Fresh Meat: <i>A Root Awakening</i> by Kate Collins Fresh Meat: A Root Awakening by Kate Collins Rachel Kramer Bussel House hunting is no bed of roses... <i>Among Thieves</i>: New Excerpt Among Thieves: New Excerpt John Clarkson They will rue the day that they blackballed James Beck's cousin. Fresh Meat: <i>Shark Skin Suite</i> by Tim Dorsey Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey Neliza Drew Lawyers, like sharks, are tough to swim with. <i>Crazy for You</i>: New Excerpt Crazy for You: New Excerpt Michael Fleeman One moment, you're just dropping your kid off at school...
From The Blog
January 31, 2015
So Close to Freedom: Visiting Alcatraz
Thomas Pluck
January 30, 2015
HBO Greenlights Lewis and Clark Miniseries
Joe Brosnan
January 30, 2015
Mark Twain on Celebrity Killers, the Sane 'Insane', and Meddling Misguided Magistrates
Edward A. Grainger
January 30, 2015
Automatic Crime Sonnet Robot, Activate!
Clare Toohey
January 29, 2015
Ketchup Me If You Can
Crime HQ
Jan 31 2015 12:00pm

So Close to Freedom: Visiting Alcatraz

Alcatraz, that most famous of American correctional facilities, has been a national park longer than it was a Federal prison. It housed Federal inmates from 1933 to 1963, a mere 30 years. The island’s history goes back much further. Its name comes from the Spanish for Island of the Pelicans, though the birds no longer nest there. It was reserved as a military installation in 1850 and served as a military prison from the Civil War until 1946.

“The Rock” was for the worst of the worst in the Federal Prison system. The waters of San Francisco Bay separated escapees from freedom. There were two well-known escape attempts; in 1946, prisoners overpowered guards and took them as hostages, in what would be later the Battle of Alcatraz. This was immortalized in 1947’s Brute Force, starring Burt Lancaster, a film very violent and gritty for its day. It’s also highly fictionalized, but worth hunting down. The more famous escape was fictionalized in the Clint Eastwood vehicle, Escape from Alcatraz, and it was recently proved, using tide tables and by tracking the currents, that the three men who took rafts into the bay might have survived. There were reported sightings of the escapees, particularly at the funeral of one prisoner’s mother, that give credence to the idea. And with the San Francisco skyline so tantalizingly close across the water, inmates were bound to have dreams of freedom on their minds.

[So close, and yet so far...]

Jan 30 2015 4:40pm

HBO Greenlights Lewis and Clark Miniseries Starring Casey Affleck and Matthias Schoenaerts

In a new press release, HBO has announced a new miniseries Lewis and Clark, with production starting this summer. Starring Casey Affleck and Matthias Schoenaerts, and with executive producers Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman, the series will be based off the book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose.

From the press release:

Lewis and Clark will tell the story of America's first contact with the land and native tribes of the country west of the Mississippi River. The miniseries follows the epic journey of the Corps of Discovery and its captains, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who traverse uncharted territory on a mission to deliver President Jefferson’s message of sovereignty as they search for his fabled all-water route to the Pacific.

Are you excited?

Jan 30 2015 3:30pm

How to Get Away with Murder 1.10: “Hello Raskolnikov”

ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder opened its first season with the revelation that the main character’s husband, Sam Keating, would be killed in the future. Over the next nine episodes, we saw all the events that led up to the death, and we wrapped up the first half of the first season with another revelation, that Sam’s wife, Annalise Keating as masterfully portrayed by Viola Davis, knew about the murder that her own law students were attempting to cover up.

All in all, those first episodes told a self-contained story. But now it’s going to get messy.

The flashforwards are gone, replaced with a daunting number of flashbacks detailing the entire night of the murder. All the main characters are questioned by a pair of police detectives in connection with Sam’s mysterious disappearance, and they all give their own version of events—which is roughly 25 percent truth, 75 percent lies.

In an entertaining stylistic move, the flashbacks are narrated by each character’s false testimonial. Which means that most of them are spinning their entire story while the audience watches them facing a very dead Sam. It gets a little repetitive.

[There's only so many ways it can go down...]

