<i>Murder on a Summer's Day</i>: New Excerpt Murder on a Summer's Day: New Excerpt Frances Brody A not-so-perfect summer day. <i>Prime Time</i>: New Excerpt Prime Time: New Excerpt Hank Phillippi Ryan The first in the Charlotte McNally series. <i>Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman</i>: New Excerpt Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman: New Excerpt Tessa Arlen Nominated for Best First Novel! <i>Into Oblivion</i>: New Excerpt Into Oblivion: New Excerpt Arnaldur Indridason An Icelandic thriller.
From The Blog
February 5, 2016
Funeral Crashers: Woman Shows up to Her Own Funeral
Crime HQ
February 4, 2016
Taken! 10 Great Heist Movies
Jeannette De Beauvoir
February 4, 2016
Announcing 2016's Agatha Awards Nominees
Crime HQ
February 3, 2016
Man Attempts To Sell Drugs...
Teddy Pierson
February 1, 2016
The New Novel from Louise Penny: A Great Reckoning
Crime HQ
Sat
Feb 6 2016 11:30am
Excerpt

Murder on a Summer’s Day: New Excerpt

Frances Brody

Murder on a Summer's Day by Frances Brody is the 5th installment of the Kate Shackleton Mystery series where Kate must work to solve the inexplicable murder of Maharajah Narayan found shot through the heart and placed in the woods (Available February 9, 2016). 

When the India Office seek help in finding Maharajah Narayan, last seen hunting on the Bolton Abbey estate, they call upon the expertise of renowned amateur detective Kate Shackleton to investigate.

But soon a missing persons case turns to murder. Shot through the heart, Narayan's body has obviously not been in the woods overnight. Who brought it here, and from where? And what has happened to the hugely valuable diamond that was in the Maharajah's possession?

An inexplicable murder ...

As Kate digs deeper, she soon discovers that vengeance takes many forms. Was the Maharajah's sacrilegious act of shooting a white doe to blame? Or are growing rumors of a political motive too powerful for Kate to discount?

One thing Kate is sure of: her own skills and insights. Qualities that she is sure will help her unravel a mysterious murder on that fateful summer's day.

One

Light found its way through the gap in the curtains. I sleep with the window open so usually the birds wake me before the clock does. Reaching out to stop the repeater alarm clock, I sent it flying from the bedside table onto the floor. It landed face up. Squinting at the luminous figures, I made out the time. Big hand at twelve, little hand at five, but I had not set the alarm. The ringing continued. Not the alarm, the telephone.

Somewhere in the garden, or the wood behind my house, a wood pigeon cooed itself silly. I stumbled out of bed, blinking away sleep. The ringing grew louder as I stepped onto the landing. Whoever was telephoning to me at this ungodly hour on an August Saturday morning did not intend to hang up and try again later.

As I hurried downstairs to the hall, my first thought was that something might be wrong with my mother or father. This anxiety led me to stub my toe on the foot of the hall stand. Cursing inwardly, I picked up the receiver.

[Read more from Murder on a Summer's Day here...]

Fri
Feb 5 2016 3:30pm
Excerpt

Prime Time: New Excerpt

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the first book in the Charlotte McNally series following reporter Charlotte McNally as she investigates a story about email, murder, mayhem, and a multimillion-dollar fraud ring (Available February 9, 2016).

In the cutthroat world of television journalism, seasoned reporter Charlotte McNally knows that she'd better pull out all the stops or kiss her job goodbye. But it's her life that might be on the line when she learns that an innocent-looking e-mail offer resulted in murder, mayhem, and a multimillion-dollar fraud ring.

Her investigation leads her straight to Josh Gelston, who is a little too helpful and a lot too handsome. Charlie might have a nose for news, but men are a whole other matter. Now she has to decide whether she can trust Josh...before she ends up as the next lead story.

CHAPTER ONE

Between the hot flashes, the hangover and all the spam on my computer, there’s no way I’ll get anything done before eight o’clock this morning. I came in early to get ahead, and already I’m behind.

