Now Win <i>This</i>!: The Shot in the Dark Sweepstakes Now Win This!: The Shot in the Dark Sweepstakes Crime HQ These five books will hit you when you least expect it! FM: <i>The Nightingale Before Christmas</i> by Donna Andrews FM: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews Nikki Bonanni Christmas decorating is serious business. FM: <i>The Counterfeit Heiress</i> by Tasha Alexander FM: The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander Angie Barry Not everyone is who they seem... FM: <i>Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld</i> by Jake Halpern FM: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern Lance Charnes Debt collecting is cutthroat.
From The Blog
October 24, 2014
(Brain) Food for Worms: Halloween at Criminal Element
Crime HQ
October 22, 2014
John Wayne Turned Cop: McQ and Brannigan
Edward A. Grainger
October 22, 2014
The Cowboy Rides Away: John Wayne and The Shootist (1976)
Jake Hinkson
October 22, 2014
In the Kitchen with Walter W.
Crime HQ
October 21, 2014
99 Percent of You Might Be Jack the Ripper, Or His Victim
Crime HQ
Oct 24 2014 3:30pm

Under the Radar: Genre Movies You May Have Missed — Evolution

I love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

When you say “aliens” and “David Duchovny” in the same sentence, almost everyone will assume you’re talking about The X-Files. But Mulder also faced off against unpleasant invaders from space in another, lesser known project: Evolution.

[Poor Scully...]

Oct 24 2014 2:00pm

How to Get Away with Murder 1.05: “We’re Not Friends”

The trick to writing a good TV show isn’t avoiding a formula; it’s finding a good formula. So far, How to Get Away with Murder has been on the right path, and this episode displays plenty of the formula’s best quirks. Again, the case of the week doesn’t hinge on who’s guilty, it hinges on whether they can be exonerated—this time a teenager who shot his abusive, police officer father to protect his mother. And again, the team hops through a few quirky legal loopholes to get their way – this time, memorizing the blog of the accused in order to gain permission to admit it's evidence of abuse and, in the final twist, getting the case thrown out on purpose in order to get kid into juvenile court.

One aspect of the formula is tweaked this time: the twists in the case aren’t shocking revelations. The son killed his dad and that’s all there is to that story. Instead, the twists come in the form of manipulation of the jury. From the story’s opening scene, as Keating (Viola Davis) and her class discuss the way to cherry-pick a jury, to the final dismissal of the jury, it’s more about the courtroom than the case.

[That's a different approach for a legal show...]

Oct 24 2014 11:45am

From Page to Screen with Broadchurch: Is the Book Always Better?

This should actually be called Screen to Page, since the television series came before the book. The show is a BBC production. One murder case is investigated over the course of eight episodes.

Ellie Miller has just returned from a three-week holiday with her family. She’s expecting to step into her new role as a Detective Inspector on her first day back at the Broadchurch police station. Instead, she’s introduced to DI Alec Hardy, who has been brought in while she was gone. Before Ellie can get into it with the big boss, she and Hardy are called out to investigate a report of a body on the beach.

[Talk about a rough first day back...]

Oct 24 2014 9:30am

(Brain) Food for Worms: Halloween at Criminal Element

Don’t look now, but Halloween is just around the corner, and with it comes the one time each year where our morbid obsession with all things scary is celebrated! If you’re looking to get that heart rate thumping, look no further; here are the links that will send even the biggest adrenaline junkie running for his mummy.

Are you simply looking for some reading recommendations? We’ve got you covered. Head over here for a list of books guaranteed to be chock full of thrills, chills, and kills! If you’re one of those people who have a hard time deciding on which book to read, we’ve got a convenient flow chart that will make choosing your next scare easier than fighting Dracula at daybreak.

Michael Nethercott wants to take this opportunity to scare with you a gothic whatdunit from Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw. Roger Clarke has been studying ghosts since his days at Eton College, where there just happens to be an inn that played host to both one of England’s best ghost story writers, M.R. James, as well as a famous ghost sighting from the 17th Century! Comment on Clarke’s post for a chance to win a copy of his updated book Ghosts: A Natural History! And if that’s not enough ghosts for you, check out the true story of the haunted house where Peter James lived.

