<i>Presumption of Guilt</i>: New Excerpt Presumption of Guilt: New Excerpt Archer Mayor The 27th book in the Joe Gunther series. Review: <i>Reckless Creed</i> by Alex Kava Review: Reckless Creed by Alex Kava Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review! <i>A Deadly Thaw</i>: New Excerpt A Deadly Thaw: New Excerpt Sarah Ward The 2nd book in the Inspector Francis Sadler series. Review: <i>Gunshine State</i> by Andrew Nette Review: Gunshine State by Andrew Nette Scott Adlerberg Read Scott Adlerberg's review!
From The Blog
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
September 20, 2016
From Gore to Grave Robbing: The History of Medicine as Inspiration
E.S. Thomson
September 19, 2016
Head Back to School with the Adolescent Assassins of Deadly Class
Dave Richards
Sep 23 2016 4:30pm

“Drinking Up Daisies” Cocktails

It must be stressful to live in a town like Carsely in the Cotswolds, where there seems to be murder around every corner. I wouldn't judge Agatha Raisin one bit for needing to unwind every now and then with a nice cocktail or two.

So, relax with a variety of delicious cocktails for this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—“Drinking Up Daisies,” an ice-cold sour made with your spirit of choice, inspired by M.C. Beaton's 27th Agatha Raisin Mystery, Pushing Up Daisies!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Sep 23 2016 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

THE SUBGENRE: Cartoon noir.
THE HERO(ES): Private eye Eddie Valiant and the eponymous Toon.
THE VILLAIN: The mad Judge Doom.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Dolores and femme fatale Jessica.
THE SETTING: An alternate 1940's Hollywood.

1947, Hollywood. It's a familiar setting to any fan of noir.

This Hollywood, however, is different in one very significant way: there's a strange neighborhood on its fringe called Toontown. It's a Technicolor dream world with inhabitants that are downright animated...

Private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) has a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar when it comes to Toons: those brightly-colored, two-dimensional characters that routinely smash through walls, break plates over their heads, and burst into frequent song and dance numbers—anything to make people laugh. 

[Don't hit me! I'll hit me! Cause I'm craaaazzzyyyy...]

Sep 23 2016 1:00pm

Daisy in Chains: Audio Excerpt

Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton features a convicted serial killer who insists he's innocent and a notorious defense attorney who eventually takes the case (Available September 20, 2016).

He’s a serial killer. A murderer of young women, all killed in brutal attacks.

But despite Hamish Wolfe’s conviction, he’s always stuck to his story—he’s innocent and he’s been wrongly imprisoned. And now he wants someone to investigate and, more importantly, to write his story.

Maggie Rose is a notorious defense attorney and writer whose specialty is getting convictions overturned. At first, Maggie is reluctant to even acknowledge Hamish’s requests to meet, ignoring his letters. But this is a very charismatic and persuasive man, good-looking and intelligent.

Eventually even she can’t resist his lure…

[Listen to an audio excerpt from Daisy in Chains...]

Sep 23 2016 11:00am

Burglar Steals Fake Money from Toy Cash Register

A man was caught on security camera cleaning out a cash register of all its money at a YMCA. But here’s the thing: it turns out the cash register was actually a children’s toy filled with fake “play-money” instead of the real thing. Yup, this guy was a master thief...if he lived in the world of Monopoly

The suspect was filmed breaking into the YMCA Child Development Center in California by busting through the ceiling tiles and dropping to the floor. Once on the ground, he made his way to a [toy] cash register, smashed it open, and pocketed the [phony] cash inside before exiting through the front door.

Local police believe the suspect is no stranger to this type of crime. 

“Thieves tend to have specific MOs that they follow, stuff they get comfortable with,” Sergeant Dan Marshall told reporters. “They don’t get caught doing it once and they figure, 'Hey, it’s a tried and true method,' and then they stick to it.”

According to ABC, local police are now using the footage to try and track down the suspect. I suggest they look for him in Candy Land.

Here is the video for your viewing pleasure:

Sep 23 2016 10:00am

Presumption of Guilt: New Excerpt

Archer Mayor

Presumption of Guilt by Archer MayorPresumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor is the 27th book in the Joe Gunther series (Available September 27, 2016).

A forty-year-old skeleton is found encased in a concrete slab at a recently decommissioned nuclear energy site. It becomes a case for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) and its leader, Joe Gunther, since they have the resources and the ability to investigate an old, very cold, missing persons case that has now been reclassified as murder. The victim was Hank Mitchell, and Gunther must chase down old rumors and speculations—who benefited from his death and the disappearance of his body? And was his death somehow tied to New York City mafia money being laundered through the construction project?

