<i>Teetotaled</i>: New Excerpt Teetotaled: New Excerpt Maia Chance The 2nd Discreet Retrieval Agency Mystery. The Dark Tower: <i>The Gunslinger</i>, Chapter 4 The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Chapter 4 David Cranmer Join the discussion! <i>Strong Cold Dead</i>: New Excerpt Strong Cold Dead: New Excerpt Jon Land The 8th Caitlin Strong novel. Review: <i>Combustion</i> by Martin J. Smith Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review!
From The Blog
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
September 21, 2016
Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock
Angie Barry
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!]

Sep 27 2016 1:00pm

God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits

I’ve heard it said that writers are God’s garbage men. We pick up people’s cast off details and deeds—some inspiring, some appalling—and use them to create our stories. 

For mystery writers, the newspaper is also a rich place to rummage through. Southern crime writer Ace Atkins commented, “I don’t have to make up plots. I just read the local papers.” Atkins’s latest, The Innocents, centers on a horrific story taken from a Mississippi news article about a former cheerleader who was set on fire and left to die, apparently by a trusted friend. Atkins does a stellar job of turning a true tale into fiction.

Read David Cranmer's review of The Innocents!

Think about the novels, movies, and news stories that have stayed with you. They’re often about powerful people who’ve forsaken the trust of those who most rely on them. Think of the mother in Judith Guest’s Ordinary People, who hated her second son just for being born. The revelation that priests have been abusing children for decades is abhorrent, but the Vatican’s coverup of the crimes is the ultimate betrayal.   

[Read more from author Lisa Turner!]

Sep 27 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Chapter 4

After a debate about betrayal and the ultimate goal last week for Chapter 3, we step into the darkness of the mountain and into the hands of the slow mutants for Chapter 4...

Thank you for joining me on a reread of what Stephen King has called his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series featuring Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger. It’s been 38 years since Roland’s quest began in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and four years since the last Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012). Let’s see if this equal parts Western, mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy epic still packs a punch.

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

The plan is to read a chapter a week, 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 chapter is dark in more ways than one—so let's shed some light on Chapter 4 of The Gunslinger:

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[“Go then. There are other worlds than these.”]

Sep 27 2016 11:00am

Longmire 5.02: “One Good Memory” Episode Review

If the Season 5 premiere of Longmire was a bit slow on the windup, then “One Good Memory” delivers a fastball that wraps up the mystery of the missing Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker). 

It starts nerve-wracking enough for Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) as he hurries in the middle of the night to neighboring Cumberland County to see if a reported Jane Doe is the good physician. Have to confess, I was fooled by Walt’s emotive reaction to the woman on the slab, but it turns out not to be Donna, leading him to ask a deputy of Cumberland named Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke) for assistance. You may remember Eamonn from when he subbed in Absaroka County and had a brief roll between the sheets with Vic (Katee Sackhoff).

[Read David Cranmer's review of “One Good Memory”...]

Sep 27 2016 10:00am

Strong Cold Dead: New Excerpt

Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead by Jon LandTexas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in Jon Land's Strong Cold Dead, a thriller with heart-stopping action and a high-stakes terrorist plot (Available October 4, 2016).

The terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.

At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.

In her highest-stakes adventure yet, Caitlin Strong faces off against a host of adversaries that just might include the beautiful Comanche girl with whom the son of her ex-outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters has fallen in love, along with a mythic monster culled from Native American folklore that the tribe believes has risen to protect its land. The lives of those Caitlin loves most are threatened by the villains she’s pursuing; her own moral code is challenged. The fate of both the country and the state she loves are dangling on the precipice of a strong cold death.



“What ’xactly you make of this, Ranger?”

Texas Ranger Steeldust Jack Strong looked up from the body he was crouched alongside of—or what was left of it. “Well, he’s dead all right.”

The male victim’s suit coat had been shredded, much of the skin beneath it hanging off the bone. He’d worn his holster low on his hip, gunfighter style, and his pearl-handled Samuel Walker Colt was the latest model, updated from the one Jack Strong had used since joining the Texas Rangers after the Civil War.

[Read the full excerpt from Strong Cold Dead...]

Sep 26 2016 4:30pm

Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith

Combustion by Martin J. Smith is a page-turning thriller with a sh0cking twist (Available September 27, 2016).

Detective Ron Starke is having a torrid time of it all. A body shows up at the bottom of the local pond—a midnight swim gone wrong, possibly. It’s true that alcohol mixed with unexpected cold temperatures can have a shocking effect on a person in the water, particularly if it is in a place they are not used to swimming. However, the heavy piece of computer machinery with a steel cable looped through the handle, around the victim’s neck, then back through the handle again and secured with a combination lock suggests an accident this, most certainly, is not. 

