Review: <i>Ash Island</i> by Barry Maitland Review: Ash Island by Barry Maitland Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review! <i>Inherit the Bones</i>: New Excerpt Inherit the Bones: New Excerpt Emily Littlejohn The 1st book in the Detective Gemma Monroe series. "A Christmas Tartan": New Excerpt "A Christmas Tartan": New Excerpt Paige Shelton Just $1.99! A holiday steal! Review: <i>Dracula vs. Hitler</i> by Patrick Sheane Duncan Review: Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review!
From The Blog
October 27, 2016
The Horror Hostess with the Mostest: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Angie Barry
October 27, 2016
Don't Look Now: The Best Horror Film You've Never Seen
Peter Foy
October 26, 2016
A Series of Covers: Q&A between Charles Finch and David Rotstein
Charles Finch and David Rotstein
October 21, 2016
7 Books to Read If You Love The Walking Dead
Angie Barry
October 21, 2016
A Cozy Competition: Minotaur Books & Malice Domestic Best First Novel
Crime HQ
Oct 27 2016 5:15pm

The Horror Hostess with the Mostest: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Before Joel, Mike, and the Bots mocked B-movies for Mystery Science Theater...

Before Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax...

There was the bodacious, curvaceous, outrageous Elvira.

The alter ego of Cassandra Peterson, Elvira sprang onto the scene in the early 80s, hosting late night horror flicks for a Los Angeles-based television network. It wasn't long before she busted—hold on to your butts; that won't be my last terrible pun, I promise—onto the national scene, her signature cleavage-baring dress and snarky, innuendo-laced commentary catching on with the public in a big, bosomy way.

[Read more about Elvira!]

Oct 27 2016 3:30pm

Review: Ash Island by Barry Maitland

Ash Island by Barry Maitland is the 2nd book in the Belltree Trilogy (Available November 1, 2016).

Harry Belltree is having a torrid time of it all. He used to be a homicide detective in Sydney, but has now been transferred to Newcastle. Things have gotten too hot in Sydney, and his bosses would rather see the back of him—that or early retirement. Harry is not ready to hang up his police badge just yet. Too many things to be done, too many secrets to be uncovered, and too many wrongs to be righted. He feels his work has only just begun.

His troubles began with a series of events in Sydney that presented more questions than answers. Answers that Harry is not going to get by sticking to the rule book. An unwillingness to stick to the letter of the law is what got him into trouble in Sydney in the first place, but he knows that he is not going to get the answers he needs by being the police officer his badge and profession truly demands.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Ash Island...]

Oct 27 2016 1:00pm

Don’t Look Now: The Best Horror Film You’ve Never Seen

When mainstream publications make best-of lists pertaining to horror films, there are always a number of mainstays you can expect to see in the perceived top ten. These films include The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Alien, and Psycho, and even some slightly less-lauded entrees like David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly and The Omen are likely to show up, too.

There is one particularly great horror film, however, that is sorely left off many of these lists—largely because it was out-of-print for a small eternity. What’s more, the film has also been massively influential on other filmmakers and has aged better than most of its contemporaries.

[Actually, we'd really like you to look...]

Oct 27 2016 12:00pm

Van Gogh Goes to Italy: Oil and Cocaine Do Mix

In December 2002, two burglars broke into the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They didn’t use helicopters or lasers or any of the stuff art thieves use in the movies; they climbed a fifteen-foot ladder to the roof and got into the second floor (European first floor), where the main display halls are. They tripped alarms, but the police didn’t respond. When they busted a window and slid down a rope to get to the ground, they had souvenirs: two van Gogh oils.

Both came from early in van Gogh’s artistic career. He created View of the Sea at Scheveningen, his only surviving seascape, in 1882 after only a year of practice at painting. Two years later, he gave Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuene (where his father was pastor) to his mother to amuse her after she’d broken her leg. Because they were such early works and showed van Gogh’s development as an artist, they were considered especially valuable … but apparently not valuable enough to ensure. Eventually, the figure $100 million got attached to them, but it’s anyone’s guess.

[It's not very easy to sell stolen art on eBay...]

Oct 27 2016 11:00am

The Grimmest of Fairy Tales

“There once was a man who lived a life so strange, it had to be true. Only he could see what no one else can—the darkness inside ... the real monster within ... and he’s the one who must stop them. This is his calling. This is his duty. This is the life of a Grimm."

Grimm, the fan and critic favorite TV show created by David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, and Stephen Carpenter, begins its 6th and final season this coming January, 2017. The wonderfully successful series’ final season gives viewers a chance to say goodbye to characters that are immensely appealing and likeable. 

