Fresh Meat: <i>The Poor Boy's Game</i> by Dennis Tafoya Fresh Meat: The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya Scott Adlerberg Deputy Marshall Frannie must protect her family from a ruthless criminal--her father. FM: <i>Don't Ever Look Back</i> by Daniel Friedman FM: Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman Katherine Tomlinson 88-year-old retired cop has struggles: eating, remembering, revenge... Now Win <i>This</i>!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Crime HQ Six freshly-hatched crime titles! Enter for your chance to win! FM: <i>From the Charred Remains</i> by Susanna Calkins FM: From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins Angie Barry London's Great Fire destroyed the city, but it uncovered a murder.
From The Blog
April 24, 2014
Crime Solvers: Forensics From the Past
Susanna Calkins
April 24, 2014
Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Blade II (2002)
Angie Barry
April 24, 2014
On Second Thought, Murder Tattoo Not the Best Idea
Crime HQ
April 23, 2014
Game of Pawns: FBI Creates Anti-Spying Short Film
Crime HQ
April 22, 2014
Brosnan a Bad Bond? At Least an Insecure One.
Crime HQ
Apr 24 2014 1:00pm

In writing my historical novels, which are set in seventeenth-century England, I have had to spend a lot of time thinking about the crime-solving methods that would have been available to authorities of the time. In the era before modern forensics, when there was no DNA evidence, blood typing, fingerprinting, math modeling, computer simulating, chemical processing, etc., how were crimes solved anyway?

Well, discounting those crimes solved through witchcraft, magic, fortune-telling, dreams, divine providence and popular beliefs (e.g. the corpse pointing at the murderer, ghostly apparitions who name the murderer, God speaking to people in dreams, a murder suspect being struck by sudden misfortune etc.), many crimes were certainly solved with the use of logic, reason, observation and even a bit of science that foreshadowed modern professionalized forensic methods. Such methods included:  

Autopsies: Dating back to the ancient world, autopsies have long been used to determine cause of death, including that brought on by sickness, injury, suicide or foul play. The ancient Greeks coined the phrase “eye-witnessing” or “seeing for oneself,” but there is evidence that the Egyptians, ancient Romans, as well as the Chinese, were conducting autopsies from 3000 BCE onwards. Indeed, the autopsy of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE may have been the first recorded autopsy used in legal proceedings. And despite popular myths to the contrary, dissection and autopsies continued throughout the Middle Ages.

[The processes may have changed but the concepts are the same...]

Apr 24 2014 10:30am

After his terrible experience with Mimic, Guillermo del Toro was understandably hesitant about making another American film in Hollywood. But when he was offered the chance to helm the sequel to the successful Blade, the lifelong horror comic fanboy couldn’t resist. With his unique handling of the vampire mythos in his debut Cronos, the studio knew he would bring something new and interesting to the table.

Blade II opens two years after the events of the first film. The titular antihero (Wesley Snipes)—a half-human, half-vampire also called The Daywalker—is searching for his father figure and mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who was bitten before being snatched by their vampire enemies.

No sooner is Whistler recovered and cured of his vampirism before their base is infiltrated by a pair of bloodsuckers. The twist is that they haven’t come to destroy the hunters: they arrive bearing a peace treaty on behalf of the vampire nation. It seems there’s a new monster stalking the streets, a creature even the vampires fear, and in their desperation they are forced to turn to their enemy for help.

[The enemy of your enemy is your friend...]

Apr 24 2014 8:45am

We can understand why someone might want a tattoo erased. Perhaps a presumed-permanent lover is no longer so everlasting. Or maybe a night out on the town left a more permanent mark on you than you planned. However, what we didn't see coming is the reason Jeffrey Chapman is using in order to erase his once-permanent ink.

Chapman, from Kansas, is currently charged with first-degree-murder, and his trial is due to begin Monday. So where does the tattoo come into play? Right on his neck, actually.

In big, blocked letters Chapman has “MURDER” etched across his neck. Scared that this might give the jury the wrong impression of the man, Chapman's defense has asked that he be given clearance to have the tattoo removed.

Remember kids, think before you ink. And as for Mr. Chapman, may we suggest your next tattoo? DIPUTS would look great on your forehead.

HT: Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune

Apr 23 2014 1:00pm

The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya is a standalone thriller about Frannie, a U.S. Marshal whose violent childhood memories come rushing back when her father escapes from prison (available April 29, 2014).

