FM: <i>The Counterfeit Heiress</i> by Tasha Alexander FM: The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander Angie Barry Not everyone is who they seem... FM: <i>Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld</i> by Jake Halpern FM: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern Lance Charnes Debt collecting is cutthroat. FM: <i>Murder at the Brightwell</i> by Ashley Weaver FM: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver Leigh Neely Love triangles and murder don't mix! FM: <i>Truth Be Told</i> by Hank Phillippi Ryan FM: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan Elizabeth Kerri Mahon Amid multiple murders, is Jake facing competition for Jane?
From The Blog
October 20, 2014
"If You Can Take It, You Can Make It": Trailer for Unbroken
Crime HQ
October 19, 2014
Laughter in the Dark: Nabokov's Original Femme Fatal
Edward A. Grainger
October 18, 2014
Horrific Hijinks: When Abbott and Costello Met Frankenstein
Michael Nethercott
October 17, 2014
Checking into The Knick 1.10: Season Finale "Crutchfield"
Joe Brosnan
October 17, 2014
Bahia Emerald: 840 lbs, almost 400 million dollars
Crime HQ
Oct 13 2014 3:00pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.06 “Devil You Know”

It’s taken nearly five seasons, but we’re finally close to answering the crucial question of Boardwalk Empire: Why is Nucky Thompson such a wet blanket? I mean, for a guy at the epicenter of the Roaring Twenties with wealth and power, he’s always a bit glum, isn’t he? Take last night’s episode, “Devil You Know.” Nucky’s having a good ole drunken time at a local dive with a couple of bawdy prostitutes, reciting poetry and talking dirty, until his existential side eventually wins out and he begins lecturing them. “Start at the bottom with nothing, you have nothing. There’s an opportunity, you take it. I mean what choice do you have. You don’t have a choice. Get yourself ahead. For what, though? For what? No one ever talks about that. No one ever asks, what’s the point?”

Come on, Nuck. Why do you have to be such a buzzkill? Besides, Joe Kennedy had asked that exact question a couple of episodes ago. Don’t you remember? Apparently, you do, because it’s still nagging at you. And after the events in last night’s episode, I’d say that not only has it been nagging at you for years, but it also explains your perpetual melancholy.

[He wasn't always this way...]

Oct 12 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern

Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern is a true account of the cutthroat world of debt collecting and the lenghts people will go to obtain information (available October 14, 2014).

When I was younger someone told me, ‘Put on a suit and you can rob anybody.’ Truth is, I haven’t changed much, but many people respect me now, because I have a business and property and look respectable...If you can pay the right lawyer or have the right look, you are respectable. If you walk in with a ripped shirt and a public defender, you are an animal.

So says Brandon Wilson, entrepreneur, convicted armed robber and dealer in your personal data. His employees are mostly other ex-felons, second- or third-chancers trying to go straight in one of the few businesses that will have them.

Wilson’s is perhaps the only segment of the financial industry that can make derivatives trading look honest: debt collection. He’s one of the major players in Bad Paper, Jake Halpern’s non-fiction dissection of America’s debt business.

Halpern contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Smithsonian, and other national publications, and is a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered and contributor to This American Life. His prose is clean and goes down easy, as if this is the written version of an extended piece on Weekend Edition. Halpern talked to many people on all sides of the issue – collectors, debtors, lawyers, regulators, outside experts, thugs – and their voices and experiences are a major part of his reportage.

[Collectors will do anything for this information...]

Oct 11 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is a debut traditional murder mystery set in a 1932 British seaside resort featuring amateur sleuth Amory Ames (available October 14, 2014).

You won’t be able to read this book without thinking of Agatha Christie. Set at a seaside resort in 1932, Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver features a cast of entertaining characters and is a wonderfully rich traditional mystery.

Amory Ames was engaged to Gil Trent, a responsible young man who adored her. However, she met the charming and charismatic Milo Ames and married him. Five years later, Amory is home alone while Milo still lives the carefree life of a wealthy playboy.