Jan 30 2015 12:10pm

Introducing The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst: HBO’s 6-Part Documentary Series

The story seems familiar enough. We’ve all seen the wealthy kid who learns that happiness can’t be bought; the sibling who doesn’t want to enter the family business; the abusive marriage that seemed so perfect for a brief moment way back when; the feuding apartment neighbors who argue over small problems; the unhappy suburban wife who takes her own life; the severed limbs found floating in trash bags in the water; the body found murdered, execution-style; the lying criminal without a glimpse of true remorse; the still-missing wife who just happened to fight with her husband the night she disappeared. But line all these recognizable stories up next to each other and link them all with the same man, and well, that’s a bit different. Welcome to The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst – it’s a story that spans four decades, three murders, and one disturbingly wealthy man still freely walking the streets today.

[It’s not as straightforward as you think…]

Jan 30 2015 1:00pm

Mark Twain on Celebrity Killers, the Sane ’Insane’, and Meddling Misguided Magistrates

Mark Twain (1835–1910) was never one to pull punches on politics, ethics, religion, slavery, or just about any cultural flashpoint, quite often leading public discourse on a number of weighty issues where his views, even today, still function as a moral compass. Twain approached each topic with wry humor, reminding us, “If you cannot have a whale's good opinion except at some sacrifice of principle or personal dignity, it is better to try to live without it. That is my idea about whales.”


“Lionizing Murderers” (from Sketches New and Old, 1875)

There’s no shortage of killers who have become ‘celebrities’ in our lifetime, the most infamous probably being Charles Manson—his likeness has been plastered on T-shirts, and he even penned a song that appeared on a Guns N’ Roses album. Well, nothing is new and in Twain’s short story “Lionizing Murderers” the unnamed central character (described as a public lecturer) goes to Madame, a fortune teller, who recounts his bouts of crime—theft and arson, among other things—and predicts more dreadful developments for the lecturer when he goes to Congress! His future holds prison time, followed by his hanging. But she cushions the blow somewhat by reassuring him that “an imposing procession composed of clergymen, officials, citizens generally, and young ladies walking pensively two and two and bearing bouquets and immortelles” will be with him to the bitter end.

Twain relatable quote: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.”

[Now on to the “insane”...]

Jan 30 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: A Root Awakening by Kate Collins

A Root Awakening by Kate CollinsA Root Awakening by Kate Collins is the 16th cozy in the Flower Shop Mystery Series featuring shop owner Abby Knight and her new husband Marco (available February 3, 2015).

The romance between Bloomers flower shop owner Abby Knight Salvare and her now husband, bar owner, and part-time private investigator Marco Salvare, has always been an integral part of this cozy series. Here, the happy couple are ready to settle down and buy a home together, but no sooner do they start looking than tragedy strikes. A painter, Sergio, who’d been working on the house they’re about to tour falls from his ladder. He’s hospitalized, and very quickly, whispers of foul play seem to haunt the scene. The whispers become louder when the married couple take on a new client: Sergio’s wife, the curvy, sexy Rosa, who’s convinced that her husband had no reason to fall on his own. Abby senses something amiss about the situation, but can’t help being just a teeny bit jealous of every time Marco looks at Rosa.

[Didn't this marriage just bloom?]

Jan 30 2015 9:30am

Automatic Crime Sonnet Robot, Activate!

If modern robots can write your letters, why not poetry, and what richer fodder for auto-verse than CrimeHQ's tweets could there be? Submitting our thread to the genius of Poetweet (meaning Edgar Allan, we'll assume, rather than some merely generically tormented garret-dweller), the following mashed-up sonnet was generated. It's loosely rhymed stanzas are odd enough to intrigue and profound enough to delight, so please grab your bongos, or at least snap your fingers, as you read this aloud:

Detective Ficti

Stella Hardesty (more)
How about cookies shaped like this?
Dealer William Stanley Moore, 1925
Clock tower to say “hi” to his...

“cat fight” in a whole new light:
Edits on Gotham last night...
Art, for the transcendent moment.

Day. I've got that one covered!
For its ferocity and over...
Day: not a single person murdered

Directly from your favorite auth...
It's the love that counts!
For Doyle's famous sleuth!

If Adam Dalgleish can both fight crime and write poetry, why shouldn't Robocop? It is the love that counts for Doyle's famous sleuth. Oh Poetweet, you see right through us.


h/t: CrimeHQ's Twitter maven herself, Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts.

