief was found and arrested. He was later charged with stealing.

Despite everything going on with this story there’s a positive — police in Stamford as well as members of the community have come together and raised over $1800 for the man.

Sep 16 2014 1:00pm

Now Win This!: Hunt or Be Hunted Sweepstakes

If you’re not acting, you’re reacting, so get into the hunt for these seven great new releases! Register to enter for a chance to win!

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 September 16, 2014, at 1:00 pm ET, and ends September 30, 2014, 12:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[You can't afford any hesitation...]

Sep 16 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

The Blood of an Englishman, the 25th Agatha Raisin cozy Cotswolds mystery by M.C. BeatonThe Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton is the 25th cozy mystery featuring Agatha Raisin, a P.I. in the rural Cotswolds, who'll face murder amid the tormented world of amateur theatrics. (available September 16, 2014).

Agatha and her crew are back, embroiled in another small-town murder. Mild-mannered Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, talks Agatha Raisin into attending a pantomime in neighboring Winter Parva.  It's an amateur play that barely keeps Agatha awake and she can't wait to leave. But shortly after her departure, Bert Simple, the local baker who played an ogre in the pantomime,  is discovered brutally killed. Agatha flies back to the scene to see what's happened and runs into her friend, Detective Sergeant Bill Wong, who is uncharacteristically distant and tells her to go home.

[It's never worked before, and won't now!]

Sep 16 2014 8:45am

Denzel Washington Joins Cast of The Magnificent Seven Remake

While promoting his upcoming film, The Equalizer, Denzel Washington announced that he has signed on for a role in the eventual remake of The Magnificent Seven.

Set to direct is Antoine Fuqua, who has worked with Washington both on the soon-t0-be-released The Equalizer, and in 2003's Training Day, where Washington won an Academy Award for his role. 

True Detective's writer Nic Pizzolatto has written the first draft of the remake, and multiple other stars have been associated with the film, including Matt Damon, Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Tom Cruise. Washington is the first actor to confirm a role in the film.

What do you think of the upcoming remake? Is it another case of Hollywood greed, or do you think it's time for a reimagining of the story?

Sep 15 2014 6:00pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.02: “The Good Listener”

At the end of last week’s stellar season premiere, Nucky’s new bodyguard slices the ear off of a would-be assassin. Episode Two, “The Good Listener,” continues this auricular theme in both its visuals and its message. The opening shot is of Eli’s ear (both the outer and the inner) as Eli lies passed-out, drunk on the floor. He awakes to a new Federal Treasury Agent—one not on the Capone payroll—raiding his warehouse. We find out later that this new Fed is Elliot Ness, played by Jim True-Frost (Pryzbylewski from The Wire). True-Frost, in a nice hat tip to his former show, tells his agents to “Put the cash on the table,” a refrain similar to that of the Baltimore PD, who wanted “Drugs on the table” for their press conferences.

The rest of the Chicago characters, absent last week, are also featured in “The Good Listener.” Capone, now the boss of bosses and a worldwide celebrity, isn’t listening to anybody (not that he was ever interested in other people’s opinions). Instead, he’s giving interviews to Variety Magazine while clownishly shouting and joking to a room full of yes men. His inattention is costing him, and not just the twenty grand that Ness seized. He’s allowed a mole to penetrate his organization at the highest levels, an oversight that will eventually lead to his downfall.

[Finances can be tricky...]

Sep 15 2014 4:30pm

Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns

Steve McQueen (1930-1980) built a legendary acting career playing anti-establishment characters in memorable films like Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Getaway. In 1974 he finally passed a personal goal by becoming the highest paid Hollywood star (and top billing against friendly rival Paul Newman) with his turn in The Towering Inferno. But, at the beginning, The King of Cool rose to fame playing Western heroes like Josh Randall on television and his breakout movie role as Vin in The Magnificent Seven. Here are seven spur-wearing parts that span his notable acting career:

Trackdown: The Bounty Hunter (TV, 1958)

