Review: <i>All the Bridges Burning</i> by Neliza Drew Review: All the Bridges Burning by Neliza Drew Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review! <i>A Killing in Amish Country</i>: New Excerpt A Killing in Amish Country: New Excerpt Rebecca Morris and Gregg Olsen A terrifying story of a community that has become undone. Review: <i>The Janson Directive</i> by Robert Ludlum Review: The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review of the 1st book in the Janson series. <i>Pushing Up Daisies</i>: New Excerpt Pushing Up Daisies: New Excerpt M.C. Beaton The 7th book in the Agatha Raisin series.
From The Blog
June 30, 2016
What Winds Fan Black Sails, Disco Inferno?
Andrez Bergen
June 30, 2016
This Book Is Not About Vladimir Putin.
John Sweeney
June 29, 2016
Q&A with Rick Campbell, Author of Ice Station Nautilus
Crime HQ and Rick Campbell
June 29, 2016
Cover Reveal: Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith
Crime HQ
June 28, 2016
Serial Killer Calling Cards: Winners Revealed!
Crime HQ
Jun 30 2016 4:30pm

Hairy-raising: Cleverman

We Homo sapiens have gotten pretty used to being the only humanoid species on Earth. So, what would happen if we somehow ran across a cousin species—perhaps a somewhat better design? What if that species also happened to be dark-skinned? It doesn’t take much brainpower to write that scenario; we’ve got 5,000 years of experience in intra-species cruelty and oppression to draw from. Now, how would it go if an indigenous superhero took up that cousin species’ cause?

That’s Cleverman, a joint production by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Sundance Studios that debuted June 1st on the Sundance Channel.

[What a clever]

Jun 30 2016 3:00pm

What Winds Fan Black Sails, Disco Inferno?

I’m not 100% sure why I set my latest novel in the 1970s. 

You’ll find me much more one for a 1940s cinematic take on film noir, with an eye on the ’50s.

I cannot count how many times I’ve seen Howard Hawks’s The Big Sleep, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, Joseph H. Lewis’s Gun Crazy, Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past, Tay Garnett’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel, or Robert Siodmak’s The Killers.

But as a child?

Well, I did grow up in the ’70s. 

My parents were right into that decade’s detective mysteries and cop escapades on the box, which I watched also: programs like Starsky & Hutch, The Rockford Files, McMillan & Wife, Baretta, and The Mod Squad.

[Read more about the inspiration of Black Sails, Disco Inferno...]

Jun 30 2016 1:30pm

This Book Is Not About Vladimir Putin.

Cold by John Sweeney is the 1st Joe Tiplady thriller (Available July 1, 2016).

Cold is a made-up story inspired by things I’ve seen with my own eyes and whispers I’ve picked up in Russia today. It’s dedicated to three people I had the honor of meeting but who are now dead: Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in her Moscow flat in 2006; her great friend, Natasha Estemirova, found with bullets to her head not far from a road in Ingushetia in 2009; and Boris Nemtsov, shot dead within 100 metres of the Kremlin in 2015. There’s a character in the book called Zoba, who is the Russian strong man, but he, like every other character, is a work of fiction. Let one thing be absolutely clear: Cold is not about Vladimir Putin. 

[It's not. Definitely not.]

Jun 30 2016 12:00pm

Review: All the Bridges Burning by Neliza Drew

After he left, I sat in the car and looked and my hands. There was blood there no one else could see. A lot of it was mine. 

I’d made sure Lane never suffered any of the things I had as a child. Or at least I had until I’d left. She’d been innocent. Maybe too much so. 

“Lane, what have you done?” I started the car and put my hands on the wheel. I had a bad feeling in order to save Lane I was going to have to face the past I’d tried to forget.

Neliza Drew’s debut is an unflinching tale of three sisters, who grew up raising each other while they dealt with their mother’s mental illness, and the one who took it all upon herself to ensure that her siblings survived. 

That’s Davis Groves. Tattooed, with scars inside and out, and armed with brutal experience, an unfazeable demeanor, and a wicked sense of humor, she escaped her family long ago but is dragged back home when her youngest sister Lane is accused of murder and her mother Charley is her only guardian. 