But what seems the coldest of cold cases roars back to life when one of the central figures in this mystery is shot to death, right after speaking with Gunther. And when a young police officer—the son of VBI investigator Lester Spinney—is kidnapped, is that meant to be a warning to the VBI team to drop the case?

After all these many years, the truth behind the murder still has to the power to kill, and it’s up to Gunther and his team to capture the living and finally put the dead to rest.



Tony Farnum waited until he saw Barry’s face in the driver’s-side mirror before motioning him to back up, looking over his shoulder to make sure the concrete mixer’s rear wheels didn’t hit the staked wooden form bordering the pour site. Satisfied, he held up both hands to a chorus of squealing brakes and a whoosh of compressed air. Barry swung out of the cab, strolled back, extracting a pack of cigarettes, and threw a wheel chock under one of the back tires with practiced ease.

He offered the pack to Farnum, who shook his head. “Too hot,” he said. “And I wanna get this load going. Told my old lady I’d take her out tonight.”

[Read the full excerpt from Presumption of Guilt...]

Sep 22 2016 4:30pm

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic

When literary laureates list their picks for great American novels, rarely are crime novels brought up in the same breath. Sure, there were plenty of bestsellers in the genre that led to more acclaimed film adaptations (Mario Puzo’s The Godfather being perhaps the most obvious), and certain authors like Jim Thompson were even lauded for how transgressive they were able to be with the genre, but, as a whole, the genre was collectively seen by reviewers as pulp, shallow, and ultimately disposable. A shame, too, as at its strongest, crime fiction can eclipse preposterous ideas and represent something undeniably human. Perhaps the most indispensable example of this is Don Carpenter’s first novel: Hard Rain Falling.

A generation-spanning story set in America’s West Coast (primarily in Oregon and Northern California) in the mid-20th century, the book recounts the lives of two street-raised kids and their tribulations into adulthood. We’re first introduced to Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager in Portland who spends his rebellious days seeking sex and booze and partaking in crimes with his local gang. His life takes a real turn-around, however, when he meets Billy Lancing, a light-skinned Negro from Seattle who has run away from home to try and make it as a billiard champ. Levitt forms a strong bond with Lancing that takes them from the dingy pool halls of Portland to a tumultuous prison sentence—and an unexpected happiness that follows.

[Read Peter Foy's review of the lost American classic, Hard Rain Falling...]

Sep 22 2016 3:30pm

The Case for Cultural Appropriation & Assimilation in Kevin Smith’s Dogma

Kevin Smith’s Dogma is a biting and insightful look at many mythologies and modern religions. And while some of it is a little sharp, there is insight in its critique as well. Smith attempts to present a unified system of mythological entities borrowed from different cultures. This idea, though, is not his own, as nearly every culture in the world attempts the same in order to justify its own cultural supremacy.

Smith borrows Loki from Norse mythology. As anyone who is familiar with Marvel’s Thor (the comic or the film adaptation), Loki is not really a nice guy. He wants to destroy things, play tricks, and generally just cause mischief. The angel in Dogma, then, is a perfect incarnation of Loki, but Matt Damon's version has been reassigned to be an angel instead of a pagan deity.

[Maaaatt Daaamonnnnn....]

Sep 22 2016 2:00pm

Review: Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava Reckless Creed by Alex Kava is the 3rd book in the Ryder Creed series (Available September 27, 2016).

Dogs have a nose for just about everything. If it is there, they will sniff it out. Their sense of smell is forty times more powerful than ours and, for me, what’s even more impressive is the fact that they can wiggle their nostrils independently. So it’s no surprise to find that Ryder Creed uses dogs for search and rescue in Reckless Creed.

In this finely crafted tale by Alex Kava, Ryder employs the skills of just one of his dogs, Grace, who, like Creed’s other dogs, is an animal Creed actually rescued himself. One dog is enough; anymore and they compete for scents, which can lead to confusion in the search. Creed’s decision pays off, as Grace finds the body of a young woman who has met a strange and untimely end thanks to a pocket full of rocks in a river in Southern Alabama. Turns out she's not the only one—a young man in Chicago has exited his hotel room via the 19th floor window.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Reckless Creed...]

