A Great Reckoning will be the 12th novel in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Pre-order your copy today!
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
A Great Reckoning will be the 12th novel in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Pre-order your copy today!
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish by Tim Flannery is set in 1932 and follows young anthropologist Archie Meek and the Great Venus Island Fetish—a ceremonial mask surrounded by 32 human skulls—that might be the key to the recent deaths and disappearances at the museum it resides in (Available February 2, 2016).
It’s 1932, and the Great Venus Island Fetish, a ceremonial mask surrounded by thirty-two human skulls, now resides in a museum in Sydney, Australia. But young anthropologist Archie Meek, recently returned from an extended field trip to Venus Island, has noticed something amiss: a strange discoloration on some of the skulls.
Has someone tampered with the fetish? Is there a link between it and the mysterious disappearance of Cecil Polkinghorne, curator of archaeology? And how did Eric Sopwith, retired mollusks expert, die in the museum’s storeroom? Could Archie’s life be at risk as well?
But these are not the only concerns that weigh upon the assistant curator’s mind. Why hasn’t his beloved Beatrice―registrar, anthropology―accepted his proposal of marriage and the love token he brought back from Venus Island? Has something been lost in translation?
Archibald Meek watched from the canoe as the muscular form of his adopted brother Cletus dived through the water, coming to rest atop a submerged coral bommie. Cletus stilled momentarily, then thrust his arm into a hidden cavity. A black cloud erupted, leaving only the man’s legs visible. Agame. The giant Pacific octopus. Archie’s eyes followed Cletus as he swam to the surface, the beast’s tentacles waving wildly.
Cletus bit into the animal’s head as he broke the surface, then flipped the lifeless mass into the canoe and catapulted himself aboard. Then he froze. For a moment Archie thought he’d glimpsed the great hammerhead shark that had been hunting the lagoon of late. It was longer than Cletus’ canoe and it moved hypnotically, as if to the throb of an invisible kundu drum—seeing all, sensing all. But it was not that. Cletus pointed with his lips. On the western horizon was the faintest of black streaks.
How long since a steamer last anchored in the lagoon? Long enough that Archie had begun to feel that steamers were things you saw only in dreams.
He had been living outside time, at least as it is measured by clocks and calendars, for almost five years. But that smudge of smoke announced that a ship was coming to restore him to a land where time is doled out in precise units.
The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan follows Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty as they investigate the murder of a friend who had been undercover in an Islamic terrorist cell that Rachel infiltrates herself to try and solve the case (Available February 2, 2016).
Detective Esa Khattak heads up Canada's Community Policing Section, which handles minority-sensitive cases across all levels of law enforcement. Khattak is still under scrutiny for his last case, so he's surprised when INSET, Canada's national security team, calls him in on another politically sensitive issue. For months, INSET has been investigating a local terrorist cell which is planning an attack on New Year's Day. INSET had an informant, Mohsin Dar, undercover inside the cell. But now, just weeks before the attack, Mohsin has been murdered at the group's training camp deep in the woods.
INSET wants Khattak to give the appearance of investigating Mohsin's death, and then to bury the lead. They can't risk exposing their operation, or Mohsin's role in it. But Khattak used to know Mohsin, and he knows he can't just let this murder slide. So Khattak sends his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, undercover into the unsuspecting mosque which houses the terrorist cell. As Rachel tentatively reaches out into the unfamiliar world of Islam, and begins developing relationships with the people of the mosque and the terrorist cell within it, the potential reasons for Mohsin's murder only seem to multiply, from the political and ideological to the intensely personal.
I came between a man and his thoughts,
like a breeze thrown over
the face of the moon.
The snatch of poetry caught at Mohsin’s thoughts, making a mockery of the thousands of burnt-out stars flung wide against the banner of the sky. Penniless stars, spending their dying light in hopes of winning accolades from poets who thought of nothing save the rumpus of love, except as a point of comparison.
The blue night of Cuba, stars in her hair—
Her eyes like stars, starry-eyed, in fact—
Bright star, glowing star, lost star, falling star, the countless congregation, the silver-washed dusk, the pinpricks of night—
Mohsin found the celestial images ridiculous.
