Fresh Meat: <i>Shark Skin Suite</i> by Tim Dorsey Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey Neliza Drew Lawyers, like sharks, are tough to swim with. <i>Crazy for You</i>: New Excerpt Crazy for You: New Excerpt Michael Fleeman One moment, you're just dropping your kid off at school... Now Win <i>This</i>!: 3x3 Sweepstakes Now Win This!: 3x3 Sweepstakes Crime HQ The best things come in threes! <i>Fear the Darkness</i>: New Excerpt Fear the Darkness: New Excerpt Becky Masterman What do you do when a psychopath moves in?
From The Blog
January 28, 2015
Thieves Do the Right Thing for Boy Scouts
Teddy Pierson
January 27, 2015
William Gillette: The Actor Who Saved Sherlock Holmes
Crime HQ
January 26, 2015
Lowdown Calendar: More of 2015's Mystery Conventions
Crime HQ
January 25, 2015
Literary Mysteries: Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
Edward A. Grainger
January 22, 2015
Woman Feels No Fear
Jennifer Proffitt
Jan 20 2015 11:00am

Gotham 1.12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

“You think you’ve been careful so far?”

Lest we forget, Harvey Bullock repeats the phrase three times, each more incredulous than the last in the latest Gotham.

It’s a perfect line, well-delivered by Donal Logue, and points out the single biggest issue with Gotham: Jim Gordon should be dead by now.

But for plot reasons, he lives. It’s certainly not because his skills are invaluable to Gotham.  Oh, he yells at people for being corrupt and he condescends to those not doing real police work but it’s been a long time since we’ve actually seen him do something that makes things better for the city.

But yet Jim holds himself up as better than everyone else. He yells at other cops, various mobsters and the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. Yet no one takes him out.  This frustrates me to no end because the character has such potential.

[Jim, like Gotham, needs to find its identity...]

Jan 19 2015 12:30pm

Grantchester: Series Premiere 1.01

A distraught woman, all red lips and stylish hat, pleads to the clergyman: “I can’t go to the police, but you— the human heart— that’s your responsibility isn’t it? You can ask any question of anyone, however private.”

Yes, thinks the clergyman, I suppose I can. Now how shall I wield this unique power?

And there you have the premise of Grantchester, the enjoyable new series that premiered on Masterpiece Mystery, January 18.

Our clergyman is Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton), hunky in the Ralph de Bricassart mold and tantalizingly available. He comes with the requisite cassock and bicycle, plus a few predilections we might not expect—a taste for Sidney Bechet, a passion for backgammon, and a dislike of sherry among them.

The time is November 1953. We know this from a mention of a fateful soccer match that England lost to Hungary. Said game resides in the collective consciousness of U.K. soccer fans the way Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” resonates with American baseball fans.

The place is Grantchester, a real village near Cambridge that’s been immortalized in a Pink Floyd song and in the mystery novels by James Runcie on which the TV series is based.

The situation is the apparent suicide of a lawyer that could very well have been murder.

[Brew yourself a cuppa and let’s get started...]

Jan 19 2015 11:30am

Fear the Darkness: New Excerpt

Becky Masterman

Fear the Darkness by Becky MastersonFear the Darkness by Becky Masterman is the second thriller in the Brigid Quinn series about an ex-FBI agent whose niece has some glaring psychopathic tendencies (available January 20, 2015).

It’s hard to recognize the devil when his hand is on your shoulder. That’s because a psychopath is just a person before he becomes a headline….Psychopaths have preferences for Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, denim or linen, Dickens or…well, you get the point.

Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn has seen more than her share of psychopaths. She is ready to put all that behind her, building a new life in Tucson with a husband, friends, and some nice quiet work as a private investigator. Sure, she could still kill a man half her age, but she now gets her martial arts practice by teaching self-defense at a women's shelter.

