Fresh Meat: <i>The Poor Boy's Game</i> by Dennis Tafoya Fresh Meat: The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya Scott Adlerberg Deputy Marshall Frannie must protect her family from a ruthless criminal--her father. FM: <i>Don't Ever Look Back</i> by Daniel Friedman FM: Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman Katherine Tomlinson 88-year-old retired cop has struggles: eating, remembering, revenge... Now Win <i>This</i>!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Crime HQ Six freshly-hatched crime titles! Enter for your chance to win! FM: <i>From the Charred Remains</i> by Susanna Calkins FM: From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins Angie Barry London's Great Fire destroyed the city, but it uncovered a murder.
From The Blog
April 23, 2014
Game of Pawns: FBI Creates Anti-Spying Short Film
Crime HQ
April 22, 2014
Brosnan a Bad Bond? At Least an Insecure One.
Crime HQ
April 21, 2014
Dog Houses from the Big House
Crime HQ
April 20, 2014
Is the Book Always Better: The Thin Man
Debbie Meldrum
April 19, 2014
Vladimir Nabokov's Hidden Noir: Despair
Edward A. Grainger
Apr 15 2014 10:00am
Matthew Klein

An exclusive excerpt from No Way Back by Matthew Klein, a thriller featuring a newly sober CEO who grows suspicious of the company he's hired to turn around when he learns of the former CEO's disappearance (available April 15, 2014).

Jimmy Thane thinks that his new job as the CEO of a failing company will help turn his life around. He should think again.

Jimmy Thane knows all about crossroads. Every time he’s faced with one he’s taken the wrong path. At the peak of his career, he chose alcohol. When his job became shaky, he turned to drugs. And when his wife lost faith in him, he turned to other women. Now, Jimmy’s clean, and he’s at a new crossroad: he’s landed the job of a CEO at a failing company in South Florida and has seven weeks to turn it around.

Except, from the moment he enters the building, he senses there’s something very wrong—the place is too quiet, too empty. When the police come calling about the disappearance of the former CEO, Jimmy begins to wonder what he got himself into.

Then he discovers surveillance equipment in his neighbor’s house, looking straight into his living room. And he begins to notice that his wife isn’t just tired, she’s terrified, and trying to hide it.

Nothing is as it seems. Jimmy no longer feels like he’s living the dream. Instead, he’s plunged into the worst kind of nightmare there is. And when he finally gets to the truth, it’s more shocking and terrifying than could be imagined.

Chapter 2

A corporate turnaround is like a murder investigation. The first thing you do is interview the suspects.

[Continue reading No Way Back by Matthew Klein]

Apr 15 2014 8:45am

Walter White has been many things. Teacher, husband, father, murderer, and meth cooker. While he won't be adding “Prom date” to that list (though statistically and fictionally-speaking he probably was someone's prom date once), Bryan Cranston recently helped one teen ask his dream girl to prom.

One enterprising teenager found Bryan Cranston at his Broadway play, “All the Way,” and asked the star to record a message to his intended-prom date. Using a quote known from the show, Cranston recited:

“Maddie, if you don't go to the prom with Stefan than maybe your best course of action is to tread lightly...”

The teen let Cranston know, via twitter, that his date had said “yes.”

What celebrity and/or villain do you think would have convinced your prom date to say yes?

Tread lightly gif courtesy of

Apr 14 2014 4:15pm

When they first announced that Justified would end after Season 6, I was prepared to be heartbroken at the news, but after the recently ended and quite lackluster season 5, I think it’s a good decision. In fact, I wonder it might not have been better if Graham Yost had decided to end “Justified” in five seasons, perhaps doing a Breaking Bad and giving us an extra long fifth season split into two parts.

I say this not because Season 5 was terrible, though I do think it will go down as the weakest one for this usually stellar show, but because it now seems like the entire season was just a setup for the final confrontation we’re going to get in Season 6 between Boyd and Raylan. That confrontation has been brewing from the very first episode of the series, when the TV show let Boyd survive Raylan’s gunshot to the chest. In “Fire in the Hole”, the Elmore Leonard short story that introduces Raylan Givens, Boyd dies, and it’s hard to even contemplate how very different the show would have been if they’d followed the plot of the short story.