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of All the Bridges Burning...]

Jun 30 2016 10:00am

A Killing in Amish Country: New Excerpt

Rebecca Morris and Gregg Olsen

A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal, and a Cold-blooded Murder by Gregg Olsen, Rebecca MorrisA Killing in Amish Country by Gregg Olsen & Rebecca Morris is a terrifying story of a community that has become undone by its appealing young pastor (Available July 7, 2016).

At just 30 years old, with dark-blonde hair and freckles, Barbara Weaver was as pretty as the women depicted on the covers of her favorite “bonnet” stories - romance novels set in Amish America. Barbara had everything she'd ever wanted: five beautiful children, a home, her faith, and a husband named Eli. But while Barbara was happy to live as the Amish have for centuries - without modern conveniences, Eli was tempted by technology: cell phones, the Internet, and sexting. Online he called himself “Amish Stud” and found no shortage of “English” women looking for love and sex. Twice he left Barbara and their children, was shunned, begged for forgiveness, and had been welcomed back to the church.

Barb Raber was raised Amish, but is now a Conservative Mennonite. She drove Eli to appointments in her car, and she gave him what he wanted when he wanted: a cell phone, a laptop, rides to his favorite fishing and hunting places, and, most importantly, sex. When Eli starts asking people to kill his wife for him, Barb offers to help. One night, just after Eli had hitched a ride with a group of men to go fishing in the hours before dawn, Barb Raber entered the Weaver house and shot Barbara Weaver in the chest at close range.

It was only the third murder in hundreds of years of Amish life in America, and it fell to Edna Boyle, a young assistant prosecutor to seek justice for Barbara Weaver.



Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to? He hates me to the core.

A pleasant stillness is one of the hallmarks of most June nights in Apple Creek, Ohio. No incessant chatter coming from the television. No buzzing of fluorescent lights. None of the loud voices that come from people who have had too much to drink and something to prove. Nothing wafts over the hilly terrain but the softness of warm air circulating around the plain white farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings that dot much of Wayne and Holmes Counties, where most of America’s Amish people live.

[Read the full excerpt from A Killing in Amish Country...]

Jun 29 2016 4:00pm

Q&A with Rick Campbell, Author of Ice Station Nautilus

Rick Campbell, author of Ice Station Nautilus, spent more than 20 years on multiple submarine tours. Now, he writes submarine-based military thrillers.

Rick was kind enough to take some time from his busy schedule to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about submarines, how they navigate, and how his experiences influence his novels.

[Read the full Q&A here...]

Jun 29 2016 3:00pm

The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth: A Visual Guide

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

This week, crash into a visual summary of the plot of the 1st Sheriff Hank Worth Mystery by Claire Booth, The Branson Beatuy.

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Jun 29 2016 1:00pm

Review: The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum is the 1st book in the thrilling Janson series, recently re-released in paperback and available now!

This book is a beast—it’s terrific, powerful, superbly written, and has a lot of pages. Robert Ludlum is a master storyteller. He is at the very top of his game with this breathless, seamless rollercoaster of a tale.

More demons exist for Paul Janson than any one person has a right to claim. So many, he could lend some out to the inhabitants of a small island and still have some to spare, to beat himself with, whenever he so wished.

But, demons don’t work in numbers, they work in strength. One demon can drive you into an emotional wasteland faster than fifty different ones amassed over a lifetime. We all have them, just not in the same numbers or strength. I am actually surprised we have any, as Janson seems to have grabbed the lot—doubts about his past actions, doubts about his power, doubts about his strength, and how all three have affected other people he has come into contact in his life.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Janson Directive...]

Jun 29 2016 12:30pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: June 28, 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...]

Jun 29 2016 11:30am

Cover Reveal: Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith is a rare find—a gutsy, visceral, and beautifully crafted psychological thriller (Available March 2017).

