“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”
That oft-cited sentence from Shakespeare’s King Lear would have been well placed on an opening page of James M. Cain’s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce and just after the opening credits on Michael Curtiz’s 1945 same-named film adaptation of the story. Criterion Collection has just released a new Blu-Ray version of Curtiz’s movie, and that gives me an excuse to write about it—as well as the Cain book—and to think about the Shakespeare quote while considering both.
The book was the 3rd published novel from the hardboiled crime fiction leading light Cain, whose works The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1943)—among others—were also adapted for notable films noir. Curtiz’s career as a movie director was too lengthy for me to try and sum it up in a sentence or two, so I’ll just mention that he was also the auteur behind the camera on Casablanca (1943) and one of my personal favorite Elvis movies, King Creole (1958).
I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a dark and claustrophobic thriller in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world.
If you happen upon the personal ads while reading the newspaper, there are plenty of things you might expect to see—a photo of yourself is probably not one of them. Zoe Walker is confronted with a photograph of herself in the classified ads under FindTheOne.com. She calls the number listed to see if she can shed some light on the matter, but it’s dead. She just wants to know how her photo got there, and—more importantly—why. Like all of us, Zoe wants some answers.
However, seeking them takes her on a very dangerous journey, as other women with photographs on the site are becoming victims of violent crimes. A new woman and a new victim each day.
Last week, the cards were turned and plans were set into motion. This week, we get our final showdown between the young gunslingers and Farson's men.
Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass (1997), the 4th book in The Dark Tower series. When we left Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy the billy-bumbler, they were trapped on the psychotic locomotive, Blaine the Mono, crossing through the feared waste lands. Our ka-tet had narrowly escaped the destruction of Lud that Blaine had decimated with gas—but for what? To become prisoners aboard a train bulleting into a desolate hell populated by fierce beasts, with a guide that’s clearly mad. Yeah, it looks like we are bound to have a helluva lot of fun as we continue our journey to the Dark Tower.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
We're back to wacky Stephen King chapters, so the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) 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 finally get our big showdown! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part VII of Wizard and Glass: Come, Reap: Chapter 8 “The Ashes” – Chapter 9: “Reaping”!
The Fifth Element by Jørgen Brekke is the latest book in the Odd Singsaker series (available February 28, 2017).
Police Inspector Odd Singsaker has been captured, imprisoned on an island off the Northern coast of Norway. He wakes to find himself holding a shotgun. Next to him is a corpse. But what events led him to this point? And how did he get here?
A few weeks earlier, Felicia, his wife, disappeared. Though he didn’t know it, she was trying to find her way back to Odd to reconcile, but then she vanished into a snowstorm. Possibly involved is a corrupt, coldblooded cop from Oslo, a devious college student who’s stolen a great deal of cocaine from drug dealers, and a hit man hired by the drug dealers who have been robbed. All of these lives intersect with Odd’s as he searches for Felicia.
Two weeks after it happened …
Odd Singsaker opened his eyes. He’d shut them to try to visualize the scene. Time seemed to have stopped ever since he’d stood in that house with the shotgun at his feet. Now he was sitting in an interrogation room along with Kurt Melhus, an investigator from Internal Affairs.
“Can you describe how you felt when you stood there?” said Melhus.
“I don’t know what I felt,” replied Singsaker.
“Was it hate?”
This show is rapidly approaching a Game of Thrones level of characters, but not in a good way. We get that it’s building towards an epic showdown with the Saviors, but every week we get a new batch of “Who the hell are they?” We’ve got Fish People, Garbage People, Renaissance Faire People, a Jack-of-Many-Trades Jesus, and more—it’s almost like The Walking Dead took a look at what’s currently successful with television and movies (Marvel Universe, GoT, Mad Max, Hoarders?) and tried to mash it all up into one season.
Here’s to hoping it’s worth it and the showdown with Negan justifies the hours we’ve invested to get there.
Who’s the most famous lawyer-author of all time? Nope, not John Grisham.
Here are some hints:
These are some of the more interesting, weird, and crazy true crime related stories from the past week (02/11/17 - 02/18/17):
Coup D'état by Ben Coes is the 2nd Dewey Andreas novel. Now through the month of February, get a digital copy of this high-octane thriller for only $2.99!
Wanting only a peaceful, obscure life, Dewey Andreas has gone to rural Australia, far from turbulent forces that he once fought against. But powerful men, seeking revenge, have been scouring the earth looking for Dewey. And now, they've finally found him - forcing Dewey to abandon his home and to fight for his life against a very well armed, well trained group of assassins.