But sometimes it isn't that simple. When her sister-in-law dies, Brigid take in her seventeen-year-old niece, Gemma Kate. There has always been something unsettling about Gemma-Kate, but family is family. Which is fine, until Gemma-Kate starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife.

Meanwhile, Brigid agrees to help a local couple by investigating the death of their son—which also turns out not to be that simple. Her house isn't the sanctuary it used to be, and new dangers—including murder—seem to lurk everywhere. Brigid starts to wonder if there is anyone she can trust, or if the devil has simply moved closer to home.

[Continue on to our excerpt of Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman...]

Jan 19 2015 10:00am

The Lowdown Calendar of 2015’s Biggest Mystery Conventions

Mystery conventions are a great way to find new mystery-loving friends and hear directly from your favorite authors – and maybe even meet some of them. All of these conventions feature keynote speeches or interviews from big name guests of honor as well as author, expert and fan panels talking about all sorts of subjects. There are parties and book signings. Some even have fan guests of honor. Many of these conventions are put on by all-volunteer, non-profit organizations, run by mystery fans who donate their time to make sure everyone has fun.

Here is a chronological rundown of five major fan conventions taking place this year.

Editor's Note: We're working on another post with smaller and/or specialty conferences, which may also include those that have a workshopping or publishing focus, meaning they're directed towards writers more than pure readers and fans. Feel free to add mentions or suggestions in the comments here, because we'll be listing as many of those as we can in another chronological rundown very soon.

[Gimme five!]

Jan 17 2015 12:00pm

Puzzled Indemnity: New Excerpt

Parnell Hall

Puzzled Indemnity by Parnell Hall is the 16th cozy mystery in the Puzzle Lady series starring amateur sleuth Cora Felton (available January 20, 2015).

It’s been a cold, lonely winter for Cora Felton. Long distance has cooled the Puzzle Lady’s on-again-off-again affair with Sergeant Crowley, and the only case Chief Harper has for her to investigate is a routine liquor store robbery. So when attorney friend Becky Baldwin asks her to check out whether Brittney Wells' philandering husband is planning to kill her to collect on a million dollar, double indemnity insurance policy, Cora jumps at the chance.

Cora has no problem tracking hubby to his love nest, but when Brittany refuses to believe he's cheating on her, Cora has to blackmail him to prove the affair. Before she can, a car bomb rocks the quiet streets of Bakerhaven, and the stakes escalate to murder.

To save Becky's clueless client from the clutches of the law, Cora will manipulate a TV reporter, cast suspicion on an innocent man, crack crossword and Sudoku clues, solve the liquor store robbery, and enlist the aid of both Sergeant Crowley and his girlfriend.

Chapter 1

Cora Felton looked out the window and proclaimed, “I hate winter.”

[Continue reading Puzzled Indemnity by Parnell Hall...]

Jan 16 2015 12:00pm

Errol Flynn: The Swashbuckler Way Out West

Errol Flynn (1909-1959), a larger than life movie star whose legendary off-screen antics (the My Wicked, Wicked Ways autobiography is an eye-popping corker) rivaled any images stamped on celluloid, was an overnight success story when Warner Bros. took a chance on the unknown Australian actor and cast him in 1935’s Captain Blood. And just like that, the swashbuckling film legend, who to this day has no equal, was born. Flynn would reach the apex of that costumed, tight-wearing genre in 1938’s Adventures of Robin Hood for which he is still best remembered. But The Tasmanian Devil also looked at ease strapping on six-shooters, riding a horse, and romancing beautiful belles on the frontier, though he believed otherwise. In Wicked, Flynn stated, "I felt I was miscast in Westerns, but this was impossible to point out to producers when the pictures were so highly successful.” Here are three examples of why Flynn stands corrected:

[Let's start with Dodge City...]

