<i>Stranded</i>: New Excerpt Stranded: New Excerpt Bracken MacLeod Stranded is the latest novel from author Bracken MacLeod. <i>Last Seen Leaving</i>: New Excerpt Last Seen Leaving: New Excerpt Caleb Roehrig A debut mystery thriller. Review: <i>Soulmates</i> by Jessica Grose Review: Soulmates by Jessica Grose Rachel Kramer Bussel Read Rachel Kramer Bussel's review! Review: <i>The Lost Boy</i> by Camilla Läckberg Review: The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review!
From The Blog
September 30, 2016
Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Pretty Deadly
Angie Barry
September 27, 2016
Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film
Brian Greene
September 27, 2016
God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits
Lisa Turner
September 23, 2016
Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Angie Barry
September 22, 2016
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic
Peter Foy
Oct 1 2016 10:00am

Stranded: New Excerpt

Bracken MacLeod

Stranded by Bracken MacLeodStranded is the latest novel from author Bracken MacLeod (Available October 4, 2016).

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah's warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.


The void churned and swelled, reaching up to pull them down into frigid darkness, clamoring to embrace them, every one. A cold womb inviting them to return to the lightless source of all life, and die, each man alone in its black silence.

[Read the full excerpt from Stranded...]

Sep 30 2016 4:30pm

“Southern Hospitali-Teetotaled” Cocktail

Just because you're penniless and living in Manhattan—and alcohol is illegal—doesn't mean you can't still enjoy some southern hospitality.

So, slow down, relax, and put a little south in your mouth in this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—with a glass of “Southern Hospitali-Teetotaled” ice-cold lemonade, inspired by Maia Chance's 2nd Discreet Retrieval Agency mystery, Teetotaled!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Sep 30 2016 3:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Pretty Deadly

The Series: Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos.
The Heroes: A rag-tag group of sinners and mystical beings.
The Ideal Format: Live-action blended with CGI wizardry, prosthetics, or even animatronics and puppetry.

Once in a blue moon, something comes along that truly revolutionizes a genre. A story appears that challenges expectations and melds established tropes into something brand new and breathtaking.

I'm not being hyperbolic when I say Pretty Deadly is just such a story. It’s one of the greatest comics of the last ten years. Equal parts Western, mythic fairy tale, and supernatural adventure, it's something you just have to see to believe—and it would make one hell of a television series.

[Get the Network on the phone, stat!]

Sep 30 2016 1:30pm

The 12 Best Book to Film Adaptations

Read this exclusive guest post from Jon Land, author of Strong Cold Dead, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win the latest Caitlin Strong novel, a bookmark, and a beverage coozy!

Since this is Criminal Element, after all, let’s confine our list to thrillers: action, crime, psychological, political, and horror.

[See what made the list!]

Sep 30 2016 12:00pm

Longmire 5.05: “Pure Peckinpah” Episode Review

Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) finds Joey Takoda (Alex Livinalli) parked outside The Red Pony, dead of what’s supposed to look like an apparent heroin overdose. Longmire (Robert Taylor) deduces that someone else injected Takoda with heroin in his right arm because Joey had a left-handed baseball glove in his trunk. Walt is really kicking it—two for two in Season 5—for Sherlockian assessments. First, the kidney-urination connection (I’m feeling certain I may have just coined that dubious phrase) in “The Judas Wolf,” and now this gem. 

A jittery Henry worries privately to Officer Mathias (Zahn McClarnon) that someone may be on to his Hector Avenging Angel role because of Joey's body being dumped outside The Red Pony. But bigger problemas first: Walt believes the new Hector may have turned to murder, and the sheriff briefly considers Mathias a likely suspect until Henry’s well-conceived distraction redirects Walt away from that line of inquiry. For two supposedly best friends, Walt and Henry certainly have a lot of secrets from each other. 

[Secrets, secrets are no fun...]

Sep 30 2016 11:00am

Police Help Man Find Briefcase Full of Cocaine

We have another brilliant criminal for you this week. A man found himself sitting in jail after he asked police if anyone had seen his missing briefcase. Not a big deal, right? Well, it is if the briefcase contained a whole lot of coke.

According to Channel 7, a briefcase was turned over to a police officer who was directing traffic outside of a Seattle Seahawks game in Washington. The man who gave the cop the briefcase said he had been walking his dog when another man stopped to pet it, leaving his briefcase behind in the process.

The police officer opened it to see if he could glean any contact info, but instead found something unexpected—four huge bags and 27 smaller ones filled with cocaine. The combined total was 154 grams! There was also a scale, 50 diazepam pills, and some marijuana. Sounds like one hell of a tailgate party...

