Review: <i>No Pity for the Dead</i> by Nancy Herriman Review: No Pity for the Dead by Nancy Herriman Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review! Review: <i>In the Land of Milk and Honey</i> by Jane Jensen Review: In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen Janet Webb Read Janet Webb's review! <i>The More They Disappear</i>: New Excerpt The More They Disappear: New Excerpt Jesse Donaldson The More They Disappear takes us to the front lines of small-town drug abuse. Review: <i>A Time to Die</i> by Tom Wood Review: A Time to Die by Tom Wood David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review!
From The Blog
July 29, 2016
Outcast 1.08: "What Lurks Within" Episode Review
Angie Barry
July 28, 2016
Pokémon Your Local Bookstore
Martin Quinn
July 27, 2016
Book Trailer: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Crime HQ
July 26, 2016
Carnival of Souls: The Unlikely Masterpiece
Brian Greene
July 26, 2016
Movies + Math = A Beautiful Formula
David Cranmer
Jul 26 2016 1:30pm

Dangers on a Train: The Narrow Margin, 1952 and 1990

Despite their obvious limitations, trains make great settings for movies. 

Think of North by Northwest, where the wrongly charged and hunted Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) successfully hides in the upper of a Pullman berth, while the porter makes up Eva Marie Saint's berth; the cool blond helping him hide. Or Some Like It Hot, where Genevieve (Tony Curtis) and Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) throw a cocktail party—also in an upper berth. And, there's the near perfect The Lady Vanishes, with Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and Dame May Whitty.

While these are great films, the claustrophobic confines of a train seem especially perfect for films noir. One of the best is The Narrow Margin from 1952, remade in 1990. In the 1952 version, Charles McGraw plays the tough-talking, unbribable Det. Sgt. Walter Brown, in a trench coat right out of Bogart's wardrobe. His job is to protect Mrs. Frankie Neall (Marie Windsor), who is planning to testify against the mob. They must go by train from Chicago to Los Angeles.

[Alllll aboard!]

Jul 26 2016 10:00am

Blue Moon: New Excerpt

Wendy Corsi Staub

Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub is the 2nd book in her series featuring Mundy's Landing—a small town where bygone bloodshed has become big business (Available July 26, 2016).

Hair neatly braided, hands serenely clasped, eyes closed, the young woman appeared to be sound asleep. But the peaceful tableau was a madman’s handiwork. Beneath the covers, her white nightgown was spattered with blood. At daybreak, a horrified family would discover her corpse tucked into their guest room. The cunning killer would strike again... and again... before vanishing into the mists of time.

A century ago, the Sleeping Beauty Murders terrified picturesque Mundy’s Landing. The victims, like the killer, were never identified. Now, on the hundredth anniversary, the Historical Society’s annual “Mundypalooza” offers a hefty reward for solving the notorious case.

Annabelle Bingham, living in one of the three Murder Houses, can’t escape the feeling that her family is being watched—and not just by news crews and amateur sleuths. She’s right. Having unearthed the startling truth behind the horrific crimes, a copycat killer is about to reenact them—beneath the mansard roof of Annabelle’s dream home...

[Read an excerpt from Blue Moon...]

Jul 25 2016 4:30pm

The Antihero This World Deserves

Some of their fans may protest, but Milady de Winter (of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas) and Armand Chauvelin (of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy) are not true antiheroes. Certainly, they are sympathetic villains, and it might be interesting how those tales would have been told absent their titular characters. That premise—the missing hero—is the aspect of the antihero examined here.

The recent success of Deadpool, as portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, struck like a shockwave, but should not have been a surprise. Where we admire heroes, we envy the antihero. They seem to be free of many of the constraints we face in daily life. Violations of social convention, immunity from consequences, and political incorrectness are part of their license.

The antihero may be born out of a moral quandary, but they often remain morally ambiguous practitioners of situational ethics. In a sense, they serve as symbols of unfettered liberty. All of this can be very appealing, particularly when we perceive that no one else is following the rules.

They are freedom. And, they’re not exactly new.

