"Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" "Monopoly: Go Directly to Death" Lance Hawvermale Read the full story! Review: <i>Sorrow Road</i> by Julia Keller Review: Sorrow Road by Julia Keller Katherine Tomlinson Read Katherine Tomlinson's review! <i>Repo Madness</i>: New Excerpt Repo Madness: New Excerpt W. Bruce Cameron Ruddy McCann is back in this laugh-out-loud, thrilling adventure. Review: <i>Waking Up Dead</i> by Nigel Williams Review: Waking Up Dead by Nigel Williams Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review!
From The Blog
August 23, 2016
Page to Screen: Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Brian Greene
August 19, 2016
Thomas the Train is a Dick
Paul Jenkins
August 19, 2016
Woman Butt Dials Her Way into Jail
Teddy Pierson
August 18, 2016
Why Wait? Writing as a Second Career.
John Keyse-Walker
August 16, 2016
What If This Could Really Happen
Rick Mofina
Aug 18 2016 1:00pm

Louise Penny A Great Reckoning Book Club Starter Kit!

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny is the 12th mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the town of Three Pines. In honor of its upcoming release (August 30th), we're offering our fans a chance to win a complete book club kit with enough supplies for 15 people! 

One lucky winner will receive discussion guide pamphlets, recipe cards, leather bookmarks, limited edition Three Pines maps, a Louise Penny tote bag, and a signed first edition of A Great Reckoning! It's the perfect book club starter kit!

[Find out how to win below!]

Aug 18 2016 12:00pm

Review: Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark (w/ Teresa Carpenter)

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark (w/ Teresa Carpenter) is the true crime memoir from the head prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, rereleased with a strong new foreword from Ms. Clark addressing how her views—and the public's—have shifted.

Despite years of shunning “Trial of the Century”-related publicity, Marcia Clark found herself back in the spotlight in 2016—more than two decades after she led the failed criminal prosecution of O.J. Simpson.

Not only did Sarah Paulson’s nuanced, empathic portrayal of her in FX’s hit mini-series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson earn the actress an Emmy nomination, but it helped to redefine Clark’s image and made her something of a feminist icon among Gen Xers. Further, Clark participated in ESPN’s expansive documentary, OJ: Made in America, contributing to an important and revelatory discourse about race relations in America. Taken as a whole, the two projects sharply illuminated how factors such as race, celebrity, and sexism contributed to a subversion of justice that resulted in Simpson’s acquittal. 

Check out the Rev. Spyro's coverage of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson!

[Read John Valeri's review of Without a Doubt...]

Aug 18 2016 10:00am

Sorrow Road: New Excerpt

Julia Keller

Sorrow Road (Bell Elkins Series #5) by Julia KellerSorrow Road by Julia Keller is the 5th book in the Bell Elkins series (Available August 23, 2016).

Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, is asked by an old acquaintance to look into the death of her beloved father in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Did he die of natural causes—or was something more sinister to blame? And that’s not the only issue with which Bell is grappling: Her daughter Carla has moved back home. But something’s not right. Carla is desperately hiding a secret.

Once again, past and present, good and evil, and revenge and forgiveness clash in a riveting story set in the shattered landscape of Acker’s Gap, where the skies can seem dark even at high noon, and the mountains lean close to hear the whispered lament of the people trapped in their shadow.

Chapter One


Darlene Strayer nodded. “Copy that,” she said. “So what’s second?”


“And third? Fourth? Fifth?”

“Drugs. Drugs. And drugs.”

“I’m sensing a pattern here.” Darlene offered a brief, tight smile. She picked up her shot glass and moved it around in a small level circle, making the river-brown liquid wink and shiver. The whiskey did not slosh; it trembled. Barely.

[Read the full excerpt from Sorrow Road...]

Aug 17 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: The Calamity Café by Gayle Leeson

This promising first novel in the Down South Café Mystery series introduces us to Amy Flowers—a smart, thoughtful waitress in the small town of Winter Garden, Virginia. After graduating from culinary school, Amy moves back to her hometown in order to be close to the aging members of her family.

She has ambitions to buy the greasy spoon she presently works in from its mean owner, Lou Lou, with plans to open a café that serves delicious Southern food alongside healthy, but equally tasty, alternatives. Unfortunately, the day after they serve each other notice, Lou Lou is found murdered in her office and Amy becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her name, Amy teams up with a handsome police deputy to sift through Lou Lou’s long list of ill-wishers to find the real killer.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Aug 17 2016 2:30pm

Sun, Sand, Murder: A Visual Guide

GIFnotes: Giving you the basic plot summary of an upcoming book with the help of the Graphics Interchange Format.