Shortly after, the owner of the briefcase approached a few officers he spotted while searching for his lost briefcase and asked if they saw it anywhere. Get this, he explained that the briefcase had some very important paperwork that he needed. He was promptly arrested for being stupid...er, I mean, on drug charges.

Sep 30 2016 10:00am

Last Seen Leaving: New Excerpt

Caleb Roehrig

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb RoehrigLast Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig is a debut mystery thriller novel that will keep you guessing until the end (Available October 4, 2016).

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking question he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.


Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.


THERE WAS A corpse in my neighbor’s front yard. Sprawled before a hedge of juniper bushes, its twisted arms and legs flung out bonelessly, as if it had plummeted there from a passing helicopter, there was an enormous granite boulder where its head should have been. The gardening glove on its right hand was pulling away from the cuff of a flannel shirt, and a chunk of ghostly white foam rubber innards peeked through the opening.

It was one week until Halloween, and everyone on my block seemed to be already getting into the spirit. Across the street, the Harrisons had a series of tombstones lining the walk to their front door, each one engraved with a different “funny” epitaph. HERE LIES THE MILKMAN—HE PASSED HIS EXPIRATION DATE. That kind of thing. It was a gauntlet of terrible jokes, and if you survived it, Mrs. Harrison—dressed in a peaked hat and a warty latex nose—would award you a miniature Charleston Chew. The last time I had gone trick-or-treating, which was nearly five years ago, I had skipped the Harrisons’ house.

[Read the full excerpt from Last Seen Leaving...]

Sep 29 2016 3:00pm

Amanda Knox: Netflix’s New True Crime Documentary

The popularity of true crime stories continues to rise, and it looks like Netflix might have struck it big again with their new feature-length documentary, Amanda Knox. Centered on the wrongful conviction of a young American girl in Italy, Amanda Knox is already getting rave reviews.

In 2007, after returning home from spending the night with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, Knox was alarmed to find evidence of a break-in and traces of blood. Meridith Kercher, a roommate and friend, wasn’t answering her phone and her door was locked. Worried, Knox eventually called the authorities, who broke down the door and found Kercher face down in her bedroom, stabbed to death.

After several lengthy interviews (she was viewed as a “witness,” and thus a lawyer was not required to be provided as she had not been charged) where Amanda claimed she was harassed and coerced into changing her story, the police finally charged her and her boyfriend with the murder. An unprecedented amount of pre-trial coverage in the Italian media followed, effectively condemning her in the public’s eye. The first trial, held in a lower court, convicted Knox and sentenced her to 26 years in Italian prison, despite significant concerns over the lack of hard evidence and failure of the prosecution to corroborate their version of the events.

After the conviction, controversy stirred as experts voiced their concerns over the evidence presented, the forensic profile of the case, and how the trial was presented to the public. An appeal and subsequent retrial in 2010 found her not guilty, and she returned to the US. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Cassation acquitted her of all charges except Callunia (unlawful accusation of someone with whom you know is innocent).

Amanda Knox will be released on Netflix tomorrow, September 30th.

For more information on the upcoming documentary Amanda Knox, read a great Q&A with directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn on Yahoo TV.

Sep 29 2016 1:30pm

Review: Soulmates by Jessica Grose

Soulmates by Jessica Grose is a novel of marriage, meditation, and all the spaces in between—a delicious satire of our feel-good spiritual culture in which a scorned ex-wife tries to puzzle out the pieces of her husband’s mysterious death at a yoga retreat and their life together.

Jessica Grose’s second novel, Soulmates, is not your typical whodunit. Instead, she’s taken a wildly humorous, satirical look at New Age yoga and spiritual practices and woven them into a love story with a mystery at its core.

Dana Morrison hasn’t seen her ex-husband Ethan since he left her five years ago for the lithe, seductive Amaya Walters. She’s mostly over the split, spending her time devoted to making partner at her Manhattan law firm. But when she sees the couple on the cover of the New York Post, she’s in for a rude awakening. They aren’t on it for some brilliant new yoga move they’ve broadcast on their YouTube channel, but instead because of how their lives ended, complete with the headline:


[Read Rachel Kramer Bussel's review of Soulmates...]

Sep 29 2016 12:00pm

Review: The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg

The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg ensnares Detective Patrik Hedstrom in a confounding new murder case in this Swedish psychological thriller (Available October 4, 2016).