[It was always going to be Raylan versus Boyd...]

Apr 14 2014 1:30pm

Everyone has seen the clichéd shot of a man pouring a path of gasoline on the ground that bends and curves away from what he’s actually trying to blow up. He then lights the match and we see the flame dance along the ground, ending in a fiery explosion. That’s how the past three seasons of Game of Thrones have been written — a calculated path of gasoline leading towards an explosive penultimate episode (Ned’s death, The Battle of the Blackwater, The Red Wedding). But that’s not the case this season. Rather than the slow burning path of gasoline, we are being forced to walk amidst a field littered with landmines. There’s no telling when one will explode, as last night’s episode “The Lion and the Rose” convincingly proved.

All we can hope for as this season progresses is that our favorite characters escape the minefield quickly and in one piece.

As always, spoilers after the jump.

[Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding is looking better now, isn’t it?]

Apr 14 2014 11:15am

Bletchley Circle Cast: (l to r) Julie Graham as Jean, Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan, Sophie Rundle as Lucy, Rachael Stirling as Millie

The first series of The Bletchley Circle reminded us that sisterhood is powerful. So it’s no surprise when Jean (Julie Graham) feels compelled to defend the innocence of a former Bletchley Park codebreaker, even when the woman refuses to defend herself.

It’s 1953, ten years after Jean crossed paths with Alice Merren (Hattie Morahan) at Bletchley. Now Alice is facing trial for the murder of John Richards, a fellow scientist with whom she’d had an affair all those years ago. Alice hasn’t denied involvement in his murder, but she hasn’t confessed to it either. That’s enough proof of doubt for Jean, who resolves to demonstrate Alice’s innocence. But Jean can’t do it alone; she needs the other members of the “Bletchley Circle” to help her.

(This trailer's from ITV's UK run of the series in January.)

“Blood on Their Hands” (a two-part episode that concludes next week) packs a lot of plot into a scant 45 minutes, and the show’s creators don’t waste any time reviewing the material from Series 1. So, first, a recommendation: If you don’t have total recall of previous episodes, you’ll want to revisit them; it will help put this story in context.

[Will the circle be unbroken?]

Apr 14 2014 8:45am

If you’ve been watching Turn, AMC’s new Revolutionary War spy drama, you might be wondering where the creators found such authentic filming locations.

Although the series, which is based on the book Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose, is set on Long Island in New York, the filming was done in central Virginia. Locations include Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson, which serves as the home of Richard Woodhull in the series. In Charles City, Westover Plantation is the exterior of Anna’s home. The 400-year-old Shirley Plantation, also in Charles City, was used for several scenes, as were the Farmer’s Market and historic city streets of Petersburg.

Fans who are hooked on the intrigues of Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) and Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall)—not to mention the potential for a showdown between Anna Strong (Heather Lind) and Mary Woodhull (Meegan Warner)—might want to take a look at some of these places for themselves. For them, and everyone else hitting the road this summer, the state of Virginia has devised the “Turn Trail,” a map of destinations that were used in or are related to the series. Expect plenty of twists and turns, but you’re probably safe from the Redcoats.

Apr 13 2014 11:00am

The reputation of Scandinavian thrillers has really taken off in recent years. Stieg Larson was the first author to gain international fame, but other writers such as Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, and Camilla Läckberg are equally well regarded. At the moment, there’s also a great deal of Scandinavian crime drama available on television and given that I live in the United Kingdom, I have a front-row seat to all the latest imports. I remember my first taste of The Killing, a Danish crime drama that aired on the BBC. I watched all 40 episodes sitting at the edge of my seat. Thankfully, the Danish-Swedish collaboration entitled The Bridge soon followed. Diehard Killing fans will take offence when I say The Bridge it is even better than The Killing (cue the hate mail), but I will admit that with shows this good, there’s very little to separate them outside of personal taste. The Scandinavian version of The Bridge isn’t dubbed in English so if you’re not into reading subtitles it may not be your cup of tea, but I’m a master at the multitask, so I really appreciate the opportunity to read, soak up some culture, and watch a crime drama at the same time – talk about sanctimonious guilty pleasure.

[Every body is connected...]

Apr 12 2014 12:00pm

The Axe Factor by Colin Cotterill is the third Jimm Juree Mystery about a relocated news reporter in rural Thailand who finds herself entwined with a suspicious crime writer (available April 15, 2014).

The setting is Thailand.  I close my eyes and hear the sounds of Chiang Mai and the smell of cooking fills my nostrils, only to be interrupted by the unavoidable stench of death from the pages of Colin Cotterill’s particularly well written crime thriller. It starts off in the minimalist style  of a killer and gets straight to the point:

I write.

It is how I earn my living. I used to think there were those who wrote and those who performed, as separate as those who dreamed and those who lived their dreams. But tonight I stepped across that line. I graduated from writer of death to taker of life. I’ve never felt as free as I do now. If they arrest me, not that they’re likely to, I couldn’t pretend it was spontaneous: a spur-of-the-moment red rage or passion. I’d imagined it, you see? I’d pictured it vividly in solid oils rather than washed-out watercolours. It had been a recurring multicoloured vision for so many years it was only a matter of time before it took on the grisly form of reality.

[The plot thickens quickly, like a Thai curry…]

Apr 11 2014 11:00am

Sometimes a good setting is all an ace novelist needs to pen a memorable story. Give an able scribe a backdrop that is the stuff of fertile literary ground and they can go to work in spinning a yarn that will please their faithful. One such setting, particularly around the middle of the 20th century and particularly for writers of what we now call noir fiction, was a motor court, or auto court. You know, those old roadside motels that were generally found right off highways and that were meant to lure tired travelers in need of a quick, cheap, frills-free stay before they started the next leg of their trek. As I wrote about in an earlier installment of this column, Clifton Adams employed a motor court as primary setting to great effect in his top rate noir novel Death’s Sweet Song. Similarly, Wade Miller very effectively used the same kind of physical grounds as the place around which to base the superb 1956 book Kiss Her Goodbye.

While Adams’s novel has the troubled owner of a motor court as its lead character, the Miller book follows the doings of a pair of guests at one of the inns. Ed Darnell and his little sister Emily wind up at the Quality Auto Court in Jimmock, Calfornia by chance. And while they initially had no plans to remain in their room at the place for more than a night or two, they become long-term visitors.

[Emily, not Ed, is the ticking time bomb...]

Apr 11 2014 8:45am

Everyone has seen a movie where a stunt actor on screen is suddenly engulfed in flames and runs around flailing and eventually dying. As green screens continue to replace sets and props, it would be easy to assume that the fire is just another computer-generated gimmick. But thanks to Play'n With Fire HydraGel, a product produced by Action Factory, you can be sure that the actor on screen is actually on fire. The gel is a transparent and is designed to resist heat altogether, allowing stunt actors to have no fear. Actually, not having fear is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a stunt actor.


Apr 10 2014 4:15pm

Like Sean Connery (whose Western films I recently reviewed), Pierce Brosnan is known predominantly for playing James Bond and other suave roles that capitalize on his handsome looks coupled with effortless charm. And, like Connery, besides being a solid actor, he has delved into Westerns sparingly with just two forays that deserve mentioning, both with less than boffo box office results. That’s a shame because Brosnan is adept at playing gritty, hardened characters.

In Seraphim Falls, Gideon (Brosnan) is being hunted by Carver (Liam Neeson) near Ruby Falls circa 1886. He's been wounded, nearly drowns, after a harrowing plunge over a waterfall, and must use a knife and spare bullets to start a fire before he succumbs to hypothermia. You can feel the desperation as he fumbles with the ammunition to stay alive. An edge of your seat opening with Brosnan's taut acting, among the best of his career, alone make it worth the view.

[He looks like a natural on that horse...]

Apr 10 2014 12:00pm
Cathi Stoler

The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler is the 3rd novel in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery Series about a murder in a Las Vegas casino where the duo's friend is the prime suspect (available April 15, 2014).

PI Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort in Vegas. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her magazine editor friend, Laurel Imperiole to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately. Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust. Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

[Start reading The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler...]

Apr 10 2014 8:45am

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants to turn Jeffrey Dahmer's Ohio home into a vegan restaurant called “Eat for Life – Home Cooking.”

Why would they want to do that? Because PETA says eating animals is no different than cannibalism.

“Like Dahmer’s human victims, cows, pigs, and chickens are made of flesh and blood and fear for their lives when confronted by a man with a knife,” PETA said on its blog. “They are also drugged and dragged, and their limbs are bound. Their struggles and screams are ignored as they are killed and cut up to be consumed. Their bones are thrown away like garbage.”

The three-bedroom home, where Dahmer killed the first of his 17 victims, was recently put on the market for $295,000.

“We’re always looking for ways to turn cruelty on its ugly head, so when we heard that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer‘s childhood home had been put up for sale, we saw an opportunity to create good out of evil,” PETA wrote.

“The difference is that when Dahmer was caught, his killing spree ended,“ it said. ”Today, however, more than 30 billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. every year in similarly gruesome ways for food."

Do you think this is a good idea? Or is this another publicity stunt from PETA? Chime off in the comments!

Apr 9 2014 3:30pm

Last week, I discussed Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 debut, Cronos, and now I'm back to examine his 1997 thriller Mimic, which opens with dire circumstances: a sickness akin to a Biblical plague has broken out in New York, striking down an entire generation of children. No cure can be found, no treatments are working, and in desperation the CDC turns to an entomologist to attack the source of the disease with one of mankind’s oldest pests—the common cockroach.

Given the resilience of the insects, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) resorts to genetically splicing DNA to create the Judas Breed, a super predator that eradicates the plague carriers. As they are designed to be sterile and die out once their work is done, Dr. Tyler and her husband, Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) of the CDC, promptly move on with their lives.

Fast-forward to three years later, when strange happenings in the city’s subways prove that the Judas Breed did not die out as expected. With their genetically modified metabolism, they have been breeding and evolving at exponential rates. Until the insect has begun to mimic its new prey…

[And you thought it was hard to kill a cockroach now…]

Apr 9 2014 8:45am

The Apple Core, a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg

Pop artist as crime poet? Well, Claes Oldenburg's work repeatedly makes monuments out of the everyday detritus of living, from apple cores to clothespins. By aggrandizing the humble, he offers a fresh perspective and dispels complacence, which is what I think crime stories do. They delve into what's tawdry, venal, cruel, or tragic with such purpose and attention that we come to consider events and people far differently than we do blipped statistics or stale news items.

Here are three minutes of Claes Oldenburg's wonderful words, excerpted from his “Ode to Possibilities” (1961), read in honor of National Poetry Month and as an unusual stop on April's blog tour for crime poetry, 30 Days of The 5-2.

He's for  “an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap” and “an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, whatever is necessary.” IMO, that's the enduring attraction of the crime genre. Do you agree?

The complete text, with much more background on the artist and his work, may be found at the Walker Art Center.

Apr 8 2014 1:00pm

Register to enter for a chance to win a six-book bundle of contemporary crime novels featuring lots of daring women!


This Sweepstakes Has Ended.


NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins April 8, 2014, at 1:00 pm ET, and ends April 22, 2014, 12:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.


Notorious by Allison Brennan

Maxine Revere has dedicated her life to investigating murders that the police have long since given up any hope of solving. A nationally renowned investigative reporter with her own TV show and a tough-as-nails reputation, Max tackles cold cases from across the country and every walk of life. But the one unsolved murder that still haunts her is a case from her own past.