Jan 16 2015 10:00am

2015 Oscar Nominations: Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel Lead the Way

The 2015 Academy Award nominees have been announced, and in a two-way tie for the lead with nine nominations are Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's not surprising to see Birdman clean up with nominations, as the Academy loves to honor films about the film industry, but Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit more surprising considering it premiered way back in March. Unlike last year, where 12 Years a Slave and Gravity were destined to win the majority of awards, this year should see a decent mix of films taking home Oscars. The Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will air February 22, and in the weeks building up, stay tuned to Criminal Element for predictions, updates, and another Carnage Count!

The list of major nominees are as follows:

Best Picture

American Sniper



The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game


The Theory of Everything


[Have you seen them all?]

Jan 16 2015 9:45am

Affordable and Thoughtful: The 21st Century Robot Forger

Robot forgery's been around for centuries now, really. Autopen machines to recreate signatures have existed since Thomas Jefferson began using one in 1804. This graceful robotic mannequin used to write advertising in store windows in 1929. Some authors have elaborated and experiemented with them for remote, but personalized book signings in the 21st century. There's now even a Torah-writing robot that can complete a scroll in 3 months, versus a human year, though something ineffable's lost without the goose quill and prayers. But now, we enter the age of the completely flexible and more affordable robotic cyber-forger. This is the technology behind several start-ups offering to “handwrite” notes as a personal service. According to Aviva Rutkin in New Scientist:

Customers can choose from a number of preset fonts, designed to look messy, stylish, or formal. Or for $199, Bond will mimic a customer's own handwriting, and for $499 they will invite you to work with handwriting experts for a day to improve it first. Bond also offers options based on the handwriting of famous people such as Sigmund Freud.

Why, of course. Even reproducing the handwriting of famous people. Or embodying any characteristic one chooses to display. What could possibly go wrong? I should also note this—ha ha—from an owner of one of the emerging firms:

“We're not trying to fool people into believing that someone wrote the note for them,” says Sonny Caberwal, founder of Bond, a New York City handwriting service that launched in November. “We're trying to give people a tool to express themselves in the way they want.”

Whatever you say. Write on. Now where did I stash that pile of aged parchment?

Leading image and much more cool historical info at Cyberneticzoo.

Jan 15 2015 2:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.12: “Show Stoppers”

“Show Stoppers” is the perfect name for this second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show. I think my wish from last week was granted. If you haven't caught up with the season so far, please do. There will be spoilers and theories in this recap, so if you want surprises, get thee to a television set, then come back here and share your own wagers for how Freak Show will come to an end. There's certainly a lot to take in, and I'm glad they kept this episode inside the tents. No forays into town, no popping by Mott Manor.

We find our freaks celebrating new management! Elsa (Jessica Lange) sold the freak show to Chester (Neil Patrick Harris) at the end of last week's episode. I guess by default, she sold it to Marjorie (Jamie Brewer) as well. Have I mentioned how creepy Marjorie is? Given what we know— well, I'll get to that in a minute. Elsa dismisses Chester to spend a few last moments with her original freaks and Stanley (Dennis O'Hare) the freakiest of them all.

[A title not to be taken lightly...]

Jan 15 2015 1:00pm

Six Obsessive Characters in Fiction

Sometimes it's love. Sometimes it's revenge. And sometimes it's the refusal to change. Obsession can hijack anyone, and Phil Hogan has compiled a list of six of the most obsessive characters in fiction. Readers can comment below to be entered for a chance to win a copy of A Pleasure and a Calling, Phil's own obsessive thriller. Let's obsess!


Humbert Humbert Lolita

From his opening words – “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins” – the urbane, nymphet-adoring hero (if that’s the right word) of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 classic stakes his claim as the grandaddy of obsessives. He is certainly one of the most persuasive. That the reader is made complicit, however uncomfortably, in the sexual grooming and violation of 12-year-old Dolores Haze is a mark of Nabokov’s brilliance – not just in his handling of language and character, but in fathoming the corrupting possibilities of the first-person narrator. How far will he – and we – go? The siren song of the amoral, self-justifying aesthete has been heard high and low throughout literature but with no sweeter compulsion than here.

[Some call it obsession, others passion...]

Jan 15 2015 8:45am

Nothing Says I Hate You Like...Glitter?

Some villains spend their entire lives planning out the perfect way to seek revenge. Well, if you want to exact some revenge of your own but a) don't want to enter into the business of murder and mayhem and b) just want to fill out a form and have someone else do the dirty work for you, then we have the service for you!

The website Ship Your Enemies Glitter, is just the company willing to do that for you. In some Not Safe for Work language, they outline their process of revenge, and outline why you should pay them to ship glitter:

First off, use your f***ing imagination. We're going to be pouring a tonne of glitter into an envelope with a folded up piece of paper. You know what's going to happen when that f***face opens the envelope & pulls out the letter? The craft herpes will be released & will go everywhere.

So, will you be using this site to give people their comeuppance? For only $9.99 you can finally get even!

Image via tumblr.

Jan 14 2015 4:30pm

Agent Carter: 1.03: “Time and Tide”

By this point, we know that Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is on the trail of something big. Howard Stark is on the run from the SSR, and while all the other agents are chasing him, Agent Carter is hunting down the mysterious organization behind the theft of all of Stark’s super weapons. (I can’t believe I just wrote “super weapons,” but this is, after all, basically a comic book.) The trick of the show is to keep Peggy one step ahead of her friends and one step behind her enemies.

“Time and Tide” finds her with her hands full on both counts. The SSR boys decide to pull in and interrogate Peggy’s one real ally, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), Stark’s loyal butler.

As an aside: Is it me or do heroically steadfast English butlers only exist in comic books? There has be to some kind of post-colonial theory that can explain why billionaire American playboys always seem to want a manservant from the U.K.

[Besides the obvious reason: the accent...]

Jan 14 2015 3:00pm

Dead Red: New Excerpt

Tim O'Mara

Dead Red by Tim O'Mara is the third Raymond Donne mystery set in NYC about the ex-cop turned school teacher who is dragged back into the criminal world (available January 20, 2015).

New York City school teacher Raymond Donne has no idea how bad his night is going to get when he picks up the phone. Ricky Torres, his old friend from his days as a cop, needs Ray’s help, and he needs it right now—in the middle of the night. Ricky picks Ray up in the taxi he’s been driving since returning from serving as a marine in Iraq, but before Ricky can tell Ray what’s going on, the windows of the taxi explode under a hail of bullets killing Ricky and knocking Ray unconscious as he dives to pull his friend out of harm’s way.

Ray would’ve done anything to help Ricky out while he was alive. Now that he’s dead, he’ll go to the same lengths to find out who did it and why. All he has to go on is that Ricky was working with Jack Knight, Ray’s old nemesis, another ex-cop turned PI. They were investigating the disappearance of a PR giant’s daughter who had ties to the same Brooklyn streets that all three of them used to work. Is that what got Ricky killed or was he into something even more dangerous? Was there anything that Ray could’ve done for him while he was alive? Is there anything he can do for him now?

Chapter 1

I NEVER HEARD THE SHOT THAT killed Ricky Torres.

[Continue reading Dead Red by Tim O'Mara...]

Jan 14 2015 8:45am

“Everyone Creates the Thing They Dread”: New Trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Marvel has released a new trailer for this summer's inevitable blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it seems as if this movie will have a much darker tone than the last Avengers. After rumbling with Thor in the last film, it seems that Iron Man will have to throw down with Hulk this time around. It's a good think he seems prepared. Avengers: Age of Ultron will hit theaters May 1, 2015. Are you excited to see it?

Jan 13 2015 10:30am

Elementary: The Ghost Line: New Excerpt

Adam Christopher

Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher finds Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson deep underground as they navigate NYC's cavernous tunnels in search of answers (available February 24, 2015).

This exclusive excerpt is reprinted by arrangement with Titan Books. All rights reserved.

