Review: <i>Dark Matter</i> by Blake Crouch Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Brian Greene Read Brian Greene's review! <i>The Second Death</i>: New Excerpt The Second Death: New Excerpt Peter Tremayne The 26th book in the Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series. <i>Trials of the Century</i>: New Excerpt Trials of the Century: New Excerpt Aryn Z. Phillips and Mark J. Phillips True crime, justice gone awry, and the media often at its worst. <i>Murder on Brittany Shores</i>: New Excerpt Murder on Brittany Shores: New Excerpt Jean-Luc Bannalec The 2nd Commissaire Dupin mystery.
From The Blog
July 22, 2016
Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Rat Queens
Angie Barry
July 22, 2016
Man Uses Brain to Get High Like a Zombie
Teddy Pierson
July 21, 2016
10 Essential Giallo Films
Brian Greene
July 21, 2016
One and Done: Vern E. Smith, The Jones Men
Eric Beetner
July 21, 2016
Why We Are Fascinated with Hell, the Devil, and Monsters
Kristen Houghton
Jul 24 2016 10:00pm

The Night Of: “The Dark Crate” Episode Review

He looks like a normal college kid, and we need to fight that.

The Dark Crate is Riker’s Island, which is Naz’s new home. He’s not a gang member, so he doesn’t get protective custody, he goes into general population and sleeps on a bunk in a dorm.

Shortly after, we see the institutional squalor of New York City’s enormous jail, and we see the penthouse cell where Freddy (Michael K. Williams of Boardwalk Empire, Hap & Leonard, and most famously as Omar in The Wire) holds court, outfitted with a television and a dozen mobile phones. A former boxer with a reach that extends far past his cell and Riker’s itself—a tattooed prisoner tells Naz that if Freddy “holds up five fingers, five men die in the Bronx!”—we get a quick taste of his power as he’s led from his cell by a female guard for sex. Then, she tells him she can’t do it anymore—they’re giving guards lie detector tests. “You don’t have to keep paying my rent,” she tells him. 

[Read Thomas Pluck's review of “The Dark Crate”]

Jul 22 2016 11:00pm

Outcast 1.07: “The Damage Done” Episode Review

Anderson (Philip Glenister) is cleaning up the aftermath of his bloody encounter with Evil Data/Sidney (Brent Spiner)—good God, talk about a bathroom of horrors—when Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) arrives for their standing poker game. 

But, it's difficult to keep your mind on the game when there's a pentagram still oozing on your chest. It's even harder when Giles provokes Ogden (Pete Burris) into some light fisticuffs over the card table; afterwards, the good Reverend has no choice but to reveal what happened to the Chief, who is understandably frustrated that he didn't come directly to him.

What's the point in having a BFF on the police department if you don't call him when a demonic psycho breaks into your church to carve arcane symbols on your body?

[Lay down your soul to the god's rock n' roll...]

Jul 22 2016 4:30pm

“Red Rum on Brittany Shores” Cocktail

A beautiful ship, a gorgeous coastline, a wonderful town...and murder!? Talk about a buzzkill.

So, flip the script and keep the party cruisin' with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Red Rum on Brittany Shores” cocktail, inspired by Jean-Luc Bannalec's 2nd Commissaire Dupin mystery, Murder on Brittany Shores!

Heeeeeerrrrrre's Jean-y...

[Check out the recipe below!]

Jul 22 2016 2:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Rat Queens

The Series: Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Sejic.
The Heroes: A team of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, totally asskicking female mercenaries.
The Ideal Format: A live-action series with a serious budget for the necessary magical SFX and prosthetics—HBO or Starz would be a good fit, given the mature subject matter.

When you hear “Dungeons & Dragons campaign,” your mind probably conjures up a dank basement, a card table, and four or five pimply boys with nasal voices and smudged glasses.

In truth, the D&D community is full of women, college students, and fantasy geeks of all ages and stripes who love to tell stories and enjoy a sense of community. The parents'-basement-dwelling social outcast is more an outlier than an apt representative of the collective whole. 

In my own personal experience, I've known over a dozen lady D&Ders to every one man. That's a helluva ratio.

Which is why Rat Queens is so damn important: it's essentially a D&D campaign driven by women. The heart of the story follows the eponymous mercenary team, a brash quartet who know what they want and just go for it.

[I know what I want, and I want it now...]

Jul 22 2016 12:00pm

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a scientific thriller that explores the idea of multiple universes (Available July 26, 2016).

At some point, in most of our lives, we make a decision or two that shapes what becomes of us for a number of years or decades, if not forever. Many of us spend some time wondering what might have been had we made the choices other than the ones we made at those pivotal moments. Jason Dessen, the lead character and narrator of most of Blake Crouch’s novel Dark Matter, gets to experience the different versions of the life he might have led. 

Dessen is a guy in his mid-30s or thereabouts. At the outset of the story, he is married, the father of a teenage boy, and a physics professor at a small college in Chicago. Prior to family life, Dessen was a promising physicist, seemingly on the verge of making highly impactful research discoveries in the field of quantum mechanics. But, when his girlfriend—a visual artist who appeared destined for achievement in that area—got pregnant, he let his research program go and focused on family life, taking the more modest professional avenue of becoming a teacher to undergrad students. His wife also sacrificed her career and is now a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t do much artwork.

[Read Brian Greene's review of Dark Matter...]

Jul 22 2016 11:00am

The Second Death: New Excerpt

Peter Tremayne

The Second Death by Peter TremayneThe Second Death by Peter Tremayne is the 26th book in the Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series (Available July 26, 2016).

Ireland, A.D. 671. It is the beginning of the summer season and the Kingdom of Muman is preparing to celebrate the Great Fair of Cashel. It is an extravagant nine days of contests, food, and endless entertainment. Circumstances have led Fidelma and Eadulf far and wide across the kingdom, and they have been absent from the Great Fair for many years. But, for once they haven't been called away from Cashel, and are eager to enjoy the festivities - that is, until the last wagon in a group traveling to the fair catches on fire. The driver dies and it appears that the driver was a woman disguised a boy, for reasons unknown. Eadulf, upon further inspection, finds an even more disconcerting discovery - a rotting corpse in back of the wagon. Now, with only a week left to the fair, it is up to Fidelma and Eadulf to solve the mystery in time.


The line of half a dozen or so gaudily painted wagons, some pulled by patient mules and others by oxen, wound its way along the Slíge Dála, the main highway which ran from Tara in the north-east, all the way to Cashel, capital of Muman, the most south-westerly of the Five Kingdoms of Éireann. On a small rise overlooking the ‘Way of the Blind’ – a road so-called because it was said that it was so well built, even the blind could travel it in safety – two figures on horseback watched the wagons moving slowly along its broad stretch.

[Read the full excerpt from The Second Death...]

Jul 22 2016 10:00am

Man Uses Brain to Get High Like a Zombie

Be prepared for this one. Joshua Long, 26, of Pennsylvania has found himself on the sticky side of the law during his journey to reach the ultimate “zombie high.” Let me explain...

According to CBS, Long was arrested by police after he confessed to stealing a human brain and soaking his marijuana stash in the formaldehyde in order to get a more intellectual high, so to speak. Long’s aunt was the one who tipped the authorities when she found the raw brain hidden inside a department store shopping bag while she cleaning around the house. A shopping bag? What a harebrained idea!

So, where the hell did this guy acquire a brain? Police are thinking it was used as a classroom anatomy aid. It’s unclear if the brain was in a jar or if Long was just storing the loose organ in a shopping bag and squeezing the juice out on demand. Sometimes, it is best not to know.

Now, to the most interesting side to this story: Long must have considered the brain a friend because he named it “Freddy.” He has since been charged with abuse of a corpse and conspiracy.

Jul 21 2016 3:30pm

10 Essential Giallo Films

There are a few very general things in common between Italian giallo films and the pinky violence cinematic fare from Japan that I overviewed in a recent post.

See also: Pinky Violence

Both sets of movies were established in the 1960s and saw their finest releases come to the fore in the ‘70s. Both lines were created by experimental directors looking to break new ground in what can happen in a feature film. Sex and violence figure prominently in both, as does groovy music. The definitions for both genres are fairly loose and open to varied interpretations.

But that’s about where the likenesses stop. While the Japanese movies were exploitation fare looking to capture the ways of the country’s wild and reckless subversive youth (in particular tough bad girls), gialli are distinctly European crime thrillers that generally involve foul play among adults. Characters in pinky violence films get slapped, kicked, and knifed a lot, but relatively few of them die; in gialli, death (by savage murder, usually) is always coming just down the strada.

[See which films made the list!]

Jul 21 2016 1:30pm

One and Done: Vern E. Smith, The Jones Men

The Jones Men was a thrilling novel to discover. A lost “cult” novel from the 1970s, written by veteran journalist Vern E. Smith, it is a story of the drug trade on the streets of Detroit, and it absolutely blew me away when I read it forty years after its initial publication.