[Heroes aren't always perfect...]

Jul 25 2016 3:30pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Dick Tracy (1990)

THE SUBGENRE: Comic book noir.
THE HERO: Hardnosed detective Dick Tracy.
THE VILLAIN: Crime boss Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Tess Trueheart and gangster's moll Breathless Mahoney.
THE SETTING: A 1920's metropolis.

Pulp fiction gets a bad name in my opinion—no, not the Quentin Tarantino flick where Travolta jams a giant needle into Uma Thurman's chest and Christopher Walken has the creepiest speech ever about a watch.

When I talk about pulp, I'm talking about a brand of story that jumped straight off of 20th-century magazine shelves and WHAM!-ed and BAM!-ed their way across the big screen.

Gruff detectives, flying aces, adventurers, and early superheroes abound in pulp flicks. There are a lot of fedoras, trench coats, goggles, and impressive boots on display. Our hero carries a pistol or a knife, maybe even a magic ring or jetpack.

They travel to exotic locales or prowl dark city streets, ever on the watch for an innocent in need of saving, a damsel in need of smooching, and a baddie in need of a swift punch to the jaw.

[POW! Right in the kisser!]

Jul 25 2016 2:00pm

Paradime: New Excerpt

Alan Glynn

Paradime by Alan Glynn, author of Limitless, is a novel of a twenty-first-century identity crisis that will thrill you from page one (Available August 2, 2016).

Danny Lynch didn’t sign up for this, but right now, it’s all he’s got. Three weeks ago, he was working at a chow hall in Afghanistan and―more or less―doing fine. Sure, this meant living in a war zone, but he was never in the line of fire and, frankly, the money was hard to resist. Then Danny saw something he shouldn’t have, and now he’s back in New York City, haunted by what sent him home and lucky to be employed at all, even if that means dicing carrots for ten hours a day in a stuffy Midtown restaurant. The job’s one saving grace? A sight line from his prep station in the kitchen to a coveted corner table in the main room. For Danny, this is a window into the lives of some of Barcadero’s flashy clientele―and one evening, he sees a man who looks exactly like him.

Teddy Trager is the visionary founder of the billion-dollar investment firm Paradime Capital. He has everything Danny never knew he wanted―cashmere suits, a sleek sports car...privilege, power―and the closer Danny looks at Trager the more fixated he becomes.

[Read an excerpt from Paradime here...]

Jul 25 2016 12:30pm

Review: Murder on Brittany Shores by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Murder on Brittany Shores is a superbly plotted mystery that marks the return of Jean-Luc Bannalec's international bestselling series starring the cantankerous, coffee-swigging Commissaire Dupin (Available July 26, 2016).

Commissaire Georges Dupin is having a very bad day. It is a Monday—which is bad enough—but three corpses have also been found, with nothing more known about them other than that they are dead. Very dead.

If he was just an ordinary member of the public, starting his third coffee that morning, he might have mourned the loss of human life, but he could have just got on with his cold, dreary day. However, he is not. He works for the Commissariat de Police Concarneau, which means he must abandon his coffee at his regular café, the Amiral, and step aboard a police speedboat that is waiting for him in the harbor.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Murder on Brittany Shores...]

Jul 25 2016 11:00am

New Series 4 Sherlock Trailer Suggests a Darker Direction

The San Diego Comic Con looks like it’s all coming up Cumberbatch.

Along with the release of a new Dr. Strange trailer, fans of BBC’s Sherlock were treated to a teaser trailer for Series 4 of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s acclaimed take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s deductive detective.

Opening with some eerie footage of Moriarty asking, “Did you miss me?”, this trailer seems to suggest a much darker direction for the show—creepy nurses, car chases, explosions, and Mrs. Hudson calling Mycroft Holmes a “reptile.” We also got our first look at Toby Jones as the new villain. And, although it isn’t scheduled to be released until 2017, at least we know “something’s coming.”

[Watch the trailer below!]

Jul 24 2016 10:00pm

The Night Of: “The Dark Crate” Episode Review

He looks like a normal college kid, and we need to fight that.

The Dark Crate is Riker’s Island, which is Naz’s new home. He’s not a gang member, so he doesn’t get protective custody, he goes into general population and sleeps on a bunk in a dorm.

Shortly after, we see the institutional squalor of New York City’s enormous jail, and we see the penthouse cell where Freddy (Michael K. Williams of Boardwalk Empire, Hap & Leonard, and most famously as Omar in The Wire) holds court, outfitted with a television and a dozen mobile phones. A former boxer with a reach that extends far past his cell and Riker’s itself—a tattooed prisoner tells Naz that if Freddy “holds up five fingers, five men die in the Bronx!”—we get a quick taste of his power as he’s led from his cell by a female guard for sex. Then, she tells him she can’t do it anymore—they’re giving guards lie detector tests. “You don’t have to keep paying my rent,” she tells him. 

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of “The Dark Crate”]

Jul 22 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.07: “The Damage Done” Episode Review

Anderson (Philip Glenister) is cleaning up the aftermath of his bloody encounter with Evil Data/Sidney (Brent Spiner)—good God, talk about a bathroom of horrors—when Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) arrives for their standing poker game. 

But, it's difficult to keep your mind on the game when there's a pentagram still oozing on your chest. It's even harder when Giles provokes Ogden (Pete Burris) into some light fisticuffs over the card table; afterwards, the good Reverend has no choice but to reveal what happened to the Chief, who is understandably frustrated that he didn't come directly to him.

What's the point in having a BFF on the police department if you don't call him when a demonic psycho breaks into your church to carve arcane symbols on your body?

[Lay down your soul to the god's rock n' roll...]

Jul 22 2016 4:30pm

“Red Rum on Brittany Shores” Cocktail

A beautiful ship, a gorgeous coastline, a wonderful town...and murder!? Talk about a buzzkill.

So, flip the script and keep the party cruisin' with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Red Rum on Brittany Shores” cocktail, inspired by Jean-Luc Bannalec's 2nd Commissaire Dupin mystery, Murder on Brittany Shores!

Heeeeeerrrrrre's Jean-y...

[Check out the recipe below!]

Jul 22 2016 2:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Rat Queens

The Series: Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Sejic.
The Heroes: A team of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, totally asskicking female mercenaries.
The Ideal Format: A live-action series with a serious budget for the necessary magical SFX and prosthetics—HBO or Starz would be a good fit, given the mature subject matter.

When you hear “Dungeons & Dragons campaign,” your mind probably conjures up a dank basement, a card table, and four or five pimply boys with nasal voices and smudged glasses.

In truth, the D&D community is full of women, college students, and fantasy geeks of all ages and stripes who love to tell stories and enjoy a sense of community. The parents'-basement-dwelling social outcast is more an outlier than an apt representative of the collective whole. 

In my own personal experience, I've known over a dozen lady D&Ders to every one man. That's a helluva ratio.

Which is why Rat Queens is so damn important: it's essentially a D&D campaign driven by women. The heart of the story follows the eponymous mercenary team, a brash quartet who know what they want and just go for it.

[I know what I want, and I want it now...]

Jul 22 2016 12:00pm

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a scientific thriller that explores the idea of multiple universes (Available July 26, 2016).

At some point, in most of our lives, we make a decision or two that shapes what becomes of us for a number of years or decades, if not forever. Many of us spend some time wondering what might have been had we made the choices other than the ones we made at those pivotal moments. Jason Dessen, the lead character and narrator of most of Blake Crouch’s novel Dark Matter, gets to experience the different versions of the life he might have led. 

Dessen is a guy in his mid-30s or thereabouts. At the outset of the story, he is married, the father of a teenage boy, and a physics professor at a small college in Chicago. Prior to family life, Dessen was a promising physicist, seemingly on the verge of making highly impactful research discoveries in the field of quantum mechanics. But, when his girlfriend—a visual artist who appeared destined for achievement in that area—got pregnant, he let his research program go and focused on family life, taking the more modest professional avenue of becoming a teacher to undergrad students. His wife also sacrificed her career and is now a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t do much artwork.

[Read Brian Greene's review of Dark Matter...]

Jul 22 2016 11:00am

The Second Death: New Excerpt

Peter Tremayne

The Second Death by Peter TremayneThe Second Death by Peter Tremayne is the 26th book in the Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series (Available July 26, 2016).

Ireland, A.D. 671. It is the beginning of the summer season and the Kingdom of Muman is preparing to celebrate the Great Fair of Cashel. It is an extravagant nine days of contests, food, and endless entertainment. Circumstances have led Fidelma and Eadulf far and wide across the kingdom, and they have been absent from the Great Fair for many years. But, for once they haven't been called away from Cashel, and are eager to enjoy the festivities - that is, until the last wagon in a group traveling to the fair catches on fire. The driver dies and it appears that the driver was a woman disguised a boy, for reasons unknown. Eadulf, upon further inspection, finds an even more disconcerting discovery - a rotting corpse in back of the wagon. Now, with only a week left to the fair, it is up to Fidelma and Eadulf to solve the mystery in time.


The line of half a dozen or so gaudily painted wagons, some pulled by patient mules and others by oxen, wound its way along the Slíge Dála, the main highway which ran from Tara in the north-east, all the way to Cashel, capital of Muman, the most south-westerly of the Five Kingdoms of Éireann. On a small rise overlooking the ‘Way of the Blind’ – a road so-called because it was said that it was so well built, even the blind could travel it in safety – two figures on horseback watched the wagons moving slowly along its broad stretch.

[Read the full excerpt from The Second Death...]

Jul 22 2016 10:00am

Man Uses Brain to Get High Like a Zombie

Be prepared for this one. Joshua Long, 26, of Pennsylvania has found himself on the sticky side of the law during his journey to reach the ultimate “zombie high.” Let me explain...

According to CBS, Long was arrested by police after he confessed to stealing a human brain and soaking his marijuana stash in the formaldehyde in order to get a more intellectual high, so to speak. Long’s aunt was the one who tipped the authorities when she found the raw brain hidden inside a department store shopping bag while she cleaning around the house. A shopping bag? What a harebrained idea!

So, where the hell did this guy acquire a brain? Police are thinking it was used as a classroom anatomy aid. It’s unclear if the brain was in a jar or if Long was just storing the loose organ in a shopping bag and squeezing the juice out on demand. Sometimes, it is best not to know.

Now, to the most interesting side to this story: Long must have considered the brain a friend because he named it “Freddy.” He has since been charged with abuse of a corpse and conspiracy.

Jul 21 2016 3:30pm

10 Essential Giallo Films

There are a few very general things in common between Italian giallo films and the pinky violence cinematic fare from Japan that I overviewed in a recent post.

See also: Pinky Violence

Both sets of movies were established in the 1960s and saw their finest releases come to the fore in the ‘70s. Both lines were created by experimental directors looking to break new ground in what can happen in a feature film. Sex and violence figure prominently in both, as does groovy music. The definitions for both genres are fairly loose and open to varied interpretations.

But that’s about where the likenesses stop. While the Japanese movies were exploitation fare looking to capture the ways of the country’s wild and reckless subversive youth (in particular tough bad girls), gialli are distinctly European crime thrillers that generally involve foul play among adults. Characters in pinky violence films get slapped, kicked, and knifed a lot, but relatively few of them die; in gialli, death (by savage murder, usually) is always coming just down the strada.

[See which films made the list!]

Jul 21 2016 1:30pm

One and Done: Vern E. Smith, The Jones Men

The Jones Men was a thrilling novel to discover. A lost “cult” novel from the 1970s, written by veteran journalist Vern E. Smith, it is a story of the drug trade on the streets of Detroit, and it absolutely blew me away when I read it forty years after its initial publication.

The novel crackles with vibrant characters, juicy dialogue that reads like a mid-70s Blacksploitation film, and a complex, multi-faceted storyline that seems to have come from the pen of a veteran novelist. Not many authors could pull off this feat of parallel storylines, a huge cast of characters, and double cross on top of misdirect on top of misinformation—let alone a first-timer. It’s a stunning work that has been aptly compared to The Wire on many occasions.

So why didn’t Smith ever write another?

[Read more about Vern E. Smith!]

Jul 21 2016 12:00pm

Why We Are Fascinated with Hell, the Devil, and Monsters

Teddy Jameson awakens nude and confused in what appears to be a tropical paradise. His guide looks like Brad Pitt and the grounds look like a Sandals Resort. Nice, right? The only problem is that his guide has greeted him with these solemn words, “Mr. Theodore Carter Hugh Jameson, may I be the first to welcome you to Hell.” Hell?

That Hell seems to be an upscale and very expensive Caribbean resort and the man his guide introduces as the Devil appears to be a genial blonde-haired host in white shorts, polo shirt and sneakers with a passion for tennis, certainly adds to Teddy's confusion. Where's the fire and brimstone? Where are the horns and long pointed tail usually associated with the Devil? If this is Hell, it has certainly had a makeover.

That’s the beginning of my novella Welcome to Hell. I was intrigued by creating a story featuring a dapper, modern Devil living in a beautiful resort that just happens to be Hell.

Hell and the Devil—writers are fascinated by the topic. From past classics such as Dante’s Inferno and John Milton’s Paradise Lost to best-selling modern books like Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and The Omen by David Seltzer, the idea of this place and this person actually existing seems to have been fodder for many writers. Even the charming retelling of the Faust legend in the brilliant comedy Damn Yankees by Douglass Wallop is about “you-know-who from you-know-where.”

See also: Top 5 Movie Devils

[Welcome to Hell...]

Jul 21 2016 10:00am

Trials of the Century: New Excerpt

Aryn Z. Phillips and Mark J. Phillips

Trials of the Century: A Decade-by-Decade Look at Ten of America's Most Sensational Crimes by Mark J. Phillips and Aryn Z. Phillips is a fascinating history of true crime, justice gone awry, and the media often at its worst (Available July 26, 2016).

In every decade of the twentieth century, there was one sensational murder trial that riveted public attention and at the time was called “the trial of the century.” This book tells the story of each murder case and the dramatic trial—and media coverage—that followed. 

Starting with the murder of famed architect Stanford White in 1906 and ending with the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994, the authors recount ten compelling tales spanning the century. Each is a story of celebrity and sex, prejudice and heartbreak, and all reveal how often the arc of American justice is pushed out of its trajectory by an insatiable media driven to sell copy.

The most noteworthy cases are here—including the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the Sam Sheppard murder trial (“The Fugitive”), the “Helter Skelter” murders of Charles Manson, and the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But some cases that today are lesser known also provide fascinating glimpses into the tenor of the time: the media sensation created by yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst around the murder trial of 1920s movie star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle; the murder of the Scarsdale Diet guru by an elite prep-school headmistress in the 1980s; and more. The authors conclude with an epilogue on the infamous Casey Anthony (“tot mom”) trial, showing that the twenty-first century is as prone to sensationalism as the last century.

[Read an excerpt of Trials of the Century here...]

Jul 20 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge by Ovidia Yu

The 3rd novel in Ovidia Yu’s Singaporean mystery series finds Aunty Lee laid up with a sprained ankle and, therefore, grumpy at the curtailment of her ability to lovingly interfere in the lives of others. To make matters worse, her overbearing stepdaughter-in-law has decided to “help” Aunty Lee run her cafe while she’s healing, which is spreading the grumpiness to Aunty Lee’s actual helper, Nina. Then, Cherril, Aunty Lee’s business partner, decides that the cafe needs to expand its horizons, talking of mechanization and globalization, much to Aunty Lee’s discomfort. 

All Auntie Lee wants to do is cook good food that will nourish people’s bodies and, hopefully, souls, and she doesn’t believe a machine will be able to properly adjust for tastes the way she can.

[Recipes and pictures below!]