Now Win <i>This</i>!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Crime HQ All I want for Christmas is you (to die)! <i>A Nip of Murder</i>: New Excerpt A Nip of Murder: New Excerpt Carol Miller A robbery gone wrong leaves Daisy scrambling. <i>Thief</i>: New Audio Excerpt Thief: New Audio Excerpt Mark Sullivan Could the secret to eternal life really reside in a remote South American tribe? Fresh Meat: <i>Kill 'Em with Cayenne</i> by Gail Oust Fresh Meat: Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust Rachel Kramer Bussel Murder wasn't supposed to be on the menu...
From The Blog
December 17, 2014
Number 3 of the Scams of Christmas: Season's Breachings
Terry Ambrose
December 16, 2014
Number 4 of the Scams of Christmas: Sly Shipping
Terry Ambrose
December 15, 2014
Number 5 of the Scams of Christmas: Grumpy Greeting Cards
Terry Ambrose
December 14, 2014
Number 6 of the Scams of Christmas: Coal-Deserving Charities
Terry Ambrose
December 13, 2014
Number 7 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa's Spyware
Terry Ambrose
Dec 9 2014 8:45am

Number 11 of the Scams of Christmas: Mystery Shopping

Number 11 of the 12 Scams of Christmas: Mystery Shopping

Who wouldn’t like to have a little extra cash for the holidays? If you happen to be one of those people who doesn’t mind the crowds, a part-time job doing what the industry calls “mystery shopping” can be a great option, or an expensive mistake as a man in America’s heartland learned when he was caught by No. 11 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list.

In November, an Orange Village, OH man reported that he had been scammed by Retail Active Inc., of Remsen, NY. (hat tip: The man claimed Retail Active promised to pay $300 to employ him as a mystery shopper. The man received a check for $1,850. As instructed, he deposited the check and immediately purchased $1,500 in MoneyPak cards, then emailed the 14-digit codes on the back of the cards to his employer. The following day, he discovered the check was a fake, and that the MoneyPak cards, which were still in his possession, had already been cashed.

Bogus companies tout how easy it is to become a mystery shopper and how you can make money doing something fun. An interesting twist to this scam is that Retail Active is a legitimate UK company involved in the business of “business intelligence.” As part of their business, they hire mystery shoppers—but not in the US. They also get rather persnickety over the fact that someone is besmirching their name.

Want to get paid to get a massage? Done! Eat haute cuisine? Stay at fancy hotels? No problem. All of these opportunities are open to the mystery shopper. And the scammers know that. Just do your research to be sure that your “mystery shop” doesn’t turn into a flop. Otherwise, you might wind up working for an ingenious scammer who’s playing fast and loose with someone else’s business and your money.

No. 10 of the 12 Scams of Christmas involves naughty spellcheckers and, oh yes, Scrooge wants money.

Image via Serif of Nottingham.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 8 2014 6:30pm

Noir’s Serious Goofballs: Mickey Rooney

This post kicks off Noir's Serious Goofballs, a series examining comic actors who gave compelling dramatic performances in film noir.

After singing and dancing his way through most of the thirties and forties, Mickey Rooney found his particular brand of sunshine out of fashion in postwar America. The collapse of his popularity must have come as a shock to a man who, only a few years before, was one of the biggest box office stars in America.

Born Joe Yule Jr. in Brooklyn in 1920, he was hustled onstage in a tiny tuxedo at 17 months old by his vaudeville parents. In a sense, he never left the spotlight. After his parents divorced in 1923, little Joe’s mother hauled him out to Hollywood. After he was cast as Mickey “Himself” McGuire in a series of popular comedy shorts, his mother legally changed his name to “Mickey McGuire” to cash in. A few years later, when he was ready to branch out into other roles, he was rechristened Mickey Rooney. In the 1937 B-movie A Family Affair, he turned the supporting role of a spunky kid named Andy Hardy into a box office juggernaut. Over the course of fourteen Andy Hardy films, he represented a worry-free American boyhood. More successes followed: hit musicals like Babes in Arms and Strike Up the Band with Judy Garland, a critically acclaimed dramatic turn in Boys Town opposite Spencer Tracy, the smash hit National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor. From 1939 to 1941, he was Hollywood’s biggest box-office draw.

Then came the war. By the time it was over, everything had changed—from Hollywood itself to the country it was trying to entertain. No longer a kid, Rooney faced darkening horizons. The country had taken a turn for the noir.