I take a restorative sip of my murky-but-effective vending machine coffee, and start my one-finger delete. Away go the online offers for cheap vacations, low refinancing rates and medicine from Canada. Adios to international driver’s licenses and work-at-home moneymaking schemes.

At least I’m not the only one here. Downstairs in the newsroom, overcaffeinated producers working the graveyard shift click intently through the wires, scanning their computers to find stories for the noon newscast. The sleek new anchorwoman, Ellen Cavenagh, doesn’t have to be in her chair for the local news update until 8:24, so the “new face of Channel 3,” as the promos brand her, is probably in her dressing room perfecting the shimmer level of her lip gloss.

[Read more of Prime Time here...]

Fri
Feb 5 2016 12:30pm

Funeral Crashers: Woman Shows up to Her Own Funeral

Ghosts may not be real in the paranormal sense of a spirit world interacting with our own—however, they are real in the literal sense, when the woman that you paid to have murdered shows up to greet you at her own funeral.

Today, The Washington Post reported the story of Noela Rukundo—a woman of African descent from the country of Burundi, now living in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost exactly a year ago, her husband of 11 years had paid to have her kidnapped and murdered in the capital city of Bujumbura in Burundi, after they had flown back to attend the funeral of Noel’s stepmother. However, thanks to circumstance and some principled hitmen, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

[See how she got out of this mess...]

Fri
Feb 5 2016 11:00am
Excerpt

Exclusive Video of Author David McCallum Reading Once a Crooked Man

David McCallum

Watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS star David McCallum expertly narrate his debut thriller, Once a Crooked Man.

Crime pays. And pays well.

Sal, Max and Enzo Bruschetti have proved this over a lifetime of nefarious activity that they have kept hidden from law enforcement. Nowhere in any file, on any computer is there a record of anything illegal from which they have profited. But Max has a problem. His body is getting old and his doctor has told him to take it easy. Max has decided that the time has come for the family to retire.

But when young actor Harry Murphy overhears the Bruschetti brothers planning changes to their organization, including the murder of a man in London who knows too much, the Bruschetti's plans begin to unravel.

After Harry makes the well-intentioned if egregious mistake of trying to warn the Bruchetti's intended victim he finds himself alone in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the law, with a suitcase full of cash and a dangerous man on his trail. And while his good looks, charm and cheerful persistence may prove assets in the turbulent events that follow, none of Harry's past roles have prepared him for what happens next.

See a video of this beloved, long-time television actor use his experience with thrills and crime to bring to life this wonderfully quirky crime debut to listeners.

[Watch the video here...]

Thu
Feb 4 2016 1:50pm

Taken! 10 Great Heist Movies

Ah, the heist. Who hasn’t thought of it—maybe even dreamed about it—imagining both the daring nature of the action itself and the rich reward should it be successful? Turns out there are a lot of great heists, both in real life and in fiction, that have become the subject of some of the most memorable films in history.

Sometimes, a movie is so good that the story is resurrected and recreated for a new generation. That’s what happened with The Italian Job, first done in 1969 and remade in 2003, and Ocean’s Eleven (1960 and 2001). In both cases, I thought each version deserved its own place in my little heist hall of fame. In both cases, I felt that the original version had more depth and more thoughtfulness–make of that what you will.

[See what made the list!]

Thu
Feb 4 2016 11:35am

Announcing 2016’s Agatha Awards Nominees

Malice Domestic, an annual convention held in Washington DC honoring the best of the traditional/cozy mystery genre, has announced the nominees for this years Agatha Awards.  Loosely defined as “mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence,” the Agatha Award salutes the books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.

This year, the annual banquet will be held on Saturday, April 30th, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. As always, it's a fantastic list of great work that deserves to be checked out! What have you read already?

*Follow the linked titles to exclusive excerpts!

 

Best Contemporary Novel:

Burned Bridges by Annette Dashofy
Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron
The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson
Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
What You See by Hank Phillipi Ryan

[See all of the nominees!]