When it comes to screaming at the top of your voice, is television your medium of choice? If so, you’re in luck. Join Jake Hinkson for his Twin Peaks rewatch as he visits David Lynch’s eerie small town with big secrets. Oh, and did you hear? Twin Peaks will be returning in 2015! (We’re not trying to take credit or anything…) If monsters are more your thing, you’ll want to check out our Hemlock Grove coverage, where Meghan Schuler not only provided a primer to catch you up, but also complete Season 2 episodic recaps, all from one brutal weekend of binge! Monsters and Meghan seem to go well together, as she is currently covering American Horror Story: Freak Show too! If you like monsters, chances are you’ve seen Grimm. But you may have missed The Mythology of Grimm, a book dedicated to breaking down the fairy tale and folklore roots of the show!

Guillermo del Toro is a master of the horror genre, whether it be on television or at the movies. Luckily, we have a resident del Toro expert on call—Angie Barry! Angie put del Toro’s films under the knife as she vivisected his entire filmography. Then it was onto TV and The Strain, where Angie not only covered each episode of Season 1, but also interviewed two regular cast members: Sean Astin and Kevin Durand. Angie's love for the paranormal transcends del Toro, which explains her attendance at the 13th Annual Mothman Festival in West Virginia!

Movies can be bloodcurdling too, for both good and bad reasons. Sometimes, writes Michael Nethercott, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and everything comes out the perfect level of campy-creepy. And sometimes, as Brian Greene notes, the perfect mix of Gothicism, eroticism, and vampirism come together into something great, like in Daughters of Darkness. But every once in a while, a clunker comes along, bringing out the terrible, awful, and very worst of movies. May we present our awesomely bad Crimes Against Film series.

Now of course, to assume everyone is as infatuated with morbidity would be witchful thinking. Halloween can be fun too, as proven by Dixie Lyle’s To Die Fur and Leigh Perry’s The Skeleton Takes a Bow. You can head on over to all of our cozy coverage, if you’d like. But be careful where you click…you never know where you’ll find yourself at Criminal Element.

Oct 23 2014 3:00pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.03: “Edward Mordrake: Part 1”

American Horror Story has given us some of the best Halloween specials I’ve seen on television. “Murder House” in particular set the bar for the horror anthology and I don’t think the subsequent specials have really stacked up. Come on, Season 1 had a stitched-together reanimated child, five bloody murdered teenagers, a hit-and-run, and the ghosts having the freedom to leave the house. It was awesome. But with what “Edward Mordrake” promised and delivered, I may have my hopes up.

Give me creepy medical anomalies and I am sold. I’m a bit disappointed that Google proved the American Morbidity Museum isn’t real, but it’s a nice setup to introduce con-man Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and his partner in crime, Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts). It’s refreshing to see O’Hare not be inherently creepy, though he does it so well. I wonder how long it took him to make that “authentic baby sasquatch.” If any of you are in the market for cryptozoological finds, I suggest Etsy. If you want morbid anatomy, check out Brooklyn’s  real Morbid Anatomy Museum.

[You won't be disappointed...]

Oct 23 2014 12:00pm

M.R. James: The Haunted Boy

It has gone unnoticed by his biographers, but the Eton lodgings in which M.R. James set his scholarship in the 1870s was the location of a famous 17th Century ghost story. Roger Clarke, who attended the same school exactly one hundred years later, tells the story for the first time.

* * *

I have in front of me the original third-edition of Saducismus Triumphatus by Joseph Glanvill. It’s a very old book, from 1700, and it's full of ghosts and witches. It has the royal insignia on the front, which means it was owned and probably read by George III or “Mad King George.” His grandfather George II was a staunch believer in vampires, but I digress. I’m not allowed to photograph it, but I’m in the British Library in London.

Saducismus was a theological work designed to rebut the cynics and sceptics by trying to demonstrate that the supernatural world—and by extension, God—really existed. It influenced, famously, Cotton Mather and the witch trials held 1692-3 in Salem, Massachusetts. In those days, ghosts were thought not to be spirits but demons, and often associated with witches and witchcraft. Glanvill, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Chaplain to the King, managed to make a belief in ghosts and witchcraft respectable in England for about a decade. One of his early jobs was as a curate to Eton College.

Curiously, this book also includes a now-forgotten ghost story that’s relevant to one of the best English ghost story writers of them all, M.R. James (1862-1936). 

[Ghosts, witch trials? You have our attention...]

Oct 23 2014 8:45am

Murderer Suing State Over Porn

A convicted murderer at a prison in Connecticut thinks he should be able to view porn.

Inmate Dwight Pink Jr. is claiming in the lawsuit that guards have used the ban to deny him an art book, The Atlas of Foreshortening, which uses naked models to help illustrate how to use art to draw the human body.