When Gil shows up and urges her to join him at the Brightwell for a holiday, Amory’s restlessness and unhappiness spur her to accept his invitation. Gil’s sister, Emmeline is engaged to Rupert Howe, but Gil fears it’s his sister’s wealth Rupert loves more than the young woman herself. Seeing Milo’s personality traits in the younger man, Amory hopes she might be able to help her young friend avoid the same kind of marriage and agrees to join Gil and Emmeline.

[By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea.]

Oct 10 2014 11:00pm

Checking into The Knick 1.09 “The Golden Lotus”

Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) has reached an all time low in “The Golden Lotus,” the penultimate episode of The Knick's debut season. Things are no better for Thackery, as the city-wide lack of cocaine has made his addiction unquenchable. Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) is still invested in Thackery, but how far will she go to help him? Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) looks to return to work now that his wife, Eleanor (Maya Kazan), has another child to raise. And Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) and Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) have a new problem arise as they continue their affair. 

[There's a lot going on...]

Oct 10 2014 9:00pm

How to Get Away with Murder 1.03: “Smile, Or Go to Jail”

I’ve never been great at remembering people’s names, and this show is not helping. The main cast is composed of Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), five law students, two associate attorneys, and a handful of others. This episode doesn’t feature any onscreen murders, so waiting until they all die off isn’t an option. Looks like I’ll have to learn one new character each episode.

This week’s: Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King). I’ve mentioned her before as a teacher’s pet, and she’s just as straight-laced and ambitious as ever. We meet her fiancé, Aiden Walker (Elliot Knight) who seems nice enough. There’s a little drama, as he turns out to have old-school sexual history with another law student, the gay Don Juan Conner Walsh (Jack Falahee).

[Does that put a wrinkle in the wedding gown?]

Oct 9 2014 11:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show Season Premiere 4.01: “Monsters Among Us”

I’ve been to a couple of circuses and even performed at a freak show once (for charity, and of the non-horrifying variety), but that was an experience. Personally, I think this is the scariest, most grotesque title sequence I’ve ever seen. I love the addition of the toy piano against American Horror Story’s theme. I want to make it my ringtone, but I don’t think I could handle it, especially if the phone rings at night. The stop-motion animation is new and horrific, overtly sexualized, and just deeply disturbing. Did you see the doll-babies in the cage with the claw hands and the head switching? That’s the stuff of nightmares, friends.

Past the credits, American Horror Story: Freak Show immediately stands out from its sister-seasons with its hyper-saturated color scheme. It reminds me a bit of Pushing Daisies, with all those bright, vibrant reds, yellows, and greens. It’s nice to see some color in the usually dark and morbid world of American Horror Story. This time, the freak show has residence in Jupiter, Florida in the 1950s.

Be warned, discussing this show will require spoilers...

[We can always sleep when we're dead...]

Oct 9 2014 2:00pm

Quincy and M.E.

Way before there were shows like CSI or Diagnosis Murder, there was the man, the one man who refused to be denied. If someone came across this man’s metal slab and it didn’t seem kosher? That something might be amiss? This man would bull his way forward to the truth, until that truth had been uncovered. (Had to be an Aries, right?) He was the police forensics version of Don Quixote. No medical windmill too tall, no killer too tough… whether a corporate monster, or an evil plastic surgeon… or even a corrupt, mob-backed, union leader. No, this man…. this man, never gave up. And you know of whom I speak, yes?

Of course I speak of Quincy M.E.

Quincy M.E. ran for seven years, 1976-1983, and starred The Great One, Jack Klugman.  One of his Twilight Zone episodes, from 1963, called “In Praise of Pip is carved into the Mount Rushmore of my favorite T.Z. episodes. The Klug was an actor who never, ever called it in. Just watch him chew the scenery when he played Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple. The stuff of legends, and then some.

But when he played Quincy?

He was something else entirely. As much as Peter Falk was Columbo, Klugman was Quincy.

[The labcoat, the station wagon, the snazzy theme song!]

Oct 9 2014 8:45am

Which Fictional Place Would Make the Best Haunted House?

Halloween is just a few short weeks away and with all the horror movies, candy, and costumes, there also comes one of our favorite fall traditions—the haunted house. Recently, a list of the ten most terrifying haunted houses was posted on Yahoo! Travel. Former asylums, prisons, and the old standard—cornfields—were all represented on the list.

