Review: <i>Panacea</i> by F. Paul Wilson Review: Panacea by F. Paul Wilson David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review of this medical thriller! <i>Lowcountry Book Club</i>: New Excerpt Lowcountry Book Club: New Excerpt Susan M. Boyer The 5th book in the Liz Talbot Mystery series. Review: <i>Rancher's Law</i> by Dusty Richards Review: Rancher's Law by Dusty Richards David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Paraíso</i>: New Excerpt Paraíso: New Excerpt Gordon Chaplin A genre-bending story about love, sibling relationships, and the dark side.
From The Blog
June 28, 2016
Serial Killer Calling Cards: Winners Revealed!
Crime HQ
June 24, 2016
Page to Screen: Comics I'd Love to See on My TV—The Sandman
Angie Barry
June 23, 2016
Cooking the Books: The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis
Doreen Sheridan
June 23, 2016
Q&A with Spencer Kope, Author of Collecting the Dead
Crime HQ and Spencer Kope
June 22, 2016
The Real Serial Killer Behind the Play Arsenic and Old Lace
Kristen Houghton
Jun 24 2016 10:00am

The Big Sheep: New Excerpt

Robert Kroese

The Big Sheep by Robert KroeseThe Big Sheep by Robert Kroese is a balance of sci-fi, mystery, and humor (Available June 28, 2016).

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there's no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation's labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her - and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected - and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane's wits and Fowler's skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.


“That’s a really big sheep,” said Erasmus Keane, his observational powers functioning as flawlessly as ever.

The woman in the lab coat nodded curtly. “He’s a Lincoln Longwool,” she said. “Largest breed of sheep in the world.” She had introduced herself as Dr. Kelly Takemago, Director of Research for the Esper Corporation. We were standing in her lab, a vast white room filled with the low humming of vaguely terrifying machines that hung from the ceiling like colossal clockwork bats. Poised in the middle of the room was the sheep in question, which Keane and I were regarding with professional interest. The sheep, in turn, was regarding us. It didn’t appear impressed.

[Read the full excerpt from The Big Sheep...]

Jun 23 2016 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis

The 10th installment of the Domestic Diva mystery series finds our heroine, Sophie Winston, coming to the rescue of her frenemy, Natasha, when an intruder breaks into the home Natasha shares with her boyfriend, Mars (who also happens to be Sophie’s ex-husband). Someone is lurking in the shadows of Old Town Alexandria, and neither Sophie nor her friends feel safe as the culprit remains at large—particularly since no motive was apparent for the attack.

Fortunately, a diverting new restaurant has opened in the neighborhood—a lovely place specializing in tea and snacks, called The Parlour. Unfortunately, it’s closed down for investigation when new arrival to the neighborhood, handsome antiques dealer Robert Johnson, drops dead from botulism poisoning shortly after attending a literary fundraiser held there.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Jun 23 2016 3:00pm

Q&A with Spencer Kope, Author of Collecting the Dead

Before writing crime novels, you solved crimes as a Crime Analyst with the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. Did you base any of your characters in Collecting the Dead on yourself?

I did, actually. In the story, Dexter Allen is the crime analyst at the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office and helps Steps identify a vehicle captured on surveillance video. Dexter, or Dex, is one of my nicknames at the Sheriff's Office (though my favorite is Jedi Master), and his office, as described, is my office down to every detail. Also, the process Dex uses to identify the vehicle, a process called Forensic Vehicle Analysis, is one I developed and use on a weekly basis to identify suspect vehicles. Dex will play a larger role in future books as the on-going hunt for the serial killer Leonardo continues.

[Read the full Q&A with Spencer Kope here...]

Jun 23 2016 1:00pm

Review: First Strike by Ben Coes

First Strike by Ben Coes is the 6th thriller featuring CIA operative Dewey Andreas (Available June 28, 2016).

Ben Coes’s First Strike—the 6th in his series featuring Dewey Andreas, a former member of U.S. Delta Force—is unrelentingly brutal in its portrayal of a struggle between a brilliant ISIS leader, Tristan Nazir, and Andreas and his colleagues.