Meanwhile, a radical cleric has been elected president of Pakistan and, upon taking power, sets off a rapidly escalating conflict with India. As the situation spins quickly out of control, it becomes clear that India is only days from resorting to a nuclear response, one that will have unimaginably disasterous results for the world at large. With only days to head this off, the President sends in his best people, including Jessica Tanzer, to do whatever it takes to restore the fragile peace to the region. Tanzer has only one viable option - to set up and execute a coup d'etat in Pakistan - and only one man in mind to lead the team that will try to pull off this almost unimaginable task in the nerve-wrackingly short time frame, Dewey Andreas. If, that is, Jessica can even get to Dewey and if Dewey can get out of Australia alive...
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
The Doctor is an alien humanoid over two thousand years old, has two hearts, and has regenerated a dozen times (uh, thirteen if you count The War Doctor). He’s a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey traveling in a sentient time machine known as a TARDIS—“Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space.” He regularly seeks out evil and squashes it with sometimes nothing more than his superior intellect and a sonic screwdriver. Yes, very much a science-fiction program, but in the BBC show’s rich 54-year history, it has run the gamut of genres. The following are some of the best recent offerings of mystery and horror:
This week's guest columnist is Lisbeth Salander, who's a hacker but not a hack, Wasp but not a WASP, and an all-around tough-as-nails badass.
I have never written to anyone for advice, and truthfully I feel very foolish doing this. However, a friend of mine who had written to you concerning a problem she had told me that you were able to help her, and so I decided to finally ask for help.
I am a single mother, and the problem is my 14-year-old son, Eric. He has become friends with some really bad boys. To put it bluntly, these kids have been in trouble with the cops many times, but because they’re underage, not much has been done.
To make matters worse, they seem to hang out at the home of one of the kids, Mikey, whose mother is a roaring drunk. This woman is giving alcohol and drugs to these boys. Eric came home one night so out of it that I didn’t know what to do, so I just let him sleep it off. He’s become nasty, rude, and verbally abusive to me. I fear that it’s only a matter of time until he becomes violent toward me.
I tried to speak to Mikey’s mother, but she laughed at me and called me some really nasty names. I am fearful of her because those boys will do anything she asks them to do, including home and property damage. A neighbor of hers had her car and front door badly damaged.
Please, can you give me advice on what to do? Eric is getting unmanageable.
Never mess with a woman’s taco...
According to ABC7, one couple’s outing to their favorite taco truck got saucy when an altercation broken out over the coldness of a taco that was served.
Allegedly, the woman thought that her taco wasn’t hot enough to satisfy her yearning for the tortilla-wrapped treat. She asked the owner, who served the arctic taco, to reheat it to the glory she felt was deserved. However, the owner flat-out refused her simple request to bring the cold taco to a more palatable temperature.
The woman became extremely displeased at the refusal, and when her boyfriend tried to intervene to calm her down, the situation only got worse — much worse.
At this point, she finally had enough and pulled out a gun she was carrying. This resulted in a scuffle between the boyfriend and the woman, and the gun went off, striking the boyfriend. Police showed up, but they could not confirm if she meant to shoot him or if the gun simply went off accidentally.
The case is still pending and the taco remains cold.
Beautiful Broken Girls is a stunning release from Kim Savage, the author of the critically acclaimed After the Woods (available February 21, 2017).
Remember the places you touched me.
Ben touched seven parts of Mira Cillo: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. It was the last one that broke her. After Mira's death, she sends Ben on a quest to find notes she left him in the seven places where they touched—notes that explain why she and her sister, Francesca, drowned themselves in the quarry lake. How Ben interprets those notes has everything to do with the way he was touched by a bad coach years ago. But the truth behind the girls’ suicides is far more complicated, involving a dangerous infatuation, a deadly miracle, and a crushing lie.
Mira’s letter arrived seven days after she died.
Mira. Was. Alive.
The idea hit Ben like a punch to the throat. It grew into a vibrating, ludicrous shiver of hope that he’d seen another girl’s body in Kyle’s photo. A different beauty with long arms and gold-flecked eyes and a perfectly straight back, another girl had fallen alongside Francesca. Not Mira.
Daphne du Maurier published her story “The Birds” in her 1952 collection called The Apple Tree. Several years later, Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the story, and in 1963 he released it as a film with a script by novelist Evan Hunter.
Hitchcock had already filmed two du Maurier works, Jamaica Inn in 1939 and Rebecca in 1940. Jamaica Inn—starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara—did not succeed as a film, turning a brooding, atmospheric historical tale into something comedic and silly. Hitchcock himself disliked it, and it’s now considered one of his worst films.
Daphne du Maurier (who did not work on the screen adaptions from her books and stories) had such antipathy for the Jamaica Inn, she thought about withholding the sale of the film rights to Rebecca. Of course, she did end up allowing Rebecca to be made into a film, and this Hitchcock production went well, turning a big profit and winning an Academy Award for Best Picture.
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny is the 2007 Agatha Award winner for Best Novel and the 2nd entry in her bestselling Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series. Now through the month of February, get a digital copy for only $2.99!
