FM: <i>The Counterfeit Heiress</i> by Tasha Alexander FM: The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander Angie Barry Not everyone is who they seem... FM: <i>Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld</i> by Jake Halpern FM: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern Lance Charnes Debt collecting is cutthroat. FM: <i>Murder at the Brightwell</i> by Ashley Weaver FM: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver Leigh Neely Love triangles and murder don't mix! FM: <i>Truth Be Told</i> by Hank Phillippi Ryan FM: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan Elizabeth Kerri Mahon Amid multiple murders, is Jake facing competition for Jane?
From The Blog
October 19, 2014
Laughter in the Dark: Nabokov's Original Femme Fatal
Edward A. Grainger
October 18, 2014
Horrific Hijinks: When Abbott and Costello Met Frankenstein
Michael Nethercott
October 17, 2014
Checking into The Knick 1.10: Season Finale "Crutchfield"
Joe Brosnan
October 17, 2014
Bahia Emerald: 840 lbs, almost 400 million dollars
Crime HQ
October 16, 2014
Vasiliy Fet Speaks: Kevin Durand on Working in Genre and The Strain
Angie Barry
Sun
Oct 19 2014 12:00pm
Sticky Post

Laughter in the Dark: Nabokov’s Original Femme Fatal

“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.”

That succinct paragraph opens Laughter in the Dark before Vladimir Nabokov dutifully unfolds the spiraling downward fall of middle-aged art critic Albert Albinus and his gripping obsession with the 16-year-old Margot Peters. The novel was first published in Russian in 1932 under the far more captivating title Camera Obscura, and twenty-three years later Nabokov would tackle a similar theme of an older man with a young girl in the groundbreaking Lolita. But, whereas the famed nymphet of the 1950s gains a certain amount of pity for her situation, Margot comes across for what she is: a spoiled, conniving, and ultimately quite cruel femme fatale.

An adulterous affair requires no other impetus than old fashion lust but Nabokov provides Albinus with two main ‘reasons’ for his travelling eye. His wife, Elisabeth, can be a bit dull between the sheets, or, in his own words, “she failed to give him the thrill for which he had grown weary with longing.”  He also finds her rather boring in conversation and doesn’t particularly appreciate her input when company is present. He admits he married the docile Elisabeth “because it just happened so.” Albinus spots the young Margot who, unbeknownst to him, has survived financially as a nude model, been ‘taken care’ of by an older woman who discreetly pimped her ‘innocence’, and finally turned to a life of prostitution for room and board. Still desperate and wondering if she would have to sell her furniture, she takes an ordinary job at a local movie theater that is routinely attended by Albinus.

[She may be unlucky, but she's not stupid...]

Fri
Oct 17 2014 11:00pm

Checking into The Knick 1.10: Season Finale “Crutchfield”

Season 1 of The Knick wrapped up with its finale, “Crutchfield,” where many of the characters attempted to resolve their ongoing problems by opting for a quick fix. Like the get-rich-quick schemes spammed throughout all comments sections online, sometimes it’s obvious that the quick choice isn’t the best option. But this wasn’t obvious for our characters in The Knick. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) refuses to let the popular Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) one-up him. Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) believes she has been backed into a corner. Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) is blindsided by the severity of his wife’s condition. And Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) looks to finally erase his ever-rising debt.

[This sounds ominous…]

Sat
Oct 18 2014 12:00pm

Horrific Hijinks: When Abbott and Costello Met Frankenstein

It was recess in St. Mary’s schoolyard. A handful of us boys, all eleven-ish, were discussing the merits of an old film recently re-broadcast on TV. The discussion soon took on the form of a confession, a mutual one, albeit different than the kind we were expected to make in the confines of the church confession booth. The film: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The confession: the fact that, despite the movie being a comedy, it still scared the shenanigans out of us (or words to that effect.) One after another of us came clean; each admission delivered in a semi-hushed tone like you might expect to hear in the confessional. Maybe we were afraid that one of our girl classmates would wander by and learn of our collective unmanliness.

Well, I’m now many years—many years—beyond my schoolboy days. I can finally raise my voice without shame to declare that, yes, numerous shenanigans were scared out of me when I first saw that movie. And that’s the beauty of it. Having recently re-watched the 1948 classic, I can testify that it still offers a lovely blend of chills and chortles. (Forgive me, Father, for I have alliterated.)

[Booooo...]

Fri
Oct 17 2014 3:30pm

How to Get Away with Murder 1.04: “Let’s Get to Scooping”

“We get to be spies!”

That’s Asher (Matt McGorry), the student whose only characterization so far has been ‘douchebag,’ finally showing his geeky side over a case in which the five law students get to snoop around a workplace. McGorry’s baby-face has been telling me that he’s actually the loveable douchebag of the cast, but this is the first time I’ve heard the dialogue support it.

And I’m glad he got that line in, because there wasn’t much time for any more substantial characterization. Once again, the episode was ripping at the seams with plot. But now that we’re getting into the season, the season-long threads are taking it slow – we only see Rebecca (Katie Findlay) and her murder charge at the beginning and end, for instance, though she is softening up to Wes (Alfred Enoch).

Instead, the case of the week is pushed to the front. The arrogant Marren Trudeau (Elizabeth Perkins), founder of her own brokerage firm, is being framed by an employee for insider trading, and, naturally, there’s a twist. Keating (Viola Davis) and company need to stop the case before it goes to trial. Luckily, they’re all just as stunningly competent outside the courtroom as inside. They all grill employees, Conner (Jack Falahee) seduces an assistant (I had no idea so much could be accomplished in the legal world through gay sex), there’s a suicide that gets glossed over after a minute, and they catch the criminals.

[All in all, pretty standard day...]

Fri
Oct 17 2014 12:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.03: “Massacres and Matinees”

One of the things I love most about Freak Show so far is the inclusion of actual people as the “freaks.”Sure, you have your effects makeup and your digital editing, but it’s refreshing to see the producers using entertainers like Mat Fraser (as Paul the Illustrated Seal), Rose Siggins (as Legless Suzi), and Jyoti Amge (as Ma Petite) for cast roles. I think it adds the genuine edge this season is looking for, the line between what is considered “normal”and what is deemed “unnatural.”

The opening scene felt like an homage to the movie Freaks, with everyone chanting Jimmy’s (Evan Peters) praises. Jimmy, of course, might need a course in anger management. I know your first murder can be stressful. Hang in there. Jimmy seems to be the motivating factor for the other performers; he’s desperate to prove himself worthy of respect (maybe don’t kill anyone else, then?) In his eyes, the freaks are “no better, no worse; just regular people.”

I like Jimmy. He’s a standup guy. This week’s diner scene struck me as one of the most powerful of all four seasons of American Horror Story. The horror in this case stems from it being the most real and accurate representation of how “normal”people treat “others.”It hurts to watch and it hurts more to know that on some level, we’re all guilty of assuming the worst about someone based on their looks.

[But in this show, the bizarre is more than skin-deep...]

Fri
Oct 17 2014 9:30am

The Bahia Emerald: 6 Years in Court, 840 Pounds, Almost 400 Million Dollars

The long-disputed ownership of the enormous Bahia Emerald may soon be simplified, as at least one claimant recently lost his legal bid. Ever since its discovery in Brazil in 2001, there have been strange, almost mythical, stories attached to the emerald, and genuine wrangling over the rights to the cluster of gem crystals, estimated to be worth almost 400 million dollars. According to the Telegraph:

The Bahia is one of the world's largest emeralds with about 180,000 carats and stands about three feet tall...

It was later said to have been stored at a warehouse in New Orleans that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and then stolen from another warehouse in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte. It was sighted briefly in Idaho before authorities finally seized it in Las Vegas in 2008.

The gem is now being held in storage by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department until the case is resolved.

If it's hard to get your head around how huge that really is, imagine something that weighs as much as a water buffalo on the evidence table.

Emerald image via National Geographic, Buffalo via Bajiroo.

Thu
Oct 16 2014 4:30pm

Vasiliy Fet Speaks: Kevin Durand on Working in Genre and The Strain

He may not be a household name but chances are you’ve seen his face before—especially if you’re a fan of horror or sci-fi. Kevin Durand has made a career out of being “that guy”: the hulking villain, the brawny sidekick, the hired muscle, the badass with a gun.

For many, he’ll probably always be Martin Keamy, one of the many memorable baddies on Lost.

“I thought it was going to be one episode, and I thought, ‘Well, it would just be nice to go to Hawaii.’ I went out there and we all kind of fell in love. I loved what they were writing, they loved what I was doing,” Durand says of that role.

It’s a good thing he impressed producer Carlton Cuse so much on Lost, seeing as how that led to his current work on The Strain. If not for Keamy, we probably wouldn’t have Durand as the enigmatic exterminator-turned-hero Vasiliy Fet.

[It was meant to be...]

Thu
Oct 16 2014 1:00pm

The Historical Villain: A Whodunnit in One Dimension

The golden age of the fictional villain—twirling his moustache, laughing Frenchly, tying women to train tracks—was the 19th century. In that innocent age, you could actually spook readers with a one-dimensional madman; you didn’t have to bother much with a motivation (unless it was money). But then the modern era came along and started producing real villains with such terrifying efficiency, villains beyond anything we could have imagined or would wish to exist in the world, that crime novelists were forced to respond.

What was a crime really for? What made a person do evil things? Money was still an answer, but there were others, too. Love—passion—the sick, logical, bureaucratic madness of the age. The villains of the hard-boiled genre that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s, in books by Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Dashiell Hammett, often combined those reasons, a whole host of contemporary reasons in service of a larger feeling of meaninglessness.

[Villains have feelings too!]

Thu
Oct 16 2014 8:45am

Madly in Love: Edgar Allan Poe Short Story Adapted for Film

If you're a rabid Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast, like many of us are—especially around Halloween—then you might want to add Stonehearst Asylum to your list of movies to see this month. The movie, out Friday, is an adaptation of Poe's “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” in which a young man becomes enchanted by a colleague when he visits an insane asylum, only to find out that she—and all the other “staff” are actually its former patients.

Will you be seeing this adaptation in theaters, waiting for it to come out on DVD, or skipping it altogether?

Wed
Oct 15 2014 3:30pm

The 13th Annual Mothman Festival: A Focus on the Unexplained and Mystifying

My phone didn’t have a single bar of reception.

Logic said this was because my phone was notoriously unreliable and the forested hills were blocking any nearby towers.

But when you’re walking into Point Pleasant, West Virginia for The Mothman Festival and come face to face with the giant gleaming statue of the red-eyed beast himself, cold logic can go hang.

The weekend was all about the unexplained and the mystifying; the cold tingle across your neck when you hear a noise in the middle of the night; the belief that there are some things hard science will never be able to fully disprove.

Given some of the wild theories being bandied about, blaming faulty cell phone reception on a monster wasn’t all that strange.

[I'll give you strange...]

Wed
Oct 15 2014 12:30pm

God and the Gangster: How Billy Graham Tried to Save Mickey Cohen

Publicity makes for strange bedfellows. So does crime. So does religion, for that matter. Add publicity, crime, and religion together, and you get the fascinating story of how the Reverend Billy Graham set out to save the soul of the most notorious gangster in the history of Los Angeles: crime lord Mickey Cohen.

Billy Graham wasn’t the first dynamic man of god to gain a widespread following in the 20th century—he was preceded by the immensely popular outfielder-turned-preacher Billy Sunday and the notorious J. Frank Norris, among others—but with his huge public rallies in the late forties, Graham became the first superstar preacher to break into the national consciousness in a sustained way. Originally from North Carolina, he began as a Southern Baptist evangelist in the Youth For Christ organization, and though he lacked much in the way of formal training, he possessed a powerful stage presence and an instinct for showmanship. In 1949, he arranged several outdoor revival meetings in Los Angeles. These weren’t the first rallies Graham had ever held, but they were hyped by the newspaper machine of William Randolph Hearst. (Hearst had a soft spot for flamboyant religious types and had previously promoted both Billy Sunday and the Christian Scientist Mary Baker Eddy.) Thousands of people flocked to the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Hill Street to hear Graham’s sermons at an enormous pavilion made up of two interlocking circus tents called “The Canvas Cathedral.”

[But how does this connect to Mickey Cohen?]

Wed
Oct 15 2014 8:45am

Naked Couple Helps Police Bust Meth Dealer

An alleged meth dealer was arrested after police responded to reports of a couple of naked people running around causing an uproar in Trinity, Texas.

At 6AM the Trinity Sheriff's office received a phone call regarding a naked woman who was banging on a resident's door. Responding deputies were not able find anyone when they arrived at the scene.

However, an hour later a second call was received and the deputies began yet another search. This time, authorities discovered a naked woman perched high in a tree. Deputies were able to talk the woman down and clothed her.

During this time, a third call was received, but this one was a report of a naked man knocking on doors. Thankfully police quickly located the man nearby.

During the interviews, the intoxicated couple told police they did not have a name of their meth dealer, but had been texting a number in an effort to locate him. Sheriff Woody Wallace then set up a buy bust through the phone at the naked couple's home.

At about 2 p.m., Jacob Walker, 42, of Trinity, showed up with the meth and was arrested and booked into the Trinity County Jail on $20,000 bond.

The naked duo was not charged after cooperating with officials.
 

Tue
Oct 14 2014 3:30pm

Gotham 1.04: “Arkham”

Gotham should be subtitled “Rise of the Penguin,” as it’s clear by this fourth episode that this season is all about Oswald Cobblepot’s bid for power.

Focusing on the villain is a tradition in Batman screen adaptations, all the way back to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. And Oswald is perfectly cast to fill this need. Robin Lord Taylor has on-screen charisma to burn, enough so that while he’s a cheerfully unrepentant murderer, I find myself rooting for him. Oswald took a big step forward with this week’s orchestration of a robbery and then dispatching his hired help via poisoned cannoli. (He takes the gun, the cannoli, and the money.)

As I was watching the double-cross, it occurred to me that Oswald is an excellent suspect for the mastermind behind the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Their deaths caused the chaos he needs to thrive and he certainly tried to use the killings as leverage to get rid of Fish, his one miscalculation so far. If this is the case, it adds more resonance to the scene at the end of the pilot in which Jim Gordon, sworn to find the murderer of the Waynes, refuses to kill Oswald. 

[If only, if only...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 12:30pm

Cosplaying the Field at New York Comic Con 2014

New York Comic Con took to New York City's Javit's Center from October 9th through the 12th. Although the thousands of people who turned up arrived for a variety of reasons, one thing was clear: everyone was having a blast being there.

After all, where else can a young Luigi run into a fully operational R2-D2?

No place; that's where.

[See what else went down!]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 10:30am

Inspector Lewis: “Lions of Nemea”

It’s all Greek to me, and to you, in this episode as we dust off Sophocles and Euripides for tales of hubris, and vengeance, and murder.

We know virtually nothing about Felix Garwood (John Light), he’s barely said a word (it’s still the opening credits, after all), yet we’re already aware that he’s an embodiment of hubris. He’s talking on his cell while cycling through Oxford, ignoring traffic laws and common courtesy, and generally being a entitled jerk. So, when he’s deliberately sideswiped by a car, it’s easy to figure he’d probably done something to deserve it. Chalk one up for vengeance.

Next stop, murder. But whose?

[Time will explain it all...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 9:30am

Cremains of the Day: .....In....Spaaaaace!

If not space, the stratosphere at least. A company founded by people with a “background in aerospace engineering and satellites” is now offering to release your beloved's ashes from 20 miles above the earth with a weather balloon, also to film it for your later memories. Here's Mesoloft's promo video:

According to the Huffington Post:

The ashes return to Earth as dust or, possibly, in raindrops or snowflakes. The entire flight is captured for posterity on two GoPro cameras that are attached to the balloon and the payload holding the ashes. The shroud that carries the urn can be kept as a souvenir, according to Mesoloft co-founder Chris Winfield...

Winfield said the balloons and the payloads stay in the air for about two hours and the company ensures they land in a five-mile radius of where they took flight.

The company also has to send out a notice to pilots to make sure planes don't bump into the funeral balloons.

Read it all and adjust your final documents accordingly.

Mon
Oct 13 2014 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander is the ninth Victorian mystery featuring amateur sleuth Lady Emily (available October 14, 2014).

The Counterfeit Heiress, the ninth book in the Lady Emily series, opens at a lavish costume ball that actually took place in 1897, hosted by the Duchess of Devonshire. Our narrator and plucky heroine is in attendance as the goddess Artemis—a choice that unwittingly throws her into yet another mystery.

When a man dressed as Pericles approaches her with the first half of a line from The Odyssey, Lady Emily—being a student and passionate fan of Homer—obliges him with the second half. But then:

He grabbed my arm, wrenched it, and stood too close to me, his eyes flashing. “You are not at all as advertised, madam. I believe my requirements were quite clear. This will not do in the least.” He turned on his heel and tore away from me.

Before Emily has any time to properly recover from the unexpected encounter, she and her friend Cecile, the French “lady of a certain age”, decide to say hello to an old friend of Cecile’s. Estella Lamar has become a world famous globetrotter since Cecile saw her last, and she’s eager to speak to her after so many years apart.

[But something's amiss...]

Mon
Oct 13 2014 3:00pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.06 “Devil You Know”

It’s taken nearly five seasons, but we’re finally close to answering the crucial question of Boardwalk Empire: Why is Nucky Thompson such a wet blanket? I mean, for a guy at the epicenter of the Roaring Twenties with wealth and power, he’s always a bit glum, isn’t he? Take last night’s episode, “Devil You Know.” Nucky’s having a good ole drunken time at a local dive with a couple of bawdy prostitutes, reciting poetry and talking dirty, until his existential side eventually wins out and he begins lecturing them. “Start at the bottom with nothing, you have nothing. There’s an opportunity, you take it. I mean what choice do you have. You don’t have a choice. Get yourself ahead. For what, though? For what? No one ever talks about that. No one ever asks, what’s the point?”

Come on, Nuck. Why do you have to be such a buzzkill? Besides, Joe Kennedy had asked that exact question a couple of episodes ago. Don’t you remember? Apparently, you do, because it’s still nagging at you. And after the events in last night’s episode, I’d say that not only has it been nagging at you for years, but it also explains your perpetual melancholy.

[He wasn't always this way...]

Sun
Oct 12 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern

Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern is a true account of the cutthroat world of debt collecting and the lenghts people will go to obtain information (available October 14, 2014).

When I was younger someone told me, ‘Put on a suit and you can rob anybody.’ Truth is, I haven’t changed much, but many people respect me now, because I have a business and property and look respectable...If you can pay the right lawyer or have the right look, you are respectable. If you walk in with a ripped shirt and a public defender, you are an animal.

So says Brandon Wilson, entrepreneur, convicted armed robber and dealer in your personal data. His employees are mostly other ex-felons, second- or third-chancers trying to go straight in one of the few businesses that will have them.

Wilson’s is perhaps the only segment of the financial industry that can make derivatives trading look honest: debt collection. He’s one of the major players in Bad Paper, Jake Halpern’s non-fiction dissection of America’s debt business.

Halpern contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Smithsonian, and other national publications, and is a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered and contributor to This American Life. His prose is clean and goes down easy, as if this is the written version of an extended piece on Weekend Edition. Halpern talked to many people on all sides of the issue – collectors, debtors, lawyers, regulators, outside experts, thugs – and their voices and experiences are a major part of his reportage.

[Collectors will do anything for this information...]

Sat
Oct 11 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is a debut traditional murder mystery set in a 1932 British seaside resort featuring amateur sleuth Amory Ames (available October 14, 2014).

You won’t be able to read this book without thinking of Agatha Christie. Set at a seaside resort in 1932, Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver features a cast of entertaining characters and is a wonderfully rich traditional mystery.

Amory Ames was engaged to Gil Trent, a responsible young man who adored her. However, she met the charming and charismatic Milo Ames and married him. Five years later, Amory is home alone while Milo still lives the carefree life of a wealthy playboy.

When Gil shows up and urges her to join him at the Brightwell for a holiday, Amory’s restlessness and unhappiness spur her to accept his invitation. Gil’s sister, Emmeline is engaged to Rupert Howe, but Gil fears it’s his sister’s wealth Rupert loves more than the young woman herself. Seeing Milo’s personality traits in the younger man, Amory hopes she might be able to help her young friend avoid the same kind of marriage and agrees to join Gil and Emmeline.

[By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea.]