Oxford educated Nazir is icily realistic in his aims—not for him noble clarion calls of creating a country ruled by Islam, rather:

“A noble idea to be sure, but what good is an idea if it is only that?” said Nazir. “Ruling is about power. It is about the acquisition of power, the maintenance of power, and the custody of power. It is about having the strength to demand that your own people sacrifice their lives in a larger struggle. It’s about the willingness to kill.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of First Strike...]

Jun 23 2016 12:00pm

Widowmaker: Audio Excerpt

Paul Doiron

Widowmaker by Paul Doiron is book #7 in the Mike Bowditch series (Available June 14, 2016).

When a mysterious woman in distress appears outside his home, Mike Bowditch has no clue she is about to blow his world apart. Amber Langstrom is beautiful, damaged, and hiding a secret with a link to his past.. She claims her son Adam is a wrongfully convicted sex offender who has vanished from a brutal work camp in the high timber around the Widowmaker Ski Resort. She also claims that Adam Langstrom is the illegitimate son of Jack Bowditch, Mike’s dead and diabolical father. He is the half-brother Mike never knew he had.

[Listen to an audio excerpt of Widowmaker here...]

Jun 23 2016 10:00am

Black Sails, Disco Inferno: New Excerpt

Andrez Bergen

Black Sails Disco Inferno by Andrez Bergen is the 70s noir-style retelling of the classic medieval romance of Tristan and Isolde (Available June 30, 2016).

An unnamed city, in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power...Black Sails, Disco Inferno is a retelling of the classic medieval romance of Tristan and Isolde, turning things on their head by reversing the sex of the chief protagonists and placing them in a '70's pulp/noir world. Andrez Bergen's latest novel exposes layers of the bullet-riddled pulp/noir world of Trista and Issy amidst a sensual, disco-infused narrative overflowing with shady schemes, double dealings, cruel brutality and spellbinding mystery.




The city feeling like a blast furnace, two blocks down from the Disco Inferno.

From this position on the sidewalk, outside a closed delicatessen called Sam’s, she could hear beatsfrom the club, an electronic-affected voice asking something about being taken to Funky Town.

[Read more from Black Sails, Disco Inferno here...]

Jun 22 2016 4:00pm

Writing Where Your Protagonist Is a Different Race or Culture

Read this exclusive guest post from John Keyse-Walker, author of Sun, Sand, Muder, about writing protagonists outside of your race and culture, and then, make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Write what you know. Every writer has heard this bit of wisdom attributed to Mark Twain. We all try to do this, but nothing flies more in the face of this adage than writing from a perspective the writer cannot fully know—that of a different race or culture. A writer can visit a location, go for a ride-along with the cops, or learn pathology and forensics to lend authenticity and credibility to their principal character’s environment and methods, but they can never completely get inside that character’s skin if they're of a different race.

That irrefutable fact has not stopped a number of crime writers from making a creditable and convincing effort. Richard Price, in Clockers, gave a portrayal of a black, small-time dope dealer and his poor, drug-ravaged housing project sufficiently realistic to inspire the Spike Lee film of the same name. George Pelecanos has been uniformly praised for his portrayal of black protagonists Derek Strange and Marcus Clay, both paired with white partners in Pelecanos's native Washington, D.C.

[Should you write characters outside your race?]

Jun 22 2016 3:00pm

The Real Serial Killer Behind the Play Arsenic and Old Lace

Many fictional crime stories are based, in part, on real events, and so have a background of interesting characters. Arsenic and Old Lace is one of them. It was based on a serial killer named Amy Archer-Gilligan—who, law enforcement says, murdered between 20 and 100 people, including some of her husbands. The dark comedy had a sinister, real-life protagonist.

The play, Arsenic and Old Lace, created in 1939 by playwright Joseph Kesselring, featured the charming, ditsy characters of Abby and Martha Brewster—two spinster sisters who ran a boarding house for “lonely, elderly gentlemen.” They helped these lonely men to the “Peaceful Great Beyond” by poisoning them with glasses of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide. Darkly funny comedy, indeed, but the acts of the real person who inspired Kesselring were anything but funny.

[Read about the real killer below!]

Jun 22 2016 1:00pm

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo: A Visual Guide

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

This week, take a wild ride through a visual summary of the plot of the upcoming 8th Kate Burkholder novel by Linda Castillo, Among the Wicked.

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Jun 22 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: June 21, 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!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

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

Jun 22 2016 11:00am

Let There Be Linda Blog Tour: Sneak Peak and Exclusive Q&A with Author Rich Leder

Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder is a black comic thriller that tells the tall tale of estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller (Available July 1, 2016).

Estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller—accountant and con-man talent agent respectively—are up to their necks in the virtual quicksand of LA's San Fernando Valley during the hottest summer in Southern California history. The root cause of their problems could be the missing seventy-five thousand dollars, or the sadistic, loan shark dwarf and his vicious giant, or the psycho comedian cop on the case, or the coke-snorting dentist, or the deranged zombie real estate developer. Or perhaps it’s the poodle—the poodle is suspect, no doubt. Or maybe it's the grocery store checker who breathes life into death.

Oh yes, it could be her too.

And so to repair the head-on collision the Millers have made of their personal and professional lives, the brothers summon their mother back from the dead to clean up the wreckage. But what the Miller men discover is that screwing with the laws of nature is a violent, bloody, hysterical, and hilarious idea.

[Read a sneak peak of Let There Be Linda and an exclusive Q&A with Richard Leder!]

Jun 21 2016 3:00pm

How Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Has Changed

One night, after working on a murder mystery that was going nowhere, I toyed with the idea of starting an espionage thriller series. Along with tossing around possible locations and when the action would take place, I had to come up with realistic characters. Who would be the protagonist?

Naturally, all the interesting people I met through the years who had served in the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence organizations came to mind. My hero, who I named Hayden Stone, had to have a unique face and behavior, perhaps a composite of all those people I knew. However, what experiences in his intelligence career would shape Hayden Stone at this particular time in history—the post-World-Trade-Center-attack world?

[Read more from a former FBI counterintelligence agent...]

Jun 21 2016 2:00pm

Review: The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr

The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr is a gripping historical thriller set in sixteenth-century Spain.

What a timely, topical book. Ostensibly a medieval murder mystery, The Devils of Cardona draws strong parallels with a world currently caught up in theological hysteria, warning both of the perils of forgetting the beauty and kindnesses of religion and of allowing xenophobia to cloak cynical and selfish political machinations.

Set in 16th-century Spain, with the Inquisition dominating the daily landscape of Spanish lives, The Devils of Cardona starts with the brutal murder of an unpopular priest in a small Aragonese village near the border with France. Arabic words scrawled in the priest’s blood across the walls point the finger at the local Moriscos, former Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism.

With the nobility of Aragon prickly about their rights under Castilian rule, an adviser to King Philip II appoints a judge with a reputation for fairness and justice to travel to the remote region to investigate. With a small entourage, Licenciado Bernardo Mendoza sets out on a trip that will find him at odds with nobility and clergy, the faithful and heretics, and old friends and new alike.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Devils of Cardona...]

Jun 21 2016 1:00pm

Review: Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie

Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie is a gritty, gripping mystery and an enthralling character study of its poet-protagonist (Available today!).

Set in rural Arkansas in the mid-eighties, C.B. McKenzie brings us noir in the base, true-to-form sense, with a setting filled with oppressive southern heat that rises from the pages like the sheen off scalding asphalt, leaving letters dripping and bringing sweat to your brow. It has the sharp, cutting edge and the southern drawl of a fly lazily buzzing on the front porch in the hot afternoon sun, slicing through the humid air with the background drone of its wings.

Bob Reynolds is a flawed character, all the way, and seeing through his eyes is like looking through a veil at a kaleidoscopic Polaroid memory. He’s a widow, a poet with a drinking problem, a loner, and, most importantly, an outsider in the small town of Poe County—but there is more just under the surface. His eccentricities stand out to the Locals, who don’t really need a reason to target him other than he’s a stranger. The local postman won’t even deliver mail to his house because he’s not a relative of the family who owned the house before he bought it.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Burn What Will Burn...]

Jun 21 2016 12:00pm

First Strike: New Excerpt

Ben Coes

First Strike by Ben CoesFirst Strike by Ben Coes is the 6th thriller featuring CIA operative Dewey Andreas (Available June 28, 2016).

Deep within the Pentagon, a covert, multi-billion arms-for-influence program was created. The objective was to protect the United States and its allies from terrorist acts by secretly enabling a hand-picked man to emerge as the most powerful leader in the Middle East. But the charismatic Tristan Nazir double-crosses America, twisting the program for his own violent ends to create ISIS. Now America is at great risk.

Elite operative Dewey Andreas is sent to Syria to retrieve details about the source of ISIS’s funding but his cover is blown mid-operation and chaos erupts in the streets of Damascus. Trapped and outnumbered, Dewey manages to send proof of the awful truth—unknown at even the highest levels in the government—that ISIS’s munitions were indeed provided by America itself.

This information arrives in time to for the U.S. to cut off a final arms shipment before it reaches ISIS. But the vicious Nazir, is far from finished. He launches a bold strike into the heart of America, sending a terrorist cell to take over a dorm at Columbia University, capturing hundreds of college students as hostages. For every hour that the shipment of weapons is withheld, the terrorists will publicly execute one student. The potential loss of life is intolerable. A frontal assault is impossible. Releasing the shipment is unthinkable. There is nowhere to turn…

In a situation with no solutions, there remains only one option—Dewey Andreas.





Dewey Andreas slept for the first hour after takeoff. When he awoke, he found the liquor cabinet on board the unmarked black-and-white Gulfstream G200. The jet was the property of a Florida-based corporation called Flexor-Danton LLC, which was, in turn, controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency. He pulled out a bottle of bourbon, unscrewed the cap, looked to make sure the pilots weren’t watching, then took several large gulps. He put the bottle back and opened two cans of beer.

Dewey was dressed in a short-sleeve polo shirt, black with yellow piping. It was a new shirt, Fred Perry’s largest size, but Dewey’s shoulders and chest stretched out the material and made it look too small. The sleeves clung tightly to his massive biceps. A Tudor watch with a striped canvas strap was the only thing adorning his tanned arms. He had on jeans and Nike running shoes.

[Read the full excerpt from First Strike...]

Jun 21 2016 11:00am

Who Is Your Favorite Batman?

Ever since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939, Bruce Wayne has captured American audiences with his vigilante justice. However, it’s the characters film and television portrayals that really secured his place in the hearts of superhero lovers everywhere.

From the campy and over-the-top Adam West to the ridiculous voice of Christian Bale, from Keaton to Clooney (with a little Val Kilmer in the middle)—each actor to don the cape has brought their own interpretation to the World’s Greatest Detective. But, who do YOU think captured the Caped Crusader in all his glory? And, in this poll, Legos count…

[Who is your favorite Batman actor?]

Jun 21 2016 10:00am

The Curse of Tenth Grave: New Excerpt

Darynda Jones

The Curse of Tenth Grave by Darynda JonesThe Curse of Tenth Grave is the 10th book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones (Available June 28, 2016).

As a Part-time PI and fulltime grim reaper, Charley Davidson has asked a lot of questions throughout her life: Why can I see dead people? Who is the hot supernatural entity following me? How do I get gum out of my sister’s hair before she wakes up? But, “How do I trap not one malevolent god, but three?” was never among them. Until now. And since those gods are on earth to kill her daughter, she has little choice but to track them down, trap them, and cast them from this dimension.

There’s just one problem. One of the three stole her heart a very long time ago. Can the Razer, a god of absolute death and destruction, change his omniscient spots, or will his allegiances lie with his brothers?

Those are just a few of the questions Charley must answer, and quick. Add to that a homeless girl running for her life, an innocent man who’s been charged with murdering the daughter of a degenerate gambler, and a pendant made from god glass that has the entire supernatural world in an uproar, and Charley has her hands full. If she can manage to take care of the whole world-destroying-gods thing, we’re saved. If not, well…


Charley Davidson:

Maybe she’s born with it.

Maybe it’s caffeine.

Ignoring the dead girl standing next to me, I crossed my bare feet on the cool windowsill, took a sip of piping-hot coffee, and watched the emerging sunrise from my third-story apartment window. A soft yellow scaled the horizon and stretched across it like tendrils of food coloring suspended in water. Ribbons of pinks and oranges and purples quickly followed, the symphony a slow, exquisite seduction of the senses. Or it could have been if there weren’t a dead girl standing next to me.

She jutted out a tiny hip, anchored a fist onto it, and let loose a lengthy sigh of annoyance for my benefit. I continued to ignore her. There were few things in life more irritating than other people’s children. Hell, perhaps. Been there, done that. But for the moment, the only thing complicating an otherwise serene morning was a tiny blond-haired, blue-eyed beast in Strawberry Shortcake pajamas.

[Read the full The Curse of Tenth Grave excerpt...]

Jun 20 2016 3:30pm

Review: Pressure by Brian Keene

Pressure by Brian Keene is this summer's hot new thriller from the bestselling author and World Horror Grandmaster Award winner (Available June 21, 2016).

Fast and full of breathless moments, this one is a definite for any summer reading list. To say I really loved this story doesn’t do it justice. I was left wanting more—more about the characters I had come to love, more about the fascinating and terrifying monsters, more and Mauritius. It also had the surprising effect of making me want to go to the beach RIGHT NOW and snorkel and dive and see all of the wondrous things under the water, which is really a surprise for me since I’m pretty much afraid of what lurks under the surface, be it a lake or the ocean.

Brian Keene’s gorgeous descriptions felt so real that I could easily imagine I was right there at Mauritius, in the water. After looking up the real phenomenon, I have to say I am intrigued—an underwater waterfall I had never heard of before.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Pressure...]

Jun 20 2016 1:00pm

Game of Thrones 6.09: “Battle of the Bastards” Episode Review

There are certain rules that will forever govern Game of Thrones: Tyrion will drink a lot of wine, Daenerys will burn slavers alive, the Lannisters will always pay their debts, and the 9th episode of each season will leave you scarred and unable to sleep. The aptly titled “Battle of the Bastards” was as brutal as it was promised, but it left us in unfamiliar waters. In short, THE GOOD GUYS WON! 

As we drew closer and closer to this inevitable battle, we grew ready for some sort of loss. After Ned’s beheading, Robb’s wedding, and Oberyn’s showboating, loss seemed like an ingrained element of Game of Thrones' penultimate episodes. So, even though we may have assumed that Jon Snow would be the victorious bastard, we still expected to lose a few dear friends along the way.

Sure, Rickon died, but he did so in the same way he lived: insignificantly. Other than that though, Team Stark came out relatively unscathed, with both Davos and Tormund surviving the fight. And, not only that, but we also saw Tormund channel his inner Rick Grimes and literally bite through a guy’s neck. Plus, Ramsay learned just how accurate the Nine Inch Nails can be when his hounds bit off the literal hands that fed them. 

All in all, “Battle of the Bastards” was a thrilling, unnerving, and ultimately rewarding episode, but it took quite a bit of gruesome time before we were able to hang the Stark banners. This episode marked the first time we saw a fully-planned medieval pitch battle on screen, and it’s one we certainly won’t forget soon. 

[Let’s get to the riser…]

Jun 20 2016 12:00pm

Endeavour 3.01: “Ride” Episode Review

When we last saw our hero Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) in Series 2, Episode 4, “Neverland,” things did not end well. His boss and mentor, D.I. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), was critically injured and Morse had been put in prison. That sort of experience will change a man. It certainly changed Morse.

He’s since been released, his named cleared, and the case files sealed for 50 years. (They can be opened in 2017, if you’re counting.) Still not ready to rejoin the police force, he’s essentially gone into hiding in a “dacha” by a lake, where, being Morse, he chops wood while wearing a shirt and tie.

Endeavour being Endeavour, the opening minutes of “Ride” are jammed with seemingly unrelated events that we know will coalesce at some point. Newsreel footage of daredevil Donald Campbell’s death while trying to set a new water speed record tells us this is 1967. The gent being released from prison wearing a spiffy suit points to a gangster element in the story. A shadowy figure rolls a gold coin through his fingers. There’s a stately home, a casino, and a traveling carnival. There’s also a “rather toothsome” red-headed bus conductor named Jeannie Hearne. Why she might be targeted for murder is anyone’s guess.

Then, from out of nowhere, comes Morse’s college friend Anthony Donn. He invites Morse for a drive to a surprise destination. With nothing else on his agenda, Morse agrees to go along for the ride, only to stumble upon his old police colleagues investigating Jeannie’s murder in the woods near his house.

[Fasten your seatbelts, et cetera...]