If you've read Dennis Tafoya, you know that he's a writer who embeds family drama, with its complex emotional turmoil, inside hardboiled crime fiction. The Poor Boy's Game, his third novel, is no exception. It centers around Marshal Frannie Mullen, from Philadelphia, and the consequences that result from two events. The first, in Philly, is a botched attempt by Frannie and her colleagues to catch a felon who has jumped bail. The second is the escape from a Louisiana prison of her father Patrick. He has his own business to take care of in Philadelphia, and the news that he has returned to his old stomping grounds adds stress to Frannie's life. Patrick is a former boxer who was an enforcer for a local roofer's union. He has a violent history. He was also a terrifying husband and father, a man whose brutality traumatized Frannie, her sister, and their mother. While dealing with the fallout from the failed apprehension, Frannie is engulfed by the chaos and danger set off by her father's return, and how these two plot strands develop and come together is at the core of The Poor Boy's Game.

[This story is as much about Frannie as it is about Philadelphia...]

Apr 23 2014 8:45am

Game of Pawns: No, it's not the cutthroat tale of four families desperately trying to take over a throne pawnshop, it's the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, an American student who was tricked/paid/recruited by the Chinese government to be a spy. And more importantly it's a 28-minute short film the FBI has put together to warn foreign students abroad not to become a pawn in foreign government...and accidentally become a spy.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigations isn't about to become the Federal Bureau of Cinematography, this documentary is no worse than anything to be found on truTV. What are your thoughts?

Apr 22 2014 12:30pm

Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman is second book featuring 88-year-old retired cop Buck Schatz who is asked for help by an old nemesis from his days on the force (available April 22, 2014).

I grew up in what was essentially a three-generation household. My maternal grandparents stayed with us off and on for months at a time because my grandfather, who’d been born in the last years of the 19th century and was ancient even when I was a kid, was being treated for various ailments at the VA hospital in the city where we lived. My grandmother hated my father and the feeling was mutual, and their ongoing hostilities made life a living hell for my mother.

I loved my grandmother dearly but she was one tough old woman who spoke her mind, damn the consequences. Buck Schatz, the ornery ex-cop at the center of Daniel Friedman’s new novel (the second in a much-heralded series) reminds me a lot of my grandmother. This was a woman who was such a terrible cook that any time we went to see her, we’d insist on taking her out to eat to avoid having to consume some godawful concoction she’d whip up out of lime gelatin and mayonnaise. And yet, she had no problem criticizing her daughter’s cooking. But at least she had the option of cooking for herself. That’s not true for Bud Schatz, and one of the (many) indignities he’s had to suffer at the Valhalla Estates Assisted Lifestyle Community for Older Adults is that the food is close to inedible.

Whoever said that life in assisted-living facilities lacked variety clearly never had breakfast at Valhalla. A single plate of scrambled eggs could have burnt bits, cold places, and runny parts.

[Can you pass the salt, please?]

Apr 22 2014 12:00pm

We've got eggs on the brain and a half-dozen freshly-hatched crime titles on our hands!

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 April 22, 2014, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends May 6, 2014, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Pop the Carton to Reveal the Dread Half-Dozen...]

Apr 22 2014 8:45am

From The Telegraph:

“I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger [Moore] and Sean [Connery],” he says, “It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me. The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable. It was quite tame, and the characterisation didn’t have a follow-through of reality, it was surface. But then that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well.” Has he ever re-watched the movies? He mock-shudders. “I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond. ‘Cause it’s just never good enough.” He laughs mirthlessly. “It’s a horrible feeling.”

Maybe it's because we've recently gained such appreciation for Pierce Brosnan's unsung western films, but we think he's being pretty tough on himself. Still, it's a great article, which includes his considerations on Steele as well as Bond, on ageism in America and the “marketplace of youth,” and lots of other interesting tidbits from an actor who's earned his pedigree among crime fans.

Apr 21 2014 4:00pm

We begin this episode in an unusual position: a step ahead of the women of the Bletchley Circle.

A man is in the hospital, his body covered with ugly, blistery chemical burns. He’s expected to die, and when he does his cause of death will be falsified. We know this; our heroines don’t. So we have a few minutes to feel clever or to try piecing things together on our own before the “Circle” closes in on the truth.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Alice Merren declined her opportunity for appeal and her execution date has been set. Only five days remain for the women to determine who really murdered John Richards and why.

[It’s time to make the pieces fit...]

Apr 21 2014 2:30pm

From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins, is the second book in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series set in 1666 London where a body found amidst the debris of the Great Fire turns out to be a victim of murder (available April 22, 2014).

London, 1666. Just days after the Great Fire, former chambermaid Lucy Campion is helping to clear away the debris of her devastated city. Mind already swirling with turbulence—from the fire, from her uncertain place in her master’s household, and from her recent heart-to-heart with her master’s son, Adam—Lucy finds herself caught up in even more turmoil when the body of a man is found in the rubble. A man not killed by the fire.

