Audiobook Review: <i>The Lost Order</i> by Steve Berry Audiobook Review: The Lost Order by Steve Berry Deborah Lacy Read Deborah Lacy's review! Review: <i>The Devil's Feast</i> by M. J. Carter Review: The Devil's Feast by M. J. Carter Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review! <i>Of Books and Bagpipes</i>: New Excerpt Of Books and Bagpipes: New Excerpt Paige Shelton The 2nd book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series. Review: <i>Conviction</i> by Julia Dahl Review: Conviction by Julia Dahl Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review!
From The Blog
March 28, 2017
Q&A with Laura Caldwell & Leslie S. Klinger
John Valeri, Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger
March 23, 2017
Review: Personal Shopper (2017)
Peter Foy
March 21, 2017
Q&A with Gretchen Archer, Author of Double Up
Crime HQ and Gretchen Archer
March 17, 2017
Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)
Angie Barry
March 16, 2017
Research Ride-Along
kristen lepionka
Mar 30 2017 4:30pm

Channeling Austen: How I Found Inspiration for Love & Death in Burgundy

Read this exclusive guest post from Susan Shea about where she drew inspiration from for Love & Death in Burgundy, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win this wonderful French-themed mystery!

When I began writing what became Love & Death in Burgundy, the 1st of my French-themed mysteries, I wasn’t entirely sure what shape it would take. It was inspired by two friends who chucked their California lives and moved to France. She was an artist, spoke French, and had lived in Europe for a few months in an earlier life. He was an Idaho cowboy and musician who had not a word of French but would do anything to please his wife, even though they didn’t have much money. I was intrigued by the adventure they had chosen and wondered if they could pull it off.

[Read more from Susan C. Shea!]

Mar 30 2017 3:00pm

Operation Antiquity: From Thailand with Love

A crowd gathered outside the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, on the morning of January 24, 2008. They weren’t museum junkies; they were federal agents raiding the place. By the end of the day, 500 FBI, IRS, and Customs agents had hit the Bowers and 12 other targets, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Diego’s Mingei International Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, the Silk Roads Design Gallery in Los Angeles, and Barry MacLean, a private collector in Chicago. In all, agents seized over 10,000 smuggled antiquities from Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and China.

Rewind to the late 1970s.

Robert Olson, a former steel salesman, went to a friend’s wedding in Thailand. There, he bought some antique pottery from Ban Chiang, a Neolithic settlement in the country’s far northeast.

When he returned to Los Angeles, Olson decided to sell his 73-piece Native America ladle collection. He contacted Armand Labbé, the Bowers Museum’s chief curator, in 1979. Olson says Labbé offered to take half the ladles as a donation and would arrange for someone to buy the other half for $10,000. And, by the way, those Thai pots are nice—can you get more?

[Oh, the power of greed...]

Mar 30 2017 1:00pm

Audiobook Review: The Lost Order by Steve Berry (Read by Scott Brick)

The Lost Order Writer’s Cut Audio Edition is written and annotated by Steve Berry and narrated by Scott Brick. It is the 12th installment in the Cotton Malone series (available April 4, 2017).

Take a visual tour of The Lost Order with GIFnotes!

Steve Berry is one of my favorite thriller writers not only because the stories are entertaining and action-packed, but also because of the way he weaves real historical events into his modern-day stories. I’ve read all of the books in his Cotton Malone series and loved them. If you’ve never read Steve Berry, think National Treasure only better. With the Writer’s Cut Audio Edition of his latest novel, The Lost Order, you get excellent narration from veteran reader Scott Brick and the occasional insight on research or characterization from Berry. 

[Read Deborah Lacy's review of The Lost Order...]

Mar 30 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter

The Devil's Feast by M. J. Carter is the 3rd book in the Blake and Avery series in which the investigative team find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England’s first celebrity chef.

“...Sins, Captain Avery, sins express real truths about men. And every profession, it seems to me, has its typical sin. A version of what we in France call its déformation professionelle. For you soldiers, Captain, the sin is anger. For a soldier, anger is so tempting, is it not? Because it is not always a sin. Sometimes, a man must be angry in order to fight, non? And we know in our hearts that it is easier to feel anger than to feel fear. Somebody watching a kitchen in full service might think that there is much anger in a kitchen. The heat and the urgency produce this. But anger is not the chef's besetting sin. You might then conclude that it must be gluttony, since all of our days we are surrounded by enticements to eat and drink. But this too is not so. The chief sin of the chef and the kitchen, Captain Avery, is envy.”