Like many a man faced with trouble, Rooney tuned to crime—at least on screen.

[No sunny, uptempo numbers here...]

Dec 8 2014 10:00am

Five by Ursula Archer: New Excerpt

Ursula Archer

Five by Ursula ArcherFive by Ursula Archer introduces Austrian Detective Inspector Beatrice Kaspary who, with her colleague Florin Wenninger, will investigate a corpse tattooed with GPS coordinates to find a killer who's geo-caching more (available December 9, 2014).

A woman’s corpse is discovered in a meadow. A strange combination of letters and numbers has been tattooed on the soles of her feet. Detective inspector Beatrice Kaspary from Salzburg's murder squad quickly identifies the digits as map coordinates. These lead to a series of gruesome discoveries as she and her colleague Florin Wenninger embark on a bloody trail – a modern-day scavenger hunt using GPS navigation devices to locate hidden caches. The “owner” of these unofficial, unpublished geocaches is a highly calculating and elusive fiend who leaves his victims’ body-parts sealed in plastic bags, complete with riddles that culminate in a five-stage plot. Kaspary herself becomes an unwilling pawn in the perpetrator’s game of cat and mouse as she risks all to uncover the motives behind the murderer’s actions.



The place where his left ear used to be was throbbing to the rhythm of his heartbeat. Fast and panicked. His breath came out in short, loud gasps. Nora was just a few steps away from him, leaning over the table where the pistol and knife lay. Her face was contorted, but she was no longer crying.

“Please,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. “Please don’t do it.”

Now she let out a dry, strangled sob. “Be quiet.”

“Why won’t you untie me? We still have a chance . . . please just untie me, okay? Okay?”

She didn’t respond. Her right hand wavered shakily over the weapons, which gave off a dull gleam in the light of the naked bulb.

His whole body convulsed with fear. He writhed around on the chair, twisting as far as the ropes would let him. They cut into his flesh, burning him, as unyielding as steel bands.

But it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my . . .

He screwed his eyes tightly shut, only to open them again. He had to see what was happening. Nora’s hand was on the knife now.

“No!” he screamed, or at least he thought he did. “Help me! Why won’t anyone help me?” But now, when he most needed it, his voice had abandoned him. It was gone, and soon everything would be gone, for all eternity. His breath, his pulse, his thoughts. Everything.

Tears he was unable to wipe away blurred his sight of Nora, who was still standing there in front of the table. She gave a long, drawn-out wail, softer than a scream, louder than a groan. He blinked.

She had picked up the pistol, her right hand quivering like an old lady’s. “I’m sorry,” she said.

He wrenched his body backward and forward in desperation, almost tipping over the chair. Then he felt the cool metal against his cheek and froze.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

Her hand touched his head gently. He felt her fear, as great as his own. But she would carry on breathing, carry on talking, carry on living.

“No,” he whispered tonelessly, finding his voice again at last. He looked up at Nora, who now stood right in front of him. He wished he had never heard her name.


N47° 46.605 E013° 21.718

The early morning mist enveloped her like a damp shroud. The dead woman was lying on her stomach, the grass beneath her soaked with dew and blood. The cows were taking care not to graze there, which was easy enough; the meadow was large, and the thing lying there in the shadow of the rock face unsettled them. A brown cow had ventured over shortly after sunrise, lowering her heavy head and licking the flaxen strands of hair with her rough tongue. But finding her discovery to be unpalatable, she had soon returned to the rest of the herd.

[Continue reading Five by Ursula Archer...]

Dec 8 2014 8:45am

Number 12 of the Scams of Christmas: Soggy Security

Protect Yourself from Holiday Hackers with Software Updates/ 12 Scams of Christmas: Soggy Security

Criminal Element's counting down 12 scams of Christmas, beginning with an issue that can open every electronic device to hackers: soggy security. 'Tis the season for good little hackers and scammers everywhere to infect your computer with presents worse than coal in your stocking.

Think of software updates as being like wool socks. Maybe you didn’t like the socks your aunt gave you last year, but you still accepted them with thanks. At least, that’s what you should have done. It’s the same thing you should do with software updates. Complaints such as “it takes too long,” “there are too many clicks,” or even, “I’ll have to reboot,” can make your electronic device as unhappy as Aunt Phoebe if you’d said, “These socks are scratchy.”

Adobe Flash is a good example of what feels like update overload. On November 25th, Adobe released its 14th Flash update of 2014 and a critical one (hat tip: jbgnews). Tedious as it might have been, installing all fourteen of those Adobe updates as they came out would have kept a computer from becoming infected when hackers placed malicious ads on popular websites such as TMZ and Photobucket. That one lapse in security resulted in millions of infected computers.