From the vermin crawling all over him, he’d clearly been dead for a while. Lucy dimly noted a shock of black hair and brownish skin before her eyes fixed on the handle of a knife protruding from his chest…

The constable who takes on the case happens to be the same man who only weeks ago arrested Lucy’s brother for a crime he didn’t commit. Determined to see justice carried out for the stranger stuffed ignominiously in a barrel, Lucy attaches herself to the investigation.

[Even fire can't hide the truth...]

Apr 21 2014 12:30pm

All in all, it was a pretty typical Game of Thrones episode; there was thievery, stew-slurping, mass-murder, twincestual rape, and the episode ended with Dany on her way towards freeing some more slaves. You would think these cities would be catching onto Dany’s tactics by now. If she was at my city’s walls, I think I’d hide my slaves, and you know, not let them get a glimpse of their savior. But that’s just me. Dany’s merely playing the hand she’s been dealt; it’s not her fault she’s playing with amateurs.

Dany might be dealing with amateurs, but in the west, more and more players are emerging. With Littlefinger coming back into the picture to rescue Sansa we might not yet know what he's up to, but he must be taken seriously. Stannis is still stranded on Dragonstone with no money and no army, but plenty of stubbornness. The Wildlings are coming and Jon Snow might actually know something, if only his brothers would listen. And in King's Landing, there's a whole mess of stuff going on as Lannisters are rising and falling with no signs of slowing down.

[Note to self: Never invite The Hound over for dinner...]

Apr 21 2014 8:45am

Prisoners at The Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) might be in the big house for the foreseeable future, but they are doing their part to help dogs in need by building dog houses.

Part of PETA's Animals for Angels initiative, the NEOCC has utilized the program to the tune of over 70 doghouses since its implementation. The program also has the added bonus of teaching carpentry skills to inmates.

In 2013, PETA provided over 350 doghouses to otherwise elementally-exposed dogs, and with the NEOCC's involvement, those numbers are destined to increase.

Here at CrimeHQ, criminals are often (rightfully) made fun of, but it's nice to highlight a positive story too.

If you're gonna do the crime, utilize your prison time. 

HT: Thanks to The Dodo for the story.

Apr 20 2014 10:00am

The movie version of The Thin Man (1934), written by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich and directed by W.S. Van Dyke, is one of my all-time favorite movies. What’s not to love? William Powell and Myrna Loy are at their best. Asta the dog is cute. There’s wise-cracking dialogue, great clothes and a twisty murder-mystery to solve. It is one of the early influences on my love of all things mystery.

When I watched it again recently, maybe for the thirtieth time, I realized I had never read the book. Never read anything by Dashiell Hammett come to think of it. How could I call myself a mystery lover with this gaping hole in my reading history?

I set out to fill that void immediately. I wouldn’t be able to hold my head up around my mystery writer friends until I did. Besides, books are always better than the movie version, right? I knew I was in for a treat.

Well, maybe not so much.

[Screeeech. What did you say?]

Apr 19 2014 12:30pm

Mention the name Vladimir Nabokov and Lolita springs immediately to mind, and rightfully so. The 1955 novel is a flashpoint in 20th century literature, notable for its controversial subject matter: a professor and his obsession with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze. From the Russian born author, there are additional legendary milestones like Pale Fire and Speak, Memory. What may not be as well known is that Mr. Nabokov was weaving that rich, vigorous prose many years earlier with 1937’s Despair. A first-rate crime novel with strong noir elements.

The protagonist of Despair, Hermann Karlovich, is a Russian businessman who encounters a homeless man by the name of Felix in the city of Prague. Hermann is struck by how similar they look to the point he believes he has found his doppelgänger. Felix, at first, doesn’t seem to think the resemblance is quite that strong and doesn’t seem to know what to make of the colorful Hermann.

Is Felix a dead-wringer for Hermann or not? One of the reasons we may doubt the doppelgänger fixation is a chapter later, Hermann discusses for several paragraphs his late mother only to conclude: “A slight digression: that bit about my mother was a deliberate lie … I purposely leave it there as a sample of one of my essential traits: my light-hearted, inspired lying.” Obviously, Nabokov is having a bit of merriment with one of his well-used tools from his writer’s handbag: the unreliable narrator.

[I feel like I know you from somewhere...]

Apr 18 2014 1:00pm

The Furies, a thriller by Mark Alpert, introduces us to a family like any other, with the exception of a genetic mutation that they've been forced to hide from the world for hundreds of years (available April 22, 2014).

They Walk Among Us!

Nothing is more chilling than hearing those words. Whether they are supernatural, extraterrestrial, or just plain spooky, thinking about a being that’s different from our human selves always feels creepy when everything around you looks normal.