The novel crackles with vibrant characters, juicy dialogue that reads like a mid-70s Blacksploitation film, and a complex, multi-faceted storyline that seems to have come from the pen of a veteran novelist. Not many authors could pull off this feat of parallel storylines, a huge cast of characters, and double cross on top of misdirect on top of misinformation—let alone a first-timer. It’s a stunning work that has been aptly compared to The Wire on many occasions.

So why didn’t Smith ever write another?

[Read more about Vern E. Smith!]

Jul 21 2016 12:00pm

Why We Are Fascinated with Hell, the Devil, and Monsters

Teddy Jameson awakens nude and confused in what appears to be a tropical paradise. His guide looks like Brad Pitt and the grounds look like a Sandals Resort. Nice, right? The only problem is that his guide has greeted him with these solemn words, “Mr. Theodore Carter Hugh Jameson, may I be the first to welcome you to Hell.” Hell?

That Hell seems to be an upscale and very expensive Caribbean resort and the man his guide introduces as the Devil appears to be a genial blonde-haired host in white shorts, polo shirt and sneakers with a passion for tennis, certainly adds to Teddy's confusion. Where's the fire and brimstone? Where are the horns and long pointed tail usually associated with the Devil? If this is Hell, it has certainly had a makeover.

That’s the beginning of my novella Welcome to Hell. I was intrigued by creating a story featuring a dapper, modern Devil living in a beautiful resort that just happens to be Hell.

Hell and the Devil—writers are fascinated by the topic. From past classics such as Dante’s Inferno and John Milton’s Paradise Lost to best-selling modern books like Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and The Omen by David Seltzer, the idea of this place and this person actually existing seems to have been fodder for many writers. Even the charming retelling of the Faust legend in the brilliant comedy Damn Yankees by Douglass Wallop is about “you-know-who from you-know-where.”

See also: Top 5 Movie Devils

[Welcome to Hell...]

Jul 21 2016 10:00am

Trials of the Century: New Excerpt

Aryn Z. Phillips and Mark J. Phillips

Trials of the Century: A Decade-by-Decade Look at Ten of America's Most Sensational Crimes by Mark J. Phillips and Aryn Z. Phillips is a fascinating history of true crime, justice gone awry, and the media often at its worst (Available July 26, 2016).

In every decade of the twentieth century, there was one sensational murder trial that riveted public attention and at the time was called “the trial of the century.” This book tells the story of each murder case and the dramatic trial—and media coverage—that followed. 

Starting with the murder of famed architect Stanford White in 1906 and ending with the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994, the authors recount ten compelling tales spanning the century. Each is a story of celebrity and sex, prejudice and heartbreak, and all reveal how often the arc of American justice is pushed out of its trajectory by an insatiable media driven to sell copy.

The most noteworthy cases are here—including the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the Sam Sheppard murder trial (“The Fugitive”), the “Helter Skelter” murders of Charles Manson, and the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But some cases that today are lesser known also provide fascinating glimpses into the tenor of the time: the media sensation created by yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst around the murder trial of 1920s movie star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle; the murder of the Scarsdale Diet guru by an elite prep-school headmistress in the 1980s; and more. The authors conclude with an epilogue on the infamous Casey Anthony (“tot mom”) trial, showing that the twenty-first century is as prone to sensationalism as the last century.

[Read an excerpt of Trials of the Century here...]

Jul 20 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge by Ovidia Yu

The 3rd novel in Ovidia Yu’s Singaporean mystery series finds Aunty Lee laid up with a sprained ankle and, therefore, grumpy at the curtailment of her ability to lovingly interfere in the lives of others. To make matters worse, her overbearing stepdaughter-in-law has decided to “help” Aunty Lee run her cafe while she’s healing, which is spreading the grumpiness to Aunty Lee’s actual helper, Nina. Then, Cherril, Aunty Lee’s business partner, decides that the cafe needs to expand its horizons, talking of mechanization and globalization, much to Aunty Lee’s discomfort. 

All Auntie Lee wants to do is cook good food that will nourish people’s bodies and, hopefully, souls, and she doesn’t believe a machine will be able to properly adjust for tastes the way she can.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Jul 20 2016 3:00pm

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: A Visual Guide

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

This week, not everything is as it seems in B.A. Paris's debut novel, Behind Closed Doors.

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Jul 20 2016 1:30pm

Mysteries Set in the Caribbean

The golden sands, verdant hills, and crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea have called to authors since the age of piracy ended. Indeed, one of the first works set there, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, was about that most Caribbean of occupations. Following Stevenson’s path, the greats (Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream), the near-greats (Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana; James Michener, Caribbean), the comic (Herman Wouk, Don’t Stop the Carnival; Carl Hiaasen, Bad Monkey), and the commercial (Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die and Dr. No) of the literary world have set their works on its shores.

