Review: <i>Glory In Death</i> by J.D. Robb Review: Glory In Death by J.D. Robb Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! <i>The Reek of Red Herrings</i>: New Excerpt The Reek of Red Herrings: New Excerpt Catriona McPherson The 5th book in the Dandy Gilver series. Review: <i>Naked In Death</i> by J.D. Robb Review: Naked In Death by J.D. Robb Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! <i>Curried Away</i>: New Excerpt Curried Away: New Excerpt Gail Oust The 4th book in the Spice Shop Mystery series.
From The Blog
December 8, 2016
Point Blank (1967): The Only Neo-Noir that Matters
Peter Foy
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
Dec 9 2016 4:00pm

How I Wrote The Spartan Dagger

Read this exclusive guest post from Nicholas Guild, author of The Spartan Dagger, about how he came up with the plot for his latest historical novel, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

When I was a little boy, I had a collection of toy soldiers and, as little boys will, I created an elaborate fantasy around them, imagining them to be a society of brave and noble warriors. I always called this society “Sparta.” At the age of eight, I was not yet a student of ancient history, so I have no idea how I happened to hit upon that name.

The Spartans have generally been much admired, both in antiquity and later, and while it is true that they were brave and capable soldiers, there is another side of them which is not nearly so admirable.

The problem that molded the Spartan character was the fact that they were surrounded by a peasant population called the “Helots,” who vastly outnumbered them and whom they held in the most brutal subjection. Thus, they developed a military culture in which the only virtues were courage and loyalty to the state.

[This ... is ... SPARTA!]

Dec 9 2016 2:30pm

Dear Professor Moriarty: A Company Christmas Dinner Disaster

This week's guest columnist is Professor Moriarty who reports that he is, contrary to rumors, very much alive and quite busy planning for a major event that you will all witness soon. Very soon.

Dear Professor Moriarty,

As the only female coder at a Silicon Valley startup, I’ve been delegated to doing the company Christmas dinner—which was okay the first two years when we had 8 people on staff, with half of those being the brothers of the owner. Last year, we had 16, and that was tough.

After a new round of venture capital, we now have 32 staff, and my boss is planning on doubling again to 64 next year before we go public. My boss is an engineer who doesn't understand how cooking for 32 or 64 is insane. He thinks my process is sound, so I can “just scale up.” And he won't take no for an answer. 

This is more than a little sexist and oppressive, but I need the salary and the health benefits. This is a dream job the other 11 months of the year, so I don’t want to quit. 

How can I convince the boss that he’s asking too much?

Fed Up With the Company Christmas Dinner

[Read Professor Moriarty's advice!]

Dec 9 2016 1:00pm

Review: Glory In Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes In Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Ardi Alspach reviews #2, Glory In Death.

Eve Dallas is back in Glory In Death—the thrilling follow up to Naked In Death and the second book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series—and this time, things get personal.

She’s now New York City’s most well-known detective after solving a high-profile murder case involving a senator and some major sex scandals, and she’s discovering that being in the spotlight is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her relationship with Rourke continues to be rocky, as the two of them try to reconcile their feelings while battling trust issues and shadows from their pasts. Eve is called to work on another high-profile case, this time involving the city’s star prosecutor.

She blocked it out. What choice did she have? The job came first. Had to come first. If she wasn’t a good cop, she was nothing. She was as empty and helpless as the child she had been, lying broken and traumatized in a dark alley in Dallas.

She could bury herself in her work. The demands and pressures of it. When she was standing in Commander Whitney’s office, she was only a copy with murder on her hands.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Glory In Death...]

Dec 9 2016 11:00am

Robber Gets Wedged in Air Duct

This week's perp derp found himself in a real tight spot. A man was arrested after getting wedged in an air duct while attempting to rob a pizza joint in New York.

According to UPI, David Reed—the owner of a business located next to the pizza shop—was in a festive mood hanging up Christmas lights when he heard someone caroling frantically. Okay, maybe caroling isn't the right word—it was more of a screaming for someone to help him get out.

Reed responded to the screams by asking, “Where are you?” And with answers as good as ideas, the perp yelled again: “Get me out of here!”

After calling the local authorities, the deputies who were dispatched found 53-year-old Richard Graham stuck in an air vent directly above a pizza oven. It took the Fire Department about 20 minutes to cut Graham out of the vent. Embarrassing, I am sure.

Graham was transported to the local hospital for a some minor injuries where he was treated and released. He was arraigned on charges of 3rd degree burglary, 2nd degree criminal mischief, and possession of burglary tools. He also caused more than $2,000 in damages to the pizzeria.

Weird. Now I'm hungry for a slice...

Dec 9 2016 10:00am

The Reek of Red Herrings: New Excerpt

Catriona McPherson

The Reek of Red Herrings: A Dandy Gilver Mystery by Catriona McPhersonThe Reek of Red Herrings is the 5th book in the Dandy Gilver series (Available December 6, 2016).

