Fresh Meat: <i>A Root Awakening</i> by Kate Collins Fresh Meat: A Root Awakening by Kate Collins Rachel Kramer Bussel House hunting is no bed of roses... <i>Among Thieves</i>: New Excerpt Among Thieves: New Excerpt John Clarkson They will rue the day that they blackballed James Beck's cousin. 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...
From The Blog
January 30, 2015
HBO Greenlights Lewis and Clark Miniseries
Joe Brosnan
January 30, 2015
Mark Twain on Celebrity Killers, the Sane 'Insane', and Meddling Misguided Magistrates
Edward A. Grainger
January 30, 2015
Automatic Crime Sonnet Robot, Activate!
Clare Toohey
January 29, 2015
Ketchup Me If You Can
Crime HQ
January 28, 2015
Thieves Do the Right Thing for Boy Scouts
Teddy Pierson
Fri
Jan 23 2015 8:45am

The X Files to Return? The Truth Is Out There

We've already discussed the upcoming return of Twin Peaks (for which we can't talke all the credit), and now you can (hopefully) add The X-Files to the list of sci-fi rebirths! After appearing with Chris Hardwick on a Nerdist podcast, Gillian Anderson urged fans to join her in urging Fox to bring back the show. Anderson, who co-starred with David Duchovny, urged fans to take to Twitter weilding #XFiles2015.

And then, a few days later, Fox confirmed that early talks had begun with Anderson and Duchovny on the logistical nature of a return. Fox has seen recent success with reboots after last summer's return of 24, and as more and more television viewers migrate away from the arid broadcast networks for the green pastures of cable, it seems foolish for Fox to turn its back on a series with a pre-installed fanbase.

Thu
Jan 22 2015 12:00pm

Ngaio Marsh on Race: From Caricatures to Characters

Ngaio Marsh was not, at first blush, a racially insensitive writer. A queen of the golden age of detective fiction, Marsh published 32 novels featuring her upper class detective Roderick Alleyn. Her first book, A Man Lay Dead, was published in 1934; her last, Light Thickens, in 1982. Over a 50 year span, themes of race and class permeated all of her books, but it was remarkable that as early on as 1934, Marsh chose to create characters from diverse ethnic, racial and national backgrounds, investing them with heart and life.

True, many of these characters are little more than caricatures. Think of Alleyn’s manservant, the Russian Vassily, or indeed any of the Russian characters in A Man Lay Dead. Or the mafia vendetta that fueled the plot of Photo Finish, broadly sketching the histrionic opera singer Isabella Sommita, and her devious servants, Marco and Maria. Or the distaste for her character Carlos Rivera, that pervades every paragraph of Swing Brother Swing. The Austrian-German characters in Death and the Dancing Footman are untrustworthy, the French count who is a suspect in Death in Ecstasy is accorded greater respect because of his title, but he too is slippery and oily, whereas the unspeakable Arab in Spinsters in Jeopardy, is lustful and lascivious, making dreadful advances upon Alleyn’s own wife.

[See the details below and comment below for a chance to win!]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 11:30am

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.13: Season Finale “Curtain Call”

“Audiences want a new type of freak. Something different,” Dandy proclaimed. The season finale of Freak Show was not exactly different from its sister incarnations, but we did get some nice (and by nice, I really mean absolutely horrific) moments during “Curtain Call.”

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) is as much a whining brat managing a freak show as he was attempting to be a serial killer. Man, does Dandy go through hobbies or what? He just can’t make up his mind! The freaks are having none of it. With Elsa (Jessica Lange) out of the picture, they’re through being used as pawns. Paul (Matt Fraser) remains my favorite, my darling voice of reason:

“I’ve heard you sing and you’re not special: you’re rubbish. Even worse, you’re boring. You’ll never be one of us, and you don’t own us.”

Eve (Erika Ervin) punching Dandy in the face was also a nice touch, but in typical American Horror Story fashion, nothing is that easy and nothing is ever okay.

The Freaks quit.

[Good bye! It was nice knowing ya...]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 8:29am

Fight or Flight: Neither for Woman Who Feels No Fear

Writers, get your pens ready! We've read stories about people who feel no pain, but a woman, known in a recent profile simply as SM, feels no fear. Literally. She's not trying to put on a “brave face,” she simply does not, biologically, “have the parts” that allow her to feel fear. SM suffers from Urbach-Wiethe syndrome, an incredibly rare condition which usually manifests in skin lessions and other skin conditions (if it manifests at all) but also has neurological ramifications—a lack of fear. While this sounds like it makes a woman into a Rambo-esque character, it has had some serious consequences. Without the biological feeling of fear, SM has found herself in some tight spots: most notably being held at knife-point with her three young children in tow. This story ends happily, as SM's lack of fear led her to confront the man in a way he wasn't expecting—“go ahead cut me, but I'll be coming back to hunt your ass” isn't the usual reaction.

Read the full profile here.

Wed
Jan 21 2015 12:30pm

Announcing 2015’s Edgar Nominees

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the Edgar Award nominees and special winners.  The Edgars banquet—an annual black-tie gala celebrating crime fiction, non-fiction, and television writing—will be held on Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. As always, it's a fantastic list of great work that deserves to be checked out! What have you read already?

BEST NOVEL
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Wolf by Mo Hayder
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin
Coptown by Karin Slaughter

[See all the nominees!]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 11:30am

Justified 6.01: Season Premiere “Fate’s Right Hand”

Previously on Justified: Art got shot (noooooo!) and Raylan promised (yet again) to be there for Winona and their daughter and promised with somewhat more vigor to help the Marshals’ Service and ASA Rodriguez take down Boyd Crowder. Meanwhile, Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) told Boyd Crowder that his true superpower was robbing banks, Ava Crowder turned informant for the US Marshals, and Dewey Crowe confessed to murder.

We open with Winona wondering what in the world is worth Raylan’s missing the graveyard shift with his adorable baby daughter Willa.

The answer is taking down Boyd Crowder. Raylan’s in Mexico, trying to get the Federales who found Johnny Crowder’s body to tell him who witnessed that murder. The chief, Aguilar, is unimpressed by Raylan’s Marshal badge and tells him to piss off. Raylan is uncharacteristically restrained, saying only “see you around” and the chief returns to his drinking buddies. When Aguilar emerges from the bar, extremely drunk, we find out that when Raylan’s parting words meant that he was planning to kidnap Aguilar and bring him back to the US where he’d be more likely to talk and more respectful of the Marshals’ service.

[Oh Justified, how we missed you!]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 8:45am

Man Gets Ticket for Eating Cheeseburger

We’ve all snagged a bite to eat at a fast food joint and eaten it in our car, but it landed one man in big trouble.

Madison Turner was given a ticket after getting caught munching on a cheeseburger while driving his car in Cobb County, Georgia, WSB-TV reported.

Turner had this to share with WSB-TV about the encounter:

“The officer explained to me that he observed me eating a burger for 2 miles,” Madison said. “He said specifically three times, you can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger.”

It turns out it’s illegal to eat and drive thanks to the state’s distracted driver law that covers anything that takes your attention away from the road. Even a burger.

Police are not saying anything about the case because Turner has not yet appeared in court.

What do you think of this law?

Oh, in unrelated but related news: McDonald's famed Triple Cheeseburger is making a comeback. Just try to not eat it while driving!

Tue
Jan 20 2015 4:30pm

Now Win This!: 3x3 Sweepstakes

The best things in life come in threes, and this sweepstakes proves it with a contemporary high-tech Swedish trilogy, three of the Clifton Chronicles, set in the U.K. in the aftermath of WWI, and if that weren’t enough, another bonus trifecta of internationally celebrated crime novels!

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 January 20, 2015, at 4:30 pm ET, and ends February 3, 2015, 4:29 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[This might just be our biggest sweepstakes yet!]

Tue
Jan 20 2015 12:30pm

Six Reasons to Watch The Americans

The premise of The Americans, which is set in the early 1980s, is that Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a suburban Virginia couple who seem as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July, are actually a pair of ruthless KGB sleeper agents whose marriage was arranged by spymasters in the Kremlin. The show returns for its third season next week, and here are six reasons why you should be watching:

1. The Americans is exciting!! From the opening sequence of the pilot (which involved a kidnapping, a stabbing and a car chase) right up until the closing moments of Season 2, the show gives us all the exciting spy games we could possibly want. There’s also the mental and emotional tension of not quite wanting Philip and Elizabeth to succeed in their missions (and we know, of course, that ultimately the Soviets didn’t win the Cold War) but also not wanting them to be exposed or killed.

2. The writing is, for the most part, extremely intelligent. I love the way the writers incorporate actual historical events into the storylines, such as the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, or the U.S. government’s support of the Contras in Nicaragua, or the struggle of Soviet Jews to be allowed to emigrate to Israel. Plus, showrunner Joe Weisberg’s own background in the CIA and knowledge of spycraft informs such wonderful set-pieces. Take “Gregory” for example, an episode from Season 1 where Philip and Elizabeth try to make contact with a colleague’s widow before the FBI gets to her. The writers also don’t fall into the trap of making smart characters do stupid things just so the plot can move along; we get the far more exciting pleasure of watching clever people do clever things that are thwarted by circumstance or the technological limitations of the early 1980s (from our vantage point, it’s so startling to watch a world without cell-phones, GPS systems, tiny cameras, or sound recorders, etc. But they do have an awesome mailroom robot in the FBI!). The show’s writers even managed to put the Jennings’ teenaged daughter Paige at the center of the plot last season without making me roll my eyes or reach for the fast-forward button.

[We're looking at you, Homeland...]

Tue
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...]

Mon
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...]

Mon
Jan 19 2015 11:30am
Excerpt

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...]

Mon
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!]

Sat
Jan 17 2015 12:00pm
Excerpt

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...]

Fri
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...]

Fri
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

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

[Have you seen them all?]

Fri
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.

Thu
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...]

Thu
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...]

Thu
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.