The victim is a man who has done very well for himself: a big house, a big wife with big hair and a big history, a big bank account, and—due to his abrasive and unforgiving personality—a big long list of people who may have provided the anchor to take him down his one way journey to the bottom of a cold, dark, slimy pond. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Combustion...]

Sep 26 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby

The Reckoning on Cane Hill is a terrifying and heartbreaking new novel of guilt and innocence, from CWA Dagger-­winner Steve Mosby.

In a world where guilt and innocence are in the eye of the beholder, what if you could see someone's sins? What would their sin look like?

Charlie Matheson wore her sins like a badge of repentance. An elaborate spider's web of scars covered her face. Each line carefully crafted. A message intended for the world to see. She claims these marks were put there by the Devil in Hell.

But that wasn't the message Charlie was there to deliver. 

Two years prior, Charlotte (Charlie) Matheson died in a car crash. Now, she's back from the dead to deliver a message for retired Detective John Mercer's ears only. A detective haunted by his own demons.

[Read Cindy Kerschner's review of The Reckoning on Cane Hill...]

Sep 26 2016 2:00pm

Longmire 5.01: “A Fog That Won’t Lift” Episode Review

Season 5 opens in an outpouring of emotion with Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) imploring, “Please don’t leave me, Dad!” Her father, Sheriff Walter Longmire (Robert Taylor), is writhing in his own blood, shot at home by an unknown assailant. 

He’s not laid up for long though. Not since the old Gunsmoke days, when Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) could take a slug and keep on tracking, has a hero thrown health to the wind like when the strong-willed, determined Walt leaves the hospital. He’s looking for Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker), who had been sharing his bed when the assailant struck. Only Walt’s blood is initially found at the scene, so a kidnapping is assumed.  

Walt believes there is a connection to the shady oil company that he’s been investigating and that the still-at-large Walker Browning (Callum Keith Rennie) is involved. The Ferg (Adam Bartley) is leaning toward Zachary (Barry Sloane), who Walt had fired, while Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) thinks the wisest choice is to investigate patients of Dr. Monaghan who have been known to do a crazy thing or two like set a van on fire. 

[Read David Cranmer's review of “A Fog That Won't Lift”...]

Sep 26 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.08: “The Murderous Marriage” Episode Review

Our season is at an end, and it couldn’t have been a more exciting finale. The entire season seemed to be leading up to this event. Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is getting ready for her upcoming nuptials—to James Lacey (Jamie Glover). 

Drunk at her hen party, Agatha tells Gemma (Katy Wix) that her only wish is for Gemma to get together with Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). Meanwhile, a homeless man is looking at a newspaper announcement of PR guru Agatha Raisin’s upcoming marriage, and he seems quite disturbed by it. We know this will not bode well for Agatha.

Church bells ring and James and Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells) are in the church waiting for the bride. Roy Silver (Mathew Horne) walks Aggie down the aisle. However, the blissful event is interrupted when Bill Wong runs in yelling “Stop!” Is Bill trying to stop the wedding because he has a crush on Agatha? Nope. He’s putting an end to the wedding because Agatha’s husband—and the homeless man we see at the beginning—Jimmy Raisin (Jason Thorpe), is still alive. So she’s kinda still married; great timing on Bill’s part.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Murderous Marriage”...]

Sep 26 2016 11:00am

Crime/Mystery/Thrillers Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in October 2016

October—literally the best month of the year. Unfortunately, Netflix seems to have missed the mark because I'm seeing a disappointingly small amount of decent horror films coming this month. Good thing I have my own collection—Halloween horror nights at my house!

Thankfully, if you're like me, you might have an episode or two left of Marvel's Luke Cage come October 1st. If not, here is a convenient list of all of the new thrillers/mysteries/crime films coming to Netflix in October 2016.

*Honorable mention: Black Mirror returns on October 21st

[Check out the list here...]

Sep 26 2016 10:00am

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy: New Excerpt

Jay Bonansinga

Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Robert Kirkman, Jay BonansingaRobert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Jay Bonansinga is the 7th book in The Walking Dead series (Available October 18, 2016).

What could possibly go wrong?

For one brief moment, it seems Lilly and her plague-weary band of survivors might just engineer a better tomorrow. Banding together with other small town settlements, they begin a massive project to refurbish the railroad between Woodbury and Atlanta. The safer travel will begin a new post-apocalyptic era of trade, progress, and democracy.