On the rain-drenched, wind-battered Banffshire coast dilapidated mansions cling to cliff tops, and tiny fishing villages perch on ledges that would make a seagull think twice. It’s nowhere for Dandy Gilver, a child of gentle Northamptonshire, to spend Christmas.

But when odd things start to turn up in barrels of fish—with a strong whiff of murder most foul—that’s exactly where she finds herself. Enlisted to investigate, Dandy and her trusty cohort, Alec Osborne, are soon swept up in the fisherfolks’ wedding season as well as the mystery. Between age-old traditions and brand-new horrors, Dandy must think the unthinkable to solve her most baffling case.


Although English is the finest language ever to rise up from the strewn remains in Babel, subtle yet piercing, mellifluous yet plain, and much as it pains me to give the Scots any cause for that unwarranted sense of superiority which it is their risible but unshakeable habit to display, still there are times when the language of Milton, Shakespeare and the Bible itself cannot furnish the moment and clothe the passing sensations with adequate words.

This was such a time. Alec Osborne and I were standing on a quayside at Aberdeen, the granite sparkling in the sun behind us, the sea sparkling in it before us, the stiff wind of a November morning tugging at our hat brims and whisking our coat hems up and around our legs like the petticoats of can-can girls in the last big number, and yet our cheeks were pale and our skin clammy as we worked our throats, swallowing hard and willing our troubled innards to subside.

[Read the full excerpt from The Reek of Red Herrings...]

Dec 8 2016 4:30pm

Point Blank (1967): The Only Neo-Noir that Matters

I’ve been a consumer of countless crime fiction novels, films, and television for most of my life now—from eras ranging from Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard to Dennis Lehane—yet still I find myself pausing to ask this bleeding question: what the hell does neo-noir ever mean?

Most commonly, people refer to neo-noir as anything that follows the template of the classical film noir era, which occurred in the 1940s and '50s. For that reason, films like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential often get labeled as neo-noir, but I find it difficult not to see this as a misnomer. Those films carry an authentic stigma that makes me feel that they were really part of the classical era.

Other people take the word more literally and feel it applies to noir-esque films with science-fiction elements in them, such as Blade Runner. But, more often than not, the noir themes in these films tend to be overshadowed by the spectacle.

Even some filmmakers seem to be less than privy to the term (don’t count on the Coen Brothers or Quentin Tarantino ever describing their films as neo-noir). And when I talk about film in my favorite genre of cinema, you best believe I drop the “neo” in most cases. That said, there are still a handful of films I feel are best described by the aforementioned term. For that reason, I believe John Boorman’s 1967 film Point Blank ranks as the best neo-nor ever made.

[See why Point Blank is the only neo-noir that matters...]

Dec 8 2016 3:00pm

Murder, Mystery, and Scandinavia: The Perfect Combination

If you like the setting of your murder mysteries to take place in a cold, snowy climate, you’re not alone. The newest and bloodiest murder mysteries now seem to take place in Scandinavia. There’s something about murder, mystery, and the bitter cold that seem to go together, and it seems that readers have been entertained by them for years.

The first tastes of “murder in the cold” were not centered in Scandinavia at all, but in Canada. King of the Royal Mounties by Zane Grey and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon by Fran Striker not only paid homage to the brave officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but also took pleasure in the descriptions of the snow and cold where they work. But those thrillers were mild.

[Find out more about Scandinavian thriller!]

Dec 8 2016 1:00pm

True Crime: Fact vs. Fiction

Read this exclusive guest post from David Wilson, author of Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California's First Insanity Plea, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the novel!

Following a thirty-year career as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense, I wrote a book called Not Just Evil. The book describes the use of the insanity plea by William Edward Hickman, following his confession for the crime of kidnapping and murdering Marion Parker. Hickman based his insanity plea on the idea that he lived in a fantasy world caused by his addiction to the cinema.

Hollywood responded with a media campaign designed to dismiss the validity of his defense. The campaign was financed by Louis B. Mayer, who hired Edgar Rice Burroughs—the creator of Tarzan—to cover the trial as a journalist. I believe it would be fair to say Burroughs was less than objective in his articles about the trial. 

[Read more about David Wilson's career!]

Dec 8 2016 12:00pm

Review: Naked In Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes In Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Ardi Alspach reviews #1, Naked In Death.

Nora Roberts, the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writer’s Association Hall of Fame, might be one of the most prolific romance and mystery writers of our time. With over 200 novels in print, she’s gearing up to release the highly anticipated 44th novel in the Eve Dallas series, Echoes In Death, written under her pseudonym J.D. Robb

The Eve Dallas series—also known as the “In Death” series—is a police procedural set in a science-fictional future New York City, featuring episodic-style crimes that are set up and solved in each novel while focusing on the developing relationship between the title character, Eve, and her lover, Roarke, over its entirety. With the latest novel in the series, Echoes In Death, due out in February, it’s time to take a look back at where it all began—with Naked In Death, published in 1995.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Naked In Death...]

Dec 8 2016 10:00am

Curried Away: New Excerpt

Gail Oust

Curried Away: A Spice Shop Mystery by Gail OustCurried Away by Gail Oust is the 4th book in the Spice Shop Mystery series (Available December 12, 2016).

Piper Prescott, proprietor of Spice It Up!, has persuaded Doug Winters, the mild-mannered vet she’s been dating, to demonstrate Indian cuisine at her shop. But before Doug’s presentation of classic chicken curry is completed, Ned Feeney, local handyman, bursts in with news of a murder.

Sandy Granger, the director of a local production of Steel Magnolias, was found strangled in the third-floor balcony of the Brandywine Creek Opera House. Sandy, it seems, had not endeared herself to cast or crew. Complaints about her ran the gamut from her management style to her lack of people skills. Everyone connected with the production falls under suspicion, including Piper Prescott’s BFF, Reba Mae Johnson, who made it well known how unhappy she is that she was cut from the cast.

When the spotlight for the dastardly deed shines on Reba Mae, Piper rushes to her friend’s defense. Who among Sandy’s detractors was angry enough to wrap a silk scarf around her neck—and pull tight? Will Piper succeed in solving the case before she becomes the killer’s encore performance? And will she ever learn just how to prepare the perfect curry?



I stopped chatting with the mayor’s wife, Dottie Hemmings, and my ex-mother-in-law, Melly Prescott, as Reba Mae Johnson, my BFF, stormed into my shop, Spice It Up! “What’s up, girlfriend?” I asked.

“Just like that!” Reba Mae snapped her fingers. “She fired me.”

“Silly girl.” Dottie giggled. “You can’t be fired. You’re self-employed.”

[Read the full excerpt from Curried Away...]

Dec 7 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti by Bailey Cates

The second novel in the Magical Bakery series wasn’t the strongest installment for me so far. I wouldn’t exactly call it a sophomore slump, as it’s still a very enjoyable entry, but there were several things that I didn’t care for here as much as I did in the other books.

First, a synopsis: Katie Lightfoot, our professional baker and amateur hedgewitch heroine, is settling down to life in Savannah running the Honeybee Bakery with her aunt and uncle. She’s out on a picnic date with one of her suitors, Declan, when they come across a dead body in the bushes. At first, Katie thinks it’s just an unfortunate incident—that is until her eye is irresistibly drawn to an unusual tattoo on the corpse. Her investigation into the tattoo reveals the existence of a society of druids connected to her other suitor, Steve, and draws her into great danger, as it appears that the dead man is not the last person that a dangerous killer wants to destroy.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Dec 7 2016 3:30pm

A Puzzle to Be Named Later by Parnell Hall: A Visual Guide

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

Batter up! As the Winter Meetings kick off, the Puzzle Lady is dreaming of Spring Training and warmer weather! However, a murder and a break-in lead to more puzzles that must be solved in Parnell Hall's 18th Puzzle Lady Mystery, A Puzzle to Be Named Later. Take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Dec 7 2016 1:00pm

Sweet/Vicious: A Socially Relvant Crime Fan’s Cocktail

If I told you that there was a new crime show that was both funny and socially relevant and successfully incorporated elements of other acclaimed shows while still treating its subject matter with utmost respect, what network would you guess it was on? It would have to be something like a Netflix Original series right? WRONG! HBO? NOPE! AMC or FX? Uh-uh. Believe it or not, the network in question is MTV.

The show is called Sweet/Vicious, and it's a cleverly blended cocktail of Veronica Mars and Arrow with a hint of Breaking Bad.

[A winning recipe...]

Dec 7 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: December 6, 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 some great cozies, a couple of kickass thrillers, and a ridiculous anthology edited by Lawrence Block and featuring Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Connelly, and more! See what else this week brings in the way of books:

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

Dec 7 2016 10:00am

Buried in the Country: New Excerpt

Carola Dunn

Buried in the Country by Carola DunnBuried in the Country is book #4 in the Cornish Mystery series (Available December 13, 2016).

After many years working around the world for an international charity in the late 1960s, Eleanor Trewynn has retired to the relative quiet of a small town in Cornwall. But her quiet life is short-lived when, due to her experience, the Commonwealth Relations Office reaches out to her to assist in a secret conference that is to take place in a small hotel outside the historical village of Tintagel.