Sep 22 2016 12:00pm

5 Lesser-Known Unsolved Murders

Unsolved murders can be frustrating—not only to those directly involved, but to the world at large. We like to think the world works under some form of justice and retributive control. Even if we don’t ascribe to it in a spiritual or religious way, humans assume a sort of karmic “reap what you sow” mentality, and unsolved murders work directly against this understanding. How could someone commit an act so vile, so heinous as to take another person’s life, without suffering the consequences of their actions?

Unsolved murders can also be fascinating. The fear of the unknown and the need to solve the mystery and bring upon that justice often thrills even the outsider that holds no real connection to the case. It’s why so many true crime stories dominate the airwaves. People like JonBenét Ramsey, the Black Dahlia, and Jack the Ripper are household names, but thousands of murders go unsolved each year.

Here are 5 lesser known, unsolved murder cases that still haunt us:

[Gone but not forgotten...]

Sep 22 2016 10:00am

A Deadly Thaw: New Excerpt

Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah WardA Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward is the 2nd book in the Inspector Francis Sadler series (Available September 27, 2016).

Lena Grey is found guilty of murdering her husband, who was found smothered in their bed. She offers no defense, and serves fourteen long years in prison. But within months of her release nearly two decades later, his body is found in a disused morgue, recently killed. Who was the man she killed before, and why did she lie about his identity?

Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his Derbyshire team try to discover how such a well-orchestrated deception could have occurred. DC Connie Childs is convinced that something greater than marital strife caused the murders, but before Lena can be questioned further, she vanishes. Back in Lena’s childhood home, her sister Kat, a therapist, is shocked by her sister’s duplicity. When she begins to receive mysterious packages from a young man claiming to know her sister’s location, Kat is drawn into her own investigation of her family’s well-hidden secrets. As her inquiries begin to collide with the murder investigation, a link to the sisters’ teenage lives emerges, and the line between victim and perpetrator becomes blurred in this tightly-plotted, compelling novel perfect for fans of Deborah Crombie and Sharon Bolton.


Sunday, 19 September 2004

Lena felt his emotional withdrawal before the physical. He rolled away from her and reached for his phone. ‘You could’ve waited at least five minutes before checking that thing.’ She kept her voice light but could feel his irritation. He kept his face turned away from her, and, in the gloom, she could only see the curls of his too-long hair reflected in the meagre moonlight coming in through the window.

[Read the full excerpt from A Deadly Thaw...]

Sep 21 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Easter has come to Three Pines! In this time of resurrection and renewal, one of the owners of the local B&B has decided to advertise the services of an unwitting guest as a spiritualist. Jeanne Chauvet thought she was there for a holiday, so she is rather bemused to find herself leading a Friday night séance for our beloved Three Pines residents.

When it’s decided that the affair lacks the proper level of spookiness, the abandoned Hadley house—which regular readers will know as a place of grief and danger—is proposed as a more suitable venue. It all seems like creepy, innocent fun…until one of the guests at the séance drops dead from terror.

Miles away, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec is enjoying a visit from his son, Daniel, and Daniel’s family, recently relocated to Paris for work. When he reads of the death in the papers, he isn’t surprised to receive the summons from his superior and best friend, Michel Brebeuf, to investigate whether a murder has been committed.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Sep 21 2016 3:00pm

Night Watch by Iris and Roy Johansen: A Visual Guide

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

This week, I once was blind but now can see! Which is good timing because we're about to embark on a visual tour of Iris and Roy Johansen's 4th Kendra Michaels thriller, Night Watch!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Sep 21 2016 1:00pm

Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...”

It's a haunting opening to a gothic romance often mentioned in the same breath as Jane Eyre; natural, given both stories follow young, inexperienced women falling in love with remote, brooding, dangerous men. 

But while Jane had an inner core of adamantium to guide her, the heroine of Rebecca is far more vulnerable and adrift. 

Our narrator, barely twenty-one, finds herself in the orbit of the wealthy and mysterious widower, Maxim de Winter—a much older English aristocrat. Following a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo, the two marry. 

This second Mrs. de Winter is deeply in love with her distant husband and assumes her situation will only improve—she no longer has to work as a companion for a tiresome old woman now that she's the mistress of Manderley, Maxim's sprawling English estate. They will go back to England and settle into a comfortable life together.

[But wait, there's more!]

