<i>Buried in the Country</i>: New Excerpt Buried in the Country: New Excerpt Carola Dunn The 4th book in the Cornish Mystery series. Review: <i>Plaid and Plagiarism</i> by Molly MacRae Review: Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! The Dark Tower: <i>The Waste Lands</i>, Part III The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, Part III David Cranmer Join the discussion! <i>Don't Turn Out the Lights</i>: New Excerpt Don't Turn Out the Lights: New Excerpt Bernard Minier The 3rd book in the Commandant Martin Servaz series.
From The Blog
December 7, 2016
Sweet/Vicious: A Socially Relvant Crime Fan's Cocktail
Dave Richards
December 6, 2016
Interview: Duane Swierczynski talks The Black Hood and comiXology
Crime HQ and Duane Swierczynski
December 2, 2016
A Divided Spy Writing Contest
Crime HQ
December 2, 2016
5 Current Crime Comics You Should Be Reading
Dave Richards
December 1, 2016
The 1830 True Murder Behind Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"
Kristen Houghton
Dec 2 2016 1:00pm

Review: In Sunlight or In Shadow, Edited by Lawrence Block

In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, edited by Lawrence Block, is a newly-commissioned anthology of seventeen superbly-crafted stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper (Available December 6, 2016).

Edward Hopper is probably the first—and possibly the only—famous visual artist you’ll think of when discussing noir. His Nighthawks encapsulates the essence of the genre—gloomy, alienated, down on your luck. So how come no one thought of an anthology based on Edward Hopper’s paintings before?

It took Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block to take the call, and a herd of the best writers around came running when asked if they would like to contribute. Stephen King. Joyce Carol Oates. Michael Connolly. Lee Child. Megan Abbott. Craig Ferguson…? Trust me, he can write. There’s not a bad story in the bunch, and I’m not even talking about a forgettable one. And, there’s quite a bit of range, which is difficult with a themed anthology—I should know, I’ve edited three of them. 

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of In Sunlight or In Shadow...]

Dec 2 2016 11:00am

Fleeing Robber to Police: He Went Thatta Way!

A man was arrested over the weekend after attempting to rob a Family Dollar store and pretending to be the 4th member of the Three Stooges.

According to UPI, the suspect—Sean Torres, 29—had a shirt wrapped around his head when he strolled into the Family Dollar and demanded money from the store clerk. When the clerk did not comply to Torres's demands, he threatened to shoot up the joint, but then ran away without any money.

A police chopper was dispatched and spotted Torres at the edge of a nearby pond in an effort to get away from police on the ground. However, as they closed in on Torres, deputies said the man tried to hide by submerging himself. The chopper had no problems still seeing him.

Here is the funny part: When the police on the ground caught up to Torres, he tried explaining that he was 'just fishing' and that his fishing pole was sunk in the water.” He also went on to say, “the guy who did it went that way."

Torres realized his plan was a washout an surrendered, saying he didn't want to be bit by a police dog. Smart guy!

The ordeal was not over. Torres, while in the back of the cop car, he repeatedly screamed and thrashed himself around, kicking the doors, and ultimately damaging the car. Torres was booked on armed robbery and criminal mischief charges.

Check out the video of the chase:

Dec 2 2016 10:00am

Brazen: New Excerpt

Loren D. Estleman

Brazen by Loren D. EstlemanBrazen by Loren D. Estleman is the 5th book in the Valentino Mystery series (Available December 6, 2016).

A killer is reenacting the deaths of Hollywood's blond bombshells, and Valentino must stop him before it's too late in Loren D. Estleman's Brazen.

UCLA film archivist and sometime film detective Valentino doesn’t take friend and former actress Beata Limerick very seriously when she tells him that she quit acting because of the curse on blond actresses. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Thelma Todd, Sharon Tate… they all had more fun, but none of them made it out of the business alive, and according to Limerick, she wasn’t taking any chances. But when Valentino finds Beata’s body staged the way Monroe was found, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” playing on repeat; he knows Limerick's death was no accident.

Police detective Ray Padilla doesn’t quite suspect Valentino is the killer, but he can’t let him off that easy. After all, the film archivist seems to be involved in more than his share of intrigue and death, which makes him a prime suspect. But Valentino is also a walking encyclopedia of Hollywood knowledge. When another washed-up actress is killed, the crime scene a copy of Thelma Todd’s last moments, Padilla enlists Valentino’s help in catching a serial killer of doomed blondes before he can strike again.


KYLE BROADHEAD LOOPED a giant rubber band on the toe of his wingtip, aimed his leg at a picture of the director of the UCLA board of regents shaking his hand, drew the band taut, and let go. It zinged through the air of his office and struck the protective glass a tremendous whack, but failed to crack it.

“Plexiglas.” He snorted. “I might have guessed. The cheap so-and-so.”

“Why hang it at all, if you dislike him so much?” Valentino asked.

“I need the target practice.”

[Read the full excerpt from Brazen...]

Dec 1 2016 4:30pm

Review: Don’t Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier

Don't Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier is the 3rd Commandant Martin Servaz novel (Available December 6, 2016).

Great writing is like great baking. The ingredients have to be spot on, properly prepared, and well thought out. They have to be mixed together just right so that the interplay between them becomes a perfect juxtaposition rather than a jumbled mess. When done well, the final product is a heavenly treat that leaves you craving more—and Bernard Minier pens an excellent recipe for a terrific thriller in Don’t Turn Out the Lights.

This book is seriously good. I’ve never been much of a fan of dream sequences in books or surreal layers overlapping the narrative, but this has changed my mind. Big time. Like a cake that’s to die for, Don’t Turn Out The Lights is a delight of many layers, each with its own distinct flavor. The dream sequences keep you guessing about what is real and what is not in the most delicious fashion, and the violence is served up just as it should be—sparse, cold, and dry, leaving a nasty taste in your mouth.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Don't Turn Out the Lights...]

Dec 1 2016 3:00pm

Holiday Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List

December is upon us, and with it comes all the joys and wonders (and murder) of the holiday season! While we normally compile a list of all of the upcoming soft-boiled mysteries for the month (see December's titles!), we decided to put together a list of all of the winter/holiday-themed cozies we could find. Know of any other great holiday cozies? Let us know in the comments!

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

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Dec 1 2016 1:00pm

The 1830 True Murder Behind Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”

A brutal crime in Salem, Massachusetts inspired author Edgar Allan Poe to write his famous psychological murder mystery, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” On the evening of April 6, 1830, the murder of 82-year-old Captain Joseph White, a wealthy retired shipmaster and trader, shocked the residents of the small town of Salem. 

White lived in a distinguished landmark house in Salem with Benjamin White, a distant relative and house handyman; Lydia Kimball, a domestic servant; and Mary Beckford, his housekeeper niece. Mrs. Beckford’s daughter, also named Mary, lived a short distance away in the town of Wenham and was married to Captain White's grandnephew, Joseph J. Knapp. 


Dec 1 2016 12:00pm

Watch the Trailer for HBO’s New True Crime Documentary: Beware the Slenderman

What drives two twelve-year-old girls to stab a mutual friend nineteen times and leave her for dead? What could possibly fill young and innocent minds with such cold blood and carnage? 

HBO’s new documentary Beware the Slenderman (debuting January 23, 2017) explores the very real case of a near-fatal stabbing attack in the small town of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Reportedly, two twelve-year-old girls lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her nineteen times. The two claim that they had been forced to commit this act of extreme violence by a fictional internet monster called Slenderman—a tall, thin, pale, man-like creature with no face that is typically portrayed stalking, abducting, and torturing people, particularly children. They reportedly believe that this monster was going to harm them and their families if they did not do its dark bidding—that only by murdering someone could they be free from his wrath. 

Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, Beware the Slenderman features “heart-wrenching access to the girls’ families,” and “plunges deep down the rabbit hole of their actions, exploring how the dark corners of the Internet can influence society’s most impressionable young consumers of the media.” 

[Watch the chilling trailer below...]

Dec 1 2016 10:00am

The Gentleman from Japan: New Excerpt

James Church

The Gentleman from Japan by James ChurchThe Gentleman from Japan by James Church is the 6th book in the Inspector O series (Available December 6, 2016).

Under the guise of machinery for making dumplings, a Spanish factory near Barcelona is secretly producing a key component in the production of nuclear weapons. When information finds its way to the inboxes of Western intelligence agencies that this “dumpling maker” is meant for North Korea, orders go out that the shipment must be stopped. Either the machine must be disabled while still in the factory, or the transportation route must be discovered so the equipment can be intercepted before it reaches its destination. An old friend recruits Inspector O to assist in the complex operation designed to disrupt the plans for shipping the machine.

Carefully planted bits of information and bizarre events have led both the Spanish factory and those trying to intercept the machine to conclude that Japanese criminal organizations are involved in buying and transporting the “dumpling” machine in order to hide the involvement of North Korea. A flurry of murders puts the focus on the northeast Chinese city of Yanji, near the border with North Korea, where O’s nephew Major Bing is the Chief of State Security. Bing has his own problems dealing with a corrupt local mayor who is out for his head, coping with a new deputy who cannot be trusted, and figuring out why a Chinese gangster he’s worked for years to chase away has suddenly returned.

Chapter One

By the time the sun had set on Thursday, there were seven corpses in four of the city’s ragged collection of restaurants, cafés, tea shops, “bakeries,” and illegal lunch stands. Four eateries, seven bodies. It goes without saying that couldn’t be good for business. The mayor would be calling, probably after one of his big dinner parties. The police had quietly sent me the guest list. They weren’t supposed to, but they knew I was interested in seeing who kept company with the mayor. None of the names on the list rang bells.

[Read the full excerpt from The Gentleman from Japan...]

Nov 30 2016 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the latest in Bailey Cates’s Magical Bakery Mystery series, Spells and Scones. Today, I’m going to start reading and cooking my way from the beginning of this delightful series to see if there’s more magic to be had from where that 6th book came.

For those unfamiliar with this particular series, Brownies and Broomsticks tells the story of how our heroine, professional baker Katie Lightfoot, moves from Ohio—after her fiancé calls off their wedding—to Savannah, Georgia to help her newly retired aunt and uncle run the bakery they’ve always wanted to own. Soon after arriving in Savannah, Katie’s Aunt Lucy starts to broach the delicate subject of why Katie has always felt “different” all her life: she comes from a long line of witches and possesses mystical powers herself!

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 30 2016 4:15pm

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

The Series: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
The Heroes: Alana and Marko—once enemy combatants in an intergalactic war, now married and on the run from both of their governments—and a ragtag bunch of allies.
The Ideal Format: A live-action fantasy epic with extensive animatronics, CGI, and sweet alien makeup.

Star-crossed lovers aren't a new thing.

The trope has been a staple of fiction since long before Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet (to the frustration of high school students as-yet-unborn).

Star-crossed lovers in space is pretty new, though. In the case of Saga, the lovers are—at times—even literally star crossed.

When we first meet Alana—a lady with fairy wings growing out of her back—and Marko—a handsome guy with curved ram's horns—the couple are on the run with significant bounties on their heads. Seems they've broken one of the cardinal rules of their galaxy: rather than blindly hate or kill each other, they've fallen in love.

[All ya need is love, doot da doo do doo...]

Nov 30 2016 3:00pm

Fudge and Jury by Ellie Alexander: A Visual Guide

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

This week, it's all about chocolate ... and murder. Take a visual tour of Ellie Alexander's 5th Bakeshop Mystery, Fudge and Jury, with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Nov 30 2016 1:00pm

Introducing Peter James TV!

I’m extremely excited to have launched my own YouTube channel, Peter James TV, in which I’m going to be sharing with you many aspects of my life as a writer. To give you a taste, here are some of the highlights you’ll be able to find there:

[See what you'll get when you subscribe to Peter James TV!]

Nov 30 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: November 29, 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!

This week, we get another Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery from Jane K. Cleland! See what else this week brings in the way of books:

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

Nov 30 2016 10:00am

Painted Doll: New Excerpt

Jonelle Patrick

Painted Doll by Jonelle Patrick deals with the shocking discovery that a mother's death ten years ago wasn't an accident and the destruction the truth might bring (Available December 5, 2016).

When Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura's phone rings with the news that his mother's death ten years ago wasn't an accident, his world begins to unravel. New evidence links her to a young woman, whose body was found dolled up like a movie star and tossed in the gutter like an abandoned plaything. With the help of part-time English translator Yumi Hata, Kenji begins to piece together what really happened the night his mother died. But the closer he gets to discovering who killed the Painted Doll, the more he fears that the truth will destroy all that's left of his fractured family.



A pillow of white capped her gravestone, the first snow of winter. 

He frowned at the dead flowers. Brown heads forever bowed, the dried chrysanthemum stalks shivered in the wind. Didn’t her family care enough to keep them fresh? He lifted the withered stems from their stone vases and set them aside, then drew a stick of incense from his pocket. His hands were cold. It took him two tries with the lighter before a thread of smoke curled toward the leaden sky. He poked it through the icy crust on the altar.

[Read the full excerpt of Painted Doll...]

Nov 29 2016 4:00pm

The Devil’s Truths: Exploring the Mythology of Lucifer, Episode 2.10: “Quid Pro Ho”

Well, it’s nice to see Amenadiel swoop in and convince Mum not to detonate the bomb, thus saving Chloe. He did so by laying hard truths on her, which is the central theme of the entire episode. We’ve known all along that Lucifer doesn’t lie in this series, but this seems fundamentally at odds with the supposed role of tempter. So we’re left asking: which is the real Lucifer?

One of the names for the devil actually is father of lies, which comes straight from the mouth of Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus reveals that “when [the devil] lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NRSV). Well, there it is—the devil is a liar, and it came from the mouth of Jesus so it must be true. And he would know since he actually spoke with the devil after his famous 40 days in the wilderness. Up swoops the devil with temptations.

[Read more about the devil's truths...]

Nov 29 2016 3:00pm

Which Noir Character Are You?

If you’re a regular visitor of Criminal Element, then you’re probably more than a little bit familiar with film noir. But if not, then let’s give you the basic rundown. From the French term meaning “black cinema,” film noir was coined to describe a specific type of Hollywood film that portrayed a level of darkness and cynicism that had never been seen before. A few of the early classics include The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Laura. 

Now, obviously these stories did not originate with their film depictions. Before Hollywood got their hands on these stories, the words were pouring out of the minds of novelists such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler. 

In stark contrast to detective fiction’s earlier heroes—Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc.—these hardboiled protagonists were tough and cynical. These stories were set in grim, dirty cities and told in a narrative form, with slang, violence, and sex saturating the pages. 

So today, join Criminal Element as we pay tribute to noir fiction by testing you to see just what sort of character Dashiell Hammett would turn you into. Be warned: it’s not always pretty.

[Take the personality quiz!]

Nov 29 2016 1:00pm

Review: Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland

Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland is the 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Available November 29, 2016).

It’s the Fourth of July in New Hampshire’s picturesque seacoast town of Rocky Point, but the patriotic celebration is outshadowed by real-life fireworks when murder trumps merriment in Jane K. Cleland’s 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Glow of Death

What started as a promising business venture—the appraisal of a rare Tiffany lamp expected to fetch as much as $1.5 million at auction—ends in mystery when Josie is called to the scene of the crime and asked to identify the victim: Ava Towson, the lamp’s co-owner. But when Josie gets a look at the body, she realizes that she doesn’t recognize the face staring back at her. It soon becomes clear that persons unknown impersonated Ava and her wealthy business mogul husband, Edwin, in the hopes of perpetuating a fraud. Having been bamboozled, Josie—always an ambassador of justice—vows to discover the truth.

[Read John B. Valeri's review of Glow of Death...]

Nov 29 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, Part II

Last week, we began The Waste Lands with a towering 70-foot cyborg bear! This week, Jake Chambers returns, struggling with the duality of having died and longing to return to Roland's world

Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Waste Lands (1991), the 3rd book in The Dark Tower series. We just finished our journey across the beach in The Drawing of the Three, drawing Eddie and Susannah Dean into Roland's world and ending the pitiful life of Jack Mort. Eddie is off heroin, and Susannah's previously split mind has merged into one—but Roland Deschain is troubled. It seems by killing Jack Mort and allowing Jake Chambers to live, he has created a paradox ... and it's tearing his mind apart. What's next for this new ka-tet? Will Roland be able to rectify this butterfly effect? Join us as we make our way into The Waste Lands!

 *Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!

This book's chapters set up nicely, so the plan is to read a chapter a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, Jake Chambers returns! Will he make it back to Roland and the group? Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part II of The Waste Lands: BOOK ONE JAKE: FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, Chapter II: “Key and Rose”!

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[There are other worlds than this!]

Nov 29 2016 10:00am

Not Just Evil: New Excerpt

David Wilson

Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California's First Insanity Plea by David WilsonFor readers of true crime sagas like Tinseltown and Little Demon in the City of Light comes a chilling account of a murder that captivated the United States in the 1920s (Available December 6, 2016).

Twelve-year-old Marion Parker was kidnapped from her Los Angeles school by an unknown assailant on December 15, 1927. Her body appeared days later, delivered to her father by the killer, who fled with the ransom money. When William Hickman was hunted down and charged with the killing, he admitted to all of it, in terrifying detail, but that was only the start….

Hickman’s insanity plea was the first of its kind in the history of California, and the nature of the crime led to a media frenzy unlike any the country had seen. His lawyers argued that their client lived in a fantasy world, inspired by movies and unable to tell right from wrong. The movie industry scrambled to protect its exploding popularity (and profits) from ruinous publicity. Outside the courtroom, the country craved every awful detail, and the media happily fed that hunger. As scandals threatened the proceedings from the start, the death of a young girl grew into a referendum on the state of America at the birth of mass media culture.

David Wilson, a private investigator for over thirty years, captures the maelstrom of Marion Parker's death in vivid detail. From the crime itself to the manhunt that followed, from the unprecedented trial to its aftermath, Wilson draws readers in to the birth of the celebrity criminal.

Chapter 1

“You are talking about the devil incarnate. Not just evil, but the most evil man I have ever dealt with in my life. He was an untalented, mean, vicious, vindictive man.”
Helen Hayes, Actress

William Edward Hickman was arrested for the kidnap and murder of Marion Parker in December of 1927. The victim was twelve years old. Her father paid the ransom and found his daughter with her arms and legs removed from her body. The next day gruesome photos of the deceased appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the country. Within a week the crime was the subject of newsreels, shown in movie theaters alongside cartoons and two feature films. The graphic nature of the pictures of the crime scene was unprecedented.

[Read the full excerpt from Not Just Evil...]

Nov 28 2016 5:00pm

Westworld 1.09: “The Well-Tempered Clavier” Episode Review

Lines are starting to intersect with lots of gut-wrenching carnage as we race to the show’s finish, and three big reveals came out of this week’s episode.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) is once again in the behavior unit for a disturbance, but this time she’s being seen by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). She recognizes something within him and reaches out for his help, saying they are stronger and smarter than the humans. “We don’t have to live this way.” Though he’s spinning from her commentary, he releases her back into the park. Looks like she may have access to an even bigger insider from the behavior unit.

But first, she wants to find and enlist Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) in getting out of the park. So, back in the game she goes. When she confronts Hector with what his immediate future holds—the ending he’s been given—she offers an alternative. She wants him to break into hell with her and rob the gods blind.

[I wonder if her safe will turn up empty as well...]