Here are three tips to help keep your holidays merry and bright while making sure your electronic pals run smoothly and your Aunt Phoebe doesn’t cut you out of the will.

1) If an update is issued for your device, install it.

2) Only download apps, software, and updates from reputable sources.

3) Ensure that a website has a good reputation by using a service such as Web of Trust. This is a free online service that lets site visitors rate each website they visit. It’s very slick, doesn’t slow down your browser, and could save you from making a costly mistake on a website that looks, but is not, legitimate.

Stay tuned for No. 11: The Mystery Shopper Scam.

Image via Mr. Fleming's first grade e-lves.

Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

Dec 5 2014 2:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.08: “Blood Bath”

Penny (Grace Gummer) was a candy striper, then an opium-assisted "actress," then a young lover, now a tattoo-faced, fork-tongued lizard girl thanks to dear old dad Vince (Lee Tergesen)Welcome back to the Freak Show! I hope you dames and gents had a lovely break to spend time with your own caravan of carnies.

To recap a show like this, blood must be spilled along with SPOILERS. Now, getting caught up...

When last we left Elsa’s (Jessica Lange) overly extravagant tents, the freaks had been joined by Penny (Grace Gummer), now the Amazing Lizard Girl thanks to her father being a Grade-A dirtbag, and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) met her end thanks to Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis). I can’t help but feel that all of this is a slow (very slow) build-up to what I’m praying is a phenomenal explosion.

We get the first hint of terror to come opening with Gloria Mott (Francis Conroy) in therapy. Finally, someone does something intelligent on this show. She’s clearly torn between her love for her son Dandy (Finn Wittrock) and the reality that he’s a serial-killing nutcase. You guys already must know how psyched I am that we got Dandy'ss backstory this week. Is it morally corrupt to wish for a show just about Dandy? His character is one of the saving graces this season. Dandy did just start killing out of boredom: he had it in him all along.

Speaking of killers, the search for Ma Petite ends with her tattered, bloody dress out in the field.

[Sweet girl, short life....]

Dec 5 2014 8:45am

Newspaper Turns Frown Upside Down, Circulation Plummets


Recently, The City Reporter in Russia promised to publish only good news, and circulation dropped by 80%. No one felt compelled to buy tales about happy tots with baskets of friendly kittens or on-time municipal construction by the competent and honorable. Sure, people talk a good game about hating the dour drumbeat of “car crashes and burst water pipes,” but this one-day experiment proved what they really want. We crime fans already knew.... Watch below to see how even the darkest doings can occasionally, unexpectedly tickle.


H/t: Fark, Via BBC News

Dec 7 2014 12:00pm

You Know Who Killed Me: New Excerpt

Loren D. Estleman

You Know Who Killed Me by Lored D. Estleman marks the 24th mystery featuring Amos Walker, a Detroit private detective in the midst of a battle with addiction (available December 9, 2014).

Amos Walker is at low ebb. Just released from a rehab clinic, the Detroit private detective has to marshal his energies to help solve a murder in Iroquois Heights, his least favorite town.

The area is flooded with billboards rented by the widow of Donald Gates, an ordinary suburbanite found shot to death in his basement on New Year’s Eve: “YOU KNOW WHO KILLED ME!” they read, above the number of the sheriff’s tip line. Complicating matters is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer, offered by an anonymous donor through the dead man’s place of worship.

Initially hired by the sheriff’s department to run down anonymous tips, Walker investigates further. The trail leads to former fellow employee Yuri Yako, a Ukrainian mobster, relocated to the area through the U.S. Marshals’ Witness Protection Program.

Shadowed by government operatives, at odds with the sheriff, and struggling with his addiction, Walker soldiers on, in spite of bodies piling up and the fact that almost everyone involved with the case is lying to him.

Chapter 1

“Mister? I’ve got a confession to make.”

“Yeah? Try a priest.”

“I’m not a Catholic.”

“Then find a cop.”

[Continue reading You Know Who Killed Me by Loren D. Estleman...]

Dec 5 2014 10:45am

The Iris Fan: New Excerpt

Laura Joh Rowland

The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland is the 18th mystery and finale of this acclaimed series set in feudal Japan, featuring the recently demoted Sano Ichirō whose last case will involve a brutal attack on the shogunate itself  (available December 9, 2014).

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichirō has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano's dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun's heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun's permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.


SLOW, HISSING BREATHS expanded and contracted the air in a chamber as dark as the bottom of a crypt. Wind shook the shutters. Sleet pattered onto the tile roof. In the corridor outside the chamber, the floor creaked under stealthy footsteps. The shimmering yellow glow of an oil lamp diffused across the room’s lattice-and-paper wall. The footsteps halted outside the room; the door slid open as quietly as a whisper. A hand draped in the sleeve of a black kimono held the lamp across the threshold. The flame illuminated a futon, covered with a gold brocade satin quilt, in which two human shapes slumbered.

[Continue reading Laura Joh Rowland's The Iris Fan...]

Dec 4 2014 11:00am

Some Buried Caesar: 75 Years of Rex Stout’s High-Ground Gal, Lily Rowan

To Lily and Sally and all Rex Stout’s Gals who try to do the right thing.

This is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Rex Stout’s Some Buried Caesar, the first time we meet Lily Rowan, one of the great hottie-totties in crime fiction literature. Lily is Archie’s main squeeze. You know Archie, right? Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s amanuensis, whom I’ve described in another entry for this blog, as crime fiction’s quintessential hunk. Lily is tough and gorgeous and as honest as the day is long.

About a year ago, when rereading one or another of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories for the umteenth time, I became aware of a theme in the opus that I had never before noticed: gals who try to do the right thing.

Some series spoilers throughout, but if you haven’t read these yet, don’t wait another seventy-five years!

[To all the gals they’ve loved, respected, feared before…]

Dec 4 2014 8:45am

Calling Burt Reynolds Mega Fans!

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the BanditBy now the news has made the rounds that Burt Reynolds is auctioning off some of his most notable memorabilia—never won that Golden Globe? You can have Burt's! Yes, among several awards—both entertainment and High School football—there's one piece that caught our eye! In Smokey and the Bandit, the car played as much of a part as Sally Field or Reynolds did, and now—for the über-fan—you can have it, too!

Have you put a bid on any of the items? What piece of Burt-bilia do you wish was up for grabs? Are there any other celebrity items you would kill for?


Dec 3 2014 3:30pm

Fresh Meat: Bad Machinery Vol. III: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Bad Machinery Vol. III: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison sees the return of the teenage Tackleford gang as they try to solve an arson case (available December 10, 2014).

I greet the publication of every new Bad Machinery collection with a thrill and a silent cheer. No group of sleuthing teens has ever charmed me as much as John Allison’s rival gangs in Tackleford, England have. Alas for our intrepid investigators though, summer term at the start of this third volume finds both groups seriously short-handed, as their respective leaders, Shauna and Jack, have finally made their romantic relationship public. As a result, Shauna and Jack have started spending more time with each other than with their friends, leading to considerable unhappiness in those left behind. In particular, Shauna’s best friend, Charlotte, takes it hard, as she and the other member of the girl’s sleuthing group hang out together:

Mildred: Where is Shauna today?

Charlotte: You know... she's gotta lot on... swimming club... she's... SHE'S BUSY BEING IN LOVE. We had a lot of plans for what we were going to do, too.

Mildred: Don't let love ruin your summer! She'll get bored of kissing, eventually your lips must get worn out.

Charlotte: No. From what I've seen, BLORG, they take breaks to do some intense staring at each other.

Mildred: I'm pretty sure your eyeballs can dry out doing that.

[No one likes a third wheel...]

Dec 3 2014 11:00am

The Cowboy Rides Away: Joel McCrae, Randolph Scott, and Ride the High Country (1962)

Ride the High Country (1962) stars Joel McCrae as Steve Judd and Randolph Scott as Gil Westrum.

The Cowboy Rides Away is a series on the final Western films of great cowboy stars. Other entries include John Wayne’s The Shootist (1976) and Gary Cooper’s The Hanging Tree (1959).

The supposed immortality of movie stardom is a funny thing. Some stars only grow in stature as the years go by, but others shrink. They’re “immortal” in the sense that their films still exist, but that’s not the same thing as saying that they endure as icons in the larger culture. Joel McCrae and Randolph Scott were huge stars in their day, but they belong in a particular subset of movie stardom that never quite translated them into legendary status. Please understand, I don’t mean this as any kind of criticism. I’ve always liked both actors. Both actors starred in important films. Both are still, I think, well regarded by critics and historians. But there was a time when Joel McCrae and Randolph Scott were household names. Time, however, has worn away their place in the culture’s memory. Today, most people under a certain age have probably never heard of either man.