Thu
Feb 4 2016 11:30am
Excerpt

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman: New Excerpt

Tessa Arlen

In honor of Tessa Arlen's Agatha Award nomination for Best First Novel, here is an excerpt of the first chapter of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman!

Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband's degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son's name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort's close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

Chapter One

On the morning of Lord and Lady Montfort’s annual summer ball, their housekeeper, Edith Jackson, was up, washed, and almost dressed by six o’clock. She unraveled her long bedtime plait, brushed out her hair, and, with a mouth full of hairpins, swept the thick auburn swath into a twist at the nape of her neck, deftly securing it in place. The glance she cast into the looking glass was brief, made only to reassure that she was presentable. Then she rang for the third housemaid to bring breakfast up to her parlor.

As Mrs. Jackson sat down to eat her bacon and eggs, she mentally prepared herself for a day that would be packed with complicated, overlapping timetables and countless calls on her patience and tact. She was quite certain the house was ready for the greatest event of its year, but she did not allow herself to be complacent about her ladyship. The countess often awoke to her best ideas on the morning of the ball. In past years, dancing by the lake or midnight supper in the ruin of the old moated castle were inspirations that had struck Lady Montfort only at the last moment. Mrs. Jackson knew from long experience that it did not pay to be overconfident about readiness where her ladyship was concerned. Don’t tempt fate, the housekeeper told herself, not until after your meeting with her at nine o’clock.

She finished her second cup of tea and washed her hands before leaving the sanctuary of her rooms to descend three flights of stairs to the servants’ hall. Walking past the kitchen, she increased her pace as she heard the strident voice of the cook harrying her kitchen maids to greater efforts. She was careful not to turn her head in case she caught Mrs. Thwaite’s eye; an early encounter with Cook, who was of a garrulous nature, would certainly slow her down. Fortunately, Cook was wholly absorbed in straining a large copper pan of veal stock, and Mrs. Jackson made her escape out of the scullery door, unnoticed.

[Read more from Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman here...]

Wed
Feb 3 2016 1:00pm

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson 1.01: “From the Ashes of Tragedy”

Let me tell you something buddy, we loved OJ Simpson.

He was in the same pantheon of 70s pro-sports demi-gods as Joe Namath, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Reggie Jackson—but unlike the rest, OJ took us to the next level.

Not only did the OJ have a stellar football career where he won the 1968 Heisman Trophy and was the first player in NFL history to rush 2000 yards, he then went on to star in Avis Rent A Car’s memorable ad campaigns, sprinting through airports. He also entertained us in the supporting role of Detective Norberg in the Naked Gun trilogy.

But on June 17th, 1994, while I was watching my NY Knicks take on the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs at some nasty pub in South Brooklyn, when we were interrupted by the news of a white Bronco being pursued by LA’s finest. We were gob-smacked to learn who it was.

[Don't tell me, I haven't watched it yet...]

Wed
Feb 3 2016 10:00am
Excerpt

Into Oblivion: New Excerpt

Arnaldur Indridason

Into Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason is an Icelandic thriller, and the 11th of the Inspector Erlendur series, following newly promoted Detective Erlendur as he deals with a litany of cases in this small, remote country (Available February 9, 2016).

A woman swims in a remote, milky-blue lagoon. Steam rises from the water and as it clears, a body is revealed in the ghostly light. Miles away, a vast aircraft hangar rises behind the perimeter fence of the US military base. A sickening thud is heard as a man's body falls from a high platform.

Many years before, a schoolgirl went missing. The world has forgotten her. But Erlendur has not. Erlendur is a newly promoted detective with a battered body, a rogue CIA operative, and America's troublesome presence in Iceland to contend with. In his spare time he investigates a cold case. He is only starting out, but he is already up to his neck.

1

A fierce wind was blowing over Midnesheidi Moor. It had swept south from the highlands, across the choppy expanse of Faxaflói Bay, before ascending again, bitterly cold, onto the moor where it whistled over gravel beds and ridges, whipping a pale etching of snow over the sad, stunted vegetation. Exposed to open sea and northern blast, only the toughest plants survived here, their stalks barely protruding above the level of the stones. The wind raised a shrill screeching as it penetrated the perimeter fence which loomed out of this bleak landscape, then hurled itself against the mighty walls of the aircraft hangar which stood on the highest ground. It raged with renewed force against this intractable obstacle, before hurtling away into the darkness beyond.

