Now Win <i>This</i>!: Read All About It Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Read All About It Sweepstakes Crime HQ You've read about them. Now try and win them! Fresh Meat: <i>Fast Shuffle</i> by David Black Fresh Meat: Fast Shuffle by David Black Robert K. Lewis This delusional gumshoe might finally be onto something... Fresh Meat: <i>The Fraud</i> by Brad Parks Fresh Meat: The Fraud by Brad Parks Neliza Drew Carter Ross must chose who gets to live: him or his unborn child. Fresh Meat: <i>Signal</i> by Patrick Lee Fresh Meat: Signal by Patrick Lee Joe Brosnan What would you do if you knew what would happen ten hours from now?
From The Blog
July 4, 2015
Happy 4th of July: 120 Seconds, $1000 of Fireworks
Crime HQ
July 1, 2015
Man Steals Van, Gets Lost and Runs Out of Gas
Teddy Pierson
June 30, 2015
Under the Radar: Push (2009)
Angie Barry
June 29, 2015
Careers: Passion for Execution? Willing to Relocate?
Crime HQ
June 26, 2015
Announcing The M.O.'s "Wishful Thinking" Story!
Crime HQ
Jul 7 2015 2:00pm

Now Win This!: Read All About It Sweepstakes

If these titles sound familiar, it's because each one has been recently featured on Criminal Element, and now we're giving you the chance to win them — these 15 titles are ready for your bookshelf!

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 July 7, 2015, at 2:00 pm ET, and ends July 21, 2015, 1:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Let's spark your memory...]

Jul 7 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Fast Shuffle by David Black

Fast Shuffle by David Black is a hard-boiled noir about a used-car salesman who believes he's a private detective straight from the pages of Raymond Chandler (available July 7, 2015).

Fast Shuffle is the story of private detective Harry Dickinson, a hard-boiled, tough-as-nails detective with a love of old jazz standards and finding the solutions to crimes. He always wears his fedora at a rakish angle, and drives a 1936 purple Packard. Everyone on the street knows him, and he’ll take any case except divorce cases. (What self-respecting P.I. would take those, right?) Fast Shuffle, by award-winning journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and producer David Black tells of how Harry stumbles upon the case of a missing woman and decides to investigate, a decision that leads him into a situation far more complex, and more dangerous, than he could ever imagine.

The perfect set-up for a noir crime fiction novel, right?

Only Fast Shuffle isn’t just any noir crime fiction novel. You see, Harry isn’t really a detective at all. He’s a middle-aged used car salesman living in Springfield, Massachusetts. He only believes that he’s a private detective, one right out of a Raymond Chandler novel.

[He's no Philip Marlowe, but he's trying...]

Jul 7 2015 10:15am

Fresh Meat: The Fraud by Brad Parks

The Fraud by Brad Parks is the 6th mystery in the Carter Ross series about the Newark, New Jersey journalist (available July 7, 2015).

The Fraud grabbed me from page one. I’d been reading another book before this one, a page or two at a time and falling asleep or getting distracted or picking up something else to read instead. Part of  the difference here is Brad Parks’ conversational writing style, like a friend is telling you a story over drinks. Part of it is the hook that starts the novel, the sort of semi-rhetorical question that could’ve fallen apart if he didn’t also make you immediately care about the characters:

It’s a hypothetical question every parent considers at some point:

Would you give your life for your kid?

Would you dive in front of a speeding eighteen-wheeler to shove your daughter out of the way? Would you let your son take your heart when his number didn’t come up on the transplant list? Would you place your head under the guillotine as part of some Faustian bargain wherein your child didn’t have to?

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, if you’re a parent: yes, yes, yes, and yes. Even if it was just to spare yourself the agony of burying your own kid, you’d make that sacrifice every time. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself you would do. What kind of selfish coward wouldn’t?

But hold on a second. Don’t answer yet. Because you still don’t know everything.

[Let's keep learning...]

Jul 6 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Signal by Patrick Lee

Signal by Patrick Lee is the 2nd fast-paced thriller in the Sam Dryden series that features high-concept technology able to peek ten hours into the future (available July 7, 2015).