Image via sweetheartsinner's Etsy shop.

Jan 29 2015 11:00am

Among Thieves: New Excerpt

John Clarkson

Among Thieves by John ClarksonIn Among Thieves, a standalone thriller by John Clarkson, a group of Brooklyn ex-cons rally together to take down a corrupt brokerage firm where millions of dollars are on the line (available February 3, 2015).

They thought they could cover up what an out-of-control trader at a Manhattan brokerage firm did to Olivia Sanchez. She worked hard, played by the rules, but so what? Blackball her from the industry and be done with her.

Who’s going to stop them?

Nobody, until Olivia turns to her cousin Manny, an ex-con and ex-gang leader whose first reaction is to take care of the arrogant bastard who hurt his cousin—permanently. His partner, James Beck, part of a tight clique of ex-cons based in Brooklyn’s Red Hook, convinces Manny to hold off. Things can be complicated in the real world. But even the savvy Beck has no idea what’s really going on.

There’s much more at stake than Beck imagines, starting with enough money to ignite a level of ruthless greed that can wipe Beck and his partners off the face of the earth. It’s tens of millions of dollars, connected to arms dealing for a clandestine U.S. agency. 

Beck and his loyal band are forced into an escalating nonstop war against an arms dealer, war criminals, Russian mobsters, and even the NYPD. The only way to stay out of prison and survive is to outsmart, outfight, never concede, and ultimately rob their enemies of the source of their power: 116 million dollars.

[Click here to start Among Thieves by John Clarkson...]

Jan 29 2015 10:30am

The Americans 3.01: Season Premiere “EST Men”

I can’t remember a show sticking the landing of its finale better than The Americans did in Season 2. Not only did they tie up all the intricate story arcs with a legitimately surprising twist, they did so in a way that organically created an even more disturbing cliffhanger going into Season 3 (and not in a “Wait, we still don’t know who killed Rosie Larson kind of way.”) Revealing that it was Jared, recruited by Kate to become a “second generation illegal,” who killed his family immediately brought the fate of Paige (Holly Taylor) into question. Would she also be forced into the service of Mother Russia, shattering everything she thought she knew about her life and her parents in the process, or would she be allowed to continue with her relatively normal teenage existence, which at the moment mostly involves singing folk songs at her church youth group with a mildly creepy hippy pastor?

The opening scene of the Season 3 premiere, “EST Men,” does not bode well for those hoping that Paige will avoid turning into Elizabeth 2.0. The episode opens with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) recalling the swimming lessons she gave to Paige. While the other mothers at the pool coddled their children with floaties and encouraging words, Elizabeth shoved a nervous and unsuspecting Paige into the deep end. Sink or swim, sweetie. It’s a bit of a heavy handed metaphor, but it also fits with what we know of Elizabeth’s early maternal instincts.

[I mean, it worked. Paige learned how to swim...]

Jan 29 2015 8:45am

Ketchup Me If You Can

The Condiment GunIf you're looking for the perfect gift to add to the cupboards of the whacky foodie in your life that has a thing for both ketchup and crime—or want to add it to your own—we might have the perfect thing: The Condiment Gun!

Will you be holding up the nearest hot dog stand with this quirky and fun way to spread on the condiments? Pick your poison!

Jan 28 2015 2:30pm

Agent Carter 1.04: “The Blitzkrieg Button”

Considering Episode 4 of Agent Carter takes its title from a military maneuver notable for its ferocity and overwhelming power, it’s surprising that the episode itself is the most laid back episode of the series thus far.

We begin with everyone continuing their search for Howard Stark. Peggy finds him hiding out in a storage container, but not before she stumbles across Jarvis trying to pay off the goons who snuck him into the country. There is some ominous mention of a Mr. Mink—one of those comic book villain names that’s supposed to derive its power from the contrast between the timidity of the word and the innate scariness of the dude who would casually take it on as a moniker. More on Mr. Mink in a minute.

Peggy kicks the crap out of the goons and saves Jarvis. Alas, the action here is underwhelming. Peggy takes out the last guy with little more than one hard tap of her shoe. We get that she’s a badass and can beat up any goon on earth, but the effect here almost seems like bored slapstick. Also, this is pretty much the only action we’ll get this episode, and it’s over pretty quickly. Now, I don’t mind that the show decided to give Hayley Atwell’s right hook a little rest, but it doesn’t replace it with much. After the opening, we get five minutes or so of some mild screwball humor as Peggy sneaks Howard into her women’s only hotel, The Griffith.