This week, beach life isn't always chill—sometimes it's downright murderous. Take a visual tour through John Keyse-Walker's Sun, Sand, Murder!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Aug 17 2016 1:00pm

A Great Reckoning: Audio Excerpt

Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny is the 12th Chief Inspector Gamache novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author (Available August 30, 2016).

To celebrate the upcoming release of Louise Penny’s next Armand Gamache novel, A Great Reckoning, Macmillan Audio is offering listeners a chance to win books 1 through 11 on audio in a custom Louise Penny audiobooks tote bag! Find out how to win below!

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

[Listen to an audio excerpt of A Great Reckoning...]

Aug 17 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: August 16, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Aug 17 2016 10:00am

Face Blind: New Excerpt

Lance Hawvermale

Face Blind by Lance HawvermaleFace Blind by Lance Hawvermale follows a man with a neurological disorder, prosopagnosia, that prevents him from recognizing human faces as he confronts an enigmatic killer in Chile's Atacama desert—the most lifeless place on earth (Available August 23, 2016).

Gabe Traylin is face-blind, unable to tell one person from the next. Content to earn his living well away from civilization, he works as an astronomer at an observatory in the earth's driest desert, where no rain has fallen in 400 years. But when he witnesses a murder that he's unable to stop or comprehend, Gabe finds himself drawn into an investigation with disastrous consequences. Unable to provide a description of the killer to the police or explain his own erratic actions, he becomes their suspect in a series of horrific and unexplained mutilations. To discover the truth before he's arrested for crimes he didn't commit, he must put his trust in three strangers: a young traveler with a purpose, a washed-up novelist who believes he's bulletproof, and an alluring woman with a face he'll never see.

Together they unearth the secrets of Chile's fascist past, a time of kidnappings, torture, and political turmoil and venture further into the desert, discovering the secrets of revenge as well as the secrets of themselves. Moody, atmospheric and compulsively readable, Lance Hawvermale's Face Blind is in a class of thriller all by itself.


No rain has fallen here in four hundred years.

Gabe knew this was true, knew it even though he stood on a stretch of ground where knowing anything for certain was iffy. The desert did that to you, especially this one, where there were no Gila monsters, no cacti, no Arabs gliding majestically on camels. You couldn’t be sure about anything in a place that hated you. It fooled you every time.

[Read the full excerpt from Face Blind...]

Aug 16 2016 4:00pm

What If This Could Really Happen

My new thriller, Free Fall, is the story of Kate Page—a news wire service reporter who is investigating commercial airline disasters in New York and London when she receives an anonymous message from someone claiming responsibility and threatening an even bigger airline catastrophe.

In crafting Free Fall, I wanted to build a realistic plot to give the story a feel of authenticity, and then wrap it with the big “What if this happened?” moment. How would the story unfold? It's an approach I've taken with a number of my thrillers. Of course, that usually means research, drawing on reality, and drawing on my experiences, all while infusing a lot of ”credible" fiction.

In Free Fall, I wanted the avionics and navigation systems for the book to ring true. I read several books on airline disasters. I studied federal investigation reports into airline accidents issued by officials in several countries. I studied the exam questions for aviation engineers at MIT to ensure things sounded right, and I sought the help of a former NTSB accident investigator.

[Read more from Rick Mofina, author of Free Fall...]

Aug 16 2016 2:30pm

Review: The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder

The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder is the 2nd book in the Inspector Lefebvre historical mystery series.

It is the summer of 1890 in Paris, and Inspector Achille Lefebvre is looking forward to escaping the sticky weather, when his holiday plans are sidetracked by the discovery of a man dangling from a bridge in a pretty little Parisian park. 

The police photographer assigned to record the crime scene, Gilles, immediately assumes that the dead man is a suicide, but Lefebvre is not one to make such hasty observations. He approaches the corpse as if an artist—M. de Toulous-Lautrec is an acquaintance—and his eyes are open for clues. “There are always clues, Sergeant,” Lefebvre reminds his second-in-command, Sgt. Rodin. Rodin, who admires his boss and his use of the latest forensic techniques to solve crimes, is certain if there are clues to be found, Lefebvre will suss them out—and Lefebvre does not disappoint.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of The Hanged Man...]

Aug 16 2016 1:00pm

Exploring the Religion of Game of Thrones Part II: The Fire and Ice Gods

It’s no secret that George R. R. Martin examined several religions and mythologies when creating his world in the series A Song of Ice and Fire—and the Game of Thrones HBO series. What is fascinating is how he blends these particulars together and uses them in plain sight to enrich the series.