Meanwhile, her niece, Detective Sargent Megan Pencarrow, is investigating the disappearance of a local solicitor when she is assigned to help provide security for the conference. Two African students, refugees from Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, arrive for the conference, escorted by Megan’s bête noire from Scotland Yard. They are followed by two mysterious and sinister Londoners, whose allegiances and connections to the conference and the missing solicitor are unclear. With a raging storm having trapped everyone in the hotel, the stage is set for murder, and it’s up to Eleanor and Megan to uncover the truth before more lives are lost.


Cornwall, February

Eleanor was halfway down the stairs when she heard the phone ring in her flat above. She hesitated for a moment. Teazle, already at the bottom, gave a sharp yip of impatience, but the little Westie had been out once today so she wasn’t desperate. Eleanor had a few minutes to spare. The lawyer’s office was less than five minutes’ walk.

As she turned to go back up, Eleanor was sure the ringing would stop before she reached the phone, especially when she discovered that, for once, she had remembered to lock her door. But the brrr-brrr continued, even while she searched her pockets for the key, opened the door, and crossed her small sitting room to the counter that separated it from the tiny kitchen.

[Read the full excerpt from Buried in the Country...]

Dec 6 2016 4:00pm

Which Type of Thriller Is Your Favorite?

Crime fiction is a pretty broad genre. But even narrowed further to thriller, there are still loads of subgenres to choose from. Perhaps you like a your thrillers with a strong detective that’s always their to save the day. Perhaps you prefer your thrillers on the other side of the law, with an antihero that operates behind the scenes and cleans up where the cops can’t. Or maybe you like keep it in the court room with a legal thriller? 

The point is that there are so many to choose from, it seems everyone can have their way. But what kind of thriller is the best? Vote for YOUR favorite below!

[Which thriller subgenre is your favorite?]

Dec 6 2016 2:00pm

Review: Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae is the 1st book in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, where a murder in a garden turns the four new owners of Yon Bonnie Books into amateur detectives.

In Inversgail, Scotland, Janet Marsh and Christine Robertson own a bookshop called Yon Bonnie Books along with Janet’s thirty-eight-year-old daughter, Tallie, and Tallie’s former college roommate, Summer Jacobs. Janet is divorced—after her husband “the rat” cheated on her—and Christine is a widower. Janet is slower to act, while Christine is a bit more impetuous, though both women have a curious nature that balances their friendship nicely.

Their inquisitiveness comes in handy when both become suspicious as to why estate agent Jess Bailee, who is handling the renting of Janet’s house, has been dodging her. Janet is anxious to move back into her old digs where she spent many happy years with her husband and children. Janet and Christine stop by the house to find it vandalized, with Jess cowering inside, overwhelmed to the point of tears in cleaning it up.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Plaid and Plagiarism...]

Dec 6 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, Part III

Last week, Jake struggled mightily with the duality of his existence and the “doubling” of his mind. This week, Jake Chambers returns to Roland's world in an incredibly tense scene featuring a monster haunted house

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 to Roland's world in an incredibly tense drawing through a living monster of a haunted house! Whew! I'm still on the edge of my seat. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part III of The Waste Lands: BOOK ONE JAKE: FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, Chapter III: “Door and Demon”!

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[What a chapter!]

Dec 6 2016 11:00am

Don’t Turn Out the Lights: New Excerpt

Bernard Minier

Don't Turn Out the Lights is the 3rd book in the Commandant Martin Servaz series (Available December 6, 2016).

“You did nothing.”

Christine Steinmeyer thought the anonymous suicide note she found in her mailbox on Christmas Eve wasn’t meant for her. But the man calling in to her radio show seems convinced otherwise.

"You let her die. . . .”

That’s only the beginning. Bit by bit, her life is turned upside down. But who among her friends and family hates her enough to want to destroy her? And why?It’s as if someone has taken over her life, and everything holding it together starts to crumble. Soon all that is left is an unimaginable nightmare.

Martin Servaz is on leave in a clinic for depressed cops, haunted by his childhood sweetheart Marianne’s kidnapping by his nemesis, the psychopath Julian Hirtmann. One day, he receives a key card to a hotel room in the mail—the room where an artist committed suicide a year earlier. Someone wants him to get back to work, which he’s more than ready to do, despite his mandatory sick leave. Servaz soon uncovers evidence of a truly terrifying crime. Could someone really be cruelly, consciously hounding women to death?

What if the people closest to us are not what they seem? What happens when someone takes control of your life and your relationships? And what is hiding in the darkness?


Curtain Raiser

I am writing these words. The last ones. And as I write them, I know it’s over: this time there won’t be any going back.

You’ll be angry with me for doing this to you on Christmas Eve. I know it is the worst possible insult to your bloody sense of propriety. You and your fucking manners. To think I believed your lies and your promises. The more words there are, the less truth there is: that’s the way of the world nowadays.

I really am going to do it, you know. That at least is not hot air. Is your hand trembling a little now? Have you broken out in a sweat?

[Read the full excerpt from Don't Turn Out the Lights...]