The prologue of Mark Alpert’s The Furies gives us a glimpse of Elizabeth Fury and her family, a family so different that the other people in town are determined to kill them for fear that they’re the ones who’ve brought the recent troubles people were dealing with. It’s 1645, and Elizabeth has escaped with her children, but she can still hear the cries of her husband being tortured.

We move from there to modern-day New York City, where John Rogers sits in a bar nursing a single beer as he thinks about how many ways his life is a mess. A former gang member and military loser, only the faith and grace of a local priest helped him turn his life around. However, turning from the street life to life of service didn’t exactly fill his pockets with gold.

[A girl is about to change his life...]

Apr 18 2014 8:45am

Dame Angela Lansbury/ Photo: PA

Angela Lansbury, forever the face of the nosiest author in Cabot Cove, was just awarded the DBE by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. A British subject at birth, born a year earlier than the current monarch, Lansbury was recognized for services to drama, charity, and philanthropy. Read more about the ceremony, her family's background in politics, and her current stage productions at the Daily Mail.

Congratulations, Dame Angela!

Apr 17 2014 5:00pm
Original Story
Hilary Davidson

“The Barnacle” by Hilary Davidson appears here in its entirety, and is joined by 13 other short crime stories in Criminal Element's inaugural e-collection, The Malfeasance Occasional's Girl Trouble issue.

After enjoying this springtime treat, try “Follow Us on Facebok and Twitter” by Eric Cline and “Her Haunted House” by Brendan DuBois from this collection or learn more about the issue's contents and contributors.



Jess was washing bloodstains out of her husband’s shirt when the police came knocking at her door. She cleaned her hands at the pitted porcelain sink while they beat an aggressive tattoo. Not again, she thought, avoiding her own eyes in the scratched cabinet mirror. Twenty-seven and pregnant by a man who couldn’t hold down a straight job, that was the truth of her life.

[Continue Reading The Barnacle by Hilary Davidson...]

Apr 17 2014 1:00pm

“What is a ghost?” It’s the question at the heart of Guillermo del Toro’s near-perfect The Devil’s Backbone, the pin that holds together the interwoven threads of his layered story. Is it a literal ghost: a restless spirit that persists in stalking the halls at night? Or perhaps the looming specter of war, in a place full of orphans whose parents were claimed by the conflict... Or is a ghost simply the lingering regret for words unsaid, chances untaken, dreams unfulfilled?

The story opens at a remote orphanage in the final days of the Spanish Civil War. Young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives with a suitcase and shoebox of childish treasures, confused and uncertain. And for all that the teachers—including the eloquent Dr. Casares (del Toro fave Federico Luppi) and the elegant Carmen (Marisa Paredes)—are kindly, Carlos has a hard time settling in. The resident bully Jaime immediately dislikes him, the orphanage echoes eerily with secrets, and there is an unsolved mystery surrounding a boy who abruptly disappeared the night a bomb fell in the courtyard.

When Carlos is given the boy’s bed, he soon suspects that the missing Santi never actually left the orphanage. Something began haunting the school in the wake of his disappearance, a being the other boys call “The One Who Sighs”, and it isn’t long before Carlos comes face to face with the ghost and hears a most frightening warning: “Many of you will die.”

[But even in the midst of violence, there can still be hope…]

Apr 17 2014 8:45am

A couple of clumsy burglars were arrested after one of them accidentally dialed 911 and didn’t realize it. Maplewood, Minnesota Police Chief Paul Schnell says the 911 dispatcher received a dead call and then another call that stayed active. The on-duty dispatcher overheard a conversation about where police were located.

“If it goes off, they are right across the street,” said one of the men, according to the dispatcher.

It was “pretty clear based on some of that conversation that this was a burglary,” Schnell said.

The calls were made using the cell phone’s emergency-call feature. The dispatcher saw the location was a car-repair shop and then alerted the local police.

The police arrived to see two men exiting the building wearing dark clothing. One carried a TV, the other a box. The men ditched the goods and tried to get away, but were brought down by police dogs.

Apr 16 2014 4:25pm

One of the most gripping elements, at least for me, is the vulnerability of the children and the lengths to which the adults will go to keep these kids alive – a theme that was front and center this past month as I almost simultaneously finished playing The Last of Us videogame and watching AMC’s They Walking Dead.

Although I’ve also played both of The Walking Dead videogames games, I’ve opted to write about the TV show and the The Last of Us because of some of the differences between game and show. (Speaking of differences, there are also many between TWD show and comics. I’ve tried to read ahead and been surprised when something doesn’t happen the way I expect. And no Darryl! I love Darryl.)

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the last few episodes of The Walking Dead or played either of The Walking Dead games or finished The Last of Us, don’t read any further.

[Come on in, you’ve been warned…]