There are certainly a lot of creepy villains out there in the mystery world, and a lot of creepy places for those villains to take you. It got us to thinking, which fictional location would you choose as the best haunted house? What Big Bads would you choose to work it (on the guarantee that they can't kill/eat/torture the customers)?

Oct 8 2014 2:00pm

Noir’s Goon Squad: William Talman

We've recently featured a post on the noir career of Raymond Burr. Although he’s best remembered today as the stalwart defense attorney Perry Mason, Burr spent much of the 40s and 50s playing demented psychos and cold-eyed masterminds in film noir. It’s interesting to note, then, that William Talman—who played Perry Mason’s loyal opposition, district attorney Hamilton Burger—was himself one of noir’s premier goons. Not just that, Talman specialized in playing full-tilt nutjobs.

He was born in Detroit in 1915, the eldest son of a successful industrial electronics executive, and as a young man he thrived in sports—especially boxing. He went to college at Dartmouth but left after one year when he was involved in a joyride that ended in the death of a friend. He tried his hand at acting, but then the war stopped everything. Talman was drafted into the Army and served in the US Signal Corps, eventually rising to the rank of Major.

After the war, he began working in movies and from the start he was typecast as thugs with a demented streak. Talman had a strange face with weathered features (even as a young man), a severe mouth and off center eyes. His gravelly voice added to a demeanor that made him perfect for characters with bad intentions.

[On to television...]

Oct 8 2014 11:00am

Hardboiled Hemingway (With Noir Chasers)

Ernest Hemingway is one of the biggest names of 20th century literature. He won the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, and his star seems in no danger of burning out even with tastes shifting away from the controversial sport of his beloved bull fighting and his outdated machismo. Though he didn’t write for the pulps, his spare dialogue and trim storytelling strongly influenced many hardboiled crime writers of his time and extending to crime-scrawling word slingers on the Internet today. Below I’ve selected six stories and two films that exemplify why, along with impresarios like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, he helped define a genre directly with classics like “The Killers” and indirectly with more literature-infused offerings like “In a Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

“The Killers” (short story, Scribner's Magazine, 1927)

“The Killers” first appeared in Scribner's Magazine. It features Hemingway’s frequent Nick Adams character who went from a young boy to an adult in the series and is generally considered to be the author’s alter ego. The tale opens with Nick in a lunchroom when two gangsters enter. They tie up Nick and the cook in the kitchen and then reveal to George, who runs the place, “We're going to kill a Swede. Do you know a big Swede named Ole Andreson?” George does know him because the Swede is a regular customer and a friend. When the intended victim never shows and the killers depart, George sends Nick to warn the Swede who seems strangely unconcerned as Nick informs him of his impending fate. To say the dialogue and plot is minimal—which at first appearances seems to be constructed like a play in rough draft—is an understatement, yet a fully developed story is presented, almost like a conjuror’s trick, as you read along. The only stumbling block by today’s standard is the decidedly coarse language. There are two dozen short stories featuring this character, all republished in the vital 1972 collection The Nick Adams Stories.

Trivia: Andre Anderson was a boxer from Chicago who allegedly took dives for organized crime, and when he eventually refused, he was murdered. It’s generally considered that Anderson was the inspiration for 'the Swede' in “The Killers” and another short story by Hemingway titled, “A Matter of Colour.” (Wikipedia)

[Yes, there's bullfighting!]

Oct 8 2014 8:45am

Man Steals $1,200 Worth of Meat By Stuffing it Down His Pants

Oh hi, is that $1,200 worth of meat in your pocket, or are you just really happy to see me? An A&P supermarket employee, Gregory Rodriguez, has been accused of fourth degree grand larceny after it was discovered he was attempting to leave his shift with over $1,200 worth of meat stuffed in his pants. That's a lot of meat!

The theft occurred at a Croton on Hudson, New York A&P supermarket, and one presumes that the authorities are just as puzzled about how and why Rodriguez managed to fit that much meat inside his pants, and what he would do with such a bounty. I know I am wondering, too!

He was arraigned earlier last week, and after no plea was made, he is now due back in court at a later date. Despite the strange nature of this crime, he isn’t the first person to try and get away with stolen meat… and he will not be the last.

I hope no one is wondering how he managed to fit that much raw meat in his pants. I apologize if I did put that image in your head…

Oct 7 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.03: “The Balloonman”

If one thing is clear from three episodes of Gotham, it’s that the show is going to be obvious in its themes. Jim Gordon is always the “boy scout,” Bruce is the brooding youngster interested in crime, and Gotham officials are corrupt, to the point where a drinking game can be made of any character saying “it’s Gotham,” in the same tone as “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

If the pilot intrigued me and the second episode disappointed, this third outing, “The Balloonman,” showed some promise that the show is finding its tone: wry humor, some over-the-top situations, and a quick pace.

The return of the humor is particularly welcome after the dreary and dull mystery of episode 2. “The Balloonman” even gets mileage out of the ridiculous idea of rounding up all the street kids to ship them off to juvenile prison facilities upstate, as that serves as motivation for this week’s villain.

[Glad we're revisiting that...]

Oct 7 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Truth Be Told, a Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan novel, by Hank Phillippi RyanTruth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the third novel featuring Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan, a Boston journalist and cop, whose new investigations of murder amid shady foreclosures and the cold case of the Lilac Sunday murder become as complicatedly intertwined as their relationship (available October 7, 2014).

The novel begins on an unseasonably hot day in May. Jane Ryland is staking out a foreclosed home in a Boston suburb that’s being cleared, working on a story that has become all too common since the financial crisis a few years ago: middle-class families being evicted from their homes.

“I know it’s legal. But it’s terrible.” Jane Ryland winced as the Sandovals’ wooden bed frame hit the tall grass in the overgrown front yard and shattered into three jagged pieces. “The cops throwing someone’s stuff out the window. Might as well be Dickens, you know? Eviction? There’s got to be a better way.” Terrible  facts. Great pictures. A perfect newspaper story. She turned to TJ. “You getting this?”

It should be a routine assignment, but Jane ends up with an even bigger scoop than she bargained for when a dead body is found on the premises. The woman turns out to be a local real estate broker.  All the evidence points to the owner of the home. Could Sandoval have been pushed to the edge by losing his home? Ryan balances two completely different plots that criss-cross repeatedly during the course of the story. The foreclosures are just the beginning of an even bigger, high-stakes scheme that involves some startling players who will stop at nothing to keep their plans a secret. At the same time, Jane’s secret boyfriend, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, has a whopper of a case on his hands. A man has just confessed to the famous twenty-year-old Lilac Sunday killing, a case that haunted Jake’s grandfather for years after working the case.  

[Everyone likes a closed case...right?]

Oct 7 2014 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Murder Man by Tony Parsons

The Murder Man by Tony ParsonsThe Murder Man by Tony Parsons is a debut thriller, introducing newly-minted homicide detective Max Wolfe, whose first case will involve murdered members of London society, all connected to an exclusive boarding school (available October 7, 2014).

After a heroic turn on the street, Max Wolfe is promoted to Detective in the Homicide division of London’s West End and he’s just pulled his first case: the brutal slaying business man Hugo Buck.

Shortly after, a homeless man is killed in the exact manner of Buck—both victims found with their throats practically ripped out. There seems to be no connection between the murders except for money. Both men were born with it.

As news of the killings spread, Bob the Butcher, an anonymous Internet personality, claims that he is responsible for the murders. Quoting Robert Oppenheimer and claiming to be the “destroyer of worlds,” the Butcher manages to insert himself squarely into the case. The only problem is, Wolfe doesn’t think Bob the Butcher is the killer. While Wolfe hunts for evidence and tries to protect the next targets, he becomes a target himself.

The Murder Man is journalist and author Tony Parsons’ debut crime thriller featuring Detective Max Wolfe. In this fast paced, well-researched introduction to Wolfe, Parsons creates a lot of twists and turns. And a pretty gruesome death toll. 

[Let's tally it up, shall we?]

Oct 7 2014 8:45am

Twin Peaks: Not Claiming Credit for Its Return, But...

...but Jake Hinkson's Twin Peaks Rewatch recalls the show's greatness, and then, along comes this announcement of a series return. Via Deadline:

One of the top cult series of all time is coming back with a new limited series on Showtime from its original creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost. The nine-episode series will go into production in 2015 for a premiere in 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of when the series finished its run on ABC. In a fact that will delight Twin Peaks devotees, Lynch and Frost will write and produce all nine episodes, with Lynch set to direct every episode.

There are further winks and rumors, even by Agent Cooper himself, that Kyle MacLachlan will return to his role as we rejoin the town in the present day. It remains to be seen who else will return and in what form, but we're down with this damn fine news!

Oct 6 2014 5:00pm

Inspector Lewis: “Entry Wounds”

“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front) inquires.

“I’m going to the hardware store,” retired Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) replies. “I need some waterproof glue.”

“Exciting,” she says, unconvincingly. “Alternatively, you could figure out why a neurosurgeon has a bullet in his head.”

And just like that, Lewis is back in the fold.

[And there is much rejoicing...]

Oct 6 2014 2:30pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.05: “King of Norway”

In an episode heavy on talk about beginnings and endings, the most telling conversation in “King of Norway” comes between Nucky and Chalky, who are reunited at last. After Nucky advises Chalky to forget about the past and focus on starting over, Chalky reminds Nucky that “we aren’t schoolboys no more.” Nucky replies that “we aren’t dead either. That leaves a lot of road in the middle.” Skeptical of Nucky’s newfound optimism Chalky comments, “Maybe you just don’t see the end of it.”

While this exchange might foreshadow Nucky’s fate (as well as being a nice hat tip to the “You never see it coming” line from The Sopranos), it could also apply to almost everyone still standing in Boardwalk Empire. As the series sprints toward its conclusion, it seems every character is hoping for some sort of a new beginning. That some will have their hopes dashed is obvious. The only question remaining is who has some road left and who doesn’t.

[Where will the road take us?]

Oct 6 2014 11:45am

The Strain 1.13: Season Finale “The Master”

Looking particularly well following the Master’s visit in last week’s installment, Eldritch Palmer pays a visit to Abraham’s pawn shop. He views everything with a proprietary air, of course; he’s the sort of asshole who sees the entire world as his own personal toy. It’s a disgusting little underscore on how Palmer believes himself to be above morality and law.

And this makes it all the more satisfying when we see Eichorst puncture his happy little balloon. He hasn’t been turned—only temporarily healed. The clock is still ticking for Mr. Palmer.

Hope the sound of it drives you mad, you selfish bastard.

While Eph and Vasiliy set off to do some recon on the place where the Master might be nesting, Gus is getting to know the hooded man with the machine gun and SWAT team. It’s clear that whoever this stranger is, he’s not human.

[But what is he?]

Oct 6 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart is the 22nd mystery featuring P.I. Jane Lawless as she investigates a string of murders at an old theater (available October 7, 2014).

I have a friend who hates seeing a Cast of Characters at the beginning of a novel. She feels it means either A) there are too many characters or B) she won’t be able to tell them apart without going back to the description.

The Old Deep and Dark contains just the right amount of characters. Each one is distinct and fully fleshed out. However, the plot involves an old theater in the midst of being renovated by one of the main characters. So a Dramatis Personae, as it were, fits with the theme.

Cordelia Thorn is a great character among many good characters. She’s larger than life in every way. This is an older woman who is completely at home with who she is. Outspoken but kind. Determined to get her own way, but always alert to her friends’ needs.

The recently purchased Thorn Lester Playhouse is a character as well. Built in 1903, the building has a storied past. While work progresses on the building and Cordelia begins to solidify plans for the play that will be performed at the unveiling, she discovers that her new baby comes with ghosts. Cordelia fills in her friend, Jane Lawless, a restaurateur and newly-minted private investigator.

[Do what you love, right?]

Oct 6 2014 9:30am

Black Sea: Treasure-Hunting Nazi Gold by Submarine

There will be gold lust, danger, and Scottish accents in confined spaces in the upcoming Black Sea (January, 2015). Directed by Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland), it stars Jude Law as a desperate submarine captain who assembles a (rag-tag) group of (misfits and) divers to retrieve sunken Nazi gold from the cold dark sea. But what the sea takes, she desires to keep, and we've all learned by now that mens' better angels come down with laryngitis in the presence of treasure...