Review: <i>Night Watch</i> by Iris & Roy Johansen Review: Night Watch by Iris & Roy Johansen Kristen Houghton Read Kristen Houghton's review! <i>The Champagne Conspiracy</i>: New Excerpt The Champagne Conspiracy: New Excerpt Ellen Crosby The 7th book in the Wine Country Mysteries series. <i>Ash Island</i>: New Excerpt Ash Island: New Excerpt Barry Maitland The 2nd book in the Belltree Trilogy. <i>Cataclysm</i>: New Excerpt Cataclysm: New Excerpt Tim Washburn Cataclysm is the latest thriller from Tim Washburn.
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Oct 19 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

I was an information technology major in college, and in one exam, we were asked to write a program involving the colors black and white. Having an artistic bent, I named it Chiaroscuro, to the bemusement of my lecturer (and several of my classmates, who reacted in much the same way Inspector Beauvoir does to the word in this novel while at an art show).

Which, I’m hoping, goes some way to explain how much I enjoy the many references to the visual arts in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels—and especially in this, the 7th book in the series. Clara Morrow, Ms. Penny’s admitted fictional stand-in, is finally getting a solo show that looks set to launch her reputation and career. A party post-vernissage in Three Pines seems like the perfect way to celebrate … till a body is discovered in Clara’s garden.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Oct 19 2016 3:00pm

Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland: A Visual Guide

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

This week, Josie runs into lies, murder, and Tiffany lamps in Jane K. Cleland's 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Glow of Death! Take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Oct 19 2016 1:00pm

Marvel’s Luke Cage Season 1 Review: Episodes 8-10

Like a lot of story types—Westerns, soap operas, romantic comedies—there are limits to what superhero tales can deliver. You don’t have to read too many Marvel or DC comics before you start seeing familiar patterns and structures, and when you translate those comics to the big and small screens, you don’t break free of those patterns. There are still ways to make the stories interesting while respecting the limitations, you just need to get creative.

For Luke Cage, the show’s producers brought in a very original use of the show’s terrific soundtrack. Plus, they showed a neighborhood hardly ever depicted before in any kind of adventure fiction. But if you’re going to go thirteen episodes into a superhero TV show, the patterns will assert themselves at some point and the limitations will call for more creativity.

So with Episodes 8-10 of Luke Cage, we enter the trough, and the show’s creators have to take some time to set up the series climax. And with some of the strongest parts of the cast now in the ground, it feels like they’re working with lesser clay. I don’t know if the show can ever recover from the loss of Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, played with perfect menacing charisma by Mahershala Ali. But Alfre Woodard is hardly chopped liver—and neither is Rosario Dawson—and Mike Colter and Simone Missick have proven themselves as very watchable actors. So let’s see how everyone performs when they have to step up.

[Read Hector DeJean's review of Episodes 8-10...]

Oct 19 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: October 18, 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, Christmas comes early with David Rosenfelt's latest Andy Carpenter novel and the world of Twin Peaks gets a little larger! Check out what else came out this week:

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

Oct 19 2016 10:00am

The Oslo Conspiracy: New Excerpt

Asle Skredderberget

The Oslo Conspiracy: A Thriller by Asle SkredderbergetThe Oslo Conspiracy by Asle Skredderberget is a new twist in thrillers that is certain to captivate readers who like their heroes rich, handsome, caring, and very, very sexy. (Available October 25, 2016).

A scientist is found dead in a hotel room in Rome. Before she is strangled, she manages to scribble a few words on a piece of paper.

Milo Cavalli is sent to help out with the investigation in Italy, since he is familiar with Italian red tape. Milo finds the note from the scientist, and he also learns that earlier her kid brother had been killed in a schoolyard.

Milo becomes obsessed with finding out if there is a link between the two murders—the sister strangled in Italy and the brother shot in Norway. And he is willing to use his vast fortune and special connections—especially when those connections involve beautiful.


Present Day, Rome

There are two types of people.

Those who start to panic when they know they’re going to die. And those who stay calm, as if the very certainty makes their thoughts weighty.

She stood there quietly looking at him and knew it was over. Obviously she could have tried to slam the door, thrown herself toward the bed and tried to call reception. Or run out onto the little balcony and tried to make herself heard over the Rome traffic six stories below.

[Read the full excerpt from The Oslo Conspiracy...]

Oct 18 2016 4:00pm

What Is Your Favorite B-Movie Horror Classic?

Ahhh, the B movie. Originally coined as the lower half, less publicized film on the bill of a double feature, the B movie has evolved to encompass any film that appears to be particularly genre, low budget, or exploitative in nature. What this genre has produced is a treasure trove of bad special effects, awful dialog, and a level of camp that is unmatched—particularly in horror.

However, for all of the unwatchable films this produced, every now and then, a nugget of pure gold would be forged in the creative minds and over-the-top ideas that had scores of people watching these films over and over and over. All the blood and gore, guns and bad puns, these films remain legendary. 

So, which B-movie horror classic is YOUR favorite? 

[Vote below!]

Oct 18 2016 3:00pm

Review: A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander

A Terrible Beauty (Lady Emily Series #11) by Tasha AlexanderA Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander is the 11th Lady Emily Mystery, where Lady Emily travels to Greece where a ghost from her past returns to haunt her amid the ruins.

One of the things I love about historical fiction is seeing the world through the lens of the past, along with the thrill of discovery. Tasha Alexander’s A Terrible Beauty takes the reader on a journey to Greece and offers them a tale of ancient myth and present-day mystery.

Hoping to cheer up her lovelorn friend, Lady Emily designs a trip to Greece and a relaxing stay at her home on Santorini. Along with her husband and another friend, the quartet set out for peace, quiet, and restoration. Upon arriving, however, Lady Emily discovers a dead man in one of her guest rooms and another standing before her. Philip Ashton, Emily’s first husband, died in Africa a decade earlier but currently stands in her foyer.

He offers a tale of attempted murder, mistaken identity, and a rare historical find: a piece of bronze, allegedly part of the helmet of the great warrior Achilles. Reeling from the revelation that Philip indeed appears alive, Emily finds herself thrown into the hunt for the now missing Achilles bronze, dealing with assassins, and her failed attempts at a relaxing getaway.

I find Emily somewhat a kindred spirit: marrying a man she barely knows to get out of her mother’s house, the small joy of having him run off to leave her to her own devices, her fantastic and well-honed sarcasm:

My mother insists—rather emphatically, if not quite hysterically—that respectable wives should have the decency to faint when about to be confronted by a spouse long thought to be dead. It should surprise no one of my acquaintance to learn I failed her on that account. My knees did not so much as sway at Mrs. Katevatis’s news. While I would like to credit my strong constitution, my dislike of affectation, and the generally imperturbable quality of my character, it would be somewhat dishonest to do so. This is not, as Colin suggests, a result of my having an incorrect grasp of the definition of imperturbable, a term he insists suits him far better than me. 

Rather, it was due to having been barraged with thoughts of Philip even before we left England.

After receiving the mysterious envelope addressed to The Viscountess Ashton, finding Philip’s journal on my desk, hearing his name spoken aloud in the London Zoo, and twice having thought I saw him since leaving Britain, I was all but primed for his appearance.

“Yes, Nico. He arrived last night with a friend. There had been an accident of some sort—”

And then, as if he had never been gone all these years, a figure stepped into the doorway, interrupting her. “I imagine it would be best if I took things from here, Mrs. Katevatis, ευχαριστώ … Thank you.”

My feet felt as if they had been encased in lead while some evil force drained all the blood from my body. He stood not quite so tall as I remembered, but I recognized his sandy hair. There had been a time when I could not recall whether his eyes were blue or gray, and I had asked Colin to remind me, but now, seeing their pale cornflower again, they were instantly familiar. His nose was not quite as I recalled, but those eyes were unmistakable. My jaw went slack, and I felt myself start to sway. I have always prided myself on not fainting, but if ever an occasion called for it, it was this. However, I did not succumb and was already steadying myself when Colin reached out to assist me just as Philip—but it could not be Philip!—stepped forward, his arms stretched before him.

“Er—I—perhaps—” Colin stumbled over the words. I could not remember when I had last heard my husband reduced to incoherent inanities.

“Quite,” the man replied with a grin. “I could not have said it better myself.”

“I require no assistance,” I said, backing away from both of them. “I merely—”

“Whisky,” Margaret said. “At once.” She put a firm arm around my shoulder and pushed me into the house.”

Not to say that I’ve married anyone for the sake of getting away from my mother, but I’d be lying if it weren’t a tempting thought. And I certainly appreciate Margaret. She knows how to deal with the inexplicable. 

The story is sprinkled with fine moments of sass, and Emily has a large measure of autonomy and agency, which I appreciate. I do wish there had been more regarding Emily’s investigations into Philip’s death. To be honest, if I married a man I barely knew and he ran off to another continent where he unfortunately perished, I’m not sure I’d suddenly deem his death suspicious. There’s also no given reason for the conclusions Emily finds, so it feels more like a dropped plot line than something substantial to the story. 

Emily also has a tendency to slip into textbook style descriptions and historical background, which rocked me out of the narrative. However, if you’re a fan of Greek mythology and history, this should be right up your alley. My only other criticism is that the prologue doesn’t seem to fit. The Emily we meet first is not the Emily who drives the story, which is set a decade later. Given the hint about her investigating her first husband’s death, I thought that was the story I’d be told. 

A Terrible Beauty does have it’s merits: the voice is good, the use of Greek mythology is interesting, and the basis for the narrative is derived from a true account of mistaken and assumed identities. If you’re looking for a nice fall read with a dash of romance, along with mystery and a taste for Greece, give this one a shot. 

Take a visual tour of A Terrible Beauty with GIFnotes!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at

Oct 18 2016 1:00pm

Maze Gets Hammered: Exploring the Mythology Behind Lucifer, Episode 2.04: “Lady Parts”

Finally, we can delve into Maze. I’ve been itching to look more closely at this wonderful character, and she finally opened the door. During the epic girls’ night out, Maze tells us she “was forged in the bowels of hell to torture the guilty for all of eternity.” First, that sounds like a crummy job to have, and she’s not happy to have that job for eternity. Maze has been struggling to find her place in the world, away from Lucifer, and her origin explains why.

The wording is very specific—that she was forged, like a piece of iron, like a tool to do a specific job, similar to the implements she brandished in front of Mum a couple of weeks back. The implication here is that she doesn’t have a soul and that, as a being, she’s struggling to understand a purpose beyond the one for which she was made. Her revelation doesn’t indicate who forged her, but she has been tied to Lucifer from the beginning so the Magic 8 Ball would likely tell us, “Signs point to yes.” Hopefully we’ll know more about this as the season progresses.

[Outlook not so good...]

Oct 18 2016 12:00pm

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

After being deformed and disfigured and finally meeting the prisoner in Part I, we make contact in Eddie Dean's when—and there's gonna be a showdown. Join our discussion of Part II of The Drawing of the Three

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 finally make contact with the prisoner and join Eddie Dean in his when for a showdown. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part II of The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner, Chapter 3: “Contact and Landing” – The Prisoner, Chapter 5: “Showdown and Shootout.”

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[Theeeerrrrrreeee's gonna be a shooowwwdown...]

Oct 18 2016 10:03am

The Inheritance: New Excerpt

Charles Finch

Inheritance: A Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch The Inheritance by Charles Finch is the 10th book in the Charles Lenox series (Available November 1, 2016).

Charles Lenox has received a cryptic plea for help from an old Harrow schoolmate, Gerald Leigh, but when he looks into the matter he finds that his friend has suddenly disappeared. As boys they had shared a secret: a bequest from a mysterious benefactor had smoothed Leigh’s way into the world after the death of his father. Lenox, already with a passionate interest in detective work, made discovering the benefactor's identity his first case – but was never able to solve it.

Now, years later, Leigh has been the recipient of a second, even more generous bequest. Is it from the same anonymous sponsor? Or is the money poisoned by ulterior motives? Leigh’s disappearance suggests the latter, and as Lenox tries, desperately, to save his friend’s life, he’s forced into confrontations with both the most dangerous of east end gangs and the far more genteel denizens of the illustrious Royal Society. When someone close to the bequest dies, Lenox must finally delve deep into the past to uncover at last the identity of the person who is either his friend’s savior – or his lethal enemy.


London was silent with snow; soft flakes of it dropping evenly into the white streets; nobody outside who had somewhere inside to be. It was the third day of the year. Already the light was fading, though it was scarcely past two o’clock in the afternoon, and in his study in Mayfair, Charles Lenox allowed his watchful eyes to rest upon the large set of windows at the opposite end of the room, the long room, far from the dying fire by which he sat.

He was alone in the house but for servants. His wife, Jane, and their four-year-old daughter, Sophia, were still at her brother’s house in the country, but business, on behalf of the detective agency of which he numbered one of the three partners, had drawn him back to London earlier than he had anticipated.

[Read the full excerpt from The Inheritance...]

Oct 17 2016 3:00pm

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women is the 1st book in the new Lady Sherlock series, where USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down (Available October 18, 2016).

I suppose I should admit my experience with England’s most infamous detective is limited to the BBC’s cinematic and frustratingly short-seasoned drama, Sherlock, and childhood memories of half-hour reenactments featuring a Jack Russell Terrier in a deerstalker and trench coat. Though I’ve never actually read a Sherlock Holmes novel, I’d heard nothing but glowing praise for Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women. Recasting the intolerably clever detective as a woman seemed a perfect way to change the game, especially one the picture of ideal femininity.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of A Study in Scarlet Women...]

Oct 17 2016 1:00pm

Rosemary’s Baby: A Halloween Page to Screen Classic!

Ah, to be young and newly married and looking for that perfect first place to live! Such much fun, so many concerns—some of which are will we get the apartment we really want and will we get along with our new neighbors?

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are an ordinary young couple who believe they’ve found their dream place at a gothic looking, pre-war building called The Bramford. It’s large and surprisingly inexpensive. Despite being warned that The Bramford has a disturbing history involving witchcraft and murder, they choose to overlook this and settle into their nice, large apartment. Hey, you can’t really blame them; cheap, expansive pre-war NYC apartments are hard to find!

Getting along with the neighbors doesn’t seem to be a problem either, since Minnie and Roman Castevet, an eccentric elderly couple in the nearby apartment, seems to take an interest in the young pair. 

[A creepy, Satanic interest...]

Oct 17 2016 12:00pm

Long Shot: Audio Excerpt

Jack Coughlin and Donald A. Davis

Long Shot by Gunnery Sgt. Jack Coughlin and Donald A. Davis is book #9 in the Kyle Swanson Sniper Novels series.

A top Russian intelligence agent has defected to the West and the only man with whom he will speak is Kyle Swanson, who busted him out of the U.S. Marine Corps Scout/Sniper School years ago. The defector proves to be an Edward Snowden-type gold mine of amazing secrets about the When, Where and How of President Vladimir Pushkin's next grab for lost Soviet territory.

But Swanson, now a special contractor with the CIA, soon begins to believe that it is all fool's gold being sprinkled by Moscow to ignite an open military fight with NATO and the United States.

Using his own deadly methods, the sniper sets out to find the truth, but to slow him down, the Russians kidnap Swanson's beautiful friend Calico, the CIA station chief in Estonia..

From Italy to the Arctic Circle, Kyle Swanson is on the hunt, convinced that the defector actually is running a complex plot to hand Russia a kingdom in the north. But Swanson seems always to be a step behind because there is a traitor within his own chain of command. To stop the madness, Swanson must deliver a kill shot a hundred miles away from a border bridge in Estonia, where a Russian Army waits on the far shore as a government official crosses over with an invitation to invade.

[Listen to an audio excerpt from Long Shot...]

Oct 17 2016 10:00am

No Witness but the Moon: New Excerpt

Suzanne Chazin

No Witness but the Moon by Suzanne Chazin is the 3rd book in the Jimmy Vega Mystery series, featuring a tense stand-off between a Hispanic police officer and an undocumented immigrant that leads to the shooting death of one, the shattered life of the other, and the shocking connection between them (Available October 25, 2016).

Read this exclusive excerpt from No Witness but the Moon by Suzanne Chazin, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win the latest Jimmy Vega mystery!

On a clear, moonlit night in December, police detective Jimmy Vega races to the scene of a reported home invasion in an upscale New York community. As Vega arrives, he spots a Hispanic man who fits the description of the armed intruder, running from the victim’s estate. Vega chases him into the woods. When the suspect refuses to surrender—and reaches into his pocket—Vega has only seconds to make a life-or-death decision.

What begins as a tragic mistake takes an even darker turn when Vega uncovers disturbing links between the dead man and his own mother’s brutal, unsolved murder. Vega’s need for answers propels him back to his old Bronx neighborhood, where he is viewed as a disgraced cop, not a homegrown hero. It also puts him at odds with his girlfriend, Adele Figueroa, head of a local immigrant center, who must weigh her own doubts about his behavior.

When a shocking piece of evidence surfaces, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Vega to put all the pieces together—and is willing to do whatever it takes to bury the truth. Only by risking everything will Vega be able to find justice, redemption, and the most elusive goal of all: the ability to forgive himself. 

[Read an excerpt from No Witness but the Moon...]

Oct 16 2016 10:00pm

Westworld 1.03: “The Stray” Episode Review

I guess if you want to gift a robot a thought-provoking piece of literature, then Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is a fine choice. “Who in the world am I?” Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) reads aloud from the classic that Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) passes to her in another of their covert meetings. 

But it would seem Dolores has an equally provocative “present” in return when she asks Bernard the whereabouts of his son. He dodges the question by telling her it would be too hard for her to understand, but is intrigued why she would pose the question in the first place. To have a conversation, she needs to ask personal questions, Dolores explicates, and it would appear by his expression that she has pleasantly surprised Westworld’s head of programming with her advanced cognitive abilities.

[Read David Cranmer's review of “The Stray”...]

Oct 14 2016 1:00pm

7 Books to Read If You Loved The Others

As the days get shorter and an autumn chill finally rolls in, nothing quite hits the spot like some ghostly, gothic fiction. October is a time for witches, spooks, and all things macabre.

If you're like me, you line up a full 31 days worth of horror films, stock the bedside table with spooky novels, and wish you had a dramatic robe to wear as you stalk the somber halls of a cobwebby mansion ringing with tortured echoes...

Ahem. As I was saying: it's not hard to find a good movie this time of year, what with every station devoting the entire month to a line-up of horror. A bit harder to find is a really solid chiller, the sort of book that'll keep you up long past the witching hour.

So allow me to recommend just a handful of my favorites, a few books right up there with The Others in terms of atmosphere and unsettling themes...

[See what you'll be reading this month!]

Oct 14 2016 11:00am

Cop Caught Masturbating in Cruiser

I normally highlight bad guys who do stupid or strange acts of crime. But this week, I am turning the tables a bit. A police officer from Pennsylvania is accused of masturbating in his patrol car.

Two women told investigators that they saw the officer in question exposing himself while sitting in his cruiser—once last month and another time on October 5th, based on the report that was filed.

According to, when confronted, the police officer told state troopers that he was attempting to—get this—"stimulate himself and stay awake.”

The officer, Glenn C. Woolard, is a three-year veteran with the force who has never been in trouble before. He is also a former Army Ranger. He has been charge with two counts of indecent exposure and two counts of disorderly conduct and awaits his day in court.

Oct 14 2016 10:00am

The Secret History of Twin Peaks: New Excerpt

Mark Frost

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark FrostFrom the co-creator of the landmark series, the story millions of fans have been waiting to get their hands on for 25 long years (Available October 18, 2016).

The Secret History of Twin Peaks enlarges the world of the original series, placing the unexplained phenomena that unfolded there into a vastly layered, wide-ranging history, beginning with the journals of Lewis and Clark and ending with the shocking events that closed the finale. The perfect way to get in the mood for the upcoming Showtime series.

Dear Agent                     

The accompanying material is confidential and approved for your eyes only.

The enclosed dossier was recovered on 7-17-2016 from a crime scene that is still under active investigation. All details of this situation are classified three levels above top secret.

[Read the full excerpt from The Secret History of Twin Peaks...]