Little do they know, however, that trouble is brewing back home …

Out of nowhere, a brutal new faction has attacked Woodbury while Lilly and the others have been off repairing the railroad. Now the barricades are burning. Adults have been murdered, children kidnapped. But why? Why subject innocent survivors to such a random, unprovoked assault?

Lilly Caul and her ragtag posse of rescuers will soon discover the chilling answers to these questions and more as they launch a desperate mission to save the kidnapped children. But along the way, the dark odyssey will take them into a nightmarish series of traps and hellish encounters with incomprehensible swarms of undead.

And as always, in the world of the Walking Dead, the walkers will prove to be the least of Lilly’s problems. It’s what the human adversaries have in store for her that will provide Lilly’s greatest challenge yet.


On that sweltering Indian-summer morning, not a single person working the rails has any clue as to what is transpiring at that very moment in the small survival settlement once known as Woodbury, Georgia. The restoration of the railroad between the village of Woodbury and the outer suburbs of Atlanta has consumed these people—occupying every daylight hour for nearly twelve months now—and today is no exception. They are closing in on the midway point of the project. In a little less than a year, they have cleared nearly twenty miles of track, and have laid down a sturdy barrier of split-rail and chicken wire on either flank in order to keep the line clear of roamers, stray feral animals, and any other obstruction that might blow, seep, grow, or creep across the tracks.

[Read the full excerpt from Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy...]

Sep 23 2016 4:30pm

“Drinking Up Daisies” Cocktails

It must be stressful to live in a town like Carsely in the Cotswolds, where there seems to be murder around every corner. I wouldn't judge Agatha Raisin one bit for needing to unwind every now and then with a nice cocktail or two.

So, relax with a variety of delicious cocktails for this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—“Drinking Up Daisies,” an ice-cold sour made with your spirit of choice, inspired by M.C. Beaton's 27th Agatha Raisin Mystery, Pushing Up Daisies!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Sep 23 2016 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

THE SUBGENRE: Cartoon noir.
THE HERO(ES): Private eye Eddie Valiant and the eponymous Toon.
THE VILLAIN: The mad Judge Doom.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Dolores and femme fatale Jessica.
THE SETTING: An alternate 1940's Hollywood.

1947, Hollywood. It's a familiar setting to any fan of noir.

This Hollywood, however, is different in one very significant way: there's a strange neighborhood on its fringe called Toontown. It's a Technicolor dream world with inhabitants that are downright animated...

Private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) has a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar when it comes to Toons: those brightly-colored, two-dimensional characters that routinely smash through walls, break plates over their heads, and burst into frequent song and dance numbers—anything to make people laugh. 

[Don't hit me! I'll hit me! Cause I'm craaaazzzyyyy...]

Sep 23 2016 1:00pm

Daisy in Chains: Audio Excerpt

Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton features a convicted serial killer who insists he's innocent and a notorious defense attorney who eventually takes the case (Available September 20, 2016).

He’s a serial killer. A murderer of young women, all killed in brutal attacks.

But despite Hamish Wolfe’s conviction, he’s always stuck to his story—he’s innocent and he’s been wrongly imprisoned. And now he wants someone to investigate and, more importantly, to write his story.

Maggie Rose is a notorious defense attorney and writer whose specialty is getting convictions overturned. At first, Maggie is reluctant to even acknowledge Hamish’s requests to meet, ignoring his letters. But this is a very charismatic and persuasive man, good-looking and intelligent.

Eventually even she can’t resist his lure…

[Listen to an audio excerpt from Daisy in Chains...]

Sep 23 2016 11:00am

Burglar Steals Fake Money from Toy Cash Register

A man was caught on security camera cleaning out a cash register of all its money at a YMCA. But here’s the thing: it turns out the cash register was actually a children’s toy filled with fake “play-money” instead of the real thing. Yup, this guy was a master thief...if he lived in the world of Monopoly

The suspect was filmed breaking into the YMCA Child Development Center in California by busting through the ceiling tiles and dropping to the floor. Once on the ground, he made his way to a [toy] cash register, smashed it open, and pocketed the [phony] cash inside before exiting through the front door.

Local police believe the suspect is no stranger to this type of crime. 

“Thieves tend to have specific MOs that they follow, stuff they get comfortable with,” Sergeant Dan Marshall told reporters. “They don’t get caught doing it once and they figure, 'Hey, it’s a tried and true method,' and then they stick to it.”

According to ABC, local police are now using the footage to try and track down the suspect. I suggest they look for him in Candy Land.

Here is the video for your viewing pleasure: