<i>Death Among the Doilies</i>: New Excerpt Death Among the Doilies: New Excerpt Mollie Cox Bryan The 1st Cora Crafts Mystery! <i>Pumpkin Picking with Murder</i>: New Excerpt Pumpkin Picking with Murder: New Excerpt Auralee Wallace The 2nd book in the Otter Lake Mystery series. <em>A Great Reckoning</em>: New Excerpt A Great Reckoning: New Excerpt Louise Penny The 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. "Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" "Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" Lance Hawvermale Read the full story!
From The Blog
August 26, 2016
Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Mouse Guard
Angie Barry
August 25, 2016
One and Done: Marc Bojanowski, The Dog Fighter
Eric Beetner
August 25, 2016
Waking the Dead and Baking Pies with Pushing Daisies
Angie Barry
August 23, 2016
Page to Screen: Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Brian Greene
August 19, 2016
Thomas the Train is a Dick
Paul Jenkins
Aug 26 2016 4:30pm

“Mr. Ginsdale” Cocktail

What do you do when the boss at your new job is sort of a weirdo—charming but peculiar for sure? I create a cocktail based off his name, drink a couple, and hope he un-looks the other way!

So, get a little strange with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Mr. Ginsdale” cocktail, inspired by Paul Jenkins's upcoming debut novel, Curioddity!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Aug 26 2016 2:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Mouse Guard

The Series: Mouse Guard by David Petersen.
The Heroes: Warrior mice who patrol to keep their fellow rodents safe from predators.
The Ideal Format: An animated series—hand-drawn, not CGI, to better emulate Petersen's original designs.

The natural world has always been a brutal place. “Red in tooth and claw,” as the poets say. Plenty of capable, healthy, smart humans die while enjoying the outdoors every year.

Imagine how much harder it is to survive when you're only a couple inches tall and have very little in the way of either teeth or claws. When just about everything around you would like nothing more than to swallow you whole. 

Life is never easy on the lowest link of the food chain, and it's hard to imagine a creature more helpless than a mouse. 

[Read more about Mouse Guard...]

Aug 26 2016 1:00pm

Dear Wallander: Advice for a Concerned Mother

This week's guest columnist is Kurt Wallander, the brooding Swedish police inspector who looks like he hasn't shaved, or slept, for days. 

Dear Wallander,

I'm the mother of three beautiful young boys—ages 3, 6, and 8—and one of them is lying to me. I found Gilly the Goldfish on the rug, ten feet from her tank. Clearly, she didn't make that leap by herself. 

Luckily, I got her back into the water and she seems okay.

All three of my boys deny doing this. In your experience, what's the best way of getting the truth out of them—and how can my husband and I ever trust them with the life of another pet?

—Mom Wants Answers

[Read Wallander's advice!]

Aug 26 2016 11:00am

Nun Robbed at Knifepoint

We have, yet again, hit a low within the perpderpiverse this week. You might want to shield your grandmother from this one. Two women were arrested this week after they allegedly robbed a nun of her rosary beads. Yup, a nun's rosary beads.

The nun, from Daughters of Mary of Nazareth Convent in Massachusetts, was strolling down the street, minding her own business, when a woman approached her and attempted to snatch a small satchel she was carrying from her hand.

According to ABC News, the nun said she only opened her satchel when she noticed the knife the suspect was brandishing. Even though she knew there was no money inside, the suspect wanted it anyway. “I guess I’ll take the rosary beads,” the one suspect allegedly told the nun while the other acted as a lookout.

Police later located the two women, identified as Vanessa and Crystal Young, and found the knife that they used in the robbery. Police also found a bunch of cellphones and a checkbook from other capers the pair committed. Crystal Young was released but Vanessa Young is being held on $5,000 bail.

Aug 26 2016 10:00am

Death Among the Doilies: New Excerpt

Mollie Cox Bryan

Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan is the 1st Cora Crafts Mystery, featuring crafting tips and a murder or two (Available August 30, 2016)!

For thirty-something blogger Cora Chevalier, small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, seems like the perfect place to reinvent her life. Shedding a stressful past as a counselor for a women’s shelter, Cora is pouring all her talents—and most of her savings—into a craft retreat business, with help from close pal and resident potter Jane Starr. Between transforming her Victorian estate into a crafter’s paradise and babysitting Jane’s daughter, the new entrepreneur has no time for distractions. Especially rumors about the murder of a local school librarian.

But when Jane’s fingerprints match those found at the grisly crime scene, Cora not only worries about her friend, but her own reputation. With angry townsfolk eager for justice and both Jane’s innocence and the retreat at risk, she must rely on her creative chops to unlace the truth behind the beloved librarian’s disturbing demise. Because if the killer’s patterns aren’t pinned, Cora’s handiwork could end up in stitches…

[Read an excerpt from Death Among the Doilies...]

Aug 25 2016 4:30pm

The Problem with the Vampires in Blade

Blade is one of the older successful superhero films, appearing at a time when people had renewed interest in vampires. But, there has always been one thing that bothered me about the portrayal of vampires in Blade—they were weak.

Much of the fear regarding vampires relies on the idea that they are nearly unstoppable forces, requiring groups of people to dispatch even one. But, the opening action scene of Blade shows a club full of hundreds of vampires easily dispatched by Blade using an arsenal of weapons. Yes, the weapons are specially designed with vampires in mind, including stakes, silver bullets and blades, ultraviolet lights, and garlic-infused “mace.”

When struck, the offending area of the vampire (often the heart or head) simply disintegrates, melting away into nothingness. Blade is a one man, vampire-slaying army, whereas, in other portrayals, a single vampire could cause the same level of destruction among humanity by shrugging off nearly every weapon known to man.

So why did the writers of Blade choose to weaken vampires? Well, obviously, this is a box-office action flick, but I think there’s a deeper story going on. I think Blade has a subtle, hidden fight of mythology vs. science.


Aug 25 2016 3:00pm

One and Done: Marc Bojanowski, The Dog Fighter

I picked up a strange book called The Dog Fighter without any prior knowledge of the author. This was in 2004, and the high praise this debut novel was getting intrigued me enough to give it a shot. One of the hooks was that the writer used no punctuation beyond periods and question marks. No quotations, no contractions, and not a comma in sight. (At the time, I’d never read Cormac McCarthy. Forgive me.)

So, I gave it a shot.

The book was good. Very literary, but it had a sleazy side I liked. I decided to keep an eye on this young upstart, Marc Bojanowski.

[Find out more about Marc Bojanowski...]

Aug 25 2016 1:30pm

Waking the Dead and Baking Pies with Pushing Daisies

In the lovely little town of Coeur de Coeur...

The word “necromancer” brings to mind a very specific image: black robes, black nails, black teeth, maybe some ravens and unlucky black cats, dribbly candles (black, of course), and ebon shadows (continuing in the black-ish theme).

Heavy on the grim, dark, and evil, basically.

There was a very unusual restaurant run by a very unusual baker...

So when Ned the Piemaker appears onscreen in “Pie-lette”—the only thing black about him being his fitted t-shirt—that preconception is pretty much dashed to bits.

Because gangly, awkward, handsome Ned (played by the ever-charming and tree-tall Lee Pace, before his was a more recognizable face), with his floofy hair and puppy eyes, his earnest sincerity and his aw-shucks smile, is a necromancer. Albeit, one who'd much rather just bake pies and who raises the dead through a natural fluke rather than in dark magic ceremonies, but a necromancer nonetheless.

[He's actually quite the Necromantic...]

Aug 25 2016 12:00pm

5 Incredible Prison Escapes

Human beings can get pretty creative when backed into a corner—or locked in a cage. While not everyone has to crawl through a river of shit to come out clean on the other side, some pretty drastic measures were taken by these 5 escape artists.

[Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak...]

Aug 25 2016 10:00am

Pumpkin Picking with Murder: New Excerpt

Auralee Wallace

Pumpkin Picking with Murder by Auralee WallacePumpkin Picking with Murder is the 2nd book in Auralee Wallace's Otter Lake Mystery series (Available August 30, 2016).

When murder strikes in the Tunnel of Love, Erica Bloom has to rock the boat to catch a killer…

For a small town like Otter Lake, New Hampshire, the annual Fall Festival is a big deal: a Ferris wheel, corn maze, caramel apples, and pumpkin pies—even a Tunnel of Love. Back in her hometown, Erica Bloom is trying to enjoy herself, which includes getting better acquainted with Sheriff Grady Forrester. But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her own romance will have to take a backseat.

Speaking of love affairs, the other passenger in the boat—and only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan song—is not his wife. It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt,” Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murder—despite the objections of Grady, who’s convinced the amateurs are going overboard in their investigation. And he just may be right. But as Erica and Freddie start to dredge up long-kept small-town secrets, will they heading straight into troubled waters?

Chapter One

“Okay,” I said, stepping off the dock onto the cracked asphalt of the parking lot. “I’m here. Can you please tell me what’s going on now?”

“Nope,” the voice on the other end of my phone said. “It’s a surprise. You have to see it.”

I sighed and turned my face up to the warm autumn sun. “You know I don’t have really great experiences with surprises. In fact, I pretty much hate them. Especially when I’m … here.”

[Read the full excerpt from Pumpkin Picking with Murder...]

Aug 24 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Purl Up and Die by Maggie Sefton

It’s been quite a while since I last had the chance to hang out with the Lambspun fabric artists who form the nexus of Maggie Sefton’s bestselling Knitting Mystery series, so I had a lot of catching up to do! Fortunately, Purl Up And Die treats fans, as well as more casual readers, to an in-depth look at their lives, even as they are affected by another shocking murder. 

Kelly Flynn is our sleuthing heroine, a CPA and amateur knitter whose own limited skills with the needles make her very relatable to novice knitters. She spends a lot of time at the House Of Lambspun—the fabric, fiber, and yarn shop just across the driveway from her home—with its attached Pete’s Porch Cafe. Kelly loves textures, and the book is full of sensual descriptions of the various wares available at Lambspun (which is based on a real Colorado knitting store). Kelly also loves her coffee, as well as playing and coaching softball with the various Fort Connor leagues that form a big part of the summertime social schedules of herself and her close-knit (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) circle of friends.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Aug 24 2016 2:30pm

A Deadly Thaw: Visual Guide

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

This week, there are murders, secrets, and mysteries—oh my! Take a visual tour through Sarah Ward's 2nd Inspector Francis Sadler novel, A Deadly Thaw!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Aug 24 2016 1:00pm

Collecting the Dead: Audio Excerpt

Spencer Kope

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope is a debut novel that introduces Magnus “Steps” Craig, a member of the FBI's Special Tracking Unit (Available June 28, 2016).

Magnus “Steps” Craig is part of the elite three-man Special Tracking Unit of the FBI. Called in on special cases where his skills are particularly needed, he works as a tracker. The media dubs him “The Human Bloodhound,” since Steps is renowned for his incredible ability to find and follow trails over any surface better than anyone else. But there's a secret to his success. Steps has a special ability—-a kind of synesthesia—-where he can see the 'essence' of a person, something he calls 'shine,' on everything they've touched. His ability is known to only a few people—-his father, the director of the FBI, and his partner, Special Agent Jimmy Donovan.

When the remains of a murdered woman are found, Steps recognizes the shine left by the murderer from another crime scene with a physically similar victim. And he uncovers the signature at both scenes—-the mark of a sad face. At the same time, another killer, one Steps has dubbed Leonardo and has been trying to track for over ten years, appears again, taunting Steps. But while Steps tries to find a clue that will lead him to Leonardo, the case of the Sad Face Killer heats up. The team uncovers eleven possible victims: missing women who fit the same pattern. Using his skill and the resources of the Bureau, it is a race against time to find the killer before it's too late.

[Listen to an excerpt from Collecting the Dead...]

Aug 24 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: August 23, 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!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

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

Aug 24 2016 10:00am

A Great Reckoning: New Excerpt

Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning by New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny is the 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the town of Three Pines (Available August 30, 2016).

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.


Armand Gamache sat in the little room and closed the dossier with care, squeezing it shut, trapping the words inside.

It was a thin file. Just a few pages. Like all the rest surrounding him on the old wooden floor of his study. And yet, not like all the rest.

He looked at the slender lives lying at his feet. Waiting for his decision on their fate.

[Read the full excerpt from A Great Reckoning...]

Aug 23 2016 4:00pm

Page to Screen: Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

When I read that Criterion Collection was releasing a new Blu-Ray edition of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1964 film Woman in the Dunes, I tracked down and read the 1962 novel by Kōbō Abe on which it is based. I thought I might write about the Criterion release, and I knew that if I did, I’d want to comment on the ways the screen version differs (or not) from the page version. I’d seen the film many years earlier, but had never read the novel, although I’d read some of Abe’s other books.

As it turns out, there’s not a whole lot to say in comparing and contrasting book to film here. Abe wrote the screenplay based on his own novel, and Teshigahara was extremely faithful to the written version of the story in adapting it for the big screen. The two men were close associates at the time. They were leading members of a circle of forward-thinking Japanese artists, and Teshigahara made three other movies from Abe’s books. This film is a true collaboration between the two men, rather than a case of a movie director taking an author’s novel and completely reshaping it through his or her own vision.

[Read Brian Green's review of Woman in the Dunes...]

Aug 23 2016 2:30pm
Original Story

“Monopoly: Go Directly to Death”

Lance Hawvermale

In accordance with the release of his debut novel, Lance Hawvermale has written a short story exclusively for Criminal Element! Read “Monopoly: Go Straight to Death” and make sure to grab your copy of Face Blind—out today!