[The original Iron Man?]

Jan 28 2015 10:30am

Justified 6.02: “Cash Game”

Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens

Previously on Justified: Boyd committed murder and bank robbery (so business as usual, basically); Ava was caught between a rock and a hard place (or a Givens and a Crowder which amounts to the same thing); and Raylan got a perplexingly generous offer for the old family homestead.

Ava hears Boyd rummaging around in her barn; he claims to be looking for paint to finish a job for her, but he’s actually hidden the ledger and documents from the bank robbery last week. After she kicks him out, she finds the documents.

At the Marshals’ office, Tim Gutterson and Raylan have a hilariously laconic conversation about Raylan’s baby while Vasquez and Rachel interview a potential witness to Boyd’s neo-Nazi activities. Raylan is concerned that the baby isn’t walking (at five months) and explains to Tim that there are two kinds of people in the hollers of Harlan County: those who are basically on Boyd’s side, and those who are terrified of Boyd. Getting nothing from the witness, Rachel tells Tim and Raylan to go on a road trip to Harlan and interview the owners of the safe deposit boxes that Boyd robbed.

[Sounds like a good place to start...]

Jan 28 2015 8:45am

Thieves Do the Right Thing for Boy Scouts

Who says bad guys don't have a heart? It seems a guilty conscience prompted some thieves who stole a cargo trailer and camping gear from a Montana Boy Scout troop to return the stolen equipment back to them. How nice. 

The troop's scoutmaster said he found a handwritten note on the windshield of a car in the church parking lot where the gear was originally taken early in the month, KXLY reports.

The note was from the thieves who said they felt guilty and provided an address in Billings, Montana where the trailer could be found and another address where the gear could be found.

The thieves are still at large.

Jan 27 2015 11:45am

Gotham 1.13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, L) address corruption within the GCPD in the "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon" episode of Gotham.Welcome back, indeed. This was the most coherent and compelling episode of Gotham to date. Not only did we get the usual surface fun—Oswald and Mama Kapelput, Fish being gleefully defiant—but the story reached far deeper in simultaneously giving Jim and victory and a defeat.

Gotham's unpredictability has always been a strength, and that’s in evidence, too. I expected Fish might die, I expected crazy Mama Kapelput to get caught in a crossfire, and, most of all, I expected Gotham's signature quick cuts between storylines to interfere with the overall impact of the episode. Instead, the police plot and the mobster plot coalesced into something greater than both, while the subplots of Bruce and Selina’s break-up and Eddie’s fumbling courtship of Miss Kringle reinforce the grief and loss of the overall story.

[Let's hope this is the new Gotham...]

Jan 27 2015 8:45am

William Gillette: The Actor Who Saved Sherlock Holmes

Before Benedict and Basil, there was William Gillette, a US-born actor who suited up on stage as Sherlock Holmes over 1,000 times, including once in a silent film. But until very recently, the 1916 film was believed to be lost, erasing the bridge that took Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian-era detective and catapulted him into the limelight of generations to come. Basil Rathbone might have been the first actor to transplant the sleuth into then current day World War II (a concept used as well by Stephen Moffat's setting of modern London in Sherlock), but it was William Gillette who popularized Sherlock in the US markets. Gillette was responsible for taking Doyle's character off the page and presenting him as he's known today. He implemented the iconic curved pipe and invented the line Elementary, my dear fellow. He took Holmes out from the seedy underbelly of detective work and preseneted him as a suave bachelor. And most importantly, he convinced Doyle to reboot Holmes after the author had killed him off in 1893. 

Head over to BBC News, where you can watch a clip from the 1916 silent film, listen to a recording of Gillette, and learn more!

Jan 26 2015 12:00pm

Grantchester 1.02

In Episode 2, Sidney goes to a dinner party with snobs and we begin to depart rather significantly from the stories on which Grantchester is based.

The inspiration for this episode is “A Question of Trust” from the collection called Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie. It wasn’t a murder mystery, but it is now. Sidney didn’t have the beginnings of a drinking problem, but he does now. Sidney’s sister Jennifer wasn’t a victim of mean girl bullying, but she is now.

