FM: <i>Lord of the Wings</i> by Donna Andrews FM: Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews Katrina Niidas Holm It's Halloween, and everyone seems to have a skeleton in their closet. <i>The Madagaskar Plan</i>: New Excerpt The Madagaskar Plan: New Excerpt Guy Saville The Nazi's control Africa, and their plan is almost complete... <i>The Fall</i>: New Excerpt The Fall: New Excerpt R.J. Pineiro A lot can change in five years, or in Jack's case, one day. <i>Murder at Barclay Meadow</i>: New Excerpt Murder at Barclay Meadow: New Excerpt Wendy Sand Eckel A dead body is no proper housewarming present.
From The Blog
July 28, 2015
Royally Flushed: Atlantic City's Counterfeit Chip Scam
Crime HQ
July 24, 2015
Washburn, Mims, and Foley: Women Authors Leading the Western Charge
Edward A. Grainger
July 22, 2015
Announcing the Hammett Prize Nominees
Crime HQ
July 21, 2015
Naked Drunk Driving Suspect Arrested After Falling Off Barn Roof
Teddy Pierson
July 19, 2015
Could The Revenant be Leonard DiCaprio's Chance to Shine?
Joe Brosnan
Jul 18 2015 12:00pm

Who Let the Dog Out?: New Audio Excerpt

David Rosenfelt

Who Let the Dog Out? by David Rosenfelt is the 13th mystery in the Andy Carptenter series about the dog-loving lawyer who tracks down a stolen dog to a gruesome crime scene (available July 21, 2015).

A lawyer by day-and then only when he's forced to take on new cases-Andy Carpenter's true passion is the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs with his friend Willie Miller. So it's frightening when Willie calls him to say the alarm has gone off at the foundation building, and there's clearly been a break-in. It turns out that a recently rescued dog, nicknamed Cheyenne since her arrival at the foundation, has been stolen. Andy and Willie track the missing dog to a house in downtown Paterson, New Jersey and sure enough, they find the dog...standing right next to a dead body. The man had been gruesomely murdered mere minutes before Andy and Willie arrived. Could it be a coincidence? Or could the dog theft somehow be connected to the killing?

Andy takes Cheyenne safely back to the foundation building, and that should be the end of his involvement, but Andy's curiosity-and his desire to keep the dog from further harm-won't let him stop there. The cops have just arrested a man named Tommy Infante for the murder, but as Andy looks into the circumstances surrounding the break-in and the dog theft, he starts to wonder if Infante might actually be innocent. And when Andy takes Infante on as a client and starts searching in earnest for evidence that will exonerate him, what Andy starts to discover terrifies him. The murder might be just one small cog in a plot with far-reaching implications, and unless Andy can uncover the truth in time, thousands of lives could be in imminent danger.

[Click through to listen to Chapter 1!]

Jul 17 2015 4:30pm

A Master Spy’s Final Showdown: Smiley’s People by John LeCarré

After Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), John LeCarré had secured his nook within literature as a leading master of the espionage genre. Then, like a ballplayer who knows he can drive one more homer out of the park, he brought his greatest creation, George Smiley, out of retirement once again with Smiley’s People (1979).

Oliver Lacon of the Cabinet Office should go easy on Smiley, after all it was Smiley who unearthed the mole in Tinker Tailor and then reestablished The Circus as a viable spy organization in The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) when it was in danger of being defunded. However, when General Vladimir, formerly of the Soviet Union and spy for the Brits, is murdered following a cryptic message that he has some vital information, Lacon pressures the retired agent—since Vladimir had been one of his contacts in the old days—to clean up the spilled milk and put it back in the bottle where it belongs.

Lacon and his bureaucratic peers have little use for the general’s intel aside from putting it to rest quietly then maintain the idea that he was an old fool trying to relive a glorious past. As Lacon warns, the events surrounding Vladimir’s murder could stir an unnecessary risk to the organization, particularly at this stage of its rebirth. Lacon stipulates, clearly aware of who he is addressing, not to go nosing around for additional information … just make sure all loose ends are neatly tied up.