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she returns home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students was pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders: If he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Follow Me Down is a clever and remarkable novel about one woman’s desperate search for her twin brother that pulled me in from the very first page, then kept me engrossed all the way to the end with a dark and twisty plot and a town that’s a living breathing character of its own.” —Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Those Girls

“No one can be trusted as the flawed but sympathetic protagonist struggles to find her missing twin brother. This engrossing page turner will keep you guessing right up to the delicious ending.”
—Diane Chamberlain, USA Today bestselling author of The Silent Sister


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Books a MillionBuy at Amazon



When not writing, Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.

Jun 29 2016 10:00am

Pushing Up Daisies: New Excerpt

M.C. Beaton

Pushing Up Daisies by M.C. BeatonM.C. Beaton's Pushing Up Daisies is book #27 in the Agatha Raisin series (Available September 20, 2016).

When Agatha Raisin left behind her PR business in London, she fulfilled her dream of settling in the cozy British Cotswolds where she began a successful private detective agency. Unfortunately, the village she lives in is about to get a little less cozy. Lord Bellington, a wealthy land developer, wants to turn the community garden into a housing estate. When Agatha and her friend Sir Charles Fraith attempt to convince Lord Bellington to abandon his plans he scoffs: “Do you think I give a damn about those pesky villagers?” So when Agatha finds his obituary in the newspaper two weeks later, it’s no surprise that some in town are feeling celebratory.

The villagers are relieved to learn that Bellington’s son and heir, Damian, has no interest in continuing his father’s development plans. But the police are definitely interested in him—as suspect number one. His father’s death, it seems, was no accident. But when Damian hires Agatha to find the real killer, she finds no shortage of suspects. The good news is that a handsome retired detective named Gerald has recently moved to town. Too bad he was seen kissing another newcomer. But when she is also found murdered, Gerald is eager to help Agatha with the case. Agatha, Gerald, and her team of detectives must untangle a web of contempt in order to uncover a killer’s identity.

Preorder Pushing Up Daisies here by September 5th and get a custom tea towel from M.C. Beaton!


Agatha Raisin, private detective, resident in the Cotswold village of Carsely, should have been a contented and happy woman.  Business at her agency was brisk.  It was a rare fine English autumn.  But the serpent of jealousy was hissing in her ear.  Agatha had been jealous of women before but never in one hundred years had she expected to be jealous of her best friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife.

There was a newcomer in the village, Gerald Devere, a retired New Scotland Yard detective and, of all people, Mrs. Bloxby appeared smitten.  She had dyed her hair a rich brown and had taken to wearing attractive clothes instead of her usual old droopy ones.

[Read the full excerpt from Pushing Up Daisies...]

Jun 28 2016 4:30pm

My Time in Egypt: Inspiration for Shooting the Sphinx

Read this exclusive guest post from Avram Noble Ludwig, author of Shooting the Sphinx, about the difficulties and experiences he faced in Egypt that inspired the novel, and then, make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!

I first went to Egypt in 2005 to shoot a helicopter shot of the Sphinx for a Hollywood action movie. I remember stepping off the plane behind an Egyptian family from Great Neck Long Island—a mom, a dad, and their teenage daughter.

“I can’t believe I’m in Egypt!” the teenager kept repeating, in an accent as Jewish as any Bat Mitzvah girl from the Five Towns. “I can’t believe I’m in Egypt!”

Neither could I.

“Wait, just wait ‘til you drink the water from the Nile,” said the mother in the same Jewish accent. “Then you’ll believe you’re in Egypt.”

[Read more about Avram's travels in Egypt...]

Jun 28 2016 3:15pm

Review: Panacea by F. Paul Wilson

Panacea by F. Paul Wilson follows two secret societies vying for control of the ultimate medical miracle, a cure-all called panacea (Available July 5, 2016).

Laura Fanning, deputy medical examiner for Suffolk County, has analyzed a charred body, discovering no evidence of murder—and, in fact, she notes the pristine internal organs are healthy and that the victim died before the suspicious house fire leveled the place.