Having reached its 100th-episode milestone last season, the show has long been a critics’ choice. “Terrific and trendsetting … Grimm has become a beacon of solid narrative and a weekly reminder of why monsters matter,” said The Los Angeles Times, while The New York Times called Grimm, “Engaging, clever, tense, funny and well-paced, featuring a remarkably appealing cast.”

[Read more about the hit series Grimm...]

Oct 27 2016 10:00am

Inherit the Bones: New Excerpt

Emily Littlejohn

Inherit the Bones by Emily LittlejohnInherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn is a debut novel and the 1st book in the Detective Gemma Monroe series (Available November 1, 2016).

Secrets and lies can’t stay buried forever in Cedar Valley.

In the summer, hikers and campers pack the small Colorado town’s meadows and fields. And in the winter, skiers and snowboarders take over the mountains. Season by season, year after year, time passes and the lies, like the aspens and evergreens that surround the town, take root and spread deep.

Now, someone has uncovered the lies, and it is his murder that continues a chain of events that began almost forty years ago. Detective Gemma Monroe’s investigation takes her from the seedy grounds of a traveling circus to the powerful homes of those who would control Cedar Valley’s future.

Six-months pregnant, with a partner she can’t trust and colleagues who know more than they’re saying, Gemma tracks a killer who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets buried.

Beautifully written with a riveting plot and a richly drawn cast of characters, Inherit the Bones is a mesmerizing debut from Emily Littlejohn.

Chapter One

In my dreams, the dead can speak. They call to me, in whispers and murmurs, and I greet them by name, like old friends. Tommy and little Andrew. They seem to smile in return but this is merely my imagination; I have no way of knowing what their smiles looked like. I’ve seen photographs, faded black-and-white images, but the pictures are out of focus, and a smile is more than the hazy marriage of lips and teeth.

A smile is the dancing in the eyes, the joy in the face.

[Read the full excerpt from Inherit the Bones...]

Oct 26 2016 5:00pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The bad news is that we hear virtually nothing of the village of Three Pines and its inhabitants in this 8th installment of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. The good news is that Ms. Penny has instead decided to tackle one of the greatest mysteries in music history!

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, are sent to investigate a murder set in a remote monastery that houses a reclusive order of monks who have been made, rather ironically, world-famous by their exquisite Gregorian chants. This is tricky work: writing a novel that succeeds at integrating church scholarship with a murder mystery (and compelling personal drama, but more on that in a moment). Umberto Eco tried it in The Name Of the Rose. Let it be an example of my standards when I say that I didn’t feel he quite succeeded.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Oct 26 2016 4:00pm

Brazen by Loren D. Estleman: A Visual Guide

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

This week, blonde starlet actresses have had their fair share of fun ... and tragedy, as Valentino tries to solve the mysterious death of his friend and former actress Beata Limerick in the 5th Valentino Mystery, Brazen! Take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Oct 26 2016 3:45pm

Signed Copy of Alex Kava’s Reckless Creed Sweepstakes

Alex Kava’s Reckless Creed Sweepstakes

Ryder Creed and FBI agent Maggie O'Dell are back, along with Creed's faithful crew of K-9 search-and-rescue dogs, looking for a link between a series of mysterious deaths that may lead them to one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. Enter below for a chance to win a signed copy of New York Times-bestselling author Alex Kava's latest entry in the Ryder Creed series, Reckless Creed. You'd have to be barking mad to pass this up.

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Signed Copy of Reckless Creed Sweepstakes

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Limit one entry per person or household. The entry must be fully completed; mechanically reproduced; incomplete and/or illegible entries will not be accepted. In case of dispute with respect to online entries, entries will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet Access Provider, on-line service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. Entries become property of Sponsor and will not be returned. Automated entries are prohibited, and any use of such automated devices will cause disqualification. Sponsor and its advertising and promotions agencies are not responsible for lost, late, illegible, misdirected or stolen entries or transmissions, or problems of any kind whether mechanical, human or electronic.

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  2. Winner List: For winner information, available after Wednesday, November 09, 2016, send by Monday, November 14, 2016 a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Winner Information, Signed Copy of Reckless Creed Sweepstakes, c/o Criminal Element, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
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Oct 26 2016 3:00pm

A Series of Covers: Q&A between Charles Finch and David Rotstein

Often, the most tumultuous part of the publishing process is the creation of cover art. Responsible for hundreds of books a year, artists work tirelessly to create the perfect image to represent 300+ pages, and publishers, editors, sales reps, and marketers all weigh in with opinions that the artist has to absorb and consider. Tough!

But sometimes the process runs smoothly and produces perfection. Executive Art Director David Rotstein has worked on 10 covers for Charles Finch's Victorian era series, and each of them captures the suspense, character, and history in the books impeccably. 

Authors don't often get the chance to communicate directly with the artists, but to commemorate the 10th book in the Charles Lenox series, Charlie and David were able to get together to discuss what happens behind the scenes in this exclusive Q&A. 

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Oct 26 2016 2:15pm

“A Christmas Tartan: A Scottish Bookshop Mini-Mystery”: New Excerpt

Paige Shelton

In anticipation of the 2nd Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton, Of Books and Bagpipes (Available April 4, 2017), and, of course, in celebration of the upcoming holiday season, we're thrilled to offer you a sneak peek of “A Christmas Tartan,” where an old, weathered copy of A Christmas Carol leads Delaney on the search for a missing girl. You can buy the full short story for only $1.99 below!

Christmastime has come to Scotland, and Delaney and all her coworkers at the Cracked Spine, the quirky bookshop in the heart of Edinburgh, are all in the holiday spirit. Between mugs of hot chocolate and nibbles of gingerbread, Delaney has been given the task of tracking down the provenance of a mysterious box of objects that her boss, Edwin, has recently acquired. In it are various trinkets, but what really catches Delaney's eye is a worn copy of A Christmas Carol, where she also finds an old photo tucked inside. On the back is a name, which leads her to a woman whose granddaughter has gone missing. When it becomes clear that the box might be connected to the missing girl, Delaney is pulled into the intrigue, and takes it upon herself to figure out what really happened—and why.

Chapter One

I had a holiday dinner this evening and presents to wrap, but something else had suddenly become more important.

[Continue reading “A Christmas Tartan”...]

Oct 26 2016 1:00pm

Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 1 Review: Episodes 11-13

After a slump that had Luke Cage getting wheeled on a gurney for almost three whole episodes, Cage and his show come roaring back to life in Episode 11, shielding decent people with his indestructible frame and sending bad guys to the floor with flicks of his wrist.

As I said in my first wrap-up, Luke Cage has been able to move in several different directions simultaneously—the dramatic, the socially relevant, the artistic, the humorous, the noirish—and the final episodes bring the show back to its superhero roots, supplying a lot of action and destruction through which our hero strides with moral clarity and rage tempered by a forthright purpose.

But with the surge in superheroics comes strong reminders that this show always had bigger ambitions and urgent matters to address. Luke Cage’s final three episodes make plainer than ever what keeps Luke and the show’s creators and producers going: a need to expose the wrongs of the world and tell a story that isn’t often told. It was always hard to miss the social issues at play in the show, and by the end those headline issues are at the forefront of the show even more than the title character.

[Read Hector's review of Episodes 11-13...]

Oct 26 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: October 25, 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, Iris & Roy Johansen uncover some of the secrets behind the Night Watch Project in their 4th Kendra Michaels thriller and we get a new John Grisham! See what other books you should be reading this week: 

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

Oct 26 2016 11:00am

Review: Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan is a thrilling action adventure featuring one of the world's greatest fictional monsters facing off against an historical monster in 1941 Romania. 

In the spring of 1941, Hitler's war machine is moving steadily across Europe, crushing any resistance it encounters beneath its fascist boots. Countries fall like dominos beneath the awesome might and horrific violence of the Nazi party. 

Then, the Germans reach Romania, the adopted homeland of one Dr. Abraham Van Helsing...

It has, of course, been decades since the doctor's infamous battle against the greatest evil the world had ever known—the greatest evil prior to Hitler's ascent, that is. Now an old man, Van Helsing recognizes the warning signs and knows that Hitler and his cruel, barbaric forces must be stopped. Sadly, they will not be stopped by the small (if hardy) guerrilla rebels he and his wild daughter Lucy lead.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Dracula vs. Hitler...]

Oct 26 2016 10:01am

Say No More : New Excerpt

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Say No More by Hank Phillippi RyanSay No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan is book #5 in the Jane Ryland series (Available November 1, 2016).

When Boston reporter Jane Ryland reports a hit and run, she soon learns she saw more than a car crash—she witnessed the collapse of an alibi. Working on an expose of sexual assaults on college campuses for the station’s new documentary unit, Jane’s just convinced a date rape victim to reveal her heartbreaking experience on camera. However, a disturbing anonymous message—SAY NO MORE—has Jane really and truly scared.

Homicide detective Jake Brogan is on the hunt for the murderer of Avery Morgan, a hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter. Her year as a college guest lecturer just ended at the bottom of her swimming pool in the tight-knit and tight-lipped Boston community called The Reserve. As Jake chips his way through a code of silence as shatterproof as any street gang, he’ll learn that one newcomer to the neighborhood may have a secret of her own.