[Seems fair enough...]

Jul 17 2015 11:00am

The Flicker Men: New Excerpt

Ted Kosmatka

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka is scientific thriller about a quantum physicist that shocks the world and ignites a struggle between science and theology (available July 21, 2015).

A quantum physicist shocks the world with a startling experiment, igniting a struggle between science and theology, free will and fate, and antagonizing forces not known to exist.

Eric Argus is a washout. His prodigious early work clouded his reputation and strained his sanity. But an old friend gives him another chance, an opportunity to step back into the light.

With three months to produce new research, Eric replicates the paradoxical double-slit experiment to see for himself the mysterious dual nature of light and matter. A simple but unprecedented inference blooms into a staggering discovery about human consciousness and the structure of the universe.

His findings are celebrated and condemned in equal measure. But no one can predict where the truth will lead. And as Eric seeks to understand the unfolding revelations, he must evade shadowy pursuers who believe he knows entirely too much already.

[Start reading The Flicker Men now!]

Jul 17 2015 8:45am

Spaghetti Western! (with Dogs and Vacuum, of Course)

Now, that's what we call a good ole' spaghetti western. Why yes, of course there are costumed dogs and a vacuum! If you're trying to portray true struggle, pioneering spirit, and romance, how else would you do it?

h/t: Cute Overload. We look forward to hearing about Baxter and Dixie's nominations.

Jul 16 2015 2:00pm

Badlands: New Excerpt

C. J. Box

Badlands by C.J. Box is a new-age Western set in a North Dakota city that has suddenly become the state's oil capital, a title that brings with it drugs and organized crime (available July 28, 2015).

Read this exclusive excerpt from Chapters 1 and 2 of Badlands! And then comment for a chance to win a copy of C.J. Box's Western thriller!

Twenty miles across the North Dakota border, where the scenery goes from rolling grass prairie to pipeline fields, detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad—a place people used to be from, but were never headed to—now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs comes the dirtiest criminals wanting to corner the market.

In the same small town resides twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard. Even though Kyle has been written off as the “slow” kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and now has a lot of money and packets of white powder in his possession.

When the temperature drops to 30 below and a gang war heats up, Cassie finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong.

[Start reading Badlands now!]

Jul 16 2015 11:00am

Crime Through Time: Marc A. Hermann’s NYC Photo Mashups

It's been said that you can never truly outrun the past, and photographer Marc A. Hermann has used that notion as inspiration in his “Then and Now” series where archived photos from the newspaper's past have been digitally mashed-up with modern photos depicting the same location. From the Daily News:

New York City's rich photo history has been well documented by the Daily News through the years. Many of the places, stories, and lives lived by New Yorkers who have come before us are still alive and well, but locked in photography archives. Marc A. Hermann, historian of the New York Press Photographers Association, has juxtaposed then and now photos of New York City, bringing back to life people and stories of the Big Apple's past.

As you scroll through all of Hermann's mashups, it's startling to see just how quickly everyone adapts and moves forward. Whether it's a dead gangster (the above picture depicts the death of mob man Frankie Yale in Brooklyn in 1928) or a scorched storefront, New York City has moved on to hide its past, but thanks to Hermann, it's easy to remember.

Check out the full “New York City Then and Now” series on the Daily News' website!

HT: Thanks to The Lineup for putting this on our radar.

Jul 15 2015 7:00pm

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: August, 2015

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! We kept rolling off last month with July's releases, and now we're setting our sights on July! Let us know in the comments how you like it and what you can't wait to read next!

Criminal Element's July 2015 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List!

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Jul 15 2015 11:00am

Fast Paced and Expensive Tastes: The Money Trap (1965)

I’ve written about one of Lionel White’s novels here before (The Big Caper), and now I’ve got some thoughts about a film based on one of his books.

