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. <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!
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 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

Naked In Death by J.D. Robb is the 1st book in the In Death series featuring Detective Eve Dallas. 

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...]

Dec 6 2016 10:00am

Interview: Duane Swierczynski talks The Black Hood and comiXology

The Black Hood comes to comiXology Unlimited this month!

Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, including Revolver and the Edgar-nominated Canary. He has also written for characters such as Deadpool, Punisher, Black Widow, and Cable, in addition to his work on several currently running comic series. 

Recently, comiXology released Duane's painkiller-addicted, vigilante series, The Black Hood. We got a chance to talk to Mr. Swierczynski about what it's like writing novels vs. comics, his work on The Black Hood, and the current state of comics. 

Check out the full interview below, as well as a full list of what's coming to (and leaving) comiXology in December!

[Read the full interview below...]

Dec 5 2016 5:00pm

Westworld Season Finale, 1.10: “The Bicameral Mind” Episode Review

The Westworld creators have certainly kept their cards close to their vests, keeping us guessing for most of the season while adding plenty of teaser tidbits along the way that, when all put in place, cause you look back and say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” It was all right in front of us the entire time, just like Dolores’s (Evan Rachel Wood) answer in her own search (Did you find what you were looking for?).

The use of flashbacks serves as a critical tool for the show, and the entire season is basically three-quarters backstory with one-quarter “present” thrown in. But it’s not until the man in black (Ed Harris) reveals himself as William that this aspect becomes clear, and we realize that everything we watched of William (Jimmi Simpson), Logan (Ben Barnes), and Dolores was all in the past … some thirty-five years ago (according to Ford’s account). I was wondering, in the moment, how the man in black knew so well the story of William as he was retelling it to Dolores.

[From white hat to black...]

Dec 5 2016 4:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.07: “Sing Me a Song”

Finally an episode that remembered different storylines can be featured in the same hour and a half. While we thankfully returned to the world of competent storytelling, we were still met with a pretty weak episode. You'd think after introducing a brutal new villain and two new societies, we could get some sense of variety. Nope—Daryl's gonna Daryl, Negan's gonna Negan, Jesus's gonna ninja, and everything remains the same.

With shows that follow the weekly format, the audience usually forgets the filler episodes with time, remembering only the crazy scenes rather than the 8 hours of setup it took to get there. So, TWD ... I'ma let you finish—but you better bring your A-game next week or people just might not return after the break.

Ach, who are we kidding? What the hell else are we going to watch?

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

Dec 5 2016 1:00pm

Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals opens with a credits sequence that may very well go down as the most visceral and unexpected of the year. It’s a sequence that showcases obese naked women dancing and performing strange acts of jubilation, all while a dramatic orchestral score plays. It’s imagery that’s morose and comical at the same time, and at the end, it’s revealed to be a video piece for an art opening that protagonist Susan is curating. This opening certainly gains the viewer’s undivided attention with ease, but like Nocturnal Animals itself, the opening is duplicitous eye candy and confused towards its own artistry.

Yet, it also is a fitting setup for the film’s plot. Susan (Amy Adams) is a gallery operator in Los Angeles who dresses in elegance and modern art, which also seems to mask her unsatisfying marriage and financial woes. Susan, however, soon receives a surprising gift from her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). Tony has written a novel that is going to be published, but he’s sent his manuscript to Susan as well as dedicated the book to her.

[Aww, how sweet...]

Dec 5 2016 12:00pm

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency 1.07: “Weaponized Soul” Episode Review

We’re almost to the finish line, and things are wrapping up nicely—but there are still some unanswered questions for the finale to fill in. This week’s review contains a lot of spoilers, but they’re impossible to avoid. So make sure to catch up before reading this … you’ve been warned.   

When we left off last episode, Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) was assuring us he’d solved the case while he and Todd (Elijah Wood) put their hands on the Unlimited Energy Device and pulled the lever before we cut to the credits. At the opening of this episode, we see that the time machine indeed works. It zaps you back in time, but you remain in the same location as when you started. So Dirk and Todd are still in the Animal Transfer Unit at the zoo, but they’ve been transported back to the point when the bad guys stole Lydia, hooked her up to the soul switching machine, and swapped her out for the Corgi.

[Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey stuff...]

Dec 5 2016 11:00am

Read an Excerpt of Echoes In Death by J.D. Robb!

In anticipation of the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th In Death novel, Echoes In Death (Available February 7, 2017), CrimeHQ is going to be embarking on quite a journey, reviewing every Eve Dallas novel in publication! Beginning Thursday, December 8th with Naked In Death, we will be reviewing the entire series chronologically!

Before we kick things off, head over to Entertainment Weekly to read the entire 1st chapter online!

As NY Lt. Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke are driving home, a young woman―dazed, naked, and bloody―suddenly stumbles out in front of their car. Roarke slams on the brakes and Eve springs into action.

Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it’s too late for her husband Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him “the devil”...

While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked, this is one case where the evidence doesn’t point to the spouse. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:

What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

Head over to EW and read the exclusive 1st chapter!

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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