When I think of ghost stories that have left an impression, I immediately go to The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson and the film The Others (2001). Neither frightened me per se—I’ve yet to find a book or film in the genre able to induce such an effect, maybe because the real world has already covered that base—it’s more the tension and anxiety.

Ms. Jackson was able to command it with the right choice of words and turns of phrase, both with precision and force. I can still see the house, the road, and that out-of-control vehicle in the final moments. Etched forevermore. The Others, starring Nicole Kidman as a mother with two young children in a remote country house, floored me with its superb acting and twist ending.

[Read David Cranmer's review of The Lost Boy...]

Sep 29 2016 11:00am

Longmire 5.04: “The Judas Wolf” Episode Review

Mayor Sawyer Crane (Eric Ladin) is accompanying Dan Keslow, CEO of a pharmaceutical company, on a hunting trip with the dual purpose of sweet-talking the businessman into moving his company to the area for an influx of needed jobs. Keslow says he won’t consider the change of locale because of Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), who he views as antidevelopment and bad for business. Adding to Tip O’Neill’s old chestnut, “All politics is local,” it gets down and dirty in Absaroka County because Sawyer almost immediately implies that Longmire won’t be around for long due to an impending civil lawsuit. Soon after, it seems everyone Walt bumps into knows that the estate of Barlow Connolly is gearing up to sue him.

However, Longmire’s help is needed when Keslow disappears on the trip and a fellow hunter is tranquilized and duct-taped to a tree. One of the main suspects is Pyper Callans (Debra Christofferson), an expert on Wyoming wolves who couldn’t care less whether Keslow is missing. She clarifies the intriguing title of the episode: Years before, Keslow placed a tracking collar on a wolf and turned it loose. When the animal returned to its pack, Keslow wiped them out from a helicopter with a high-powered rifle. When the collared wolf moved on to another pack, he continued killing the next group as well.

[Read David Cranmer's review of “The Judas Wolf”...]

Sep 29 2016 10:00am

All the Little Liars: New Excerpt

Charlaine Harris

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris is the 9th book in the Aurora Teagarden Series (Available October 4, 2016).

Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora’s 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there’s an even worse discovery—at the kids’ last known destination, a dead body.

While the local police and sheriff’s department comb the county for the missing kids and interview everyone even remotely involved, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the death and kidnappings have anything to do with a group of bullies at the middle school? Is Phillip’s disappearance related to Aurora’s father’s gambling debts? Or is Phillip himself, new to town and an unknown quantity, responsible for taking the other children? But regardless of the reason, as the days go by, the most important questions remain. Are the kids still alive? Who could be concealing them? Where could they be?

With Christmas approaching, Aurora is determined to find her brother…if he’s still alive.


My cell phone rang about five o’clock. I noticed the time, because I’d been trying to imagine what we could have for dinner that night, and so far I hadn’t come up with anything. I was exhausted, after a very mild day at work. Would this be the norm until the baby was born? That would be a real pain.

Supper had to be ready early, because Robin’s writers’ group was meeting tonight at the new Community Center, at seven.

[Read the full excerpt from All the Little Liars...]

Sep 28 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

I love manor mystery novels—you know the kind—where a group of guests stays at a secluded manor and one of them is murdered. That’s the concept behind Louise Penny’s excellent fourth installment of the Inspector Gamache series, A Rule Against Murder.

Inspector Armand Gamache is at the historic Manoir Bellechasse for his wedding anniversary with the delightful Reine-Marie, and the only other guests are three generations of a family of Quebec Anglos resplendent in their old money, pride, and simmering resentments. Imagine his and Reine-Marie’s surprise when two beloved faces from nearby Three Pines appear as part of this brood and their horror when one of the family is bizarrely murdered. Reine-Marie is sequestered away in Three Pines while Inspector Gamache must unearth painful family secrets—of the victim’s and, compellingly, of his own—in his quest to bring a murderer to justice.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Sep 28 2016 3:30pm

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby: A Visual Guide

GIFnotes: Giving you the basic plot summary of an upcoming book with the help of the Graphics Interchange Format.

This week, the Montgomery Estate Vineyard has decided to make champagne—but with death, mystery, and blackmail at hand, there's not a whole lot to celebrate in Ellen Crosby's 7th Wine Country Mystery, The Champagne Conspiracy!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Sep 28 2016 1:00pm

Longmire 5.03: “Chrysalis” Episode Review

Longmire selects some of the best music to punctuate scenes that require no dialogue. Kaleo's mournful “I Can't Go On Without You” plays as Walt (Robert Taylor) gives Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker) a phone call. The camera’s eye segues from bullet holes that have ventilated Walt's house to Donna reading a paper, “The Psychological Effects of Violence.” She notes, with apprehension, the “Cowboy” is calling but doesn't pick up. In just a little over a minute of screen time, we see the strain of the relationship played out before the opening credits. Kudos to director Adam Bluming for haunting, poignant filmmaking.

Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) is looking to open an office on the Rez to show she means business in helping the Native American population. Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) has employed her to start a legal-aid center, giving her $750,000—which a distrustful Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) wryly observes is $745,000 more than the tribal casino checks handed out. The idea of a white knight riding in to help the disenfranchised is not looked upon favorably by the Cheyenne community.

[Read David Cranmer's review of “Chrysalis”...]

Sep 28 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: September 27, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

This week, Joe Gunther & Ryder Creed return and Lisa Turner takes us back down south. See what else to add to your TBR list this week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Sep 28 2016 10:00am

Teetotaled: New Excerpt

Maia Chance

Teetotaled by Maia ChanceTeetotaled by Maia Chance is a sparkling new mystery that will delight readers with its clever plotting, larger-than-life characters, and rich 1920s atmosphere (Available October 4, 2016).

After her philandering husband died and left her penniless in Prohibition-era New York, Lola Woodby escaped with her Swedish cook to the only place she could—her deceased husband’s secret love nest in the middle of Manhattan. Her only comforts were chocolate cake, dime store detective novels, and the occasional highball (okay, maybe not so occasional). But rent came due and Lola and Berta were forced to accept the first job that came their way, leading them to set up shop as private detectives operating out of Alfie’s cramped love nest.

Now Lola and Berta are in danger of losing the business they’ve barely gotten off the ground—work is sparse and money is running out. So when a society matron offers them a job, they take it—even if it means sneaking into a slimming and exercise facility and consuming only water and health food until they can steal a diary from Grace Whiddle, a resident at the “health farm.” But barely a day in, Grace and her diary escape from the facility—and Grace’s future mother-in-law is found murdered on the premises. Lola and Berta are promptly fired. But before they can climb into Lola’s brown and white Duesenberg Model A and whiz off the health farm property, they find themselves with a new client and a new charge: to solve the murder of Grace’s future mother-in-law.


July 14, 1923

The afternoon Sophronia Whiddle offered us the diary job, it was so hot, you could’ve sizzled bacon on the sidewalk. Which wasn’t a half-bad idea, come to think of it, except that I was out of funds for bacon. I’d been living on shredded wheat for days. All right, hours.

My detecting partner, Berta Lundgren, and I were reading at the kitchen table in our poky little Washington Square apartment, waiting for the telephone to ring. Stagnant city air puffed in from the window. My Pomeranian, Cedric, panted in front of an electric fan. I yawned, and turned a page of the latest issue of Thrilling Romance.

[Read the full excerpt from Teetotaled...]

Sep 27 2016 4:00pm

Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film

Criterion’s new Blu-Ray edition of Russ Meyer’s 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls gives me a prompt to write about a movie that I treasure. I could try to describe how much I like the film, but it might be easier and more telling if I just mention how many times I’ve watched it: I estimate 10-12 start-to-finish viewings, in addition to innumerable re-watches of individual scenes. I own the (glorious) soundtrack on vinyl, and it’s never but so far away from my turntable’s needle.

When people see BTVOTD for the first time, many of them (this was true of me, for sure) feel the need to start it back up and watch it again. There are so many dizzying cuts in the film, such a barrage of zinging one-liners, that on first viewing, it can be a sort of pleasurable assault on the your’s senses that leaves you feeling like you only really took in a portion of what happened and need to cue it back up to get what you missed.

[Be kind, rewind, and replay...]

Sep 27 2016 3:00pm

Which Marvel Project Do You Prefer?

With the release of the first season of Luke Cage on Netflix slated for this Friday, September 30th and the upcoming Doctor Strange premiering roughly a month and a half later, Marvel Studios is running on all cylinders, pumping out hit after hit.

But so far, the silver screen super heroes are much different in look and feel than their streaming season counterparts. The Marvel movies have a certain lighthearted wit and “gotta save the world(s)” feel to them, where crashing through a building hardly leaves a bruise and everything wraps up with a happy ending. However, the NY defenders of the smaller screen deal with darker, more adult themes, and the realistic violence often has real consequences.

But which do you prefer? Vote on which Marvel Universe you enjoy the best!

[Vote below!]