White is seen by many noir aficionados as a master of the heist story. Stanley Kubrick made the author’s 1955 novel Clean Break into the classic film noir The Killing (1956). Quentin Tarantino credited him as being an inspiration on his 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs. But caper tales aren’t the only kind of stories White wrote, and The Killing isn’t the only example of a time a film director saw fit to adapt one of his novels for the big screen. Jean-Luc Godard’s avant-garde title Pierrot le fou (1965) is loosely based on White’s 1962 novel Obsession. And there’s an odd, good 1968 movie called The Night of the Following Day that stars Marlon Brando and Rita Moreno, that’s from White’s 1953 book The Snatchers. In addition, there’s another heist film, 1957’s The Big Caper (1957), which shares the title of the White story (1955).

Another time a Lionel White novel got made into a film happened when his 1963 book The Money Trap served as the basis of the same-named film from 1965. And this movie is the one I want to bend your ears about now. Because while The Money Trap, which was directed by Burt Kennedy, may not be not on the same quality tier as The Killing, or as groundbreaking as Pierrot le fou, it’s a hell of a good crime film, and it appears to be all but forgotten, if it was ever much known in the first place.

[Let's remedy that...]

Jul 15 2015 8:45am

Sword Thief Taken Down by Medieval Wench

A man who attempted to steal a sword from a jousting match at the Colorado Renaissance Festival was arrested after he was tackled and taken down by a wench, The Daily News reports.

According to the report, a woman dressed as a medieval wench chased the man down, tackled him to the ground and put him in a headlock until her husband, dressed as a knight, held him down until police arrived.

Connor Ward, 22, was arrested for theft and attempted assault on a police officer after he reportedly resisted an officer who tried to handcuff him, police spokeswoman Deborah Sherman said.

Sherman also told the paper that Ward appeared to be drunk.

Jul 14 2015 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Cold Frame by P.T. Deutermann

Cold Frame by P.T. Deutermann is a political thriller set in Washington D.C. where a secret NSA-sanctioned assassination squad goes rogue (available July 14, 2015).

A cold frame protects plants from adverse weather. Three years before a government official mysteriously dies at lunch, two men meet at Whitestone Hall, an estate in Great Falls, Virginia: Mister Strang, a government bureaucrat, and Hiram Walker, an immensely wealthy recluse who lives for his experiments that explore the extraordinary capabilities of weeds. Hiram Walker’s life’s work is to provide a “cold frame” of protection to the botanical work that absorbs him and his far-flung collaborators. Walker, “a full seven feet, three inches tall” suffers from Marfan syndrome: “… he moved in a hesitant, jerky fashion, which inevitably reminded people of Dr. Frankenstein’s outsized monster.” Strang leaves Walker’s estate with a poison called Sister Dark Surprise — a toxin that is emitted when a specific weed is attacked. Strang assures Walker that the government is only interested in researching the toxin’s scientific properties.

[Uh huh, sure...]

Jul 14 2015 1:30pm

Fresh Meat: Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis

Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis is the 3rd historical mystery in the Flavia Alba series set in Ancient Rome (available July 14, 2015).

Deadly Election, Lindsey Davis’s latest novel of ancient Rome is a rewarding read, especially given how 2016’s potential candidates are already pontificating and bloviating. Television pundits (a dirty word—not unlike the term “election” these days) discuss the race as if it were the latest episode of The Bachelor, promising the upcoming election will have all the gravitas of a TMZ broadcast. Davis’s novel beats reality. First, it isn’t depressing, because there’s no obligation to vote in the end, however odious the candidates. Second, it offers more actual information than a month’s worth of election news coverage. Third, the winner can’t screw up our lives.


Jul 14 2015 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen is the third thriller featuring Kendra Michaels, a law-enforcement consultant with heightened observational skills (available July 14, 2015).