Summons to a bullet-riddled body in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment marks the start of a new case for consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a hidden stash of money and a strange Colombian connection, but why would someone kill him and leave a fortune behind?

The search for the truth will lead the sleuths deep into the hidden underground tunnels beneath New York City, where answers—and more bodies—may well await them...


Some Velvet Morning

The man turned into West 49th Street from 8th Avenue and paused at the corner to swap the heavy plastic grocery bag from one hand to the other. It was early—damn early, he thought—the sky still a deep, cool velvet blue, the dawn just bruising the eastern horizon through the narrow corridor of tall Manhattan buildings behind him. He was bundled up against the chill, his coat old and worn but comfortable, a long-favored scarf wrapped around the lower half of his face. Shaking the circulation back into the hand that had been carrying the groceries all the way from the Duane Reade on the corner of Broadway and West 57th, the man continued on his way toward his apartment in a less fashionable backwater of Hell’s Kitchen.

[Continue reading Elementary: The Ghost Line...]

Jan 13 2015 8:45am

9 Year-Old Gets Arrest Warrant For Stealing Gum

Dealing with criminals is always very important in our society, but the news of a recent arrest warrant issued by an Idaho prosecutor has taken many by surprise. Yours truly included!

According to KHQ-TV, a 9 year-old boy from Post Falls, Idaho, had a warrant issued for his arrest after he stole a package of gum and failed to appear in court.

This is a warrant that even took the town's police chief by surprise.

“I was surprised that it had gotten to this level,” Post Falls Chief of Police Scott Haug told KHQ-TV, after reporting that he hadn't seen an arrest warrant issued for someone that young in his 30 years of law enforcement.

The young lad is currently being held at the local Juvenile Detention Center awaiting his fate.

Jan 12 2015 3:00pm

Run Down to the Ground: Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

One of the few bits of learning I retained from my years as a sleepwalking college student, was a lesson a film class instructor gave us as a lead-in to a section on film noir. He said that one common aspect of those movies was that many of them centered around doomed characters trying to rise in the underworld while fighting the ways of straight society. He mentioned that these antiheroes could often appear to be successfully holding sway over their left-of-center domains for a time, but that they were always destined to be run down to the ground in the end. I don’t know whether 1989’s Drugstore Cowboy should be classified as film noir, and don’t particularly care to argue the point, but I think it powerfully explores that theme my professor detailed as being a signature element of the cinematic genre.

I doubt that many reading this need a detailed description of Drugstore Cowboy’s plot. We all know it’s a study of the alternative lifestyle led by a team of four intravenous drug users in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s. It was the second feature film directed by Gus Van Sant, and really his breakthrough. It is based on the then unpublished autobiographical novel by career druggie and criminal James Fogle, who died in 2012 and was a study in himself (one this writer plans to undertake). It stars Matt Dillon who puts on an absolute tour-de-force in portraying Bob Hughes, the leader of the junkie team. Van Sant, his screenwriting partner Daniel Yost, Dillon, and supporting actor Max Perlich all were nominated for and/or won awards handed out by the likes of the L.A. Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. In my opinion, they should have won Oscars.

[It was that good...]

Jan 12 2015 12:30pm

Done in One: New Excerpt

Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas

Done in One by Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas is a psychological thriller that takes a look into the mind of a SWAT sniper and the toll that a growing list of sanctioned kills takes on a person (available January 13, 2015).

One bullet equals one kill.

For SWAT sniper Jake Denton, the bullet casings he saves as grim reminders of his “kills” are beginning to add up. His wife, his department-ordered psychiatrist, and even Jake himself are all beginning to question just how these sanctioned kills are affecting his mental health. Nobody wants him to end up like Lee Staley, his mentor and ex-partner—now out on permanent psych leave, drinking himself to death, and the prime suspect in a series of shootings that have paralyzed Northern California.

Jake doesn't believe that Staley’s guilty, but since their job has taught them to kill, how easy would it be for his friend to cross over to the other side? How easy would it be for him?

On every police force in the country, there's a SWAT sniper going about his daily life, acting like an average cop, until the moment when the call comes in. Then they become a hostage’s last hope and a criminal's worst nightmare. To some, they are silent heroes—to others, silent killers.


White. Nothing but white. Stretching to the horizon in every direction, infinite and limitless and as full of potential as an unpainted canvas or a child’s soul—pure, clean, unsoiled. But that will change.

[Continue reading Done in One by Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas...]

Jan 12 2015 9:30am

Pop Music Spells Freedom, Really, In Morse Code!

It's the story of a Columbian colonel, a Miami ad man, long-time hostages and the music of freedom. Colonel Espejo was running out of opportunities to rescue hostages held by the rural FARC, sometimes for more than a decade, so he turned to an ad man with a long-standing grudge against the guerillas to design a way to communicate. In the rural areas, hostages are often allowed to listen to the radio. In fact, there's a weekly show called “Voices of Kidnapping” that allows families 30-second slots for dedications to their captive loved ones. But this was something different. This fascinating story has loads of interesting tidbits, and you should read the whole thing written by Jeff Maysh at The Verge, but here's a bit:

Word quickly got around the studio that the military wanted to produce a song so popular it would enterr the “Lista 40” — Colombia’s Billboard charts. Producer Carlos Portela, 34, thought they were nuts.

“But they were deadly serious, and explained it was a secret project,” says Portela, who wears an eyebrow ring and produces music for beer commercials...

With the help of a military policeman skilled in Morse, they coded the message: “19 people rescued. You are next. Don’t lose hope.” It was a signal to boost morale and indicate that help was nearby. Portela wrote the song and the lyrics with composer Amaury Hernandez, creating a thinly-veiled ballad about life as a hostage: “In the middle of the night / Thinking about what I love the most / I feel the need to sing… About how much I miss them.” He even added the lyric, “Listen to this message, brother,” just before the coded message kicks in. The code sounds like a brief synth interlude just after the chorus.

If you'd like to listen, the code begins at 1:30.

And if you're suddenly feeling you need to catch up on your Morse, here's an online game from Boys' Life game to help.

Illustrations by Allegra Lockstadt.

Jan 11 2015 12:00pm

The Ice Queen: New Excerpt

Nele Neuhaus

The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus is the 3rd international thriller in the Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein Series about a murdered Holocaust survivor who is not who he seems (available January 13, 2015).

The body of 92-year-old Jossi Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and American citizen, is found shot to death execution style in his house near Frankfurt. A five-digit number is scrawled in blood at the murder scene. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the corpse's arm—a blood type marker once used by Hitler's SS. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are faced with a riddle. Was the old man not Jewish after all? Who was he, really? Two more, similar murders happen—one of a wheelchair-bound old lady in a nursing home, and one of a man with a cellar filled with Nazi paraphernalia—and slowly the connections between the victims becomes evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee, baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Pia and Oliver follow the trail, which leads them all the way back to the end of World War II and the area of Poland that then belonged to East Prussia. No one is who they claim to be, and things only begin to make sense when the two investigators realize what the bloody number stands for, and uncover an old diary and an eyewitness who is finally willing to come forward.



No one in his family could understand his decision to spend the twilight of his life in Germany; he certainly couldn’t, either. All of a sudden he had felt that he didn’t want to die in this country, which had been so good to him for more than sixty years. He longed to read German newspapers and to have the sound of the German language in his ears. David Goldberg had not left Germany voluntarily. At the time, in 1945, it had been a matter of life and death, and he had made the best out of losing his homeland. But now there was nothing left to keep him in America. He had bought the house near Frankfurt almost twenty years ago, shortly after Sarah’s death, so that he wouldn’t have to stay in anonymous hotels when his numerous business or social obligations took him to Germany.

[Continue reading Nele Neuhaus's The Ice Queen...]