If Energizer is ever considering a rebrand, they should set their sights on Sam Dryden. An ex-Special Forces agent, Dryden never slows down, and repeatedly puts his life on the line to help those who need it. Signal, by Patrick Lee, is the second book in the Sam Dryden series (after last year’s Runner), and it blends action, science, and conspiracy together in masterful strokes.

When Signal opens, Dryden is attempting to enjoy retirement by purchasing old houses, fixing them up, and then flipping them for profit. It’s honest work, and it has the added bonus of keeping him in shape, which comes in handy in the events that transpire after he receives a frantic phone call from a former colleague, Claire Dunham, who needs his immediate help on a secret mission. Dryden knows that Dunham wouldn’t hyperbolize her situation, and he immediately jumps in the car to meet her. Fast forward a few hours: Dryden and Dunham have successfully saved four kidnapped girls from imminent death, and he's killed the assailant. There’s only one caveat – in the very first chapter of Signal, we see this same scene play out very differently, with all four girls perishing in a fire. So how then, is it possible, that Dryden and Dunham could have saved these girls when we've already seen them die? Did they travel back in time?

Not quite…but sort of.

[Where we’re going, we’ll still need roads…]

Jul 6 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a thriller about a group of sisters who barely escape their murderous father, only to run right into even more danger (available July 7, 2015).

Years ago, Jess and her two older sisters, Dani and Courtney, were doing what they could to make ends meet at the Canadian ranch where they lived. Their struggle was compounded by their alcoholic father, who became more and more violent and unreliable after their mother’s death. When he comes home one night, raging at Courtney’s relationship with a married man, the situation goes from bad to dangerous. He attacks Courtney, drowning her in a toilet. To protect her sister, Jess is forced to shoot her father.

Then the girls have to run. They manage to make it to the next town before the truck breaks down. However, their hoped-for salvation becomes a nightmare of the first order when the girls are attacked. And they’re alone. The cops will arrest them for the murder of their father, their mother is dead, and there are no friends in this isolated town. There’s no one and nothing to turn to  – except for each other.

Now, years later, the decisions they made as teenagers and the consequences of this dark period are coming back to haunt them.

[Will they persevere?]

Jul 6 2015 11:00am

True Detective 2.03: “Maybe Tomorrow”

Raise your hand if you thought Ray was dead?

With the David Lynch opener to the third episode, I had hopes of a surreal twist to the story, but instead we get “rubber bullets,” which I think is a bit of a cheat. Chekhov may not have said “if you shoot off a man’s genitals with a shotgun in the first episode, you can’t reload with rubber bullets in the third,” but it’s better than having to peel off a vest or simply survive it somehow, I suppose. Why have it happen at all? Because he’s playing with tropes once again. This is the old “tire iron to the skull” routine from numerous detective stories, where we need to knock out the hero, because…I don’t know why. It just happens a lot, when someone writes themselves into a corner and can’t figure out why the bad guy wouldn’t just kill the protagonist.

The only thing that made up for that, for me, was the sudden appearance of one of my favorite actors, Fred Ward, as Ray’s father, as a disillusioned, retired police officer who longs for the “good ol’ days” when you solved crime by beating the nearest minority into confessing. He’s dying of cancer, taking marijuana that Ray brings him. “No country for white men.” And the near-death experience has had an effect. Ray’s drinking water now. His death is a rebirth.

[Will he make the most of it?]

Jul 5 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran

Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran is the second in the Read ’Em and Eat cozy mystery series set in the quirky Florida town of Fort Myers Beach (available July 7, 2015).

Sassy and Bridgy are at it again in the second book in Terrie Farley Moran’s mystery series about a café complete with bookshop and multiple reading groups, sticking their noses into places where—at least in the opinions of Fort Myers Beach’s finest—they most decidedly do not belong. Although this installment retains the humor of the first, it touches on more serious topics as well, as the chief suspect in the murder of a local troublemaker is a mostly homeless vet with PTSD.

Sassy becomes involved in the investigation because she sees the veteran on a trip to the library and realizes he is related to her former boss. When he becomes a suspect, she naturally has to intervene!

[It's the right thing to do...]

Jul 4 2015 10:00am

Happy 4th of July: 120 Seconds, $1000 of Fireworks!

For the 4th, we offer this explosive 2 minutes from TeddieFilms, who went into the desert with action cams and a cool grand of fireworks to burn!