This isn't a “what's wrong with these kids these days” lament. Movie stardom is, relatively speaking, still a new phenomenon. Maybe this is just what happens to movie stars. Nobody really gets to live forever.

[We all ride off into the sunset eventually...]

Dec 3 2014 8:45am

Thanksgiving Shoplifter Had Cops Going in Circles

After a day of Thanksgiving shoplifting, an Oregon couple had police going in circles. Scratch that, I mean the police were watching them drive in circles.

It all started after a few reports of ongoing shoplifting at a store located in Nampa, Oregon. Police officers responded but encountered a bustling parking lot full of holiday shoppers. When they tried to arrest the shoplifting duo, the pair high-tailed it out of there.

The first suspect, Oregon resident Gregory R. Redner, was apprehended quickly. However, Idaho Press-Tribune reports:

“A second suspect, Camilla E. Hunt, also of Oregon, fled to a vehicle and drove away, nearly striking two officers with her car.

Police briefly pursued, but called off the chase because of crowded holiday shopping events. But Hunt continued to drive in circles around the parking lot, where officers used a spike strip to deflate two of her tires. She abandoned the car and tried to flee on foot, but was caught and taken into custody.”

The Idaho Press-Tribune also went on to report:

“Hunt was found to be under the influence of an intoxicating substance. She faces charges of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers, burglary, felony eluding, driving under the influence, driving without privileges and petit theft.”

It seems she has learned two valuable life lessons: 1) Never attempt shoplifting while on drugs. 2) Actually flee the scene instead of going in circles in a parking lot.

These are two valuable lessons, indeed.

Dec 2 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle

Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle is the 14th book in the cozy Coffeehouse Mystery Series set in NYC where Fairy Tale Week takes a turn towards the grim (available December 2, 2014).

Over the course of Cleo Coyle’s always intriguing New York-set Coffeehouse Mystery Series, The Village Blend manager Clare Cosi’s mixups with murder have often involved her family members, from ex-husband and business partner Matteo Allegro, daughter Joy, her narcotics cop boyfriend Mike Quinn, her storied former mother-in-law and current boss Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois and the extended clan of her colorful and flamboyant staff. But in fairy-tale themed Once Upon a Grind, it’s her current boyfriend Mike Quinn’s family who leads her into the heart of danger, namely his two children and ex-wife Leila Quinn Reynolds.

[Will they live happily ever after?]

Dec 2 2014 12:00pm

Now Win This!: What is War Good For Sweepstakes

They say all is fair in love and war, but these six books might change your mind about that. 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 December 2, 2014, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends December 16, 2014, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Learn where you'll be deployed...]

Dec 2 2014 8:45am

House of Cards Season 3 Premiere Date Announced

Did you catch the the important message delivered by Frank and Claire Underwood? If not, we have it below. The newest inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue wanted to let you know they'll be back soon: February 27, 2015. And in typical, glorious Netflix fashion, all of Season Three's 13 episodes will be available to stream from the get-go.

There's been no word on whether there will be a Season 4 yet, but another 13 episodes would give House of Cards a total of 52 episodes...the exact amount of playing cards in a deck. Sometimes things just work out perfectly — just ask Frank Underwood.

Dec 1 2014 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Gods and Monsters: Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore

Gods and Monsters: Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore is a standalone thriller where a new set of gods square off against the old regime, with mankind left in the middle (available December 2, 2014).

Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore is the second book in the Gods and Monsters series (the first, Unclean Spirits was by Chuck Wendig), but each functions as a standalone tale. In the tradition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the series relies on the premise of gods walking the earth, not quite human, but not quite with their power of old. In Mythbreaker, the gods are converging on Los Angeles in search of a prophet who can bring them back to their original glory.

If you’re not familiar with Stephen Blackmoore, know that reading him is a bit like watching late-night Spike TV movies while riding a roller coaster. They’re full of fast-paced shenanigans, inventive swearing, and spectacular explosions, all blended with a dry wit and a knowledge of old-word mythology that’s encyclopedic – and demented. Seriously, he conjures references that even takes Google a few seconds to find and mashes them with underworld crime bosses, petty crooks, and any other pop culture references that seem handy.

Two Chroniclers, one leg breaker, a god and a couple of cyborg Terminator clones who are the embodiment of the Internet pile into a van. It sounds like a joke, but Fitz can’t figure out the punchline.