Sep 21 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: September 20, 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, Agatha Raisin is at it again and Harlan Coben gives us another gripping thriller! Check out what else the week has in store:

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

Sep 21 2016 10:00am

Reckless Creed: New Excerpt

Alex Kava

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava Reckless Creed by Alex Kava is the 3rd book in the Ryder Creed series (Available September 27, 2016).

In Chicago, a young man jumps from his thirtieth-story hotel room; along the Missouri river, a hunter and his son stumble upon a lake whose surface is littered with snow geese, all of them dead; and in southern Alabama, Ryder Creed and his search-and-rescue dog Grace find the body of a young woman who went missing in the Conecuh National Forest...and it appears she filled her pockets with rocks and walked into the river. Before long Ryder Creed and FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell will discover the ominous connection among these mysterious deaths. What they find may be the most prolific killer the United States has ever known.

Chapter 1


Tony Briggs coughed up blood, then wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve. This was bad. Although it was nothing he couldn’t handle. He’d been through worse. Lots worse. But still, they didn’t tell him he’d get this sick. He was beginning to think the bastards had double-crossed him.

He tapped out, “fine mess I got myself into,” on his cell phone and hit SEND before he changed his mind.

The text message wasn’t part of his instructions. Not part of the deal. He didn’t care. So what if the watchers found out. What could they do to him now? He already felt like crap. They couldn’t make him feel much worse.

[Read the full excerpt from Reckless Creed...]

Sep 20 2016 4:00pm

From Gore to Grave Robbing: The History of Medicine as Inspiration

When searching for inspiration for Beloved Poison, the dark and extraordinary history of 19th-century medicine offered an evocative, alarming, and exciting world. The setting for my novel was an infirmary. Ramshackle and decaying, I used Old St. Thomas’s Hospital in London as my template.

Instead of being places of hope and cure, in the mid-19th century, infirmaries were dark and foreboding institutions that were filthy, crowded, and unventilated. Before the link between dirt and disease was fully understood, doctors might pass from the mortuary to the hospital wards without washing their hands—transferring death to everything they touched. 

[I'm not dead yet...]

Sep 20 2016 3:00pm

What Fall TV Show Are You Most Excited About?

With the Emmys celebrating the best that television has to offer—and awarding the very best—the annual ceremony tends to mark TV’s New Year, even though it’s only September. When the Emmys air, we know the summer lull is over and our favorite shows kick off new seasons while new hopefuls look to grab their share of the audience.

And with the fall schedule pretty much set, we want to know what TV show YOU are most excited about this season:

[Vote below!]

Sep 20 2016 2:00pm

Review: Gunshine State by Andrew Nette

Gunshine State by Andrew Nette is a heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.

I have a lot of respect for writers who do heist thrillers. For one thing, it seems to me that anyone who writes non-comical ones labors under the long shadow of Richard Stark and his Parker novels. In 24 pitiless books about his professional thief, Stark brought the hardboiled heist novel form pretty close to the peak of perfection, and any author who sets out to tell a tale even remotely like a Stark novel knows that savvy crime fiction readers will be making comparisons between their work and the series from the master.

Of course, in the world of crime fiction, this kind of comparison making is not unique to heist thrillers. A person who writes a certain kind of private eye novel likely will start hearing the words “Hammett” and “Chandler” bandied about. But private eye novels, despite the recurrence of basic patterns, leave space for much variation. The pleasure for the reader lies in discovering how the writer uses this space to tweak, revel in, and expand familiar tropes.

[Read Scott Adlerberg's review of Gunshine State...]

Sep 20 2016 1:00pm

Lucifer’s Family Problems: The Mytholgy Behind Episode 2.01, “Everything’s Coming Up Lucifer”

The Season 2 premiere of Lucifer had to cover some interesting ground after last season. Season 1 left us with a couple of major revelations. First, Lucifer has a mother. Second, she had been condemned to Hell. These two ideas alone dominate the entire first episode of this new season. However, let me assure you, while the explanation of Lucifer’s mother is unorthodox, the Bible can support the idea.

When Lucifer gives Linda the story behind his “Mum,” he sticks to the beginning of everything—the creation. This is appropriate, though it’s couched in Lucifer’s particular vein of storytelling, with lines such as: “They had sex. The only trouble was, they were celestial beings, so that moment created the universe,” and, one of my favorites, “Dad started going into the garage and tinkering with a little project he called humanity.” Everything Lucifer is referencing comes from Genesis Chapter 1, and it is here that we find the basis for Lucifer’s mother.

[I wonder if she calls him her “Sweet Lou”?]