Wherever this took place, it might've been illegal or possibly dumb. (That kinda makes it even more up our alley.) Nonetheless, we sincerely wish you, our cherished site visitors, to have a spectacular and safe holiday!

Happy Independence Day!

Jul 3 2015 7:30pm

Hannibal 3.05: “Contorno” Means Accompaniment

Casually, contorno is a “side dish,” but that phrase isn't reverent enough for Hannibal 3.05's ode to accompanying women.

I've pointed out other instances in which the women in this show just won't go along, and instead run on their own tracks. In this episode, we're reminded how each acts from her own motivational center, and how different those may be from the crossing swords (and ass-kicking) of Will, Jack, Hannibal, etc. If other episodes have been largely about the senses of sight or taste, and we won't be deprived in this one, this episode also adds interest in sound, voices, music, and things fostered in silence.

We begin with Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto) on a rocking train, like the one carrying a wistful-looking Hannibal in the series premiere. They're discussing how Hannibal schooled her to sharpen her sense of smell (perhaps to explain her tracking him later). The cannibal was already orphaned by the time she met him, she says, at the time her family sent her into service with his aunt, Lady Murasaki.

[How does a Lithuanian noble get a Japanese aunt?]

Jul 3 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Looking Through Darkness by Aimee and David Thurlo

Looking Through Darkness by Aimee and David Thurlo is the latest mystery in the Trading Post series set on a Navajo Reservation (available July 7, 2015).

Like any good mystery, the first scene in Looking Through Darkness is a murder. Set in the Navajo Nation, New Mexico, Kurt Vance is out in the wilderness on a hunt with his two business partners. He hears something, a twig snap, so he turns to see what caused the sound. He never finds out. The next thing he hears is a loud boom with him falling to the ground, looking up trying to make sense of the fact that he’s bleeding. Karma, he thinks, which is pretty much what authors Aimee and David Thurlo want you to think since they have gone out of their way to describe how Kurt has cheated on his wife, lied to almost everyone, and stolen thousands of dollars. As a reader, I’m not sure how much sympathy we are supposed to have for this character, but we certainly have enough for his wife, Leigh Ann, the main character of Looking Through Darkness, the second in the new Trading Post series.

[Let's get to the characters...]

Jul 3 2015 9:00am

Rainy Day Women: Exclusive Excerpt

Kay Kendall

Rainy Day Women by Kendall Kay is the 2nd Austin Starr mystery set in 1969 amidst the Charles Manson murders and the Woodstock Music Festival (available July 7, 2015).

In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, Austin Starr, the intrepid amateur sleuth with an infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women's liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby's life in danger?

Chapter Three

David and I stared at each other. I stood with my back against the wall, my hand covering my mouth, my eyes popping wide.

He broke the silence.

[Continue reading Rainy Day Women...]

Jul 2 2015 2:00pm

Summer TV: A Digital Tour of Europe

I hate watching reruns of mystery and crime TV shows I’ve already seen—it’s not much fun to tune in when you already know who did it. And, while the networks offer plenty of summer replacements, this season, none captured my attention as much as the shows I enjoy the most.

So, while I’ve been longing for new episodes of Longmire, and imagining what fall’s Masterpiece Mystery will bring, I’ve turned to Netflix streaming video to get my fix of murder and mayhem with crime programs from across the ocean.

My digital tour of Europe’s popular mystery programing includes several satisfying entries from four countries: Broadchurch from England, Witnesses from France, Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter from Sweden and Dicte from Denmark.

I’d never seen or heard of any of these programs before. While each of them is very different, they have several things in common. The plots in all four series are very complicated and revolve around children—the killing, abuse, abandonment and revenge of children who deserved better. The other common factor is the excellent actors in each show. Whether a policeman, policewoman, or crime reporter, they all feel real. While they may go off on their own to check out a hunch or gather information, for the most part they don’t seem to hesitate to call for help or back up when they need it. I also found the most striking difference to be physical. These crime solvers look more like regular people than the stars we’re used to seeing on American television, even the actress who plays Annika Bengtzon and is stunning. They’re all good looking, but not perfect, which I feel makes them more like the rest of us, complete with idiosyncratic habits. It also makes each show more believable.

[Off to England we go. Keep away from the cliff...]