Especially when his personal light had gone unheralded—how cavalier of the poets not to have spoken of Mohsin’s wife.
Sitara, he thought. This wasn’t how I expected to die.
Reading Graveyard Love, I'm reminded of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. William Holden as Joe Gillis typing away for the vanity and delusions of a demented old hag named Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson. Remember how his work environment decayed into an endless abyss of her crumbling memories, broken-down expectations, and finally led to good old-fashioned murder? Well, in Scott Adlerberg’s latest, a young man named Kurt is even more shackled to a woman—in this case his mother.
She wants her son, a struggling writer, to compose her memoir, which he reluctantly does. Kurt has had some success writing a piece for The New Yorker about his late father, and Kurt assumes his mother—who was always competitive with her deceased spouse—wants to top the magazine article with a novel of her own exploits.
Not exactly a healthy relationship to begin with.
Then, their working and living arrangements become even tenser when she nit-picks about the way he's recording her recollections. On one occasion, he shuts her demands down by quacking like a duck! One can only imagine the emotional drain it would be for a son to have to document his mother's entire life, including candid sexual history—she eerily instructs, “You’ve got to convey that my body was hot for him.”
One of the funniest movies of last year—albeit, one that not a lot of people know about—was the vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows. Written and starring New Zealand’s Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (the latter of HBO’s Flight of the Concords fame), this film balls up centuries worth of bloodsucking canon and throws it back full of wit and smart humor that covers all of the vampire tropes without feeling forced.
That’s a difficult task to accomplish—just ask the Marlon Wayans (how does he continue to get these parody films green-lit?).
Without Trace is the first in a series of crime novels featuring single mother Morgan Vine, an investigative journalist who lives in a converted railway carriage on the beach at Dungeness in Kent. Although she and I could hardly be more different, we share several characteristics, including:
In Morgan’s case, this anger fuels her tireless championing of her childhood sweetheart, Danny Kilcannon. As Without Trace begins, he’s in prison, convicted on dubious evidence of murdering his teenage stepdaughter. But when he’s released on appeal, Morgan’s own 18 year-old daughter goes missing, and the finger of suspicion soon points firmly in Danny’s direction. She’s forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her old flame. Is he the innocent she believes him to be or a ruthless, manipulative killer?
Writing The Secrets of Lizzie Borden was a fascinating experience for me. I am always drawn to the flawed and damaged figures from history, but it is the perceived villains who interest me most of all. I have been reading about unsolved mysteries and murders almost since the time I first learned to read, and in all that time, one thing has never changed—I always want to understand why.
Lizzie Borden seems, at first glance, the most unlikely of murderers—if murderer she indeed was—a nice, church-going, god-fearing spinster lady; a dutiful daughter living at home with her aged parents in an era when most girls didn’t leave home without a ring on their finger. A jury of twelve men simply could not believe that such a creature could commit a gory double axe murder—though being accused was enough to ruin her life forever. She would spend the next thirty-five years under an umbrella of suspicion. Think then how much greater the tragedy if Lizzie Borden were truly innocent as some believe.
Were the tensions simmering inside the house at 92 Second Street enough to make Lizzie explode in a murderous rage one sizzling summer morning? Rumor has it—there were bad feelings between Lizzie, her sister Emma, and their stepmother. One might even say that in that household, money truly was the root of all evil. Andrew Borden was said to be a hard man who, despite his wealth, embraced frugality with a startling passion. Both his daughters became old maids with no gentleman callers or social life beyond church and charitable activities.
South of Nowhere by Minerva Koenig is a Julia Kalas Mystery that finds our heroine traveling from small-town Texas to Mexico on the trail of a missing persons case, while a murder charge yields a warrant for her arrest (Available February 2, 2016).
Julia Kalas has found a place for herself in small-town Texas. After being forced to relocate by the Aryan Brotherhood and witness protection, she's working on getting her budding construction business off the ground. But her newfound status as a sometimes-problem solver doesn't stop local cops from giving her the hairy eyeball when a dead body is found stuffed in the upstairs closet of her latest remodeling project.