When Max was a high school senior, one of her best friends was strangled and another, Kevin O’Neal, accused of the crime. To the disgrace of her wealthy family, Max stood by her friend, until she found out he lied about his alibi. Though his guilt was never proven, their relationship crumbled from the strain of too many secrets. Now Max is home for Kevin’s funeral—after years of drug abuse, he committed suicide. She’s finally prepared to come to terms with the loss of his friendship, but she’s not prepared for Kevin’s sister to stubbornly insist that he didn’t kill himself. Or for an elderly couple to accost her at the airport, begging her to look into another murder at Max’s old high school. As Max uncovers dark secrets, she finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies that hits far too close to home.

[Read about more daring women...]

Apr 8 2014 10:30am

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline is a family-driven, suspense filled story that asks the question how far would you go to keep your loved ones safe (available April 8, 2014).

Ryan, don’t tell Mom. Never, ever.

I…never ever would. Are you…insane?

I mean it. No matter what. You know what she’d do. She’d have to.

I swear…I won’t tell Mom…I won’t tell anybody.

Jake Buckman wants nothing more than to reconnect with his sixteen year old son Ryan before he finishes high school and goes off to college. Jake has been absent in his life for the last few years while he got his new financial planning business off the ground, a by-product of being laid off and struggling to find a new job. His marriage to Pam and relationship with Ryan has suffered. Marriage counseling helped, but no amount of reaching out to his son has worked.

One evening Pam urges Jake to pick Ryan up from the movies instead of her. Jake is both happy and nervous to have some alone time with his son. On the way home from the theatre, Jake has a lapse in judgment and lets Ryan drive on a seemingly deserted road, and their lives are changed forever after a child dies at their hands. Jake makes a split-second decision in order to save his son and Ryan's future. The estranged father and son take a vow of silence, and this forces the pair to lie and deceive the ones they love.

[It's only a matter of time until the silence breaks...]

Apr 7 2014 4:30pm

Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson is a standalone thriller where backstabbing, double crossing, and shifting alliances lead to kidnapping (available April 8, 2014).

Hilary Davidson’s new standalone thriller, Blood Always Tells, is a twisty, turny tale of jealousy, greed, betrayal, and loss. I’ve long been a fan of Davidson’s work; her prose is graceful and intelligent, her plots are tight, and her characters are fully realized. What I love most about her writing, though, is that if you look closely, her books always have a deeper meaning – a message that transcends the mystery. Yes, Blood Always Tells is a story about power and powerlessness, about selfishness and selflessness, about desperate people doing desperate things. Underneath it all, though, it’s also a meditation on fate and free will, on nature and nurture, and on whether it’s possible to overcome genetics and circumstance.

[Not all family is created equal...]

Apr 8 2014 8:45am

You may think you're brave, but no one will be as brave as the man who tested out a new bulletproof vest in 1923. This picture was compiled along with 39 others of “Weird Historical Photos that Actually Happened.” Among the collection is Elvis Presley in his Army days, a baby in gas-resistant carriage, and a family watching a mushroom cloud expand like it's a sporting event.

These pictures really make you realize that the truth is stranger than fiction.

Apr 7 2014 3:00pm

It's not just the Game of Thrones characters keeping score anymore...

Trust me, I get it. Game of Thrones can be a little confusing. It seems that every week a new character is added to the mix. Sometimes a new city or land. And in the case of Season 4's premiere, a whole new major family. I love that I can gather ten friends and we can all have different favorite characters. There’s no wholly-good, nor wholly-evil person in this world, and that allows viewers and readers to turn it into a modern choose-your-own-adventure game (see what I did there?) by investing passion in the characters they love.

After talking with fans of the show who'd never read the series of books, it became clear that certain important details were not obvious to the average viewer. My goal is to clear up the blurs (okay, as well as to interject my opinions on various characters and situations).

In the Weekly Red Ladder, we'll discuss whose fortunes rose and fell (see that icon in the image above), add more juicy backstory (Baggage icon), and covet the episode's Object of Power (Dragon/Shield icon). Sometimes, we'll also discuss how the adaptation varies from the novel (Axed Book icon). These posts will contain spoilers only for the episode under discussion, not future episodes. Like the Eyrie, you’re safe here.

[Arya and The Hound walk into a bar...]