<i>Meet Your Baker</i>: New Excerpt Meet Your Baker: New Excerpt Ellie Alexander To bake, or not to bake, that is the question... 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?
From The Blog
December 22, 2014
The Film Noir of Robert Wise
Jake Hinkson
December 22, 2014
Van Gogh's Suicide? Forensics Expert Favors Murder
Crime HQ
December 19, 2014
Number 1 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa Letter Scams
Terry Ambrose
December 18, 2014
Number 2 of the Scams of Christmas: Holiday Heartbreakers
Terry Ambrose
December 17, 2014
Number 3 of the Scams of Christmas: Season's Breachings
Terry Ambrose
Dec 12 2014 2:30pm

Reviewing the Queue: City of God (2002)

With the digital libraries of online streaming services expanding more and more, choosing which movie to watch has become difficult. I will be digging through these online queues in hope of bringing you a movie worth watching. This time we’re taking a look at City of God, a violent, sobering, and surreal drama from directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund and available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video.

Beginning in Brazil in the 1960s, City of God spans two decades telling the story of Cicade de Deus (the eponymous title in Portuguese) – a low-class section of Rio de Janeiro governed by illegal drug trade. While that may sound like the premise of a film you’ve watched plenty of times before, I can guarantee the location of the film is like nothing else you’ve seen. Shot on location in Brazil and using amateur actors recruited from the actual Rio de Janeiro favelas (slums), City of God shines brightly with its rays of gritty realism.

[It’s an intense ride, so be prepared…]

Dec 12 2014 8:45am

Number 8 of the Scams of Christmas: Counterfeit Cheer

The unbeatable bargain has been a lure used by con artists since even before 19th-century Europeans recognized the commercial value of a topical preparation used by foreign laborers, an oily substance derived from the Chinese Water Snake.

Fast forward and you can get a brand new iPad for $20! A Louis Vuitton purse for 90% off! If your first thought was, that’s too good to be true, congratulations. Fake or stolen designer goods can take the ho-ho-ho out of the holidays faster than Santa can get his sleigh off the ground.

According to LongIsland.com, police arrested Paulo R. Barbosa and Kristy Barbosa, both of Harrison, New Jersey, and Paula Ligotti, of Levittown on Thanksgiving night. The suspects were each charged with four counts of counterfeiting in the second degree. Their holiday operation had a pop-up store in an office building, but also had an online presence. According to WABC's 7Online.com:

The website Lavish Creations says it is an online boutique carrying handmade and store-made merchandise specializing in children's products. But police say much of what was being sold was fake, from purses to watches and children's clothing and shoes.

“They came directly from China, and they were put on her shelves to sell to the consumer,” Detective Sergeant Patrick Ryder said.

After importation, Ligotti warehoused the fakes from China in her home. The raid, dubbed “Operation Black Thursday,” netted the police more than a million dollars in counterfeit goods. It also made Turkey Day a real downer for the three suspects.

If you’re one of those people who “never pays retail,” remember that there are plenty of real hot holiday deals to be found. Just be sure to verify the provenance and authenticity of products before you pay for anything.

We’re going to turn our sights on technology and No. 7 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list, “Santa's Spyware.”

Leading image via PyrateWench's Etsy store.

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

Dec 11 2014 1:00pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.09: “Tupperware Party Massacre”

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) makes the worst type of uninvited guest in Season 4 Episode 9 of American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.09 "Tupperware Party Massacre."

Man, this show is sure fond of massacres. I wish I could scoop up all the good bits of this episode and keep them fresh in the fridge, ready to reheat when things get stale. I don’t think I have enough Tupperware to clean up this mess. This episode was all loose ends and random occurrences, and I am desperately hoping we get somewhere (anywhere) before the winter break.

We open this week with our beloved Dandy (Finn Wittrock) paying our far less likable Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) a visit. Oh, Dandy, I’d hardly classify your antics as “misadventures,”and Esmerelda, you do know him! Remember that time you were almost sawed in half? That’s one failed murder I can’t quite forgive Dandy for…

And of course, Dandy’s got it out for Jimmy (Evan Peters), but I don’t think Dandy’s got to put in the effort. Jimmy’s in mourning over his mother and perpetually drunk off his ass. Don’t you want more of a challenge, Dandy?

[We sure know you can handle it...]

Dec 11 2014 12:00pm

Hands Off That Series, We’re British

We’re the Sweeney son, and we haven’t had any dinner. You’ve kept us waiting. So unless you want a kickin’ you tell us where those photographs are.

Detective Inspector Jack Regan knew how to make a point. If he were writing this he’d be telling you, “We’re British son, and we haven’t had our BAFTA. You’ve kept on stealing. So unless you want a kickin’, stop takin’ our programs.” That’s what I’d be telling you as well. Thankfully The Sweeney hasn’t been Americanized, although there was an appalling cinema remake, but you’ve taken the next best thing. So let’s start there.

[Remember Life on Mars?]

Dec 11 2014 9:30am

Number 9 of the Scams of Christmas: Bogus Coupons

’Tis the season for saving money. That’s what coupons are for—assuming those coupons are legitimate. But, alas, “phishing” scammers are also using this tried-and-true consumer favorite as a lure to bring prospective victims to their websites.

There are also those coupons that seek to turn you into the culprit, and some estimate these fake coupon schemes, aided by the internet and high resolution printers, cost up to $600 million dollars annually. Let's say you wanted to pick us some snacks for your holiday party, and saw the perfect coupon in your inbox. Via a Scambusters report:

Many grocery stores accepted the bogus Doritos [$5] coupons and manufacturer Frito-Lay initially honored the redemptions, but now they say they’ll no longer do that....

In fact, this coupon scam has become so widespread that Frito Lay’s parent company, PepsiCo, and a trade group, the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) announced a $2,500 reward for the successful prosecution of whoever started this scam.

Who does it benefit?

Organized groups of dishonest consumers and regular crooks have also used them [bogus coupons] either to build up stocks of the product for resale or, when they could, to get stores to redeem them for cash.

Of course, sometimes the coupon's deal is genuine, but almost impossible to believe. For instance, how about the now-expired Groupon offer to tour the Titanic? A cool $12,500 got takers a 79% discount on their 13-day ocean voyage from St. John's, Newfoundland, trips to photograph the wreckage from deep sea craft, as well as a Titanic DVD signed by a real Leonardo DiCaprio impersonator. Really.

Do you like hot holiday deals full of couterfeit cheer? That’s No. 8 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list and coming up next.

Leading image via WBAL.

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

Dec 10 2014 1:00pm

Sam Elliott: The Man Who Kept the Western Alive

It’s the voice that grips you first. A deep, gravelly drawl that if you are on the wrong side of him instills profound fear, leaving you trembling, knowing, perhaps, you’re within seconds of meeting your maker. The steely eyes, distinctive horseshoe mustache, and lean muscular physique completes the image of what we want to believe the real cowboy resembled in the Old West. Possibly more than any other actor of the last half of the 20th century—and up until present day—Elliott flawlessly embodies the look and sound of the knight errant on horseback and also delivers the unflinching attitude of a hero who won’t back down. Whereas Clint Eastwood made sporadic Western films in the 1970s and 80s, stopping altogether with 1992’s Unforgiven, Sam Elliott kept the Western movie wagon rolling, making a series of commercially and critically lauded films. Here are just a few.

[We start with The Sacketts...]

Dec 10 2014 8:45am

Number 10 of the Scams of Christmas: Scrooge Wants More Money

Ever since the days of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, we’ve associated Scrooge with money-grubbers. But alas, in this case, Scrooge is being unfairly maligned, because we have no reason to think he couldn’t spell.

Familiar banks, credit card companies, and even money-saving rewards or points programs are being used as easy ways to lure budget-conscious consumers to fraudulent websites. An e-mail is sent, and why, there’s a handy link inside. After clicking it, friendly Bob Cratchit is taken to a fraudulent website where he must “log in” to his account, but what he’s really doing is giving away his personal information. There are more hints for spotting “phishing” e-mails from Rick Broida at c|net:

You can't win a contest you didn't enter. Your bank won't contact you using an e-mail address you never registered. Microsoft did not “remotely detect a virus on your PC.” Know the warning signs, think before you click, and never, ever give out your password or financial info unless you're properly signed into your account.

(On a side note, we should all be thankful that the computers of those naughty boys and girls who send these emails don’t seem to have spellcheckers.) I get daily offers to help me consolidate my debt, receive a government grant, obtain an unsecured loan, get quick holiday cash, and help me with a structured settlement. With all that money floating around, I might want to pad my Christmas list. Nah, I really am a Scrooge.

Lets face it, the spammers might not be smart, but they are persistent. If you receive any enticing or alarming email claiming to be from a company remotely associated with money, you’re entitled to act uncharitably. Be skeptical and contact the company directly, by using a web browser to connect with their main website rather than clicking any link from e-mail. And if real money’s on the line, reach out and touch the company with a phone call, using the number you looked up from their main website or one of your legit account statements.

Stop back next time for Coupon Scams, No. 9 of the 12 Scams of Christmas.

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

Dec 9 2014 11:45am

Perfect Sins: New Excerpt

Jo Bannister

Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister is the 2nd book to feature Gabriel Ash, a British government investigator whose wife and sons were believed killed by Somalian pirates until new information comes to light (available December 9, 2014).

Four years ago, Gabriel Ash was working with the British government investigating hijackings in Somalia. But when his wife and sons disappeared, presumably taken—and probably killed—by pirates, his life fell apart. He has sudden reason to hope when a senior policeman suggests that his sons might still be alive—until that policeman is murdered. Still, there seems to be some link to a local operation, and Ash, no longer a government agent, is determined to find it.

Meanwhile, his friend Hazel Best has been having a tough time of her own. A police constable whose last case ended with her shooting someone dead, she is just beginning to regain her balance. Hazel and Ash are both beginning to take more of an interest in the outside world, when a neighboring archaeologist decides to dig up a curious mound of earth near the ice house on his land. It might be a burial mound, he thinks. It is, but not the ancient one he expects; it holds the bones of a little boy from perhaps thirty years ago, carefully laid to rest with twentieth-century toys. As Hazel is slowly drawn back into police work, Ash finds himself under threat from someone who must think his investigation into his family's disappearance is finally getting somewhere...

Chapter 1

STEPHEN GRAVES REMEMBERED the name well enough. But he wouldn’t have recognized Gabriel Ash if they’d passed in the street. He’d struck Graves as a big man when they first met: tall, big-boned, powerful of build and of intellect. The man before him now seemed entirely shrunken. He even seemed shorter, thanks to a slight apologetic stoop.

[Continue reading Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister...]

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: Cleveland.com.) 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...]