The noise of the wind carried into the vast interior of the steel-frame hangar. One of the largest structures in Iceland, covering 17,000 square metres and as tall as an eight-storey building, it had doors opening to the east and west that could accommodate the wingspan of the world’s biggest aircraft. This was the operational hub of the US Air Force 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron on Midnesheidi. Here, repairs were carried out to the fleet of AWACS spy planes, F-16 fighter jets and Hercules transports. Huge pulley systems for manoeuvring aeroplane parts hung from girders running the length of the roof.

At present, however, work in the hangar was suspended for the most part due to the installation of a new fire-extinguisher system. A specially reinforced scaffolding tower reached right up to the ceiling at the northern end of the building. Like everything to do with the hangar, the job was a Herculean task, involving the laying of a network of pipes along the steel roof girders, which connected to a series of powerful sprinklers, spaced at intervals several metres apart.

[Read more from Into Oblivion here...]

Wed
Feb 3 2016 8:45am

Man Attempts To Sell Drugs... In a Courtroom

A not-so-bright Pennsylvania man is accused of trying to sell drugs at a court hearing. Yup.

CBS Pittsburgh reports that Christopher Durkin, 35, appeared in court on Monday for a charge of driving under suspension. When his hearing was over, Durkin thought it would be a good idea to offer to sell some illegal pills to a man who was just sitting in the courtroom's seating area.

The man quickly told a nearby deputy about what went down and the deputy quickly stopped Durkin in the hallway and found two doses of Suboxone in his pocket. Durkin was placed under arrest and charged with two counts of possession and one count of possession with the intent to sell.

Tue
Feb 2 2016 8:20pm

The X-Files 10.03: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”

MULDER: So we're looking for a man-sized horned lizard—with human teeth!

SCULLY: *stare*

MULDER: ...Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it?

I can die happy now.

I hadn't realized my life was lacking quite so much joy before this episode—I know better now.

Oh my lord—I haven't laughed that hard in ages. Bless Darin Morgan for delivering another incredible episode; it's hard to believe he could top “Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose” or “Jose Chung's From Outer Space,” but “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” has absolutely jumped to the top of my Fave X-Files Adventures List.

A couple huffing paint in the woods (one of whom is my boy Tyler Labine of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil) sees a giant lizard attacking one man while another lies dead in the undergrowth. Another three bodies are found, all suspiciously gnawed about the neck, and the case lands on Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) desk.

Just as Mulder decides to throw in the towel re: monster hunting. Our boy has always been known for his impeccable timing.

[Every Monday night at 8 p.m. ET...]

Tue
Feb 2 2016 12:00pm

Now Win This!: Cozy Corner Sweepstakes

Winter is here—cozy up with your chance to win 20 (yep, you read that right: 20) amazing titles.

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 February 2, 2016, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends February 16, 2016, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Get cozy...]

Tue
Feb 2 2016 10:00am
Excerpt

Keep Calm: New Excerpt

Mike Binder

Keep Calm by Mike Binder follows American ex-cop Adam Tatum who, after seemingly being set up in a foreign country when a bomb detonates during a high-stakes conference and wounds the prime minister, must keep his family safe and race to uncover the conspiracy before it's too late (Available today, February 2, 2016).

Former Michigan detective Adam Tatum receives an unexpected offer, a golden opportunity that seems almost too good to be true. He travels to 10 Downing Street to participate in a high-stakes conference. Immediately after his visit, a bomb detonates, wounding the prime minister and placing Adam Tatum squarely in the crosshairs of suspicion.

Sensing a setup, Tatum flees with his family, desperately fighting for survival in an unfamiliar country. The lives of his children, the future of his marriage, and the fate of a nation depend on Tatum exposing the conspirators who pegged him for a fall.