As the television series moves into its last two brief seasons and the supernatural forces start becoming more pronounced, it’s worth it to examine some of the source material to inform on our understanding of what’s going on in this rich world. In Part II of this look at religion in Game of Thrones, we’ll focus on some prominent supernatural aspects, the gods of ice and fire.

See also: Exploring the Religion of Game of Thrones Part I: The Old Gods

[Demystify the myths behind the fire and ice gods...]

Aug 16 2016 12:00pm

Review: Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose

Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose is the 2nd Dixie Dew Beth McKenzie Mystery (Available August 23, 2016).

Wedding Bell Blues begins with a paragraph that is guaranteed to grab the attention of any cozy mystery book lover.

When I heard Crazy Reba’s voice on the phone I knew immediately something was wrong. Really wrong. My first thought was where in the world did Reba get a cell phone? The homeless and street sleepers like Reba weren’t exactly flush extra cash (if any) every month. Maybe somebody had given her one of those phones where you buy the minutes upfront. A phone for her own protection. Some kind person, the thought of which made me feel bad since I had not been the one to think about it. Any other place I might have thought about a cell phone for safety. Protection for all kinds of things. But Littleboro? Not my Littleboro. Except these days it wasn’t safe to be alone and on the loose…even in Littleboro. 

Beth McKenzie, owner of The Dixie Dew, a former old Southern mansion she turned into a bed and breakfast, and the protagonist in Wedding Bell Blues, will gladly tell you that her town of Littleboro has its share of kooky characters. There’s Verna, the town know-it-all and affectionate owner of Robert Redford, a huge white rabbit, and Crazy Reba, who lives wherever the spirit takes her, bathes in any bathtub she finds empty, and is an expert at dumpster diving. Kooky, yes, but they’re part of Littleboro, and she cares for them. 

[Read Kristen Houghton's review of Wedding Bell Blues...]

Aug 16 2016 11:00am

Who Do You Think Killed Andrea in HBO’s The Night Of

HBO's The Night Of—the eight-part miniseries written by Richard Price (The Wire)—is a fantastic look at the full spectrum of a crime committed in NYC. From the crime to the investigation to the trial and the effects it has on the city and all those involved, The Night Of is a realistic portrayal of a great murder mystery. 

Currently, we're six episodes in, and we still have no idea who killed Andrea! Who do YOU think did it? 

Check out Thomas Pluck's coverage of The Night Of !

[Vote below!]

Aug 16 2016 10:04am

Waking Up Dead: New Excerpt

Nigel Williams

Waking Up Dead: A Novel by Nigel WilliamsWaking Up Dead by Nigel Williams is both a screamingly funny cozy mystery and startlingly strange ghost story asking the question: What would you do if you could bear witness to your own demise? (Available August 23, 2016)

Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead. According to the behavior of everyone around him, it would seem that he is no more. Not only that, but his mother has also passed away too - and on the eve of her 99th year, poor dear. Not only that, it could be that they were both murdered.

He feels fine otherwise.

As George's family gather for the birthday-celebration-that-never-was, he hovers around the house, watching and listening, entirely unseen. As a result, he makes all sorts of discoveries about himself, his wife Esmeralda, and his supposedly happy family…

Chapter One

‘George!’ said Esmeralda, in a more than usually irritable tone. ‘Are you just going to lie there all day?’

It was true, George reflected, that since he’d retired from the bank he had been getting up later and later. Why not lie there all day? Was there anything, really, that made getting up a worthwhile proposition?

[Read the full excerpt from Waking Up Dead...]

Aug 15 2016 5:00pm

Citizen Soprano: Why the HBO Series Can Never Be Replicated

It’s been nearly a decade since The Sopranos concluded. On June 10, 2007, HBO aired “Made in America,” the final episode of David Chase’s gangster opus, and it was met with both rage and befuddlement from millions of viewers—but the show’s last scene has certainly expanded in clarity in the 9 years since.

It’s more lucid than ever to comprehend that we’ll never have another show quite like The Sopranos. The thought of a show having the same impact on the television landscape or the same amount of artistic integrity is nigh unfathomable, even considering how influential the show was. Yet, despite its seminal aura, The Sopranos’s most distinct and cerebral moments still remain inimitable in the current television milieu, and the show is still closer to being artwork than any other semblance of prestige television to arrive before or since.

[Read Peter Foy's take on The Sopranos...]