He said the ban on pornography in prison violates his constitutional rights and serves no meaningful objective in prison. The state filed its response yesterday, saying none of his rights was violated and he has not been harmed by the ban.

“Any injury or harm, if any, was caused solely by plaintiff's own acts, omissions, or conduct and was not due to any wrongful conduct by the defendants,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Strom wrote.

The state Department of Correction put out the administrative directive in 2011. It bans all material that contains “pictorial depictions of sexual activity or nudity” from the prisons.

But it also says the ban should not apply to “materials which, taken as a whole, are literary, artistic, educational or scientific in nature.”

A prison spokesman at the time said the ban was intended to improve the work environment for prison staffers, especially female staffers, who might be inadvertently exposed to pornography.

Pink is serving a 56-year sentence at the Cheshire Correctional Institution for his part in the 1998 murder of a 35-year-old father of two.

Oct 22 2014 2:00pm

John Wayne Turned Cop: McQ and Brannigan

John Wayne (1907-1979), aka The Duke, remained a top ten box office draw for an impressive quarter of a century during which he was primarily known for Western roles in seminal productions like The Searchers (1956), Hondo (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959) and war films like his influential portrayal of Sergeant Stryker in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). In his last decade, as the lights dimmed on the Western stage and American audiences seemed to have had enough of flag-waving war movies, Wayne turned to playing police officers in McQ (1974) and Brannigan (1975). Clint Eastwood had already made the successful transition from Spaghetti Westerns to playing Dirty Harry, a role that allegedly Wayne and Frank Sinatra had turned down though other reports suggest they were considered too old. Either way, the Chairman of the Board had also made the leap from Western/war flicks to cops and robbers like The Detective (1968). So when Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and its sequels went on to be cultural mega hits, Wayne quickly switched gears and made two cop films back to back to capitalize on that trend. The results were intriguing but less than satisfying.

[But it's still John Wayne!]

Oct 22 2014 11:15am

The Cowboy Rides Away: John Wayne and The Shootist (1976)

This is the second entry in a series on the final Westerns of the great cowboy stars. The previous entry looked at Gary Cooper and The Hanging Tree.

Don Siegel’s The Shootist is an elegy. Made three years before John Wayne’s death from cancer, it tells the story of a gunfighter (or a “shootist” to use the archaic newspaper term) who rides in from the range, gets a room in town with a prim widow woman and her impressionable son, and settles down to die. The film is an elegy for many things—for the Western itself, for the idea of the cowboy hero, but mostly it’s an elegy for the man who, more than any other, defined the idea of the American film hero for the entire world.

By any standard, John Wayne had an amazing career. Born Marion Morrison, he started out in pictures in the 1920s as just another tall, good-looking guy in crowd scenes—a football player here, a solider there. (In the 1928 Noah’s Ark, he survived the botched flood sequence that killed three extras.) Raoul Walsh gave him his big break playing the lead in the epic 1930 Western The Big Trail. The film was a flop, and Wayne spent most of the next decade riding the range in cheapie oaters, playing second fiddle to guys like Tim McCoy and gradually working his way back up the call sheet. His second big break—the one that actually succeeded in breaking him out of the world of Poverty Row horse operas—was John Ford’s 1939 Stagecoach. He was 32, a bit old to be playing someone called the Ringo Kid, but there was no doubt he was a star. Those nine years had taught him how to work a camera, how to pace his walk, how to listen to other actors. (“I’m a reactor,” he once said of his approach to his craft.) He looked like he’d been born with a gun in his hand, and though he famously didn’t care for horses, you can never catch him thinking about what he’s doing with one. He rode like it was second nature.

[And we watched him like it was second nature...]

Oct 22 2014 8:45am

In the Kitchen with Walter W.

Miss Breaking Bad so much you can taste it? So does Walter Wheat, the pseudonymous author of Baking Bad, a parody/tribute cookbook due out on October 28. True, Ricin Krispie Squares might not sound like something you’ll pack in a school lunchbox, but the 20 some-odd (some really odd) recipes are genuine and inspired by (but not associated with) everybody’s favorite chemistry teacher.

Take a look:

Oct 21 2014 2:00pm

Gotham 1.05: “Viper”

The full scope of the corruption in Gotham and the impossible task that Jim Gordon has taken on himself becomes clear in this fifth episode, where the series finally coalesces into full coherence.

Instead of unrelated quick cuts between the ever-growing cast, Viper pulls them all into one over-reaching plotline: take down Carmine Falcone.