Georgia Turnbull, the chancellor of the exchequer, and Davina Steel, the lead investigator, both stand to gain from the successful manhunt of Adam Tatum. But, as motives emerge and desires ignite, each must decide what they're really after.

PART ONE

AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER THE BOMBING ■ 1

The bomb went off at 10 Downing Street just after six p.m. Georgia had been in the small private bathroom off her office at Number 11, trying once again, as usual, to make some sense of her hair before she met with Alistair Stephenson, the minister of education. She had just taken her third pain pill of the day. The ache in her leg was a distant irritant most times now, sporadically troublesome in the morning or after a long day of travel, but the pills made the tumult of her life easier to deal with, so she ate them gladly, like bright red rock candy.

It was a loud, booming roar of a blast that shook the walls, made the building roll, and even, Georgia thought later, lifted it as if it were just a small cardboard mock-up of Downing Street. The explosion was shadowed by an eerie moment of quiet, a confused sea of silence that washed over the building and cascaded down the halls of both Numbers 10 and 11. Georgia, the chancellor of the exchequer, stood alone for several stunned seconds. Jack Early, her private secretary, broke the hush when he ran down the hall just as alarm bells began to ring and voices could be heard shouting down the back corridors.

“Madam, are you all right?”

“Yes, of course, that was devastating. Please tell me everyone’s all right. What was it?”

She was dizzy, spinning, or maybe the room was; maybe Early was spinning and not her. She grabbed the side of her large wooden desk to stay upright.

[Read more from Keep Calm here...]

Mon
Feb 1 2016 5:00pm

Apology Is Policy: Looking Back at Season Four of The X-Files

MULDER: A growth?

SCULLY: A tumor. You're the only one I've called.

MULDER: ...But it's treatable?

SCULLY: The truth is that the type and placement of the tumor makes it difficult—to the extreme.

MULDER: I refuse to believe that.

That's right—the guy who can believe in Bigfoot, black magic, and aliens point blank refuses to believe that Dana Scully won't beat cancer.

It's like the writers all sat down and decided that season four would focus on two things:

  1. Being as disgusting as possible.
  2. Crushing the fans' hearts and souls.

In the first camp, we have some of the bloodiest, most appalling monsters and crimes to ever appear on the show. And in the second, we have Scully's now-infamous cancer arc—which was the stuff of epic dinner table/lunchroom debates.

I can vividly remember comforting my friend Amanda, who was very invested in Scully and Mulder's relationship, as she recapped the previous night's episode to me through tears over our PB&J sandwiches. The X-Files was something that I largely had to experience vicariously when it originally aired, as it wasn't the sort of programming my parents deemed appropriate for a ten-year-old (rightly so, I'm sure; we were more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation household at the time).

But even then—before the horror bug had properly bitten me, before I had built up a tolerance for thrillers and could sit through a zombie flick with a plate of spaghetti—I was still intrigued.

Even then, I knew The X-Files was something that should be in my wheelhouse.

Mainly because it's a show about dichotomies: about the conflicts between good and evil, the sacred and the profane, the horrible and the beautiful, fervent belief versus solid science. It's this mixture of clashing opposites that makes it so compelling and layered, and Season 4 is a powerful turning point for both the leads and the series as a whole.

Here are the important episodes to check out—or avoid, as the case may be.

[Bring it on, Season 4...]

Mon
Feb 1 2016 1:45pm

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: February, 2016

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! Back by popular demand, after a brief hiatus since October's releases, we're getting you ready for Valentine's with treats for February! Let us know in the comments how you like it and what you can't wait to read next!

See also: Register for your chance to win 20 (yes...20) cozy mysteries in our Cozy Corner Sweepstakes.

Criminal Element's February 2016 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List!

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Mon
Feb 1 2016 10:15am
Excerpt

Shoot: New Excerpt

Loren D. Estleman

Shoot by Loren D. Estleman is the 4th installment of the Valentino Mysteries where Valentino has to help protect his aging film heroes, Red Montana and Dixie Day, from an attempted blackmail in exchange for Red's lost film Sixgun Sonata (Available February 9, 2016).