Aug 15 2016 2:30pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting The Mummy (1999)

THE SUBGENRE: Supernatural adventure.
THE HEROES (WHO HAPPEN TO BE LOVE INTERESTS): Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan and French Foreign Legion soldier-turned-convict Rick O'Connell.
THE VILLAIN: Imhotep, high priest and murderous mummy.
THE SETTING: 1920's Egypt.

All her life, Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) has dreamed of exploring ancient tombs and proving her worth as a serious Egyptologist. But, in the 1920's, a lady has to really fight for recognition, especially when those pesky Bembridge Scholars keep rejecting her applications because she “doesn't have enough experience in the field.”

[The classic “I can't get a job because I don't have experience, but I can't get experience because no one will give me a job”...]

Aug 15 2016 12:30pm

Inspector Lewis 8.02: “Magnum Opus” Episode Review

If the Morse-Lewis-Endeavour universe has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a never-ending supply of Oxford-related philosophers and scholars whose work can inspire murder mysteries. For “Magnum Opus,” inspiration comes from Charles Williams, a cohort of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and, with them, a member of the Inklings literary group at Oxford in the 1930s. The prolific Williams wrote poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction. “Theology, supernatural novels, and he was a bit of a mystic,” D.I. Hathaway (Laurence Fox) helpfully explains to D.I. Lewis (Kevin Whately) and to us.

Williams espoused a concept he called Co-inherence, which holds, to quote one character, “that we are all spiritually connected and can, through ritual, share suffering; ease one another’s burdens.” As in Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” That symbolic transfer of pain or regret (or guilt) is an awfully appealing philosophy for someone carrying the weight of past suffering or mistakes (or crimes). It’s also a tantalizing main ingredient for an episode of Inspector Lewis.

Add a heaping dollop of alchemy and pinches of Edgar Allan Poe and Carl Jung. Sprinkle with some A.E. Waite, noted mystic and co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. Fold in the requisite amount of intellectual snobbery, student high jinks, and a choice guest star or two, and you have the perfect Morse-Lewis-Endeavour concoction.

[Final season to taste...]

Aug 15 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.02: “Hell’s Bells” Episode Review

Our normal, serene helicopter view of the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds, usually accompanied by pleasant background music, is not the opening for “Hell's Bells.” Instead, we arrive at the village to the soundtrack of really bad church bells and see everyone in the outdoor seating area of the pub wincing. One man even stuffs a twisted napkin into his ears to block out the noise.

Cut to the bell pullers, who are practicing their…let’s still call it a song, even though it resembles nothing remotely musical. All of our favorite villagers are there, including Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) and Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). We find out they are preparing for the bishop’s visit and being coached by Amanda Barton (Sally Bretton). Amanda is new to the village, and the show, which as we know in the mystery game, does not bode well for the longevity of the character. When we also see that the vicar’s wife, Sarah Bloxby (Lucy Liemann), doesn’t like Amanda—and is clearly jealous of the time she spends with her husband—we really suspect that Amanda’s days in Carsely are numbered. After all, someone has to be sacrificed in order that Agatha has a murder to solve.

[Seems like a cruel equation...]

Aug 15 2016 11:00am

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: September, 2016

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! Last month, we did our best to beat the heat with August's releases; this month, send the kids back to school and catch up with some great reading! Let us know in the comments how you like it and what you can't wait to read next!

Like this shopping list? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay in touch with all our cozy content!

Criminal Element's September 2016 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List!

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Aug 15 2016 10:04am

Pablo Escobar: My Father: New Excerpt

Juan Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar: My Father by Juan Pablo EscobarThe popular series Narcos captures only half the truth. Here, at last, is the full story in Pablo Escobar: My Father by Juan Pablo Escobar (Available August 30, 2016).

Until now, we believed that everything had been said about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the most infamous drug kingpin of all time, but these versions have always been told from the outside, never from the intimacy of his own home.

More than two decades after the full-fledged manhunt finally caught up with the king of cocaine, Juan Pablo Escobar travels to the past to reveal an unabridged version of his father—a man capable of committing the most extreme acts of cruelty while simultaneously professing infinite love for his family.

This is not the story of a child seeking redemption for his father, but a shocking look at the consequences of violence and the overwhelming need for peace and forgiveness.



In the Residencias Tequendama apartment hotel on December 3, 1993, after the trip to bury my father in Medellín, our firm intention was to live as normal a life as circumstances allowed. For my mother, my sister Manuela, and me, the past twenty-four hours had been the most dramatic of our lives. Not only did we have to endure the agonizing pain of losing the head of the family in such a violent manner, but the funeral had been even more traumatic.

[Read the full excerpt from Pablo Escobar: My Father...]