Not up for another game of pin-the-tail-on-the-murder-suspect, Julia takes private detective John Maines up on an offer of employment working a missing persons case at the Texas-Mexico border. The fat check he dangles in front of her as payment will be enough to set her up in comfortable retirement far away from the tiny Texas backwater, which suits Julia just fine.
However, fate, as usual, has other plans for her. In South Texas, Julia learns that the dead man in her closet has been identified and that a warrant has been issued for her arrest. As she tangles with Mexican drug lords, shady surgeons, and a gang of Native American women with an axe to grind, she can't ignore the sinking feeling that things are about to get a hell of a lot worse before they get better.
“He’s been dead awhile,” Liz Harman said, rocking back off her knees to open the field case she’d set next to her on the scarred wood floor.
The doctor, who also served as the coroner in this tiny little Texas backwater, wasn’t telling me and Benny Ramirez, Azula’s newly minted chief of police, anything we didn’t already know. The parts of the body sticking out of the red bedsheet it was wrapped in looked like beef jerky.
Liz reached into her case, withdrew a thermometer, and leaned back down into the coffin-sized hole in the floor where the dead guy lay. I’d found it while ripping out some old linoleum in the wreck of a farmhouse I’d bought last year. I shouldn’t have been working on the place, since I didn’t legally own it yet, but my life had been feeling out of control lately, and the only fix I know for that is to tear up some vintage real estate and then put it back together again. I’ve found everything from mummified rodents to meteor fragments in the course of that therapy, but this was a first.
1, 3, or 5.
While definitely odd, these are your only choices at the world’s first short story vending machines in Grenoble, France—a small town of 160,000 located in the French Alps.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), world renowned for two twentieth-century literary showpieces—Lolita and Pale Fire—was also a virtuoso at the short story form. From the time he fled Lenin’s communist Russia to long after his financial success was well established in America, he frequently returned to composing short story pieces that were published in notable magazines like The New Yorker, The Hudson Review, and The Atlantic Monthly, to name just a few.
Selected from the sixty-plus tales which have been conveniently assembled in The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov omnibus, there are two particular gems that should hold the attention of every mystery and detective enthusiast: “The Vane Sisters” and “Signs and Symbols.” Though their structure is quite divergent from the respected mystery/detective genres, the elements of a mystery are told in Nabokov’s stylish prose, as he manipulates the reader into the middle of perplexing scenarios, daring them to decipher the riddles.
“The Vane Sisters” begins unassuming enough with a French college professor (of literature, which Nabokov himself taught at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard universities) enthralled by the formation of icicles hanging off the buildings where he is wandering about one evening. The mesmerizing crystal trail leads him inadvertently to bumping into a former colleague named Professor D. The two had worked together years earlier when they were dating sisters—the Vane sisters. Problem being, D was married while dating Sybil, and this didn’t sit well with Cynthia who our unnamed protagonist was courting.
The Art of War by Stephen Coonts is a war thriller following new CIA director Jake Grafton as he tries to foil a Chinese conspiracy to terrorize the US and detonate a nuclear weapon on a US naval base (Available February 2, 2016).
The Chinese dragon is flexing its muscles. As its military begins to prey on neighbors in the South China Sea, attacking fishing vessels and scheming to seize natural resources, the US goes on high alert. But a far more ominous danger lurks closer to home: a Chinese sleeper cell has planted a nuclear weapon in the harbor at Norfolk, Virginia, the biggest naval base on the planet. The target: a secret rendezvous of the Atlantic Fleet aircraft carriers and their battle groups. When the CIA director is assassinated and Jake Grafton is appointed to take his place, he gets wind of the conspiracy, but has no idea when or where the attack will occur. In the meantime, a series of assassinations, including an attempt on the life of the President, shake the country and deliberately mask a far more sinister objective. Can Jake Grafton and his right hand man, Tommy Carmellini, stop the plot to destroy the US Navy?
Attack where they are unprepared. Go forth where they will not expect it.