Falcone controls the police, the courts, the mayor and the underworld. Fish and her bondage-loving new boyfriend want to replace Falcone, as does Maroni. Fish’s new weapon is her baby doll, a lethal lady trained to pull at Falcone’s heartstrings and something below belt as well. Maroni’s new weapon is the newly-dubbed Penguin, our old friend Oswald. (Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.)

[Gotham owes a hat tip to Breaking Bad for that one...]

Oct 21 2014 12:00pm

Now Win This!: The Shot in the Dark Sweepstakes

These five books will hit you when you least expect it! Register to enter for a chance to win!

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

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 October 21, 2014, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends November 4, 2014, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Find out what's included!]

Oct 21 2014 10:45am

Fresh Meat: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews

The Nightingale Before Christmas is the 18th book in the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews (available October 21, 2014).

Meg Langslow immediately stands out as a unique character because she is a modern day female blacksmith. She lives in Virginia, and those that follow the series have seen the changes as Meg gets married and becomes a mother. In part, it’s those kind of changes that keeps the series going, with family playing such an important role. The reader gets to know Meg’s parents, cousins, mother-in-law, and more, and they are far from boring relatives.

In the newest book, Meg has been drafted (by her interior decorator mother) to be the coordinator of the Christmas show house. She has to wrangle the decorators as they scurry to get their individual rooms decorated with their meticulous styles, as well as adding holiday themes. The only thing that keeps Meg sane is remembering that the reason she agreed to take on the job was to avoid having her own house volunteered as the showcase.


Mother was standing in the evergreen-trimmed archway between the living room and the foyer, directly beneath the red-and-gold “Merry Christmas” banner, frowning at something she was holding.

Since I had no idea who or what “passementerie” was, I just sat there in the foyer of the Caerphilly Designer Show House with my pen poised over my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe, waiting for Mother to elaborate.

[It's the art of trimming and tassle making, by the way...]

Oct 21 2014 9:30am

99 Percent of You Might Be Jack the Ripper, Or His Victim

There has been a wave of examination of the latest Ripper case solution by crime enthusiasts and now four other molecular biologists and DNA experts. Upon the culprit's “revelation” back in September, our position was curious but watchful, not out of superior scientific knowledge, merely jaded experience. Well, catching up to the present day (and leaving aside other logical questions around the Eddowes shawl used for DNA testing), a digital discrepancy appears to make a huge difference in the conclusion, at least for people of European descent—if that's you, describe your whereabouts in 1888, please.

From the book Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards, owner of the shawl:

“This DNA alteration is known as global private mutation (314.1C) and it is not very common in worldwide population, as it has frequency estimate of 0.000003506, i.e. approximately 1/290,000. This figure has been calculated using the database at Institute of Legal Medicine, GMI, based on the latest available information. Thus, this result indicates the shawl contains human DNA identical to Karen Miller's [Catherine Eddowes' descendant] for this mitochondrial DNA segment,” he [Dr. Jari Louhelainen] says.

According to the Independent's latest article by Science Editor Steve Connor:

But experts with detailed knowledge of the GMI's mtDNA database claimed that Dr. Louhelainen made an “error of nomenclature” because the mutation in question should be written as “315.1C” and not “314.1C”. Had Dr. Louhelainen done this, and followed standard forensic practice, he would have discovered the mutation was not rare at all but shared by more than 99 per cent of people of European descent.

“If the match frequency really is 90 per cent plus, and not 1/290,000, then obviously there is no significance whatsoever in the match between the shawl and Eddowes' descendant, and the same match would have been seen with almost anyone who had handled the shawl over the years,” Professor Jeffreys said.

So, there's that to consider. Methodical examination of results and critical peer review work well, but not necessarily instantly. We'll have more updates if and when they occur. As we like to say: We've waited this long...

Oct 20 2014 4:15pm

Inspector Lewis: “Beyond Good and Evil”

Was Inspector Lewis responsible for sending an innocent man to prison thirteen years ago?

Of course not. This is Lewis we’re talking about. He would never. (And no one really believes he did.)

Yet doubts are raised when it’s revealed that the forensic lab contaminated DNA from the original case. Now the convicted murderer—who’s protested his innocence all along—could go free. And Lewis is left to explain why and how the murders could have started up again if the right man is behind bars.

[I blame Nietzsche...]

