Discount: <i>Coup D'état</i> by Ben Coes Discount: Coup D'état by Ben Coes Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99 through February! <i>Beautiful Broken Girls</i>: New Excerpt Beautiful Broken Girls: New Excerpt Kim Savage The latest novel from the author of the critically acclaimed After the Woods. Discount: <i>A Fatal Grace</i> by Louise Penny Discount: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99! Review: <i>Snowed In with Murder</i> by Auralee Wallace Review: Snowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace Janet Webb Read Janet Webb's review!
From The Blog
February 20, 2017
Happy President's Day to the Most Famous Lawyer/Thriller-Writer In History (It’s Not Who You Think)
Barry Lancet and Anthony Franze
February 16, 2017
Page to Screen: The Birds: du Maurier & Hitchcock
Scott Adlerberg
February 14, 2017
Ladies First: Groundbreaking Women in Crime Fiction
kristen lepionka
February 14, 2017
Celebrate Valentine's Day with These Criminal Couples
Dave Richards
February 9, 2017
Announcing 2017's Audie Awards Nominees
Crime HQ
Feb 15 2017 10:00am

The English Agent: New Excerpt

Phillip DePoy

The English Agent by Phillip DePoy The English Agent by Phillip DePoy is the 2nd book in the Christopher Marlowe historical mystery series (available February 21, 2017).

In 1583, young Christopher Marlowe—student, brawler, rakehell, and would-be playwright—has had a dreadful evening. The first performance of his play in the corner of a very disreputable Cambridge bar is a humiliating flop, and then he’s attacked on the streets while in the company of Thomas Kyd. So when Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, sends for him, Marlowe is only too happy to go.

The assignment is go to Holland, where England’s ally, William the Silent, is the target of a Spanish assassination plot—a plot that is only the first step in the latest attempt to usurp the throne of England.



Christopher Marlowe sat at his usual table near the fireplace in The Pickerel public house. By his side: the most irritating mentor with whom God had ever cursed a poet, or so Marlowe was thinking at that moment. Thomas Kyd, dressed in blue frills, the highest London fashion, was fat, drunken, lewd, and smoking. To make matters worse, the noise of the place was maddening. A makeshift stage in a corner of The Pickerel was colorful but, alas, not the liveliest nor even the loudest spot in the public house. In addition to being a place for students to gather, it was the second best brothel in Cambridge. The clientele were ale sodden, rude, and entirely unencumbered by social restraint—and that on an ordinary day. To make matters even worse, the riverside location assured the presence of sailing men, cutpurses, traveling criminals, and general miscreants in addition to the studious young men on their way from better places to a class at the college.

[Read an excerpt from The English Agent...]

Feb 14 2017 2:30pm

Ladies First: Groundbreaking Women in Crime Fiction

Any mystery lover knows how significant Agatha Christie is to the crime-fiction genre. But she wasn’t the only woman on the scene—nor the first. Women crime writers have always been influential in the world of mysteries, and here are a few who may be less familiar to even a dedicated reader.

If you were investigating the case of the modern crime novel—scouring its pages for prints, swabbing carefully to get a read on its DNA—you might expect the trail of its origins to lead back to the usual suspects: Dupin and Holmes, Poirot and Marple, Spenser and Sam Spade. But this literary genealogy is incomplete without the inclusion of the women (many of them not named Agatha Christie) who helped shape the genre but haven't commanded lasting literary attention. Inspect the list below to find any number of overlooked gems that deserve a second look. 

[Read about crime fiction's women author pioneers!]

Feb 14 2017 1:00pm

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with These Criminal Couples

Love is an incredibly powerful emotion. So it’s no surprise that it’s a big motivating force in crime fiction. It sends broken criminals and lawmen on quests for redemption, and it can lead upstanding citizens on obsessive, self-destructive journeys. Sometimes, it can even do both. It also creates romantic pairings between some fascinating characters. 

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorite couples from crime fiction in several different mediums. I’ll talk a little bit about the pairing, the appeal, and—if it was featured in multiple stories—some good ones to check out. That way you can celebrate in your preferred medium of choice with some tales about the power of love and how it motivates some compelling criminals, antiheroes, and vigilantes.

[Love is in the air...]

Feb 14 2017 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass, Part VI

Last week, the tension built as the man in black showed up in Mejis. This week, plans are set in motion as we move towards a final showdown. 

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, plans are set in motion and our ka-tet finds themselves arrested for treason. Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part VI of Wizard and Glass: Come, Reap: Chapter 5 “Wizard's Rainbow” – Chapter 7: “Taking the Ball”!

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[There's gonna be a showdown...]

Feb 14 2017 10:00am

Stolen: New Excerpt

Carey Baldwin

Stolen by Carey Baldwin Stolen by Carey Baldwin is the 5th Cassidy & Spenser Thriller.

Is she missing…or a murderer?

When Laura Chaucer, daughter of a U.S. senator, vanishes from her college campus, celebrated FBI profilers Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in. Thirteen years ago, Laura and her nanny disappeared from her family’s Denver home. Laura was found alive, but her nanny wasn’t so lucky… and the killer was never caught. Laura could identify him—if only she didn’t have a deep, dark hole in her memory.

Now she’s missing again. Did the troubled young woman run away or has the kidnapper returned? As women who look eerily similar to Laura’s nanny begin turning up dead, the Chaucer family psychiatrist renders a disturbing opinion: Laura is unstable, a danger to herself and others. Who knows what terrible secrets lurk in the shadowy recesses of her mind? Cassidy and Spenser must solve one of the most infamous cold cases ever to uncover the answer: Is Laura a killer, or is a monster still out there, waiting to claim another victim?

[Read an excerpt from Stolen...]

Feb 13 2017 5:30pm

First in Series: Homicide: Life on the Street

In January, 1993, right after airing Super Bowl XXVII, NBC premiered the series Homicide: Life on the Street. I remember watching the first episode then because I had seen the promo spots for it during the game, and it appeared to be an intriguing enough police show to give it a try.

It’s amusing now to think which names I knew from among the creators and original cast and which I didn’t. NBC played up that filmmaker Barry Levinson was a driving force behind the show, and this did impress me. He’d made films I’d liked such as Diner, Tin Men, and The Natural, and as a Baltimore native who’d made good films set in the city, his involvement suggested that the Baltimore-set production might be something other than a conventional cop show.

[And for 7 seasons, that's exactly what it was...]

Feb 13 2017 4:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.09: “Rock in the Road”

Last night's episode of The Walking Dead had more of a familiar feel to it, as a number of our (anti)heroes fell back into their comfort zones and began doing what they do best—in stark contrast to the relentless dread and misery they (and we, the viewers) experienced throughout the entire first half of the season. Rick is wheeling and dealing (hopefully in a more measured way than aggro-Alpha-Rick from last season), Maggie (and the Hilltop) has had enough of Gregory's shit, and the Alexandrians are ready to fight back.

Will this renewed sense of hope and winds of rebellion end up spelling disaster for our heroes? Probably. But until then...

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Feb 13 2017 2:00pm

Review: A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming

A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming is the 3rd book in the Thomas Kell series (available February 14, 2017).

Charles Cumming, a British writer of spy fiction that's been called an heir to John le Carré, has written his 3rd Thomas Kell spy thriller, A Divided Spy. Cumming, once employed by MI6, writes from his own experience in the Secret Intelligence Service. His polished prose reflects his education at Eton College and the University of Edinburgh.

In A Divided Spy, which takes place mostly in London, Cumming introduces us to spycraft through his protagonist Thomas Kell, who is a former MI6 agent. Kell resigned four years earlier after the assassination of his lover Rachel Wallinger, also an MI6 agent.

Kell’s thirst for revenge and his emotional life are at the heart of this engaging story. No one in spy stories seems happy, and Kell is no exception. Besides his grief over the death of his lover, Kell questions the life of an agent—which he describes as one of lying, deception, and the sacrificing of relationships. He’s lost his marriage, he has no children, and he feels isolated and alone. So why become a spy at all? Kell reveals his motives for joining SIS as a young man:

More than twenty years earlier, Kell had joined SIS in a spirit of undiluted patriotism. To save lives, to defend and protect the kingdom, had seemed to him both a noble and an exhilarating pursuit for a young man with adventure in his blood. Now that London was a city of Africans and Americans, of Hollande-fleeing French, of Eastern Europeans too young to have known the impediments of communism, he felt no different. The landscape had changed, yet Kell still felt wedded to an idea ofEngland as the country evolved, even as that idea shifted and slipped beneath his feet. There were days when he longed to return to active duty, to stand once again at Amelia’s side. But he had allowed the personal to overcome the political.

Kell knows that an Alexander Minasian—a Russian spy working for SVR, Russia’s external intelligence agency—killed Rachel. He’s lived uncomfortably with this knowledge for four years.

Kell stepped off the train and registered the familiar acid taste of his implacable resentment. It was the one thing he had been unable to control. He had come to terms with the end of his marriage, he had mastered his grief, reasoned that his professional future lay beyond the walls of Vauxhall Cross. Yet Kell could not still a yearning for vengeance. He wanted to seek out those in Moscow who had given the order for Rachel’s assassination. He wanted justice.

Through happenstance, Kell is offered information and an opportunity to actually snare Minasian and avenge the death of his lover. Harold Mowbray—Kell’s once seemingly loyal SIS underling—discovered condemning information on Manasian that will ruin his career in the SVR. This information plays a key role in the story and drives Kell back into the spy game. But when he attempts to gain assistance from MI6, they turn him down and question his judgement.

Another assassination occurs, also related to Minasian, and Kell approaches MI6 again, but they continue to question his judgment and refuse involvement. So he continues on his own.

Kell, however, even questions himself at one point. With more exposure to Minasian, he questions whether his own conclusions about Rachel’s assassination are true.

Kell was beginning to doubt his longheld belief that Minasian had encouraged Rachel’s murder. He felt that the decision had come from Moscow and that Minasian had been overruled when he tried to stop it. He had no evidence for this other than a sense that the man sitting in front of him was too canny, too cautious and all-seeing, to have made such a rash move. Rachel’s death had been a senseless act, not only morally indefensible but strategically pointless. Minasian was surely far too subtle to sink to such depths or to sully his reputation so needlessly.

“I know that the order to kill Rachel came from Moscow,” he repeated, “just as I know that my Service had nothing to do with what happened today.... I believe you were betrayed by your own people.”

Minasian looked toward the lens of the iPhone, longing to switch it off so that he could speak with total openness.

“Believe what you want,” he said. “I know my own people. I know my own side.”

“You can do better than this, surely?” Minasian replied, revealing an unsurprising gift for withering condescension. Kell was not deterred.

Cumming develops Minasian’s deviousness so well that we don’t know—and neither does Kell—if Minasian is being honest with him or using tradecraft, telling him what he wants to hear. Nothing is out of reach in this world, it appears, and no treachery is forbidden.

While most spy thrillers throw so many characters and plots at you that you just get lost after a while, this highly readable tale keeps you abreast with easily digestible facts.

A smaller plot, but no less intriguing, is the threat of a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber on an English town. If you have a healthy curiosity, you may wonder how terrorists obtain legitimate papers, passports, and alternative identities. Cumming offers one highly believable scenario, which you’ll have to read the book to discover, and there’s also a peek into the thinking of a suicide bomber:

As soon as he saw Rosie Maguire for the first time, Shahid Khan knew that she was going to change everything. He had not taken any of the girls who had been offered to him in Syria. Women came to the Caliphate to serve as brides to the warriors fighting against the forces of Assad. Shahid had felt no desire for their company, for the arrangement of marriage, for the physical benefits of a shared bed. He had felt that a woman would distract him from his commitment to the cause. In this respect he was unlike many of the other soldiers who were fighting inside Iraq and Syria. He knew that Jalal had sensed this and recognized that there was something different about him, something special. Jalal had seen the discipline and the focus in Shahid’s personality. This was one of the reasons why he had been chosen for the important operation in England.

Later we are told more about Shahid’s ultimate desire:

It was the destiny of Shahid Khan to avenge the Prophet. Shahid knew that his act of martyrdom would take him from Rosie, but that he would be rewarded in paradise with pleasures far greater than those he had known on this earth.

Again, Kell turns to MI6 with the information about the potential terrorist attack. Again, they doubt his facts and judgment and think he’s being played. Again, Kell is on his own.

Will Thomas Kell actually satisfy his desire to find justice for Rachel? Was Minasian actually responsible for Rachel’s senseless death? Or was it Moscow? Will Kell stop Shahid from killing? Will MI6 finally get on board? What about Rosie?

As this spy story twists and turns, we learn that we can’t even trust our own judgment. You have to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Read an excerpt from A Divided Spy or take a visual tour with GIFnotes!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Amazon



Dorothy H. Hayes is the author of Murder at the P&Z and Broken Window from Mainly Murder Press. She’s been known to blog at Women of Mystery. 

Read all posts by Dorothy H. Hayes for Criminal Element.

Feb 13 2017 1:00pm

The Player: Why Robert Altman’s Hollywood Satire Is an Even Better Film 25 Years Later

Screenplay writers hate Hollywood! It really is as simple as that.

There's a good chance you would too if you had to go through all the studio bullshit (i.e., studio rewrites, budget cuts, lame-brain producers) just to see a version of your project reach theaters that barely resembles what you had in mind.

Just ask Michael Tolkin, who came to Holywood in the 1980s with aspirations of writing scripts that felt like Steven Spielberg meets Reiner Werner Fassbinder (Ha! Like that’d ever happen.) and eventually found it to be a lost cause. Instead though, Tolkin decided to use his hardships of working in Hollywood as a basis for a crime novel, The Player, and it ended up being his bridge towards finally having a fruitful career in the cinematic world. In 1992, the book was adapted into a film, with Tolkin supplying the screenplay and Robert Altman helming it as director.

[In the name of all writers ... I'm going to kill you]

Feb 13 2017 11:00am

I See You: New Excerpt

Clare Mackintosh

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 (available February 21, 2017).

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called 

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target. 

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

[Read an excerpt from I See You...]

Feb 11 2017 10:00am

Among the Ruins: New Excerpt

Ausma Khan

Among the Ruins by Ausma Zehanat KhanAmong the Ruins by Ausma Zehanat Khan is the 3rd book in the Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak series (available February 14, 2017).

On leave from Canada’s Community Policing department, Esa Khattak is traveling in Iran, reconnecting with his cultural heritage and seeking peace in the country’s beautiful mosques and gardens. But Khattak’s supposed break from work is cut short when he’s approached by a Canadian government agent in Iran, asking him to look into the death of renowned Canadian-Iranian filmmaker Zahra Sobhani. Zahra was murdered at Iran’s notorious Evin prison, where she’d been seeking the release of a well-known political prisoner. Khattak quickly finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the regime, but when the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls on his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help.

Rachel uncovers a conspiracy linked to the Shah of Iran and the decades-old murders of a group of Iran’s most famous dissidents. Historic letters, a connection to the Royal Ontario Museum, and a smuggling operation on the Caspian Sea are just some of the threads Rachel and Khattak begin unraveling, while the list of suspects stretches from Tehran to Toronto. But as Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been a political crime at all.

[Read an excerpt from Among the Ruins...]

Feb 10 2017 4:30pm

“A Divided Dry” Layered Beer

When you're afforded an opportunity for long sought-after revenge, celebrate with a few beers first! 

And don't worry about choosing between your two favorites ... have the best of both worlds with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—“A Divided Dry," a layered beer inspired by Charles Cumming's 3rd Thomas Kell novel, A Divided Spy!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Feb 10 2017 3:00pm

The Best Crime Dramas to Binge Watch Now

Oh the joy of binge-watching! Everyone has been talking about a show that you’ve promised yourself you’d “get to,” but somehow you never have the time when the episodes are actually aired. But the appeal of the shows and your friends’ enthusiastic reviews are making you anxious to see what it’s all about. It’s time to binge-watch!

[I'll just watch one more...]

Feb 10 2017 1:30pm

Review: A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley ArmstrongA Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong is the 2nd book in the Casey Duncan series.

Author Kelley Armstrong delivers a gripping tale of mystery and survival in a harsh, unforgiving environment where a killer is on the loose. In this 2nd installment in the Casey Duncan series, we are back in Rockton—the secret, off-the-grid town made for those on the run from their pasts. Casey, once again, must find a killer in the wilds of Yukon, Canada.

Armstrong keeps the pacing at top speed with short chapters and hooks to pull the reader along. Before I knew it, I was well past the halfway point, although it didn’t feel like I had been reading long at all. I am a fan of short chapters and find that they serve their purpose well here. Armstrong also keeps the story flowing by adding depth and complication to the mystery as it deepens. Add in a compelling cast of characters and you’ve got great storytelling.

Casey is a very intriguing character by herself. She’s strong, petite, and can kick some series ass by way of her martial arts training. But she also has her share of faults and a muddied past. All of these things come together to make her a strong female lead.

[Read Amber Keller's review of A Darkness Absolute...]

Feb 10 2017 12:00pm

Burglar Gets Jammed in Chimney

Christmas might be over, but that is not stopping a burglar from using a chimney to enter homes. The only difference: Santa wasn't trying to rob you. He is also much better at chimney diving.

According to KUTV, Keith Schultz, 28, attempted to burglarize a home in California but snagged himself in the chimney while trying to break in. The local police were responding to a home alarm when they also received a call about someone needing help getting out of a chimney at the same location.

When police investigated the home, they found Schultz trapped in the chimney. He was shortly liberated from Santa's version of hell and arrested. Police surmise that Schultz tried to break into the house via the chimney, but when he got stuck, his friend attempted to get him out, which triggered the alarm system.

Schultz was arrested on first-degree burglary charges.

Feb 10 2017 10:00am

A Divided Spy: New Excerpt

Charles Cumming

A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming is the 3rd book in the Thomas Kell series (available February 14, 2017).

Thomas Kell thought he was done with spying. A former MI6 officer, he devoted his life to the Service, but it has left him with nothing but grief and a simmering anger against the Kremlin.

Then Kell is offered an unexpected chance at revenge. Taking the law into his own hands, he embarks on a mission to recruit a top Russian spy who is in possession of a terrifying secret. As Kell tracks his man from Moscow to London, he finds himself in a high stakes game of cat and mouse in which it becomes increasingly difficult to know who is playing whom.

As the mission reaches boiling point, the threat of a catastrophic terrorist attack looms over Britain. Kell is faced with an impossible choice. Loyalty to MI6—or to his own conscience?

Take a visual tour of A Divided Spy with GIFnotes!

[Read an excerpt from A Divided Spy...]

Feb 9 2017 4:30pm

Review: Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan

Long Time Lost by Chris EwanChris Ewan's Long Time Lost is a fast-paced, standalone thriller.

Long Time Lost is a very sharp, finely-crafted thriller from page one. To kick off the story, Chris Ewan takes us to the Isle of Man where Nick Miller provides an unusual product to his customers. He and his colleagues specialize in relocating at-risk individuals, providing new identities and new lives for those who want to disappear and start over. 

The tension and rhythm of this thriller start from the very beginning and don’t let up. Nick is exceptionally good at what he does—and for good reason. He himself has been in hiding, living under an assumed name for years. Nothing like personal experience to make you a top-class provider who knows what the customer desires in order to satisfy the contract. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Long Time Lost...]

Feb 9 2017 3:30pm

Review: Zodiac by Sam Wilson

Zodiac by Sam Wilson is a startling new thriller with one of the most original concepts in years, where the line between a life of luxury and an existence of poverty can be determined by the stroke of midnight.

Here's an offbeat dystopian premise: a society divided and governed by Zodiac signs, where all walks of life—from the top-tier elites right down to the bottom-rung proletariats—are viewed through the prism of the astrological sign under which they are born that binds them to their particular lot in life. 

Our story opens in the city of San Celeste with Rachel, one of the working class who is employed by JiffyMaids. She arrives at the house where she is scheduled to clean and stops cold in her tracks when she notices the door has been forced open. She dials 911, and the dispatcher—who Rachel is glad to hear is a Libra—instructs her to stay put.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Zodiac...]