The yacht had once belonged to a sultan’s son—his name was still on the registration papers—but now it belonged to the Chinese navy. The sultan’s son didn’t know that, of course. He thought he had sold it to a shady German who was going to flip it to a Russian mafioso. The name of the yacht was Ocean Holiday.
It was a nice yacht, over 150 feet long, with tanks for enough diesel fuel to cruise halfway around the world. Sleek, clean and white, it was equipped with two bikini babes, a South African captain and British first mate, a Chinese crew and a Russian couple in their late sixties who slept in the owner’s stateroom.
This miserable March night in Baltimore harbor, the captain anchored the yacht in the lee of a tramp freighter waiting for space at the pier to off-load a cargo of containers full of shirts made in China. The wind was blowing the rain almost sideways, and visibility was down to less than a mile.
SCULLY: It could be dangerous.
MULDER: *scoffs* When has that ever stopped us before?
Ever get a ringing in your ears?
Has it ever been bad enough that you contemplated using something sharp and pointy to make it stop?
Dr. Sanjay’s (Christopher Logan) work for the mysterious “Founder,” Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant), comes to an abrupt, terminal end when he does just that.
On the list of images you can't unsee, a man shoving a letter opener into his head is high on the list. The only word that really suffices is:
Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are on the scene in no time. Predictably, Mulder doesn't see this as a straightforward suicide and begins to dig into the doctor's private life, while Scully dons her usual smock and gets busy autopsying.
MULDER: I was dead, but now I'm back!
Oh, Mulder—always the flair for the dramatic. That's why we love you.
Well, that—and your floofy hair, devotion to Scully, and consuming obsession with finding The Truth.
So often in our media, men are depicted as rugged, athletic, and stoic, while their female counterparts are emotional and high-strung. Yet, in The X-Files, there's a degree of role reversal that (perhaps sadly) remains refreshing.
It's Mulder (David Duchovny) who's often blinded by his emotions and passionate obsessions—the one who is frequently pushed to the edges of mental breakdowns or hysteria. While Dana (Gillian Anderson) does occasionally need rescuing in the course of their investigations, Mulder has to be saved just as often from his own poor decisions and paranoia.
In terms of sheer badass moments, I'd argue that Scully kicks literal butt far more often than Mulder. She's the better shot of the two, while he's the one more likely to cause a screaming scene in a hospital—and how often do you see that in a male/female partnership?
And, to be quite honest, without her logic, pragmatism, and medical knowledge, Mulder's bacon—and the world's—would've been cooked long ago.
In season three, our duo overcomes near-death experiences, faces familiar foes, and becomes even more entrenched in the sweeping government alien conspiracy. It's a wild ride from start to finish:
Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey is a hilarious road trip novel featuring Florida's favorite trigger-happy, shoot-from-the-hip vigilante history teacher, Serge A. Storms, as he and travel buddy Coleman set off to find the American Dream in the Florida panhandle (Available January 26, 2012).
Obsessed with the iconic Sixties classic Easy Rider, encyclopedic Floridaphile, lovable serial killer, and movie buff extraordinaire Serge A. Storms devises his wildest plan yet: finish the journey begun by his freewheeling heroes, Captain America and Billy, tragically cut short by some shotgun-wielding rednecks.
Setting a course for the Florida panhandle, Captain Serge—with Coleman literally riding shotgun—mounts his classic motorcycle and hits the highway in search of the real America: the apple-pie-eating, freedom-swilling moms and pops of Main Street USA.
But the America he finds in the rural burgs dotting the neck of the peninsula is a little bit different . . . and a whole lot weirder than anything Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper encountered. In a state where criminal politicians are more common than gators, Serge and Coleman discover one particular speed-trap locale so aggressively inept at corruption that investigators are baffled where to start.
Expect nothing less than madness, mayhem, ingenious homicides, and mind-altering pharmaceuticals when Serge and Coleman’s path intersects with the Sunshine State’s hyper-dysfunctional rusticity.
Where’s Jack Nicholson when you need him?