“Monopoly: Go Straight to Death”

I found him dead at St. James Place, just east of the rails of the old Pennsylvania line. He lay in a pool of orange light.

Standing on the pale green ground, I stared at the body and reached for my lighter. Too bad I’d quit smoking, because now thumbing the lighter’s striker wheel was as close as I could get to the real thing.

“You ever going to give that up?” Ramsey asked.

I turned the wheel with another satisfying scrape, bringing a flame to life. “Old habits.”

“Yeah, so my wife was an old habit, and she wasn’t so hard to give up.”

This time I didn’t take the bait. Usually Ramsey and I go on for hours trading what he calls old wives’ tales. My particular old wife lives around two hard right turns on ritzy Pacific in a patch of sweet emerald real estate. She married a lawyer. Most folks think that’s a step up from living with a cop. Most folks are right.

[Read the full story here!]

Aug 23 2016 1:00pm

What Is Your Favorite True Crime Series?

Reading about a fictional murder in a mystery novel doesn't resonate the same way that exploring the details and evidence of a real-life homicide does. In true crime, we can't just close the book and convince ourselves that the evil is only on the page. There's something about the relatability of the victim—while we may not have known them personally, we know they're real, with family and friends and loved ones affected by every aspect of the process, from the crime to the trial to the verdict and after. 

And, with the news of the overturned conviction of Brendan Dassey and the new trial for Adnan Syed, the true crime phenomenon continues to grow. We know our readers love their true crime, so we wanted to know what YOU thought was the best true crime series that has aired recently. 

See also: Robert Durst was Reading about Himself before Arrest

[Vote for your favorite true crime series below!]

Aug 23 2016 12:00pm

Review: Sorrow Road by Julia Keller

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller is the 5th book in the Bell Elkins series (Available today!).

James Iacobelli designed the cover for Julia Keller’s latest Bell Elkins mystery, and it’s striking. Black and white and shades of gray, with a shocking touch of red; it is a cover that draws the eye, which is what a cover is supposed to do.

But, covers are also the public “faces” of books, the picture that is worth a thousand words. Here, Iacobelli’s work immediately provokes questions: Where are we? Who is this woman? What is she doing out in the snow? While the default assumption to a fourth question—When is this story taking place?—is always present day, you can’t necessarily tell that from the image. The woman’s coat is a silhouette that hasn’t much changed in seventy-two years. There are other figures in the background but they offer us no clue.

Iacobelli combined two photos for the cover—one of a snowy winter road and one of a woman walking down a road with an umbrella—creating one seamless visual that echoes what the author has done in her narrative: weave two seemingly disparate stories into a tale that resonates through seven decades and multiple lives.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Sorrow Road...]

Aug 23 2016 10:00am

Repo Madness: New Excerpt

W. Bruce Cameron

Repo Madness by W. Bruce CameronRuddy McCann is back in Repo Madness—the laugh-out-loud, thrilling adventure from bestselling author W. Bruce Cameron (Available August 30, 2016).

Ruddy McCann, former college football star, now Kalkaska, Michigan repo man, is finally getting his life back on track. He has a beautiful fiancé, Katie Lottner, a somewhat stable job stealing cars, and a lazy, lovable basset hound.

With his job suddenly in jeopardy, his fiancé wanting a break, and a new court-ordered psychiatrist insisting he take his medication or violate the terms of his probation, Ruddy finds himself missing the one thing he thought he would be happy to be rid of—the voice of Alan Lottner, dead realtor and Ruddy's future father-in-law.

When a woman tells Ruddy that the tragedy that defines his life may, in fact, be a lie, Ruddy starts to investigate the disappearances of women in the area and soon discovers that his own redemption may be within reach. Alan's voice returns, and Ruddy and Alan work together to bring down a corrupt banker, win back Katie's love, and stop a serial killer before he can strike again.


Nothing Like You in the Literature

I flipped the light under the little sign that said JOHNSTON and then took my seat, pensively glancing at my watch. I was close to fifteen minutes late.

The small anteroom had a coffee table layered with magazines for every possible sort of person who might be seeking psychotherapy: fishermen, people who cared about fashionable clothing, people who wanted their houses to look like someone else’s house, women who were pregnant or wanting to be pregnant or had recently been pregnant. I picked up one whose cover had a snowmobile straddled by a woman in a bikini. The girl and the machine were both impressively muscular. Maybe where she lived, that’s how everyone dressed for snowmobiling.

[Read the full excerpt from Repo Madness...]