Mystery writers have also had their protagonists living on or visiting the islands of the Southern Sea. One of the first to do this was also one of the greats of the genre—Agatha Christie in A Caribbean Mystery.

[Read more from John Keyse-Walker!]

Jul 20 2016 1:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: July 19, 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...]

Jul 20 2016 10:00am

Murder on Brittany Shores: New Excerpt

Jean-Luc Bannalec

Murder on Brittany Shores by Jean-Luc BannalecMurder on Brittany Shores is a superbly plotted mystery that marks the return of Jean-Luc Bannalec's international bestselling series starring the cantankerous, coffee-swigging Commissaire Dupin (Available July 26, 2016).

Ten miles off the coast of Brittany lie the fabled Glénan Islands. Boasting sparkling white sands and crystal-clear waters, they seem perfectly idyllic, until one day in May, three bodies wash up on shore. At first glance the deaths appear accidental, but as the identities of the victims come to light, Commissaire Dupin is pulled back into action for a case of what seems to be cold-blooded murder.

Ever viewed as an outsider in a region full of myths and traditions, Dupin finds himself drawn deep into the history of the land. To get to the bottom of the case, he must tangle with treasure hunters, militant marine biologists, and dangerous divers. The investigation leads him further into the perilous, beautiful world of Glénan, as he discovers that there's more to the picturesque islands than meets the eye.

The First Day

The long, flat islands floated on the deep opal sea as if by magic, a little blurred, shimmering. The famous archipelago lay before them like a Fata Morgana.

The contours of the larger islands were already visible to the naked eye, not much to distinguish between them: the fortress shrouded in mystery on Cigogne, Penfret’s long-serving storm-lashed lighthouse, the abandoned farm on Drénec, the occasional weather-beaten house on Saint-Nicolas which was the main island in the almost circular archipelago. The Îles de Glénan. A legend.

[Read the full excerpt from Murder on Brittany Shores...]

Jul 19 2016 4:00pm

Why Sherlock Holmes Could Be Summoned for Jury Duty in the 21st Century—and How He Might Feel About It

It’s not always easy to find jurors when you need them. And, in London, as on our side of the pond, the legal system always needs them—often desperately.

So, would it be surprising if a jury summons got sent to Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street?

The Crown Prosecution Service fills its quota of jurors from voter registration lists. Pretty much all it would take for a jury summons to be sent to Sherlock Holmes is for someone—at some point in the 129 years since the Great Detective first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual—to have submitted his name and address to the electoral register on his behalf. And, everyone knows his name and address.

[Read more from Michael Robertson!]

Jul 19 2016 2:30pm

Review: The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris

The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris is a thrilling debut, featuring a stolen Hemingway manuscript that may contain clues to the location of a bigger prize.

The Hemingway Thief is a tight, well crafted thriller, which, like all good books, has characters who are neither entirely good nor completely bad. A bit, I understand, like Hemingway himself. 

The year is 1922. The place: Paris. Hadley is instructed by her husband to gather up all his work, place it in a case, and come join him in Switzerland. Hadley does just as her spouse, Ernest Hemingway, directs and packs up a year’s collection of his work—which disappears. 

That is, until it’s discovered in the hands of Ebbie Milch—a name that sounds like something you scrunch up and sprinkle around your front yard. Ever fond of his drink, Milch turns up in Mexico with the rare material, desperate to make himself scarce, as he has misappropriated the first draft of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Hemingway Thief...]

Jul 19 2016 12:00pm

R. Is for Robot: Reviewing The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

For Isaac Asimov’s detective, Elijah Baley, it’s been two long years since he’s set forth on an interstellar adventure, and though he once shuddered at the thought of hyperspace travel, he’s now itching to once again do some planet hopping. 

However, for Asimov enthusiasts, the wait was a great deal more labored. There is a span of twenty-six years between The Naked Sun (1957) and The Robots of Dawn (1983), the next full-length sci-fi/mystery whodunit featuring Baley and his robot partner Daneel Olivaw. Patient fans’ appetites were whetted with a Baley and Daneel short story that appeared in a 1972 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact called, “Mirror Image.” Asimov said the general reaction was, “Thanks, but we wanted another novel.” Let’s take a look and see if it was worth nearly three decades of yearning.

[Read David Cranmer's review of The Robots of Dawn...]