I’m really not sure how I’ve managed to be an avid reader of mystery novels for this long without encountering any Iris Johansen novels before The Naked Eye. But what a great way to start – and what a promising back-catalog for me to devour! – with this exciting third installment in the Kendra Michaels books. Having no familiarity with any of Iris Johansen’s previous world-building exercises, I was pleased with how easy it was for me to make the acquaintance of Kendra and, later in the novel, Eve Duncan, the heroine of another of her best-selling series.

But Kendra is, rightly, the focus here. A modern day Sherlock Holmes due to an experimental operation that restored her sight to her after she’d spent years honing her other senses to compensate, her exceptional powers of observation are in high demand with local and federal law enforcement. Unfortunately, she’s currently at odds with them, as no one will believe that Eric Colby, the serial killer she helped put away in a previous book, is still at-large instead of dead after his state-mandated execution. Kendra still shows up at the site of certain murders upon the request of law enforcement, but mostly, she’s trying to see if Colby is back at it again. She knows he’s obsessed with her and merely waiting for the right time to strike once more.

[Well that's ominous...]

Jul 14 2015 11:15am

Fresh Meat: Open Grave by Kjell Eriksson

Open Grave by Kjell Eriksson is the 6th Nordic mystery featuring Police Inspector Ann Lindell where a Nobel Prize winner is greeted with jealousy and violence (available July 14, 2015).

I don’t have a great deal of experience with Scandinavian authors. I have read the Stieg Larsson novels. And I’ve read a couple books by Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indridason, but that’s about it. Still, I knew that the pace and plotting would be different than American novels. More leisurely. Seemingly more relaxed.

In American mystery novels, the protagonist is usually introduced on the first page. At least by the second chapter. I forgot that this is the sixth book in the Ann Lindell mystery series until page 111, which is where she shows up for the first time. Did the story suffer for the delay? I didn’t think so. She’s an interesting and complicated character, but so was everyone else. Lindell adds an interesting layer, though.

Agnes rounded the table, opened a drawer, and took out a plastic bag which she gave to Lindell.

“You probably know that Viola is not well,” Agnes said suddenly, when Lindell was standing with her hand on the doorknob.

She stared at Agnes.

“How did you know—”

“My sister Greta keeps track of everything,” Agnes explained.

“You knew that I—”

“You’re the police officer from Uppsala who associated with Edvard, yes. I recognized your name. I’ve known Viola my whole life. I’ve met Edvard too. A good person.”

Lindell bowed her head and got an impulse to hide her face with the plastic bag.

[Don't expect to discover the body right away...]

Jul 14 2015 10:30am

Sherlock: A First Look at the Christmas Special

For its upcoming Christmas special, Sherlock will be traveling back to the time period in which it was written, and fans can get their first glimpse in the delightfully tongue-in-cheek teaser that was recently released. Watch the clip below, and enjoy everything we've come to love from this series: a sarcastic Sherlock, a blunt Watson, and not-a-plot-device Mrs. Hudson. Oh, and don't forget about Watson's distinguished mustache, which even he isn't all too happy with. And for those of you worried about continuity, don't worry; this episode will exist in a vacuum and won't be connected to the other, modern day episodes.

Jul 13 2015 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: Assassins by Mukul Deva

Assassins by Mukul Deva is an international thriller that jumps between London and India and follows Ravinder Singh Gill as he tries to stop a high-profile double assassination (available July 14, 2015).

The Sisters of Benazir are out for revenge. The London based political activists want payback for the murder of the politician Benazir Basheer. They hire Leon Binder, a high-priced assassin who always gets the job done, to take care of the trio of men they believe were responsible for the untimely demise of the popular but divisive figure, at Rawalpindi. Pervaiz Masharrat, the former military dictator, Abid Zardosi, the current prime minister, and Beitullah Mehsud, the commander, at the time, of the Pakistani Taliban.