London, 1842. Captain Avery, a soldier who made his name fighting tigers and wars in India, hasn't been in England long before getting mixed up in another mystery. His partner in crime, Jeremiah Blake, has been thrown into the debtors prison on a trumped-up charge—all because Blake refuses to accept the latest commission from his tyrannical patron, Collinson. 

This alone should be enough to worry Avery, who has tried to convince his stubborn friend to submit to no avail.

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Devil's Feast...]

Mar 30 2017 10:00am

Of Books and Bagpipes: New Excerpt

Paige Shelton

Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton is the 2nd book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series (available April 4, 2017).

Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.

While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder.

[Read an excerpt from Of Books and Bagpipes...]

Mar 29 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs

The 18th installment of the Tea Shop Mystery series has our heroine, the beautiful and clever Theodosia Browning, attending a Rat Tea—a reprise of the charitable events that helped eradicate rat infestations in early 20th-century Charleston, South Carolina. Along with Drayton—the sommelier of the tea shop she owns—she is the guest of Doreen Briggs, social powerhouse and devoted wife of Beau, until poor Beau drops dead of poisoning.

Intrepid Theo does her best to save him but to no avail. Her grace under pressure is not lost on the otherwise rapidly collapsing Doreen, who engages Theo to find out whether someone really did poison Beau’s cup of pekoe and help bring the murderer to justice, if so. Drayton, somewhat uncharacteristically, is encouraging. Doreen has promised the historical society for which Drayton volunteers a very large grant if Theo is able to solve the case. This somewhat offsets Theo’s reluctance, as does the involvement of a handsome police detective who is coming into his own at the Charleston PD.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Mar 29 2017 3:00pm

Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey: A Visual Guide

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

Compelling and witty, Duels and Deception is perfect for readers who like their historical fiction with a side of intrigue. Take a visual tour of Cindy Anstey's Regency romance with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Mar 29 2017 2:00pm

The Detective of My Dreams

Read this exclusive guest post from Kaite Welsh about her fascination with Sherlock Holmes, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win her thrilling debut novel, The Wages of Sin!

I met the man of my dreams in the school library during a rainy September. I was between books, and I had been making eyes at The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a giant hardback that took up most of the shelf, for a couple of days. I don’t think I put it down for the two weeks it took me to finish it, sneaking chapters like cookies from a jar—a page here in the hubbub before a test, a few more there while I was loading the dishwasher. To this day, I can't stop at just one case. 

There’s a phase I think every Holmes fan goes through, whether they encounter the Great Detective through the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books or via the perfectly sculpted cheekbones and dulcet tones of Benedict Cumberbatch. Suddenly, every tiny detail takes on a greater meaning—the mud tracked in from the hockey pitch and the crumbs on a school tie all start to tell a story. It gave me a love of forensic detail that may never solve a crime in real life but has at least given me an impressive batting average when it comes to guessing fictional murderers. 

[I'm thinking Negan has the best batting average for fictional murders...]

Mar 29 2017 1:00pm

Review: Conviction by Julia Dahl

Conviction by Julia Dahl is the 3rd book in the Rebekah Roberts series.

The 3rd book in Julia Dahl’s Rebekah Roberts series makes me feel like a schmendrick for not having read the first two books, Invisible City and Run You Down. Good thing that Conviction works flawlessly as a standalone—and a potent reminder of what crime fiction can accomplish when a writer is at the top of her game. 

Daringly set in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots, Dahl alternates between the violent Brooklyn of the 90s and the gentrified, trendy borough of today. Roberts is a journalist at the least-respected paper in the city, angling for a big story that will get her noticed for her investigative reporting. She chats with a true crime blogger who has a letter from an inmate who’s been locked up for twenty years: DeShawn Davis, convicted of the brutal murder of his foster parents and their toddler daughter. 

It was an infamous crime at a time when Brooklyn racked up four or five murders a day and an overworked justice system handed down harsh sentences to “superpredators”—many of whom have since been exonerated. DeShawn’s story doesn’t sound like any “I didn’t do it” prisoner letter. He recanted his confession, plead not guilty, and was punished for not taking a plea.

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of Conviction...]

Mar 29 2017 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: March 28, 2017

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 has something for every kind of mystery fan! Looking for a trip to the past? Bestseller Andrew Taylor released a hot new historical thriller set during the aftermath of The Great Fire of London. Cozies more to your taste? You'll be purring with pleasure at the first in a new series by Mandy Morton. See what else this week brings in the way of books:

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

Mar 29 2017 10:00am

Dying on the Vine: New Excerpt

Marla Cooper

Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper is the 2nd book in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries series (available April 4, 2017).