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Snowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace is the 3rd book in the Otter Lake Mystery series.
Take a classic mystery opening (a group of connected people with a murderer in their midst), add an isolated setting (an island in New Hampshire), swirl in a frightening nor’easter, and top it off with an estranged romantic couple, and you have Snowed in with Murder.
I haven’t read Auralee Wallace’s two earlier Otter Island mysteries, but it’s not difficult to catch up. Off-and-on islander Erica Bloom has come home to see if she can fan the embers of her cooled-off romance with Sheriff Grady Forrester. Erica is sure that grilled steaks and glowing flames in an intimate island setting will pave the way for reconciliation with Sheriff Grady. What could go wrong?
To start with, Erica’s mother is nowhere to be found on the island. Instead, the island lodge is teeming with strangers—strangers who seem to have their own camera crew. Ordinarily, the lodge is shut down for the season in the fall, so this is highly unusual. Something else that is highly unusual (or perhaps not in New Hampshire): the weather. Erica is surprised—but not too surprised—by the darkening forecast.
An apt description of forensic evidence:
“…This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study it, and understand it, can diminish its value.” Kirk, P.L. (1953) Crime Investigation (retrieved from http://www.forensicmag.com/article/2011/12/digital-forensics-cyber-exchange-principle)
You might look at the date of this quote and think: 1953 sounds about right because most of us don’t remember a time when forensic evidence wasn’t part of some big, splashy trial. But in reality, this was a wish list of what the crime investigation community hoped forensic science could achieve.
The first state appellate court decision to uphold the admission of DNA evidence was in 1988 (Andrews v. Florida). That was nearly 30 years ago, but the interesting part of the forensics story is that police officers, detectives, and crime scene technicians began collecting, storing, and preserving this type of evidence long before 1988. They did this before they had the tests, databases, and data to make that evidence useful.
I call this the very definition of faith. And this is why I love forensic science.
The Murder of Willie Lincoln is an exciting historical fiction debut by award-winning political journalist and Washington insider Burt Solomon (available February 21, 2017).
Washington City, 1862: The United States lies in tatters, and there seems no end to the war. Abraham Lincoln, the legitimate President of the United States, is using all his will to keep his beloved land together. But Lincoln’s will and soul are tested when tragedy strikes the White House as Willie Lincoln, the love and shining light in the president’s heart, is taken by typhoid fever.
But was this really the cause of his death? A message arrives, suggesting otherwise. Lincoln asks John Hay, his trusted aide—and almost a son—to investigate Willie’s death. Some see Hay as a gadfly—adventurous, incisive, lusty, reflective, skeptical, even cynical—but he loves the president and so seeks the truth behind the boy’s death.
And so, as we follow Hay in his investigation, we are shown the loftiest and lowest corners of Washington City, from the president’s office and the gentleman’s dining room at Willard’s Hotel to the alley hovels, wartime hospitals, and the dome-less Capitol’s vermin-infested subbasement. We see the unfamiliar sides of a grief-stricken president, his hellcat of a wife, and their two surviving and suffering sons, and Hay matches wits with such luminaries as General McClellan, William Seward, and the indomitable detective Allan Pinkerton.
What Hay discovers has the potential of not only destroying Lincoln, but a nation.
The 2nd book in Kristi Abbott’s A Popcorn Shop Mystery series is a sassy delight. Set in Grand Lake—a resort town on the banks of Lake Erie, Ohio—Pop Goes the Murder features our heroine, Rebecca Anderson, and her poodle, Sprocket. Grand Lake was where Rebecca grew up, but she fled small-town life as soon as she could and married celebrity chef Antoine Belanger. Alas, the marriage was not to last.
So Rebecca came home to open POPS, a gourmet popcorn shop and cafe that serves the only decent coffee in town. Her sister, Haley, married Rebecca’s best friend while she was away and gave birth to Rebecca’s first nephew, and Rebecca is getting to know her family, old and new, all over again. Add to this a budding romance with the town’s only good lawyer, Garrett, and Rebecca is beginning to relish small-town life.
The Witch Who Came in From the Cold is the fantasy-espionage thriller from Serial Box. This serial is collaboratively written and available in text and audio via SerialBox.com, their iOS app, and all major ebook retailers. Lead by foreign-affairs expert Lindsay Smith (Sekret) and Urban Fantasy-pioneer Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead), this season’s author team is rounded out by Cassandra Rose Clark (Our Lady of the Ice), Ian Tregillis (The Milkweed Triptych), and Nebula-nominated Fran Wilde (Updraft).
We asked the authors to tell us a little about how they got into crime fiction and what really stuck out for them as their favorite aspect of the genre. Read their answers below, and then make sure to sign in and comment at the bottom for your chance to win the entire 1st season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold!