<i>Last Seen Leaving</i>: New Excerpt Last Seen Leaving: New Excerpt Caleb Roehrig Last Seen Leaving is author Caleb Roehrig debut mystery thriller novel. Review: <i>Soulmates</i> by Jessica Grose Review: Soulmates by Jessica Grose Rachel Kramer Bussel Read Rachel Kramer Bussel's review! Review: <i>The Lost Boy</i> by Camilla Läckberg Review: The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>All the Little Liars</i>: New Excerpt All the Little Liars: New Excerpt Charlaine Harris The 9th book in the Aurora Teagarden Series.
From The Blog
September 27, 2016
Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film
Brian Greene
September 27, 2016
God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits
Lisa Turner
September 23, 2016
Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Angie Barry
September 22, 2016
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic
Peter Foy
September 21, 2016
Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock
Angie Barry
Sep 30 2016 11:00am

Police Help Man Find Briefcase Full of Cocaine

We have another brilliant criminal for you this week. A man found himself sitting in jail after he asked police if anyone had seen his missing briefcase. Not a big deal, right? Well, it is if the briefcase contained a whole lot of coke.

According to Channel 7, a briefcase was turned over to a police officer who was directing traffic outside of a Seattle Seahawks game in Washington. The man who gave the cop the briefcase said he had been walking his dog when another man stopped to pet it, leaving his briefcase behind in the process.

The police officer opened it to see if he could glean any contact info, but instead found something unexpected—four huge bags and 27 smaller ones filled with cocaine. The combined total was 154 grams! There was also a scale, 50 diazepam pills, and some marijuana. Sounds like one hell of a tailgate party...

Shortly after, the owner of the briefcase approached a few officers he spotted while searching for his lost briefcase and asked if they saw it anywhere. Get this, he explained that the briefcase had some very important paperwork that he needed. He was promptly arrested for being stupid...er, I mean, on drug charges.

Sep 30 2016 10:00am

Last Seen Leaving: New Excerpt

Caleb Roehrig

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb RoehrigLast Seen Leaving is author Caleb Roehrig debut mystery thriller novel that will keep you guessing until the end (Available October 4, 2016).

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking question he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.


Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.


THERE WAS A corpse in my neighbor’s front yard. Sprawled before a hedge of juniper bushes, its twisted arms and legs flung out bonelessly, as if it had plummeted there from a passing helicopter, there was an enormous granite boulder where its head should have been. The gardening glove on its right hand was pulling away from the cuff of a flannel shirt, and a chunk of ghostly white foam rubber innards peeked through the opening.

It was one week until Halloween, and everyone on my block seemed to be already getting into the spirit. Across the street, the Harrisons had a series of tombstones lining the walk to their front door, each one engraved with a different “funny” epitaph. HERE LIES THE MILKMAN—HE PASSED HIS EXPIRATION DATE. That kind of thing. It was a gauntlet of terrible jokes, and if you survived it, Mrs. Harrison—dressed in a peaked hat and a warty latex nose—would award you a miniature Charleston Chew. The last time I had gone trick-or-treating, which was nearly five years ago, I had skipped the Harrisons’ house.

[Read the full excerpt from Last Seen Leaving...]

Sep 29 2016 3:00pm

Amanda Knox: Netflix’s New True Crime Documentary

The popularity of true crime stories continues to rise, and it looks like Netflix might have struck it big again with their new feature-length documentary, Amanda Knox. Centered on the wrongful conviction of a young American girl in Italy, Amanda Knox is already getting rave reviews.

In 2007, after returning home from spending the night with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, Knox was alarmed to find evidence of a break-in and traces of blood. Meridith Kercher, a roommate and friend, wasn’t answering her phone and her door was locked. Worried, Knox eventually called the authorities, who broke down the door and found Kercher face down in her bedroom, stabbed to death.

After several lengthy interviews (she was viewed as a “witness,” and thus a lawyer was not required to be provided as she had not been charged) where Amanda claimed she was harassed and coerced into changing her story, the police finally charged her and her boyfriend with the murder. An unprecedented amount of pre-trial coverage in the Italian media followed, effectively condemning her in the public’s eye. The first trial, held in a lower court, convicted Knox and sentenced her to 26 years in Italian prison, despite significant concerns over the lack of hard evidence and failure of the prosecution to corroborate their version of the events.

After the conviction, controversy stirred as experts voiced their concerns over the evidence presented, the forensic profile of the case, and how the trial was presented to the public. An appeal and subsequent retrial in 2010 found her not guilty, and she returned to the US. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Cassation acquitted her of all charges except Callunia (unlawful accusation of someone with whom you know is innocent).

Amanda Knox will be released on Netflix tomorrow, September 30th.

For more information on the upcoming documentary Amanda Knox, read a great Q&A with directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn on Yahoo TV.

Sep 29 2016 1:30pm

Review: Soulmates by Jessica Grose

Soulmates by Jessica Grose is a novel of marriage, meditation, and all the spaces in between—a delicious satire of our feel-good spiritual culture in which a scorned ex-wife tries to puzzle out the pieces of her husband’s mysterious death at a yoga retreat and their life together.

Jessica Grose’s second novel, Soulmates, is not your typical whodunit. Instead, she’s taken a wildly humorous, satirical look at New Age yoga and spiritual practices and woven them into a love story with a mystery at its core.

Dana Morrison hasn’t seen her ex-husband Ethan since he left her five years ago for the lithe, seductive Amaya Walters. She’s mostly over the split, spending her time devoted to making partner at her Manhattan law firm. But when she sees the couple on the cover of the New York Post, she’s in for a rude awakening. They aren’t on it for some brilliant new yoga move they’ve broadcast on their YouTube channel, but instead because of how their lives ended, complete with the headline:


[Read Rachel Kramer Bussel's review of Soulmates...]

Sep 29 2016 12:00pm

Review: The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg

The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg ensnares Detective Patrik Hedstrom in a confounding new murder case in this Swedish psychological thriller (Available October 4, 2016).

When I think of ghost stories that have left an impression, I immediately go to The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson and the film The Others (2001). Neither frightened me per se—I’ve yet to find a book or film in the genre able to induce such an effect, maybe because the real world has already covered that base—it’s more the tension and anxiety.

Ms. Jackson was able to command it with the right choice of words and turns of phrase, both with precision and force. I can still see the house, the road, and that out-of-control vehicle in the final moments. Etched forevermore. The Others, starring Nicole Kidman as a mother with two young children in a remote country house, floored me with its superb acting and twist ending.

[Read David Cranmer's review of The Lost Boy...]

Sep 29 2016 11:00am

Longmire 5.04: “The Judas Wolf” Episode Review

Mayor Sawyer Crane (Eric Ladin) is accompanying Dan Keslow, CEO of a pharmaceutical company, on a hunting trip with the dual purpose of sweet-talking the businessman into moving his company to the area for an influx of needed jobs. Keslow says he won’t consider the change of locale because of Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), who he views as antidevelopment and bad for business. Adding to Tip O’Neill’s old chestnut, “All politics is local,” it gets down and dirty in Absaroka County because Sawyer almost immediately implies that Longmire won’t be around for long due to an impending civil lawsuit. Soon after, it seems everyone Walt bumps into knows that the estate of Barlow Connolly is gearing up to sue him.

However, Longmire’s help is needed when Keslow disappears on the trip and a fellow hunter is tranquilized and duct-taped to a tree. One of the main suspects is Pyper Callans (Debra Christofferson), an expert on Wyoming wolves who couldn’t care less whether Keslow is missing. She clarifies the intriguing title of the episode: Years before, Keslow placed a tracking collar on a wolf and turned it loose. When the animal returned to its pack, Keslow wiped them out from a helicopter with a high-powered rifle. When the collared wolf moved on to another pack, he continued killing the next group as well.

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

Sep 29 2016 10:00am

All the Little Liars: New Excerpt

Charlaine Harris

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris is the 9th book in the Aurora Teagarden Series (Available October 4, 2016).

Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora’s 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there’s an even worse discovery—at the kids’ last known destination, a dead body.

While the local police and sheriff’s department comb the county for the missing kids and interview everyone even remotely involved, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the death and kidnappings have anything to do with a group of bullies at the middle school? Is Phillip’s disappearance related to Aurora’s father’s gambling debts? Or is Phillip himself, new to town and an unknown quantity, responsible for taking the other children? But regardless of the reason, as the days go by, the most important questions remain. Are the kids still alive? Who could be concealing them? Where could they be?

With Christmas approaching, Aurora is determined to find her brother…if he’s still alive.


My cell phone rang about five o’clock. I noticed the time, because I’d been trying to imagine what we could have for dinner that night, and so far I hadn’t come up with anything. I was exhausted, after a very mild day at work. Would this be the norm until the baby was born? That would be a real pain.

Supper had to be ready early, because Robin’s writers’ group was meeting tonight at the new Community Center, at seven.

[Read the full excerpt from All the Little Liars...]

Sep 28 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

I love manor mystery novels—you know the kind—where a group of guests stays at a secluded manor and one of them is murdered. That’s the concept behind Louise Penny’s excellent fourth installment of the Inspector Gamache series, A Rule Against Murder.

Inspector Armand Gamache is at the historic Manoir Bellechasse for his wedding anniversary with the delightful Reine-Marie, and the only other guests are three generations of a family of Quebec Anglos resplendent in their old money, pride, and simmering resentments. Imagine his and Reine-Marie’s surprise when two beloved faces from nearby Three Pines appear as part of this brood and their horror when one of the family is bizarrely murdered. Reine-Marie is sequestered away in Three Pines while Inspector Gamache must unearth painful family secrets—of the victim’s and, compellingly, of his own—in his quest to bring a murderer to justice.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Sep 28 2016 3:30pm

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby: A Visual Guide

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

This week, the Montgomery Estate Vineyard has decided to make champagne—but with death, mystery, and blackmail at hand, there's not a whole lot to celebrate in Ellen Crosby's 7th Wine Country Mystery, The Champagne Conspiracy!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Sep 28 2016 1:00pm

Longmire 5.03: “Chrysalis” Episode Review

Longmire selects some of the best music to punctuate scenes that require no dialogue. Kaleo's mournful “I Can't Go On Without You” plays as Walt (Robert Taylor) gives Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker) a phone call. The camera’s eye segues from bullet holes that have ventilated Walt's house to Donna reading a paper, “The Psychological Effects of Violence.” She notes, with apprehension, the “Cowboy” is calling but doesn't pick up. In just a little over a minute of screen time, we see the strain of the relationship played out before the opening credits. Kudos to director Adam Bluming for haunting, poignant filmmaking.

Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) is looking to open an office on the Rez to show she means business in helping the Native American population. Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) has employed her to start a legal-aid center, giving her $750,000—which a distrustful Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) wryly observes is $745,000 more than the tribal casino checks handed out. The idea of a white knight riding in to help the disenfranchised is not looked upon favorably by the Cheyenne community.

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

Sep 28 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: September 27, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

This week, Joe Gunther & Ryder Creed return and Lisa Turner takes us back down south. See what else to add to your TBR list this week!

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

Sep 28 2016 10:00am

Teetotaled: New Excerpt

Maia Chance

Teetotaled by Maia ChanceTeetotaled by Maia Chance is a sparkling new mystery that will delight readers with its clever plotting, larger-than-life characters, and rich 1920s atmosphere (Available October 4, 2016).

After her philandering husband died and left her penniless in Prohibition-era New York, Lola Woodby escaped with her Swedish cook to the only place she could—her deceased husband’s secret love nest in the middle of Manhattan. Her only comforts were chocolate cake, dime store detective novels, and the occasional highball (okay, maybe not so occasional). But rent came due and Lola and Berta were forced to accept the first job that came their way, leading them to set up shop as private detectives operating out of Alfie’s cramped love nest.

Now Lola and Berta are in danger of losing the business they’ve barely gotten off the ground—work is sparse and money is running out. So when a society matron offers them a job, they take it—even if it means sneaking into a slimming and exercise facility and consuming only water and health food until they can steal a diary from Grace Whiddle, a resident at the “health farm.” But barely a day in, Grace and her diary escape from the facility—and Grace’s future mother-in-law is found murdered on the premises. Lola and Berta are promptly fired. But before they can climb into Lola’s brown and white Duesenberg Model A and whiz off the health farm property, they find themselves with a new client and a new charge: to solve the murder of Grace’s future mother-in-law.


July 14, 1923

The afternoon Sophronia Whiddle offered us the diary job, it was so hot, you could’ve sizzled bacon on the sidewalk. Which wasn’t a half-bad idea, come to think of it, except that I was out of funds for bacon. I’d been living on shredded wheat for days. All right, hours.

My detecting partner, Berta Lundgren, and I were reading at the kitchen table in our poky little Washington Square apartment, waiting for the telephone to ring. Stagnant city air puffed in from the window. My Pomeranian, Cedric, panted in front of an electric fan. I yawned, and turned a page of the latest issue of Thrilling Romance.

[Read the full excerpt from Teetotaled...]

Sep 27 2016 4:00pm

Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film

Criterion’s new Blu-Ray edition of Russ Meyer’s 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls gives me a prompt to write about a movie that I treasure. I could try to describe how much I like the film, but it might be easier and more telling if I just mention how many times I’ve watched it: I estimate 10-12 start-to-finish viewings, in addition to innumerable re-watches of individual scenes. I own the (glorious) soundtrack on vinyl, and it’s never but so far away from my turntable’s needle.

When people see BTVOTD for the first time, many of them (this was true of me, for sure) feel the need to start it back up and watch it again. There are so many dizzying cuts in the film, such a barrage of zinging one-liners, that on first viewing, it can be a sort of pleasurable assault on the your’s senses that leaves you feeling like you only really took in a portion of what happened and need to cue it back up to get what you missed.

[Be kind, rewind, and replay...]

Sep 27 2016 3:00pm

Which Marvel Project Do You Prefer?

With the release of the first season of Luke Cage on Netflix slated for this Friday, September 30th and the upcoming Doctor Strange premiering roughly a month and a half later, Marvel Studios is running on all cylinders, pumping out hit after hit.

But so far, the silver screen super heroes are much different in look and feel than their streaming season counterparts. The Marvel movies have a certain lighthearted wit and “gotta save the world(s)” feel to them, where crashing through a building hardly leaves a bruise and everything wraps up with a happy ending. However, the NY defenders of the smaller screen deal with darker, more adult themes, and the realistic violence often has real consequences.

But which do you prefer? Vote on which Marvel Universe you enjoy the best!

[Vote below!]

Sep 27 2016 1:00pm

God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits

I’ve heard it said that writers are God’s garbage men. We pick up people’s cast off details and deeds—some inspiring, some appalling—and use them to create our stories. 

For mystery writers, the newspaper is also a rich place to rummage through. Southern crime writer Ace Atkins commented, “I don’t have to make up plots. I just read the local papers.” Atkins’s latest, The Innocents, centers on a horrific story taken from a Mississippi news article about a former cheerleader who was set on fire and left to die, apparently by a trusted friend. Atkins does a stellar job of turning a true tale into fiction.

Read David Cranmer's review of The Innocents!

Think about the novels, movies, and news stories that have stayed with you. They’re often about powerful people who’ve forsaken the trust of those who most rely on them. Think of the mother in Judith Guest’s Ordinary People, who hated her second son just for being born. The revelation that priests have been abusing children for decades is abhorrent, but the Vatican’s coverup of the crimes is the ultimate betrayal.   

[Read more from author Lisa Turner!]

Sep 27 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Chapter 4

After a debate about betrayal and the ultimate goal last week for Chapter 3, we step into the darkness of the mountain and into the hands of the slow mutants for Chapter 4...

Thank you for joining me on a reread of what Stephen King has called his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series featuring Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger. It’s been 38 years since Roland’s quest began in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and four years since the last Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012). Let’s see if this equal parts Western, mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy epic still packs a punch.

*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!

The plan is to read a chapter a week, and each Tuesday we will meet to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This chapter is dark in more ways than one—so let's shed some light on Chapter 4 of The Gunslinger:

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[“Go then. There are other worlds than these.”]

Sep 27 2016 11:00am

Longmire 5.02: “One Good Memory” Episode Review

If the Season 5 premiere of Longmire was a bit slow on the windup, then “One Good Memory” delivers a fastball that wraps up the mystery of the missing Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker). 

It starts nerve-wracking enough for Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) as he hurries in the middle of the night to neighboring Cumberland County to see if a reported Jane Doe is the good physician. Have to confess, I was fooled by Walt’s emotive reaction to the woman on the slab, but it turns out not to be Donna, leading him to ask a deputy of Cumberland named Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke) for assistance. You may remember Eamonn from when he subbed in Absaroka County and had a brief roll between the sheets with Vic (Katee Sackhoff).

[Read David Cranmer's review of “One Good Memory”...]

Sep 27 2016 10:00am

Strong Cold Dead: New Excerpt

Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead by Jon LandTexas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in Jon Land's Strong Cold Dead, a thriller with heart-stopping action and a high-stakes terrorist plot (Available October 4, 2016).

The terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.

At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.

In her highest-stakes adventure yet, Caitlin Strong faces off against a host of adversaries that just might include the beautiful Comanche girl with whom the son of her ex-outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters has fallen in love, along with a mythic monster culled from Native American folklore that the tribe believes has risen to protect its land. The lives of those Caitlin loves most are threatened by the villains she’s pursuing; her own moral code is challenged. The fate of both the country and the state she loves are dangling on the precipice of a strong cold death.



“What ’xactly you make of this, Ranger?”

Texas Ranger Steeldust Jack Strong looked up from the body he was crouched alongside of—or what was left of it. “Well, he’s dead all right.”

The male victim’s suit coat had been shredded, much of the skin beneath it hanging off the bone. He’d worn his holster low on his hip, gunfighter style, and his pearl-handled Samuel Walker Colt was the latest model, updated from the one Jack Strong had used since joining the Texas Rangers after the Civil War.

[Read the full excerpt from Strong Cold Dead...]

Sep 26 2016 4:30pm

Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith

Combustion by Martin J. Smith is a page-turning thriller with a sh0cking twist (Available September 27, 2016).

Detective Ron Starke is having a torrid time of it all. A body shows up at the bottom of the local pond—a midnight swim gone wrong, possibly. It’s true that alcohol mixed with unexpected cold temperatures can have a shocking effect on a person in the water, particularly if it is in a place they are not used to swimming. However, the heavy piece of computer machinery with a steel cable looped through the handle, around the victim’s neck, then back through the handle again and secured with a combination lock suggests an accident this, most certainly, is not. 

The victim is a man who has done very well for himself: a big house, a big wife with big hair and a big history, a big bank account, and—due to his abrasive and unforgiving personality—a big long list of people who may have provided the anchor to take him down his one way journey to the bottom of a cold, dark, slimy pond. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Combustion...]

Sep 26 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby

The Reckoning on Cane Hill is a terrifying and heartbreaking new novel of guilt and innocence, from CWA Dagger-­winner Steve Mosby.

In a world where guilt and innocence are in the eye of the beholder, what if you could see someone's sins? What would their sin look like?

Charlie Matheson wore her sins like a badge of repentance. An elaborate spider's web of scars covered her face. Each line carefully crafted. A message intended for the world to see. She claims these marks were put there by the Devil in Hell.

But that wasn't the message Charlie was there to deliver. 

Two years prior, Charlotte (Charlie) Matheson died in a car crash. Now, she's back from the dead to deliver a message for retired Detective John Mercer's ears only. A detective haunted by his own demons.

[Read Cindy Kerschner's review of The Reckoning on Cane Hill...]