Answers begin trickling in when a second person, Chaim “Chet” Brody, dies with a similar healthy constitution—only this time the fire department managed to douse the flames before the cadaver was completely immolated. Laura discovers that both men had tattoos featuring a line crossing over a shooting star and a snake coiled around what appears to be a human femur (readers are treated to a visual of a hand-drawn illustration, but why it’s repeated later on multiple pages depicting a single alteration in the line angle remains a mystery to me). Laura also observes that before Brody’s death, he had cryptically scrawled the number 536 in the palm of his hand.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Panacea...]

Jun 28 2016 1:00pm

Serial Killer Calling Cards: Winners Revealed!

Serial killers, for better or for worse, are some of the more infamous characters in history. As fascination mixes with fear, the gruesome and torturous killings become the stuff of nightmares. We don't want to see, but we can't look away.

Often, the killers revel in the spotlight — it's what drives them. Some even go so far as to taunt the police, the media, and the public with “calling cards” left at the scene to “mark” their kill.

And after reading Spencer Kope's Collecting the Dead, this got us thinking about all these other notorious characters, both real and fictitious, and their calling cards.

So, we asked YOU, the readers, to tell us what would be your calling card—and let me say, your answers were very creative! We had everything from killer grannies to red-eyed gnomes to ladybugs to an evil Chilly Willy.

However, there could only be 3 winners.

[See the winning cards below!]

Jun 28 2016 11:45am

How Would You Dispose of a Body?

Anyone can be a killer—but the disposal of a body can be a difficult task. Doing it successfully can mean the difference between freedom and a lifetime behind bars.

There are several different examples in pop culture of successfully getting rid of a dead body—some more graceful than others…

So, if it were up to YOU, how would you choose to dispose of a corpse?

Vote below:

survey service

Image via Shutterstock and Uproxx

Jun 28 2016 10:00am

Lowcountry Book Club: New Excerpt

Susan M. Boyer

Lowcountry Book Club by Susan M. Boyer Lowcountry Book Club by Susan M. Boyer is book #5 in the Liz Talbot Mystery series (Available July 5, 2016).

Somebody pushed Shelby Poinsett out her second-floor library window and it wasn’t her husband. At least that’s what Charleston’s most prestigious law firm wants Liz Talbot to prove. Liz must run the spectrum of Southern society, from the local homeless shelter where Shelby volunteered to the one-hundred-year-old book club where Charleston’s genteel ladies are dying to join, to bring a killer to justice.


The dead are not abundantly sympathetic to their own. My best friend, Colleen, passed through the veil and into the great mystery eighteen years ago next month. She shed no tears over Shelby Scott Poinsett Gerhardt.

The photos of Shelby sprawled lifeless as a rag doll in the brick courtyard of her Tradd Street home would haunt me. I passed them to Nate, who was seated to my right in Fraser Rutledge’s—a senior partner at Rutledge and Radcliffe—office.

“She’ll be much happier now.” Colleen’s tone rang casual to my ear. She should be ashamed of herself.

[Read the full excerpt from Lowcountry Book Club...]

Jun 27 2016 3:00pm

Endeavour: 3.02 “Arcadia” Review

An artist named Simon Hallward is sleeping peacefully in his flat when the clock strikes 5 a.m. and the place goes up in flames. Accidental or deliberate? You can guess what our friend Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) thinks.

His suspicion is enough to convince D.I. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) that Hallward might have been done in by someone else—and from what we’ve seen, murder seems a likely assumption.

Endeavour has himself a case. He also has himself a new colleague, one WPC Shirley Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards, late of The Golden Compass and Skins). If her name is any indication, we have a pretty good idea where this will lead. (We know by now that characters in Endeavour are rarely named arbitrarily.) Morse has already pronounced her work “commendably thorough.” That’s a veritable valentine.

One person who hasn’t been receiving valentines is Leo Richardson (Richard Dillane), head of the Richardson’s supermarket chain. Someone has been leaving threatening letters for him in his stores. A rumor that Richardson’s is selling embargoed sugar from Rhodesia brings protestors out in force. And the merchandise in Richardson’s stores has been tampered with. The consequences are dire—someone’s already died from the tainted food.

Things are turning ugly in Series 3, Episode 2 of Endeavour. And that’s not even counting the bloater paste Mrs. Thursday packed for Fred’s lunch.