Mehsud doesn't last long, though it's unclear if it is Binder or the Americans who have brought his life to an end with a well-aimed missile. The action, and there is plenty of it, rolls from India to London, back to India. The number of characters is overwhelming for me, though they are well drawn. I haven’t met that many people in my entire life. It doesn’t remain a problem for long though, as people are dispatched with great glee by the author Mukul Deva, either point blank at the end of a gun or after a period of torture. There's just the right amount of grisly in the narrative.

[It'll keep you wanting more...]

Jul 13 2015 12:00pm

Infecting the Infected: What’s to Come on The Strain Season 2

When we last saw Dr. Eph Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his rag-tag team of vampire hunters — young son Zach (Max Charles), lover and fellow CDC coworker Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), vampire expert and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), exterminator Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), and hacker Dutch (Ruta Gedmintas) — things weren't looking too bright.

Abrahams's plan to drive the Master, the source of the vampiric plague, into deadly sunlight failed; the Strigoi defied all expectations and managed to escape before he was immolated. And just to cap off the day's failure, Eph and Zach came face-to-face with the freshly turned Kelly (Natalie Brown), confirming their worst suspicions about what had happened to their wife and mother.

The first season closed pessimistically: with Eph breaking his sober streak by downing a shot of booze and the group driving off into a chaotic night full of fires and bloodshed. That final shot and voice-over suggested that New York was as good as gone, the first large-scale victim to the Strigoi's push for global domination.

[Not so fast...]

Jul 13 2015 10:30am

True Detective 2.04: “Down Will Come”

“Well, that’s a bold choice.” Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels from which True Blood was adapted, said that phrase was her most polite way of telling someone they were possibly a walking disaster; as the husband of a Southern woman, I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than “Bless your heart,” but I will say that True Detective is making some bold choices this season.

It’s refreshing to follow three police who mess up so often. When we met Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), she led a failed raid into a supposed sex trafficking operation that turned out to be a legitimate webcam house where the women, if they were exploited, were exploiting themselves; in Episode 4, the ultimate raid is such a Charlie-foxtrot snafu FUBAR op that military acronyms cannot do it justice. And while it is not satisfying, it is refreshing, in a way, to see the aftermath.

But let’s see how we get there.

[Let's start with Frank...]

Jul 13 2015 9:30am

ThrillerFest Day Two: Debut Authors and Awards

The International Thriller Writers organization is well known for their debut authors program, which has nurtured many a thriller writer from volunteer to award-winning novelist. One of these authors is Jenny Milchman, former Debut Author Chair for the ITW and the author of the Martha Higgins Clark Award-winning Cover of Snow, and her latest thriller, As Night Falls.

I spoke with Jenny in the lobby near the bar, which is often everyone’s favorite gathering spot at writing conventions. As expected, she had great things to say about the debut author program, which includes a special forum on the ITW website, where new authors are mentored by writers more experienced with the promotion and publicity for a new novel, and can give advice on what’s worked in the past. They also help out when you’re on a book tour, giving you a countrywide support system of fellow writers who can get the word out and join you at your readings, to help with the jitters. Jenny went on a five-month tour for her debut novel and hit most of the mystery bookstores across the USA; she’d like to say that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. I agree; when the digerati tell me that e-books and e-tailers are the “future” I’m very skeptical, despite being an Internet dinosaur who’s been online since long before the web was invented; word of mouth is always king, and handselling books at bookstores is still incredibly important, as it gets you noticed by hardcore fans who are more likely to spread the word about your work. I’ll take that over a retweet any day.

Debut Author Rob Brunet, whose novel Stinking Rich came out this year, was at the debut author’s breakfast on Saturday. In disclosure, Rob’s a friend, but he looked to be walking on air. There’s a sense of elation at ThrillerFest, partly because it is business-centered, and writers talk freely about it (see my coverage of Greg Iles and Charlaine Harris’s interviews for a taste; you can buy mp3s or DVDs from the ThrillerFest website).