When wedding planner Kelsey McKenna goes to the Wine Country Wedding Faire, the last thing she expects to do is take on new clients. After all, she’s just there to help out her friend Brody and maybe score some free cupcakes. But when a young couple in a pinch asks for her help, she just can't say no.

There’s only one problem: they’d been working with Babs Norton, the self-proclaimed Queen of Wine Country Weddings—and things did not end well. Kelsey wants to make sure there are no hard feelings, but unfortunately she never gets the chance. When she goes to Babs’ office, she finds the wedding planner dead on the floor.

Babs' high-strung assistant Stefan knows exactly who killed Babs: Kelsey. At least, that's what he very publicly accuses her of at Babs' funeral. When Kelsey decides to do a little sleuthing to clear her name, she uncovers a myriad of secrets and lies. And when a second wedding planner is attacked, Kelsey begins to wonder if she might be next.

[Read an excerpt from Dying on the Vine...]

Mar 28 2017 4:15pm

Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul?

Writer and creator Vince Gilligan struck gold back in 2008 when the first episode of Breaking Bad premiered. After 5 seasons of watching the transformation of Walter White to Heisenberg, critics and audiences alike list the show as one of the best of all time. 

After the success of Breaking Bad, Gilligan decided another character’s story needed telling. In 2015, Saul Goodman got his own show, Better Call Saul, as a spinoff prequel to the Breaking Bad story. The first two seasons have garnered a similar level of critical acclaim. 

With Season 3 of Better Call Saul quickly approaching, we wanted to know which show you like better. Is it the origin story of “Slippin’ Jimmy”? Or the tragic story of “Heisenberg”?

[Vote for which show you like better!]

Mar 28 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Laura Caldwell & Leslie S. Klinger, Co-Editors of Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger are co-editors of Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted (available March 28, 2017), which pairs genre luminaries such as Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Laurie R. King, Jan Burke, and S. J. Rozan with exonerated inmates to illuminate the realities of wrongful conviction.

Recently, Ms. Caldwell and Mr. Klinger generously agreed to answer some questions about their collaborative process and the intent behind Anatomy of Innocence.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Mar 28 2017 1:00pm

Review: My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman is a witty, engrossing homage to noir (available March 28, 2017).

Jacob Rigolet, “a soon-to-be former assistant to a wealthy art collector,” is attending an auction and preparing to make a bid. Out of nowhere, his mother—resident of the Nova Scotia Rest Hospital and former Head Librarian at the Halifax Free Library—appears. Why is she on the lam from her lock-down medical facility? Shockingly, Nora Rigolet, née Ives, tosses a jar of black ink at the Robert Capa photograph Death on a Leipzig BalconyHoward Norman weaves the work of famed war photographer Robert Capa into the story. The auction attendees on March 19th, 1977, would certainly have been acquainted with the work of Capa’s photographs.

Nora Rigolet dubs her detective interrogator, Martha Crauchet, an “interlocutrix.” Stretching credulity but completely necessary to this compelling noir-ish tale, Martha is also Jacob’s fiancée. The mystery behind Nora’s action lies in events that took place years earlier. Unbelievably, Martha tells Jacob that his father, deceased war hero Bernard Rigolet, is not his real father. Who was his father then? Is he still alive?

[Read Janet Webb's review of My Darling Detective...]

Mar 28 2017 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole Part III

Last week, we got a story within a story within a story. This week, we reveal the Skin-Man in a terrifying scene as we close out The Wind Through the Keyhole

In Wizard and Glass, we discovered that Roland had accidentally killed his mother and returned a crystal ball from Maerlyn’s Rainbow to his father. His newest ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy—are following The Path of the Beam when they encounter Marten, now calling himself Randall Flagg, in a twisted version of Emerald City. Roland just misses killing Flagg but managed to gun down Andrew Quick, aka Tick-Tock Man, who was working for Flagg.

The Wind Through The Keyhole was written to chronologically follow Wizard and Glass even though it was released in 2012, long after the 7th novel, The Dark Tower (2004). For that reason, we have decided to continue Roland’s adventures in sequential order since Stephen King calls it The Dark Tower 4.5.

Come join us … before the world moves on.