Valentino, a mild-manner film archivist at UCLA and sometime film detective, is at the closing party for the Red Montana and Dixie Day museum when he is approached by no less than his hero and man-of-the-hour Red Montana, western film and television star.

Red tells Valentino that he is being blackmailed over the existence of a blue film that his wife, now known throughout the world as the wholesome Dixie Day and the other half of the Montana/Day power couple, made early in her career. With Dixie on her deathbed, Red is desperate to save her the embarrassment of the promised scandal, and offers Valentino a deal-find the movie, and he can have Red's lost film, Sixgun Sonata, that Red has been hiding away in his archives. Don't accept, and the priceless reel will go up in flames.

Feeling blackmailed himself, Valentino agrees and begins to dig. In the surreal world of Hollywood, what is on screen is rarely reality. As he races to uncover the truth before time runs out, his heroes begin their fall from grace. Valentino desperately wants to save Sixgun Sonata...but at what cost?

Part I

HORSE OPERA

1

“THIS IS CUTE.” Harriet Johansen touched a sample.

“Cute isn’t what we’re going for,” Valentino said.

She smiled, a bit stiffly. “Pardon me, maestro.”

They were seated beside Leo Kalishnikov, Valentino’s architect and designer, at a large table in a studio in Tarzana—the only city in the United States named after a fictional character—browsing through a heavy volume the size of a family photo album. The studio was on the third floor of a faux-Spanish modern house with stucco walls and enormous Plexiglas windows overlooking the residential sprawl, with natural light flooding in; a shoreward-bound wind had exiled the smog into the desert east of L.A., where presumably it shriveled away in the Mojave heat.

The house was so well-proportioned that from a distance it looked no larger than the average McMansion, but it covered a city block.

“It’s an exact copy of Harold Lloyd’s estate in Beverly Hills,” said their hostess, a tall woman hovering around fifty in black leotards and tights with her hair cut short and dyed glossy Florsheim-black. Valentino thought she looked like a retired ballerina from some Eastern Bloc country; the fact that she spoke with no accent at all confirmed her foreignness.

[Read more from Shoot here...]

Mon
Feb 1 2016 9:50am

The New Novel from Louise Penny: A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning will be the 12th novel in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Pre-order your copy today!

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunesBuy at IndieBound!Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at Amazon

 

 

Click here for more Louise Penny at Criminal Element, and make sure you're signed up for our newsletter so you can stay up to date with all things mystery!

Sun
Jan 31 2016 12:00pm
Excerpt

The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish: New Excerpt

Tim Flannery

The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish by Tim Flannery is set in 1932 and follows young anthropologist Archie Meek and the Great Venus Island Fetish—a ceremonial mask surrounded by 32 human skulls—that might be the key to the recent deaths and disappearances at the museum it resides in (Available February 2, 2016).

It’s 1932, and the Great Venus Island Fetish, a ceremonial mask surrounded by thirty-two human skulls, now resides in a museum in Sydney, Australia. But young anthropologist Archie Meek, recently returned from an extended field trip to Venus Island, has noticed something amiss: a strange discoloration on some of the skulls.

Has someone tampered with the fetish? Is there a link between it and the mysterious disappearance of Cecil Polkinghorne, curator of archaeology? And how did Eric Sopwith, retired mollusks expert, die in the museum’s storeroom? Could Archie’s life be at risk as well?

But these are not the only concerns that weigh upon the assistant curator’s mind. Why hasn’t his beloved Beatrice―registrar, anthropology―accepted his proposal of marriage and the love token he brought back from Venus Island? Has something been lost in translation?

Chapter 1

Archibald Meek watched from the canoe as the muscular form of his adopted brother Cletus dived through the water, coming to rest atop a submerged coral bommie. Cletus stilled momentarily, then thrust his arm into a hidden cavity. A black cloud erupted, leaving only the man’s legs visible. Agame. The giant Pacific octopus. Archie’s eyes followed Cletus as he swam to the surface, the beast’s tentacles waving wildly.