Jul 2 2015 10:00am

Conspiracies Allure Because I’m a Liar (and So Are You)

Call me naïve, but I believe humans have been to the moon. I know several intelligent people who do not believe humans have been to the moon and, while I believe they are mistaken, I do not think them crazy.

Because I know this: consensus reality is not capital-R, Reality.

Or, as Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with saying, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” (I owe thanks to Mr. Vickers, my high school history teacher, for posting that quote on the classroom wall and incorporating it into his lectures.)

We are a story-telling species, and we shape our past into a set of manageable narratives. But we are liars. In our agreed-upon lies, we so often reduce humans to white hats and black hats, as if we were fallen angels instead of risen apes. And more often than not, we edit these stories to paint ourselves in a favorable light, to give ourselves the white hat.

This is the biggest conspiracy of all, this quirk of human nature, because, as Sir Winston Churchill definitely said, “History is written by the victors.” You’d have to be blind to deny the truth of Churchill’s statement. The stories told by the powerful shape our consensus reality far more profoundly than do the stories told by the defeated. And every day, that imbalance comes into play as we invent tomorrow’s history.

[This is getting deep, bear with me...]

Jul 1 2015 3:30pm

The Devil’s Share: New Excerpt

Wallace Stroby

The Devil's Share by Wallace Stroby is the 4th thriller in the Crissa Stone series about a professional thief who finds herself on the run after a botched gig  (available July 7, 2015).

It's been a year since professional thief Crissa Stone last pulled a job, and she's spent that time under the radar, very carefully not drawing attention to herself. That kind of life is safe, but it's boring, and it's lonely, and it's not very lucrative. So when Crissa starts to get antsy—and low on funds—she agrees to act as a thief-for-hire, partnering with a wealthy art collector to steal a truckload of plundered Iraqi artifacts before they're repatriated to their native country. But what's supposed to be a “give-up” robbery with few complications quickly turns deadly. Soon Crissa is on the run again, with both an ex-military hit squad and her own partners-in-crime in pursuit. And what should be the easiest job of her career—robbing a man who wants to be robbed—might just turn out to be the most dangerous.


With dusk, the setting sun turned the ocean to fire. Crissa stood on the balcony and looked out across the hills, the houses there almost hidden by the trees. Through the haze, she could see all the way out to the beach and the amusement pier, the darkening water beyond. Up here, the traffic noise from Santa Monica Boulevard was just a hum.

[Continue reading The Devil's Share!]

Jul 1 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler

One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler is a thriller that opens aboard a luxury yacht where a woman is thrown into the ocean in a clear case of attempted murder (available July 7, 2015).

In Elizabeth Adler’s latest thriller, a young woman named Angie is bludgeoned aboard a luxury yacht, thrown overboard, and left for dead in the waters of the Aegean. Marco Polo Mahoney, famed portrait painter, is the only witness from his Turkish seaside cottage. Despite his best efforts to rescue her — or at the very least find her body — she eludes him. Soon, he is unable to get the thought of the drowning girl out of his head. This tests his relationship with London-based Martha Patrons, a multi-talented interior decorator with a lovely, irresponsible aspiring actress of a younger sister, Lucy. Martha is as practical as she is beautiful, and though she is supportive of her lover, she has other issues to deal with, such as the foreign billionaire who has recently started showing a little too much interest in seventeen year-old Lucy. Unfortunately for Martha, Lucy’s fate is set to be intertwined with Angie’s, sucking them all unwitting into a vortex of terror and death.

Hurtling rapidly from one plot twist to the next, One Way Or Another blends the glitz of an international thriller with high Gothic touches. Remarkably, this novel reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though there is nary a supernatural element in sight in this globe-trotting tale of murder and vengeance. The villains are monstrous and mysterious, diabolical figures at odds with heroes who stand for normalcy and propriety (despite intermittent moments of weakness.) A sort of Victorian morality permeates the proceedings, with the strong, loving ties between Marco, Martha, and Lucy being the highlight of the book’s interpersonal relationships.

[Don't forget about Angie...]

Jul 1 2015 8:45am

Stealing a Van, You’re Doing it Wrong

A man driving a stolen van was caught by police, because he ran out of gas after getting lost on a highway in Pennsylvania, according to The Daily News.