[Cheese and pickle suddenly sounds mighty appealing...]

Jun 27 2016 2:00pm

In Search of a Word

Read this exclusive guest post from Tricia Fields, author of Midnight Crossing, about that inescapable feeling of content when you're “home,” and then, make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of the newest Josie Gray novel!

Sitting on the side porch this evening, I’m watching a lightning storm light up the jagged horizon across the woods beyond our hayfield. The rain is traveling across the field in a sheet, the wind whipping the tree tops like ragdolls. The garden soil and stone wall beyond the porch are wet but manage to smell fresh, washed clean from the rain. A charcoal colored sky fills the top third of my vista. Under it, a strip of golden hay ready for harvest, and then a deep green strip of clover that surrounds the field. The three distinct colors remind me of the stripes on a flag, the flag of a rural Indiana summer storm: gray, gold and green.

[Home is where the heart is...or something like that]

Jun 27 2016 1:30pm

Game of Thrones 6.10: Season Finale “The Winds of Winter”

Game of Thrones

I don’t know if it’s possible to properly explain just how perfect and rewarding “The Winds of Winter” was. In today’s binge-able society, instant gratification is the new norm. We consume media like the Hound consumes chicken, and when we’re denied this right, we sincerely debate picking up an axe and bashing in some skulls. We are a world averse to cliffhangers, and even more so, we loathe being told to wait. All this is to say, that even with our current need for immediate fulfillment, George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series has thrived despite the fact that he writes slower than a Lancel Lannister crawl. It’s a testament to Martin’s brilliant storytelling that we still care so much, and he has set up this tale for a chaotic and exhilarating conclusion.  But until last night, that was all it was – a setup. A Dance of Dragons published in 2011, and A Feast for Crows in 2005. Those two books covered the same amount of time, essentially splitting the characters in half. So for many fans of the series, they’ve been waiting more than a decade to see what happens when you put Cersei in a corner. Even more so, A Game of Thrones hit shelves in 1996, meaning the most die-hard fans have waited for 20 years to find out what actually happened in the Tower of Joy.

Now I haven’t been a fan for 20 years – I discovered the show after Season 2 and read all of the books before Season 3 – but I am most definitely a new-age die-hard. I have spent hours upon hours reading, theorizing, and submerging myself in the wonderful world of Westeros (and hours upon hours complaining about the mundane world of Meereen). And while it’s been an absolute blast to try and predict the inner workings of Martin’s labyrinthine mind, it pales in comparison to the 69-minute-long adrenaline rush that was “The Winds of Winter.” From the haunting musical score that stippled the episode and the lingering despair left in the wake of Davos’s anguish, to the goosebump-inducing KING IN DA NORF and the jaw-dropping scope of Daenerys’s army, this episode was as undoubtedly perfect.

But there’s a catch. You may have heard that The Great War is still to come, and with the exception of Jon Snow and company, no one seems to either know or care. So I urge you to savor this moment right now, because winter has arrived, and it’s going to be brutal.

[How do you only choose one riser…]

Jun 27 2016 12:00pm

Review: Rancher’s Law by Dusty Richards

Rancher's Law by Dusty Richards is a classic Western that follows Luther Haskell, who must make his way through the good, the bad, and the damned in pursuit of a cold-blooded killer with a plan of his own (Available June 28, 2016).

For unethical ranchers like Matt McKean, the high prevalence of land and cattle disputes makes the Arizona Territory’s Christopher Basin ripe for the pickings; he’ll go beyond his power to take advantage of a situation that might bolster his own wealth. And, when the opportunity arises to accuse three men of cattle rustling on evidence that amounts to less than nothing, he whips other simple-minded ranchers into a fever and then stands in as judge and executioner at the hanging.

Matt moved back. Each rancher held a coiled lariat in his hand. At his nod, they busted the horses on their butts. The mounts charged away. The unmistakable snap of spines cracked like gun shots. Two of them. Burtle’s noose failed, and he danced in midair gurgling and strangling. The rustler fouled his pants and the stench filled the air.  

[Read David Cranmer's review of Rancher's Law...]