Cletus bit into the animal’s head as he broke the surface, then flipped the lifeless mass into the canoe and catapulted himself aboard. Then he froze. For a moment Archie thought he’d glimpsed the great hammerhead shark that had been hunting the lagoon of late. It was longer than Cletus’ canoe and it moved hypnotically, as if to the throb of an invisible kundu drum—seeing all, sensing all. But it was not that. Cletus pointed with his lips. On the western horizon was the faintest of black streaks.

How long since a steamer last anchored in the lagoon? Long enough that Archie had begun to feel that steamers were things you saw only in dreams.

He had been living outside time, at least as it is measured by clocks and calendars, for almost five years. But that smudge of smoke announced that a ship was coming to restore him to a land where time is doled out in precise units.

[Read more from The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish here...]

Sat
Jan 30 2016 11:00am
Excerpt

The Language of Secrets: New Excerpt

Ausma Khan

The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan follows Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty as they investigate the murder of a friend who had been undercover in an Islamic terrorist cell that Rachel infiltrates herself to try and solve the case (Available February 2, 2016).

Detective Esa Khattak heads up Canada's Community Policing Section, which handles minority-sensitive cases across all levels of law enforcement. Khattak is still under scrutiny for his last case, so he's surprised when INSET, Canada's national security team, calls him in on another politically sensitive issue. For months, INSET has been investigating a local terrorist cell which is planning an attack on New Year's Day. INSET had an informant, Mohsin Dar, undercover inside the cell. But now, just weeks before the attack, Mohsin has been murdered at the group's training camp deep in the woods.

INSET wants Khattak to give the appearance of investigating Mohsin's death, and then to bury the lead. They can't risk exposing their operation, or Mohsin's role in it. But Khattak used to know Mohsin, and he knows he can't just let this murder slide. So Khattak sends his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, undercover into the unsuspecting mosque which houses the terrorist cell. As Rachel tentatively reaches out into the unfamiliar world of Islam, and begins developing relationships with the people of the mosque and the terrorist cell within it, the potential reasons for Mohsin's murder only seem to multiply, from the political and ideological to the intensely personal.

1

I came between a man and his thoughts,

like a breeze thrown over

the face of the moon.

The snatch of poetry caught at Mohsin’s thoughts, making a mockery of the thousands of burnt-out stars flung wide against the banner of the sky. Penniless stars, spending their dying light in hopes of winning accolades from poets who thought of nothing save the rumpus of love, except as a point of comparison.

The blue night of Cuba, stars in her hair—

Her eyes like stars, starry-eyed, in fact—

Bright star, glowing star, lost star, falling star, the countless congregation, the silver-washed dusk, the pinpricks of night—

Mohsin found the celestial images ridiculous.

Especially when his personal light had gone unheralded—how cavalier of the poets not to have spoken of Mohsin’s wife.

Sitara, he thought. This wasn’t how I expected to die.

[Read more from The Language of Secrets here...]

Fri
Jan 29 2016 6:00pm

Into a Mind of Madness: Scott Adlerberg’s Graveyard Love

Reading Graveyard Love, I'm reminded of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. William Holden as Joe Gillis typing away for the vanity and delusions of a demented old hag named Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson. Remember how his work environment decayed into an endless abyss of her crumbling memories, broken-down expectations, and finally led to good old-fashioned murder? Well, in Scott Adlerberg’s latest, a young man named Kurt is even more shackled to a woman—in this case his mother.

She wants her son, a struggling writer, to compose her memoir, which he reluctantly does. Kurt has had some success writing a piece for The New Yorker about his late father, and Kurt assumes his mother—who was always competitive with her deceased spouse—wants to top the magazine article with a novel of her own exploits.

Not exactly a healthy relationship to begin with.

Then, their working and living arrangements become even tenser when she nit-picks about the way he's recording her recollections. On one occasion, he shuts her demands down by quacking like a duck! One can only imagine the emotional drain it would be for a son to have to document his mother's entire life, including candid sexual history—she eerily instructs, “You’ve got to convey that my body was hot for him.”

[The adult version of the Birds and the Bees?]