A young woman faces a life-changing decision—should she go public about her assault? Jane and Jake—now semi-secretly engaged and beginning to reveal their relationship to the world—are both on a quest for answers as they try to balance the consequences of the truth.



“Did you see that silver Cadillac? What he did?” Jane Ryland powered down the car window to get a better look. “He plowed right into that delivery van! Pull closer, can you?”

“Anyone hurt?” Fiola kept her eyes on the cars stopped ahead of them in the Monday morning rush on O’Brien Highway.

Squinting through the sun’s glare, Jane could just make out the Caddy’s red-and-white Massachusetts license plate up ahead in the lane to her right. “I can’t tell yet. We need to get closer.”

[Read the full excerpt from Say No More...]

Oct 25 2016 4:30pm

Angel Throwdown: The Mythology Behind Lucifer, Episode 2.05: “Weaponizer”

This episode quickly escalates with the appearance of Uriel. Mythologically, Uriel has many titles and is attributed with many different roles, including being the angel that guarded against Adam and Eve’s entrance back into the Garden of Eden and the angel who checked the doorways for the Passover sacrifice. None of these have any basis in the Bible, however. All of the attributions come from books from the Apocrypha, which are largely excluded from the canon.

In fact, angels are rarely named in the Bible—Michael and Gabriel being the most prominent examples. Raphael fills out the number three spot, and because there are four cardinal directions, Uriel takes the fourth.

[Read more about the mythology behind “Weaponizer”...]

Oct 25 2016 4:00pm

Which Slasher Film Killer Are You?

Slasher films have created some of the world's most recognizable monsters. From Michael Myers to Jason Voorhees, these monsters were especially scary because, unlike Godzilla or other creature feature folklore, they were undeniably real. Serial killers exist, and they do hunt, torture, and stab their victims.

While the slasher film genre has its own criteria, each villainous monster exudes their own unique characteristics. And if you were to stalk around with a large knife, killing at will, which slasher would YOU most closely resemble?

Take our Personality Quiz and find out!

Oct 25 2016 3:00pm

Q&A with Emily Littlejohn, Author of Inherit the Bones

Read this exclusive Q&A with Emily Littlejohn, author of Inherit the Bonesand then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I believe the book packs a big emotional punch, not just at the beginning or end, so I hope readers feel that too. If they laughed, cried, raged, or any combination of the three, I’ll be happy.  

[Read the full Q&A below...]

Oct 25 2016 1:00pm

Review: Hold a Scorpion by Melodie Johnson-Howe

Hold a Scorpion by Melodie Johnson-Howe is the latest Diana Poole crime thriller that takes our amateur sleuth deep into Southern California's underworld to uncover the mystery of a diamond-encrusted scorpion―and the reason for the murders that follow in its wake.

Diana Poole has split with her egocentric boyfriend, Peter Bianchi, who had chided her to take a good look at herself. So she does—by going to a movie theater and watching her larger-than-life image on the silver screen.

A middle-aged actress who is on the back burner of Hollywood, Diana mulls the ended relationship and career mistakes that has brought her to this empty, darkened movie house. As she views herself, she insightfully ponders, “… narcissism is as demanding as an unpaid drug dealer.” Driving back to her Malibu home (after being lulled to sleep by her own hues), despondent thoughts are temporarily erased when she notes a woman waving boisterously in her direction. A fan? Someone she knows? She’s not sure as the brief encounter turns to horror.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Hold a Scorpion...]

Oct 25 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three, Part III

The shootout at Balazar's last week gave us a taste of the action, now we're fiending like a junkie for some more! Join our discussion of Part III of The Drawing of the Three, as we meet ODetta Holmes/Detta Walker. 

Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987), the 2nd book in The Dark Tower series. Several of us have just finished a trek through The Gunslinger (1982), which originally was a collection of short stories, later bound together, effectively capturing a world certainly familiar to us—Wild West background set to modern pop tunes—but stirring nightmarish images where time is out of mind and people displaced in various purgatories. The main protagonist, Roland Deschain of Gilead, is obsessed with locating the Dark Tower, so he shadows the man in black, who seems to have answers when confronted, though they are obtusely revealed with a turning over of Tarot cards. The man in black explained that Roland has caught the attention of his superior, who remains unknown, taking an interest in Roland’s endeavors.

 *Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!

With Stephen King's chapters getting a little strange, the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages), and each Tuesday we will meet to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, we come across another door—that of The Lady of the Shadows—as Roland attempts to draw the second of his three. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part III of The Drawing of the Three: Shuffle – The Lady of Shadows, Chapter 1: “Detta and Odetta.”

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[Read on if you dare honky mahfah...]