Robert Culp starred in Trackdown (1957-1959) as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman who worked out of a small town in West Texas solving an assortment of trouble that passed through his region. A spin-off series was created from Trackdown (which itself was a spin-off of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater) featuring McQueen as bounty hunter Josh Randall who wanders the American Old West bringing in wanted felons with the leverage of a sawed off shotgun he fondly calls his Mare’s leg. In this first outing aptly titled “The Bounty Hunter,” he helps Hoby locate a less than savory husband. Trivia: Culp claims credit for landing McQueen the part of Randall. According to bonus material on the DVD releases of the classic Wanted: Dead or Alive series, he taught McQueen the “art of the fast-draw,” adding that on the second day of filming McQueen easily won.

[Let's keep the cool going...]

Sep 15 2014 1:15pm

The Strain 1.10: “Loved Ones”

Flashbacks aren’t new to this show, but this week’s episode handles them a little bit differently. Rather than giving us insight into a character’s origins, as in the Abraham and Eichorst narratives, we swing back and forth between the recent past and the present to see exactly what happened to Eph’s estranged wife Kelly.

I quite like it: it disrupts the normally linear story in an interesting way that puts the full spotlight on a side character. And by making us connect with Kelly, it lets us feel just how horrific such an experience would be on a visceral level.

Everything opens in the present with Zach using his noggin and a laptop liberated from the pawn shop (clever boy) to track down his missing mother’s iPhone. I always appreciate when child characters are given more to do than stand around and look cute, and this just further cements my opinion that Zach and Carl from The Walking Dead would make quite the pre-teen team.

[That's a show I'd watch!]

Sep 15 2014 9:45am

We’ll All Be Seeing Hannibal’s Therapist Regularly

Gillian Anderson plays Bedelia du Maurier on Hannibal, an astonishingly cool and self-possessed character, especially given her hints about being the victim of violent crime and given that her almost-shuttered practice has devolved to including only client, the insistent Dr. Lecter himself. If you've been watching, you've discovered more of her hidden depths—oh, that Season 2 finale!—and it's just been reported she'll become a series regular.

Creator Bryan Fuller says Season 3 will begin about a year after the shocking end of Season 2 with the characters Hannibal and Bedelia, who seem to have moved somewhat beyond office visits and quarterly billing, and we can't wait to see what's happened to them and everyone else in the interim. Now, we know Bedelia is still around—wonder who else is!

Sep 14 2014 12:00pm

Mossad as Superspy: Is the Myth Slipping?

I’ve run across an interesting piece by Nathan Abrams, Professor of Film Studies at Bangor (UK) University, on The Conversation website (“a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary”). The title sums it up nicely: “Mossad Agents Were Suave and Effective on Screen, Now They’re Ineffective Blunderers.”

Abrams’ thesis:

Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service, has a reputation for being fearsomely effective, protecting Israelis and Jews far beyond the country’s borders. Such portrayals used to be common...[there is] a wider recent trend in which the reputation of the Mossad secret agent is tarnished.

While the on-screen Mossad appearance he keys on is the recent BBC2/SundanceTV co-production The Honourable Woman, he also indicts such varied films as David Mamet’s Homicide, Lucky Number Slevin, the Adam Sandler spoof You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and, strangely, Munich, Spielberg’s love letter to the Mossad. He compares them to the almost-godlike Mossad agents featured in The House on Garibaldi Street and concludes that “there is no doubt that Israel, and specifically the Israeli secret service, is suffering on screen. No James Bond or Jack Bauer here.”

[No Chloe or dry martinis, either...]

Sep 13 2014 2:00pm

Bogie and Bacall: Key Largo (1948)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage. Today we’ll look at John Huston’s Key Largo.

I want to state this up front because I know that many people will disagree: Key Largo is not one of Humphrey Bogart’s best films.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really, really good. Since I’ve seen it, oh, 20 times or so, it must be doing something right. Still, when you consider that his credits include Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and In a Lonely Place, you realize that Bogart simply made so many masterpieces that even a film like Key Largo has to get bumped down to the second tier. There it joins films like The Enforcer and Dark Passage. And that ain’t  bad company.

[That's where I want to go...]