Dramatic tension is ramping up all around. Emotional conflict is trumping some of the sweetness and subtlety of both the first episode and the original stories. I’m not convinced the shift is necessary, but no one asked me.

Plus, we don’t see nearly enough of Dickens the puppy. That’s something we all can agree needs to be rectified in future episodes.

[You gave me a puppy, now you’re taking him away?]

Jan 26 2015 10:45am

Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey is the 18th humorous escapade of Florida serial killer Serge Storm, and this time, after binging on a collection of legal films, he's ready to try his own hand at  upholding the law (available January 27, 2015).

Tim Dorsey’s back with his 18th Serge Storm’s book, Shark Skin Suite. Now, given Dorsey’s plots are Florida headlines fed a steady diet of Coleman’s drug stash, run through the Florida Man Twitter feed, and frosted with incredibly creative serial murder, it means, given half my neighborhood in sunny South Florida has been foreclosed on – some places more than once – it’s only natural that the heart of Shark Skin Suite would be a foreclosure lawsuit, some slimy lawyers, and Coleman’s brother.

The biggest problem with a Dorsey novel, if you’re a big fan of believability, is parsing out the stuff that’s actually stuff that happened or stuff that happens so often no one notices anymore and the stuff that’s actually cranked up to eleven and three quarters. For example, I’m reading along and come to a part where a newly-minted lawyer figures out a way to get a bank to finally pay back the people it wrongly threw out of a house they’d paid cash for. My husband thinks it’s great, and ponders how the author came up with such an idea. My guess is he saw it on the news.  Yes, that’s a real news story, names and companies changed, of course. (It’s somehow even better the way Dorsey does it.)

[If only the real news was this exciting...]

Jan 25 2015 12:00pm

Literary Mysteries: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita, Ada, or Ardor) is not what one would call a traditional mystery story. You won’t find it among the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Father Brown, or Phillip Marlowe in the mystery section of your local bookstore. Instead it’s shelved in the classics section with Ulysses, The Adventures of Augie March, Mrs. Dalloway, and other noted literary titles (Pale Fire came in at #53 on the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels). And, yet, I can’t think of a greater mystery.

Pale Fire presents a puzzle and then begins unraveling the plot through a set of carefully planted clues, like bread crumbs for an inquisitive robin, and like any good riddle, it serves up these morsels as red herrings that take the reader far off course. But Pale Fire is not so much a whodunit (though those elements certainly exist) but a who-wrote-it? Of course, literally, Nabokov penned it but, let me clarify:

In the novel, John Shade composes a 999 line poem in four cantos called Pale Fire. It’s a brilliant tour-de-force about his life, wife Sybil, the tragic death of his daughter Hazel Shade, the supernatural, the quest for knowledge, and the hopes that gods are “playing a game of worlds” to offset what appears to be a chaotic randomness of life. The famed and picturesque opening lines begin:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

[Okay, so it's definitely not your typical mystery...]

Jan 24 2015 12:00pm

Crazy for You: New Excerpt

Michael Fleeman

Crazy for You: The True Story of a Family Man's Murder, a Wife's Secret, and a Deadly Obsession by Michael FleemanCrazy for You by Michael Fleeman is the true story of the murder of a husband and father from Atlanta and the secrets that spilled out in the wake of his death (available February 3, 2015).


A typical morning in the Atlanta suburbs: Businessman Rusty Sneiderman drops his beloved son off at the Dunwoody Prep nursery. In the parking lot, a minivan pulls up next to his car. The driver pulls out a gun—and shoots Rusty four times in the chest.


Sneiderman’s devoted wife, Andrea, is devastated by the crime. Who could have done this? She is shocked when police trace the shooting to a man named Hemy Neuman—who happens to be Andrea’s adoring boss.


The prosecution accuses Andrea and Hemy of having a “forbidden relationship,” and of conspiring to collect $2 million in her husband’s life insurance. But Andrea swears she never intended to kill Rusty—and that it is Hemy who’s “delusional” and obsessed. With the charges against her dropped, and the insurance money frozen, Andrea remains a mysterious character. Only one other person—the man who pulled the trigger—knows the truth about what really happened…

[Start reading Michael Fleeman's Crazy for You...]