[Maybe they walk into a bar?]

Dec 1 2014 1:30pm

Blood Rubies: New Excerpt

Jane K. Cleland

Blood Rubies by Jane K. Cleland is the 9th Josie Prescott Mystery about the antiques expert who is hired by a celebrity chef to appraise what turns out to be a fake, and deadly, heirloom (available December 2, 2014).

Ana Yartsin is on the verge of becoming a celebrity chef. Her custom Fabergé egg-shaped cakes have brought her national attention, as has the story behind the cakes: Her family owns the spectacular Fabergé Spring Egg snow globe, a magnificent example of the master craftsman’s work that includes five ruby-red tulips. As she prepares to be filmed for a reality TV show about the launch of her bakery in Rocky Point, New Hampshire, Ana hires antiques expert Josie Prescott to appraise the precious egg and snow globe.

The show's pilot will show Ana planning the desserts for the upcoming wedding of her friend Heather to investment guru, Jason. When Josie arrives at Ana's home, however, she finds Jason murdered and the priceless snow globe smashed beyond repair. All that remains for Josie to examine are bits and pieces—which to her shock reveal that the Spring Egg was a fake.

What has happened to the real Fabergé snow globe, if it even existed? And what does that have to do with Jason's murder? Never one to resist a puzzle, Josie teams up with her reporter friend Wes to investigate.

Chapter 1

Ana Yartsin stood beside one of her custom Fabergé-egg-shaped wedding cakes, unfazed by the frenetic activity swirling around her. The film crew was larger than I’d anticipated—I counted twenty-two people, including a uniformed security guard—and they all seemed to be doing things with frantic urgency. A young woman with pink hair and a star tattoo on her neck dabbed at Ana’s cheek with a fluffy powder puff. Someone named Mack called to someone named Vinnie to check the light meter. The security guard, a big guy with a crew cut and a gun on his hip, stood near Ana, his eyes on the move. Timothy Brenin, the producer/director, dashed up to talk to a short man with spiky yellow hair carrying a clipboard, then called to Mack that we had another hour of good sun.

[Continue reading Blood Rubies by Jane K. Cleland...]

Dec 1 2014 10:45am

In Memoriam: P.D. James

Over what is, in the U.S., a typically festive weekend, we were saddened to learn of the recent death of novelist and reigning “queen of crime” P.D. James. Having published her first novel in her early forties, she went on to write for more than half a century, creating unforgettable characters while examining thorny questions of life and society through the lens of fiction and against the backdrop of murder. This turn of mind came naturally to her. As reported by Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times:

“When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall,” she was fond of saying, “I immediately wondered: Did he fall — or was he pushed?”

Not just crime fans, but general fiction readers enjoyed her writing for its quality, and so—as is often heard from those reluctant to applaud well-written books if they're on the wrong shelves—her work was delared to have “transcended genre.” However, that was never this author's goal.

She told The Paris Review in 1995 that she “thought writing a detective story would be a wonderful apprenticeship for a ‘serious’ novelist, because a detective story is very easy to write badly but difficult to write well.”

The success of the first one persuaded her to stick with the form. “I came to believe,” she said, “that it is perfectly possible to remain within the constraints and conventions of the genre and be a serious writer, saying something true about men and women and their relationships and the society in which they live.”

She would go on to earn the title of Grandmaster from Mystery Writers of America and the Diamond Dagger Award from the U.K.'s Crime Writers Association, also a life membership in the House of Lords as Baroness James of Holland Park, granted for her extensive public service, not her literary fame. Do go read more about her fascinating life and wide-ranging work, and please raise with us a cup of excellent coffee and a chapbook of poetry for the creator of Scotland Yard's Commander Adam Dalgliesh.

Nov 30 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Firebird’s Feather by Marjorie Eccles

The Firebird's Feather by Marjorie Eccles is a short historical mystery featuring a young English woman in 1911, who is investigating her mother's murder (available December 1, 2014).

The plot of The Firebird's Feather engages directly with events of the time period in which it’s set. Set in 1911 during the Imperial periods of both Russia and England, the murder victim is the daughter of a Russian revolutionary who fled to England. Though there are plausible suspects living in London’s East End – Russian expatriates - who might have killed her for political reasons, there are a host of other possibilities. Marjorie Eccles has written several novels set in the early twentieth century, and her knowledge of the period is fed smoothly into the background through the eyes of multiple point-of-view characters. The story might have benefitted from being longer, given its complexity.

[We always want more than we can have...]