SOMEWHERE IN FLORIDA
Motorists watched helplessly as the man in a panda suit was beaten stupid in front of the strip mall.
His bulbous black-and-white head had been twisted around so the eyeholes were over his left ear, blinding him to vicious rib-stomps. A second, smaller panda had escaped with the aid of a skateboard and a stun gun.
As they say in the Sunshine State: If you don’t like the weather, wait a few seconds. Same thing with boredom.
A Deadly Tail by Dixie Lyle is the 4th book in the Whiskey, Tango & Foxtrot Mystery series that shines a light on the dark side of fame (Available February 2, 2016).
Foxtrot has seen a lot of strange things as assistant to billionaire Zelda Zoransky at her wacky mansion. And that includes her telepathic cat Tango and ectoplasmic pooch Whiskey. So it's no surprise to find a horde of zombies lurching across the lawn-even if they are just actors in a horror movie that's filming on the mansion grounds. The special effects look pretty convincing. But all that fake blood doesn't fool Whiskey, who quickly sniffs out the truth: one of those corpses is real...
Before you can say, “Lights, camera, murder,” Foxtrot and her furry partners-in-crime-solving are caught up in the drama of who-killed-who...and why. With a crazy cast of characters including a neurotic director, a star-hungry diva-even with an appearance by Lassie's ghost-it's bound to have one hell of a twist ending. But first, Foxtrot and her supernatural sidekicks have to find a killer amongst them-before the whole case is a wrap...
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: My life is weird. And I don’t mean just in the “I have weird hobbies” or “I have weird friends” kind of way. Oh, no. I mean, yes, I do have weird friends, but they only account for a certain percentage of strange in the weirdness equation that is my existence. Which, if you were going to break it down, might look a little like this: ghost dog plus reincarnated cat times graveyard haunted by animal spirits divided by rich eccentric boss with multiple oddball interests (including her own private zoo) minus any spare time for the gal who has to oversee it all and solve any problems that might crop up.
Got your head wrapped around that? Too bad, because there’s more. But maybe we should drop any attempt to define this as a mathematical problem, because pretty soon we’re gonna get into supernatural integers and crime scene algebra and then this breakdown turns into the nervous kind and I have to start all over.
TAD O'MALLEY: What Bill O'Reilly knows about the truth could fill an eyedropper.
Men in black. Roswell. Government conspiracies.
The X-Files is back.
When last we saw FBI agents Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), the government had officially shut down the X-Files, and our heroes had set off to try their hands at a normal life—together.
But, it seems that the last thirteen years have been less than rosy; when their story resumes, Mulder and Scully are no longer together. Mulder is apparently a depressive shut-in while Dana has returned to medicine.
Not at all what longtime fans had hoped for, but perhaps this new case will change all that.
“I like to write about reality.”
A.I. Bezzerides (1908-2007) says that, among other things, in the 2005 documentary that was made about his life and work: The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides. In the case of the first of Bezzerides’s three published novels, Long Haul (1938), the reality he wrote about was the life of truckers. This work of proletariat noir has just recently been reissued by 280 Steps, with an introduction by Criminal Element contributor Jake Hinkson.
In penning this first full-length work of fiction, Bezzerides wrote about that which he knew. Born to a Greek-Armenian family who moved from Turkey to California when he was a toddler, Bezzerides worked as a hauler of goods in his early adult years. Drawing on that experience, and with the aid of his talented writing hand, he clearly shows readers the grueling challenges faced by truckers in his day: how little sleep many of them got, and how dangerous it was to drive while exhausted; how they had to battle it out with sleazy freight agents who hired them to haul beer, produce, and others goods from one site to the next, then tried to shortchange them when it came time to pay them for the work; and how these underpayments were most untimely, when there was always the next installment due on their truck payments, vehicle repairs to contend with, and the usual bills. By making us see the troubles these laborers faced, Bezzerides makes us care about them and the particular truckers on which Long Haul focuses. More on those fellas coming up.
A Voice from the Field by Neal Griffin is a gripping thriller about human trafficking, following Detective Tia Suarez, who will stop at nothing to rescue the woman she saw bound and gagged in the back of a van and take down the group responsible (Available February 2, 2016).