Cristian Osorio of Queens, New York took the van and tried to drive it to Syracuse, but instead got lost on Route 33 in Plainfield Township, police said. 

Not to aid scofflaws, but he should have used his phone’s GPS. Osario is charged with receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle. He was arraigned Saturday afternoon and sent to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $15,000 bail.

Jun 30 2015 1:00pm

Under the Radar: Genre Movies You May Have Missed — Push (2009)

By now, Chris Evans is a bona fide Hollywood star. Everyone knows his name and face, and he's made a big mark in pop culture with his roles in four comic book adaptations: The Fantastic Four (where he was Johnny Storm, the Human Torch), Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (Evil Ex Lucas Lee), The Losers (Jensen), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Steve Rogers, aka Captain America).

(He likes to say that he was never big into comics and it's just a coincidence that he's starred in so many adaptations, but we know better. As the folks at Tumblr like to say, it's no coincidence that he has the perfect superhero shoulder-to-waist ratio.)

But before he was the superpowered soldier with the star-spangled uniform, he played another guy with superpowers in the little-known film Push.

Nick Gant (Evans) is what's known as a Mover, which is just another way of saying telekinetic. Like Jean Grey, he can move things with his mind. Which makes life difficult for Nick, because there's an organization very interested in people like him called Division. Division has been “collecting” superpowered folks for several decades now: testing them, classifying them, and doing their best to weaponize them for the good of the government.

[Sounds recognizable enough so far...]

Jun 30 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec marks the debut of the internationally best-selling procuedural series featuring the coffee-loving Commissaire Georges Dupin who's just relocated from Paris to a quaint coastal town (available June 30, 2015).

When it comes to crime, I read noir stuff primarily. Speaking broadly, I read a lot of crime fiction from the criminal’s point of view. But every now and then, I get the craving for a procedural, and at the same time, I wonder what locale to explore through the story. Procedurals often make for great armchair traveling, as every mystery devotee knows: what is more fun than diving into a mystery set in a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never have? Besides the pleasure of the puzzle, you submerge yourself in an environment, a culture. This is what I was looking for when I picked up Jean-Luc Bannalec’s Death in Brittany, and overall, reading the book gave me what I wanted.

[Off we go!]

Jun 29 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander

A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander is the second book in the Bakeshop Mystery series featuring baker Jules Capshaw in her hometown of Ashland, Oregon (available June 30, 2015).

Reality TV meets cozy mystery, with a little bit of murder thrown in. The town of Ashland is known for its Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but the last of the plays are being performed and the theater company is about to go into hiatus for the fall. The town is experiencing cooler weather and a slowdown in tourist traffic. What better time for a television crew to set up shop to film a reality show for the Pastry Channel? Juliet Montague Capshaw aka Jules, has recently moved back to her hometown to help her mother run Torte, a family owned bakery and coffee shop. She is roped into being a contestant on the show and soon finds out that there is as much drama behind the scenes as there is on camera. Specifically, Chef Marco is causing a lot of problems on set as he finds it hard to remain sober for filming.

[There's no such thing as “cooking” wine...]

Jun 29 2015 11:30am

True Detective 2.02: “Night Finds You”

“We get the world we deserve.” – Ray Velcoro

After so much dense setup in the first episode, if you were hoping for more room to breathe and enjoy time with the characters—morose as some of them are—you only get a little here, as the tightly interconnected story weaves outward, crammed close like the Los Angeles sprawl that the helicopter shots keep showing us between scenes.  We get some very brief moments of levity as Ray and Antigone begin investigating Caspere’s murder, but the story remains in a very dark place.

Frank can’t sleep. Jordan tells him to stop thinking, echoing Pascal’s lament that “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Frank tells her what keeps him up at night, the fear that he died a long time ago, when his drunken father locked him in the basement alone while he was out on a bender, and didn’t return for several days. Leaving young Frank to beat a rat to death in the dark, as the power went out. Frank doesn’t say whether he ate the rat or not, but it’s a distinct possibility, and Jordan asks how many stories like this Frank is holding inside. And we can guess that there are a lot. He’s the most introspective of the characters, to say the least; the others seem oblivious of their wounds and scars and how they affect their behavior.

[Clarity is key...]