Saturday was also the night of the awards banquet, and here are the winners of the 2015 Thriller Awards:

Best Novel: Megan Abbott, for The Fever

Best First Novel: Laura McHugh, for The Weight of Blood

Best Paperback Original: Vincent Zandri, for Moonlight Weeps

Best Short Story: Tim L. Williams, for “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky”

Best Young Adult Novel: Elle Cosimano, for Nearly Gone

Best E-Book Original: C.J. Lyons, for Hard Fall

Congratulations to all the finalists, and thanks to everyone who let me corner them for chit-chat at ThrillerFest, including Executive Director Kimberely Howe and all the ITW workers and volunteers, for putting on a great convention.

Photo courtesy of the International Thriller Writers Organization Facebook Page.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. He hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. You can find him online at and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

Jul 11 2015 2:30pm

ThrillerFest: Day One

The mood of ThrillerFest is palpably different from CraftFest. There’s more excitement and the personalities come out. Such as Brad Parks, author of the Carter Ross mysteries, recognizable as the tall thin man in the gray suit, and Karin Slaughter, dressed all in black with a short blonde bob, but both are unforgettable with their sharp timing and wit. Slaughter interviewed Charlaine Harris, powerhouse author of the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) novels, and it was a great hour of back-and-forth between two smart Southern women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Life Hack: If your decision is greeted with “What a bold choice,” perhaps you ought to reconsider!

Both Slaughter and Harris have trained in martial arts and spoke of the empowerment it delivers, something I know myself. Their eyes lit up as they discussed the first time they punched someone in the face in training, and I assure you, that’s no hyperbole. I also met a few nervous people at ThrillerFest—relatively new authors, or media people not yet used to the crowds—and while a public speaking course might help, so might a few months of going to the right dojo. Lighten up, folks! We’re all friends here. As a rule, crime fiction and thriller writers put the knives in their stories, not in each other’s backs.

Author Greg Iles, interviewed by agent Dan Conaway, said about the same thing. I'm paraphrasing, roughly, “Other than three jerks, we’re a nice bunch.”  Iles would not name names, despite an audience member’s plea. His interview was quite entertaining as he walked through the risky choices he made throughout his career. He reminded writers that he’s not a role model, and if you want to stick to your guns, you had better believe in your heart of hearts that you are right, because some of the risks he took could’ve been career-ending. My favorite story, which “says all you need to know about publishing,” revolved around his novel Footprints of God, which his publisher did not want to publish. He stood his ground, and changed their minds after asking a friend if he thought Dan Brown—right after The DaVinci Code hit—would blurb him. The friend said no, but Iles shipped his manuscript to Dan Brown anyway, and got lucky. That blurb changed his publisher’s mind, and the book was a bestseller.

There were a few other, dry panels (I chose unwisely, and did not want to walk out mid-panel) and then the cocktail party, where everyone rubbed elbows over drinks. Some feel that these moments are the “best part” of any convention, and I can’t disagree. The badges usually come off, so you need to recognize people if you want to have a brief, polite chat, but most writers are friendly. They know that to be a good writer in any genre, you need to be a fan and to know the market. So why alienate a fan?

Photo courtesy of the International Thriller Writers Organization Facebook Page.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. He hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. You can find him online at and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

Jul 11 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich is a multigenerational tale of one family's history of crime and vengeance in rural Georgia (available July 14, 2015), 

For a debut novel, Brian Panowich really knocks it out of the ballpark. The text is tight, and the prose is just right. The raw and emotional writing has spikes of action that keeps pulling you along from page to page. I was attracted to this book because it is set a little close to home for me. Panowich brings a genuine southern flair to the book with descriptions, slang, and, oh boy, the occasional food description. He nails the setting and the feel of the south, along with some of the more eccentric characters you sometimes meet in this part of the world. In other words, I can see his fictional Burroughs clan being a real thing – down to their idiosyncrasies and their generational drug trade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you a little about the family.

[Let's meet 'em...]