Oct 20 2014 1:45pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.07: “Friendless Child”

At the start of “Friendless Child,” the penultimate episode of Boardwalk Empire, the war between Nucky (Steve Buschemi) and Luciano (Vincent Piazza) has escalated. Nineteen men are dead, trucks are being fire bombed, and Nucky is ready to hit back harder. Despite Maranzano’s counsel of patience, Nucky, feeling “impetuous,” moves on his own, kidnapping Bugsy Seigel (Michael Zegan). When Luciano responds by grabbing Will Thompson (Ben Rosenfield) off the street, the stage is set for the showdown we’ve been expecting all season.

Given the strong fatalistic streak running through Nucky this season, I was prepared for the worst once the two gangs squared off on a deserted highway in the middle of the night in order to exchange hostages. So was Luciano. After a botched handoff gives Luciano the upper hand, not even Nucky’s full concession of Atlantic City and Bacardi can persuade Luciano not to kill him. It’s only after Nucky throws in the sweetener of killing Maranzano that Lansky, realizing the value of Nucky’s offering, steps in to spare his life.

[Just another deal with another devil...]

Oct 20 2014 10:15am

“If You Can Take It, You Can Make It”: Trailer for Unbroken

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olypmic runner for the United States who would later be taken prisoner by the Japanese army during World War II.

Directed by Angelina Jolie, and written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Unbroken will premiere Christmas Day with lofty expectations of leaving its mark at the Academy Awards. Lead actor Jack O'Connell (Skins) looks likely to join Best Lead Actor discussions along with other would-be first-time nominees Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), and Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher).

Are you excited for Unbroken? Do you think it has Oscar postential?

Oct 19 2014 12:00pm

Laughter in the Dark: Nabokov’s Original Femme Fatale

“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.”

That succinct paragraph opens Laughter in the Dark before Vladimir Nabokov dutifully unfolds the spiraling downward fall of middle-aged art critic Albert Albinus and his gripping obsession with the 16-year-old Margot Peters. The novel was first published in Russian in 1932 under the far more captivating title Camera Obscura, and twenty-three years later Nabokov would tackle a similar theme of an older man with a young girl in the groundbreaking Lolita. But, whereas the famed nymphet of the 1950s gains a certain amount of pity for her situation, Margot comes across for what she is: a spoiled, conniving, and ultimately quite cruel femme fatale.

An adulterous affair requires no other impetus than old fashion lust but Nabokov provides Albinus with two main ‘reasons’ for his travelling eye. His wife, Elisabeth, can be a bit dull between the sheets, or, in his own words, “she failed to give him the thrill for which he had grown weary with longing.”  He also finds her rather boring in conversation and doesn’t particularly appreciate her input when company is present. He admits he married the docile Elisabeth “because it just happened so.” Albinus spots the young Margot who, unbeknownst to him, has survived financially as a nude model, been ‘taken care’ of by an older woman who discreetly pimped her ‘innocence’, and finally turned to a life of prostitution for room and board. Still desperate and wondering if she would have to sell her furniture, she takes an ordinary job at a local movie theater that is routinely attended by Albinus.

[She may be unlucky, but she's not stupid...]

Oct 17 2014 11:00pm

Checking into The Knick 1.10: Season Finale “Crutchfield”

Season 1 of The Knick wrapped up with its finale, “Crutchfield,” where many of the characters attempted to resolve their ongoing problems by opting for a quick fix. Like the get-rich-quick schemes spammed throughout all comments sections online, sometimes it’s obvious that the quick choice isn’t the best option. But this wasn’t obvious for our characters in The Knick. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) refuses to let the popular Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) one-up him. Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) believes she has been backed into a corner. Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) is blindsided by the severity of his wife’s condition. And Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) looks to finally erase his ever-rising debt.

[This sounds ominous…]

Oct 18 2014 12:00pm

Horrific Hijinks: When Abbott and Costello Met Frankenstein

It was recess in St. Mary’s schoolyard. A handful of us boys, all eleven-ish, were discussing the merits of an old film recently re-broadcast on TV. The discussion soon took on the form of a confession, a mutual one, albeit different than the kind we were expected to make in the confines of the church confession booth. The film: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The confession: the fact that, despite the movie being a comedy, it still scared the shenanigans out of us (or words to that effect.) One after another of us came clean; each admission delivered in a semi-hushed tone like you might expect to hear in the confessional. Maybe we were afraid that one of our girl classmates would wander by and learn of our collective unmanliness.

Well, I’m now many years—many years—beyond my schoolboy days. I can finally raise my voice without shame to declare that, yes, numerous shenanigans were scared out of me when I first saw that movie. And that’s the beauty of it. Having recently re-watched the 1948 classic, I can testify that it still offers a lovely blend of chills and chortles. (Forgive me, Father, for I have alliterated.)