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

This is a shorter book with only five sections, so the plan is to split the book into three parts (about 100 pages each) 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, we reveal the Skin-Man in a terrifying scene as we close out The Wind Through the Keyhole! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part III of The Wind Through the Keyhole: The Skin-Man (Part 2) – Storm's Over!

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[And so it happened, once upon a bye...]

Mar 28 2017 10:00am

Date with Death: New Excerpt

Julia Chapman

Date with Death by Julia Chapman is the newest installation in the delightful Samson and Delilah Mystery series (available April 4, 2017).

Samson O'Brien has been dismissed from the police force—quite unfairly, according to him. Now back in his home town of Bruncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales, Samson sets up the Dales Detective Agency while he fights to clear his name. However, the people of Bruncliffe aren't entirely welcoming to a man they see as trouble.

Delilah Metcalfe, meanwhile, is struggling to keep her business, the Dales Dating Agency, afloat. When Samson gets his first case, investigating the supposed suicide of a local man, things take an unexpected turn, and soon he discovers a trail of deaths that lead back to the door of Delilah's agency.

With suspicion hanging over someone they both care for, Delilah and Samson soon realize that they need to work together to solve the mystery of the dating deaths. But working together is easier said than done, and the couple must find a way to kiss and make up before more villagers wind up dead.

[Read an excerpt from Date with Death...]

Mar 27 2017 5:00pm

Wedding Cozies and Crime Fiction Couples

Love is in the air this spring with new wedding cozies, so we asked authors Maggie McConnon and Marla Cooper to share which crime fiction couple they would want to work for. Read their responses below and sign in and comment at the bottom for a chance to win a copy of Bel of the Brawl AND Dying on the Vine!

[Learn how to win!]

Mar 27 2017 4:20pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.15: “Something They Need”

Last night on The Walking Dead: Search for the Fish People, the showrunners finally caught the viewers up with the inevitable. Tara flipped on the Fish People, Sasha's idiotic plan yielded predictable results, and Dwight made a (surprise?) appearance in Alexandria.

Also—rejoice, all ye put-upon viewers hate-watching due to sheer obstinance! The season finale is nigh, and odds are good it'll be about as satisfying as most of the rest of this season has been so far. In most other shows, Rick's crew would've come together a couple of episodes ago, last night would have been about everyone arriving for the final showdown, culminating in a 90-minute battle of ups and downs between the Saviors and Alexandria, et al. But TWD, in all its infinite wisdom, is eschewing convention.

Anyone want to lay odds on whether we even get to see the beginning of this fight next week? We're about 70% convinced the finale is going to end with everyone assembling and staring at each other before the show peaces out for another year. If last season proved anything, it's that TWD is not at all adverse to anti-climactic finales.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Mar 27 2017 2:00pm

Review: Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub is the 3rd and final book in the Mundy's Landing Trilogy (available March 28, 2017).

“We shall never tell.” This cryptic phrase, discovered in a centuries-old letter, is the driving force that propels Emerson Mundy on a decisive search for truth in Bone White, the final book in New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s Mundy’s Landing Trilogy. Consumed by grief over her father’s death and looking to escape the attention of an overzealous boyfriend, Emerson skips town to travel cross-country from California to Mundy’s Landing, New York. There, she hopes to reclaim her ancestral heritage—but soon finds that the family name is a burden to bear.

Mundy’s Landing—a seemingly idyllic Hudson River Valley town—has a dark past that continually haunts its present. Despite the recent resolution of the infamous Sleeping Beauty Murders (see 2016’s Mary Higgins Clark Award-nominated Blue Moon), there’s another skeleton in the village’s proverbial closet: a cannibalization scandal that sent founding colonists James and Elizabeth Mundy to the gallows, leaving their three children—and future generations—to protect the family’s carefully safeguarded secrets. But when aged town historian Aurora “Ora” Abrams proffers a long-hidden disembodied skull for forensic analysis—the results of which harken back to that fateful winter of 1666, when starvation plagued the settlement—she inadvertently sets in motion yet another series of sordid affairs.

[Read John Valeri's review of Bone White...]

Mar 27 2017 1:00pm

If We Were Villains: Audio Excerpt

M. L. Rio

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio is an intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed debut novel—a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words (available April 11, 2017).

Listen to an exclusive audio excerpt from If We Were Villains, and then follow the link below to sign up for a chance to win a free digital download card for the audiobook!

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

Take a visual tour of If We Were Villains with GIFnotes!

[Listen to an exclusive early audio excerpt!]