Gunther Kane and his white supremacist group are using forced prostitution to finance the purchase of automatic weapons. Kane snatches young women off the streets and sells them to hundreds of men. When a victim is used up, she's killed and dumped. After all, there are always more where she came from.
Physically recovered from being shot but struggling with PTSD, Tia Suarez almost doesn't believe her eyes when she glimpses a Hispanic teenager bound and gagged in the back of Kane's van. The look of terror on the woman's face makes Tia desperate to rescue her.
Kane's in the crosshairs of the FBI, who don't want a small-town Wisconsin detective messing up their big gun bust.
Tia Suarez doesn't back down for anyone. Not the department shrink; not the feds who dismiss her; not even her boyfriend, a Marine veteran who thinks she doesn't know what she's getting into. Tia will find the missing teen come hell or high water.
Gangsters call it the blade. The track. The ho stroll. Back in the day it was the red-light district, but by whatever name, the area of downtown Milwaukee hadn’t changed much in twenty-five years. Pimped-out sleds loaded four deep with young men, brown or black but never both, patrolled the dark streets with windows down, bass-heavy music thumping out a steady urban pulse. The latest generation of crack whores wandered the streets or sat listless on the stoops of boarded-up brick apartment buildings, waiting for men who sought bargain rates.
One young woman stood out from the rest as confident, even willing. Damn sure worth the money. She leaned against the shot-out lamppost, listening as the nearby Allen-Bradley Clock Tower chimed out the midnight hour, knowing the corner belonged to her.
SCULLY: ...And you're worried that for all these years you've been seeing elves?
MULDER: In my case, little green men.
The X-Files are no more.
Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) has been reassigned to mind-numbing surveillance work, while Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) teaches at the academy in Quantico. In the wake of Deep Throat's death, Mulder no longer has the support he needs within the Bureau to continue his search for the truth.
Naturally, this state of affairs doesn't last long. It's hard to keep a true crusader down.
If Season One pushed the envelope, Season Two rips it in half. The stakes are higher than ever for our heroes—and the number of stellar episodes makes this season a must-see.
A Prisoner in Malta by Phillip DePoy follows Christopher Marlowe, an Elizabethan playwright, poet, and spy who is tasked with uncovering the truth of a possible plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I (Available January 26, 2016).
In 1583, the nineteen-year-old Christopher Marlowe—with a reputation as a brawler, a womanizer, a genius, and a social upstart at Cambridge University—is visited by a man representing Marlowe's benefactors. There are rumors of a growing plot against her majesty Queen Elizabeth I, and the Queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, has charged young Marlowe with tracking down the truth. The path to that truth seems to run through an enigmatic prisoner held in complete seclusion in a heavily guarded dungeon in Malta. Marlowe must use every bit of his wits, his skills, and his daring to unravel one of the greatest mysteries in history and help uncover and unravel scheme of assassination and invasion, one involving the government of Spain, high ranking English nobles, and even Pope himself.
Christopher Marlowe stared at the newly mown lawn, and the tower of St. Benet’s Church reaching sweetly toward God in morning’s light. In the old graveyard, roses were blooming, even though March was cold. The tower was the oldest building in Cambridge, and Marlowe did his best to appreciate the ethos of grandeur and nobility. But the beauty of the day overtook him, and all his thoughts were light. He was nineteen, standing in Cambridge, about to go to class. He could scarcely believe his good fortune. A boot-maker’s son was a rarity at any college.
Everywhere students rushed; professors glided in stately manner. The grass, greener than a linnet’s wing, collected sunlight against the advent of late frost: “nature’s rarest alchemy, the golden bell of heaven’s fire.”
All in black, Marlowe was nearly invisible in the shade, though his smile was brighter than sunlight. He wore his hair deliberately shorter than the fashion; it was a great source of aggravation for his tutors. Most of that ire was obviated by the fact that Marlowe’s mind was the best in his class. His bright demeanor had endeared him to most of his fellow students as well; his eyes existed only to beguile.