Review: <i>Hold a Scorpion</i> by Melodie Johnson-Howe Review: Hold a Scorpion by Melodie Johnson-Howe David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! The Dark Tower: <i>The Drawing of the Three</i>, Part III The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three, Part III David Cranmer Join the discussion! Review: <i>Night Watch</i> by Iris & Roy Johansen Review: Night Watch by Iris & Roy Johansen Kristen Houghton Read Kristen Houghton's review! <i>The Champagne Conspiracy</i>: New Excerpt The Champagne Conspiracy: New Excerpt Ellen Crosby The 7th book in the Wine Country Mysteries series.
From The Blog
October 21, 2016
7 Books to Read If You Love The Walking Dead
Angie Barry
October 21, 2016
A Cozy Competition: Minotaur Books & Malice Domestic Best First Novel
Crime HQ
October 20, 2016
A Vague Unease: Reviewing The Kettering Incident
Leanna Renee Hieber
October 20, 2016
Naked Ambition: Evolution of a Book Cover
Rick Pullen
October 14, 2016
7 Books to Read If You Loved The Others
Angie Barry
Oct 25 2016 1:00pm

Review: Hold a Scorpion by Melodie Johnson-Howe

Hold a Scorpion by Melodie Johnson-Howe is the latest Diana Poole crime thriller that takes our amateur sleuth deep into Southern California's underworld to uncover the mystery of a diamond-encrusted scorpion―and the reason for the murders that follow in its wake.

Diana Poole has split with her egocentric boyfriend, Peter Bianchi, who had chided her to take a good look at herself. So she does—by going to a movie theater and watching her larger-than-life image on the silver screen.

A middle-aged actress who is on the back burner of Hollywood, Diana mulls the ended relationship and career mistakes that has brought her to this empty, darkened movie house. As she views herself, she insightfully ponders, “… narcissism is as demanding as an unpaid drug dealer.” Driving back to her Malibu home (after being lulled to sleep by her own hues), despondent thoughts are temporarily erased when she notes a woman waving boisterously in her direction. A fan? Someone she knows? She’s not sure as the brief encounter turns to horror.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Hold a Scorpion...]

Oct 25 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three, Part III

The shootout at Balazar's last week gave us a taste of the action, now we're fiending like a junkie for some more! Join our discussion of Part III of The Drawing of the Three, as we meet ODetta Holmes/Detta Walker. 

Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987), the 2nd book in The Dark Tower series. Several of us have just finished a trek through The Gunslinger (1982), which originally was a collection of short stories, later bound together, effectively capturing a world certainly familiar to us—Wild West background set to modern pop tunes—but stirring nightmarish images where time is out of mind and people displaced in various purgatories. The main protagonist, Roland Deschain of Gilead, is obsessed with locating the Dark Tower, so he shadows the man in black, who seems to have answers when confronted, though they are obtusely revealed with a turning over of Tarot cards. The man in black explained that Roland has caught the attention of his superior, who remains unknown, taking an interest in Roland’s endeavors.

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

With Stephen King's chapters getting a little strange, the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages), and each Tuesday we will meet 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 come across another door—that of The Lady of the Shadows—as Roland attempts to draw the second of his three. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part III of The Drawing of the Three: Shuffle – The Lady of Shadows, Chapter 1: “Detta and Odetta.”

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[Read on if you dare honky mahfah...]

Oct 25 2016 11:00am

Review: Night Watch by Iris & Roy Johansen

Night Watch by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen (Kendra Michaels Series #4)Night Watch by Iris and Roy Johansen is book #4 in the Kendra Michaels series (Available October 25, 2016).

Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen are a mother-and-son duo who created the character of Kendra Michaels, a hired gun for both the CIA and FBI, and Night Watch is the latest in the popular series. The premise of the series—a blind woman has her sight restored by a researcher working for an organization called the Night Watch Project, thus giving her a new life—is intriguing and exciting.

Kendra Michaels is a person whose senses are keen and on-target. Having been sightless for twenty years, her other senses—hearing, smell, taste, touch—are, in a sense, super-charged. Combine that with the new gift of sight she receives, and you have an investigator with a powerful edge.

[Read Kristen Houghton's review of Night Watch...]

Oct 25 2016 10:00am

The Champagne Conspiracy: New Excerpt

Ellen Crosby

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen CrosbyThe Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby is the 7th book in the Wine Country Mysteries series (Available November 1, 2016).

Winter has come to the Montgomery Estate Vineyard in Atoka, Virginia. Lucie Montgomery and winemaker Quinn Santori have decided to make champagne, a first for the vineyard.

But then Gino Tomassi, Quinn’s uncle, turns up on their doorstep one afternoon, demanding help in solving the mystery of what happened to Zara Tomassi, the first wife of his grandfather, who died in a San Francisco hotel in 1923 under suspicious circumstances. And it seems there’s no coincidence that her death came the day after President Warren Harding passed away in that same hotel. Gino needs answers before his blackmailer takes him for all he’s worth—or exposes an explosive family secret.

Lucie searches for what happened almost a hundred years ago as she delves into Prohibition-era Washington, D.C.—a town of bootlegging and duplicity, jazz clubs and speakeasies. But then the investigation turns deadly, threatening Lucie, her relationship with Quinn, and the vineyard, as they realize someone is still out there nearly a century later who will go to any lengths to keep the truth about Zara’s death a buried secret.


It all started with the dress.

I lifted it out of the old steamer trunk and it took my breath away. A gossamer concoction of sea green chiffon, hundreds of copper, silver, and pale green glass beads in patterns like a stained-glass creation from Tiffany, with a sexy zigzag hem of silver fringe that glittered, even by the light of the yellowed bulb that barely lit this dim corner of the attic. I had never seen it—you don’t forget a dazzling couture number like this—but it had been beautifully and lovingly preserved, as though one of my long-dead relatives expected to pluck it out of its hiding place and shimmy off to a madcap night of too much dancing and drinking and making out with some guy in the backseat of his roadster.

[Read the full excerpt from The Champagne Conspiracy...]

Oct 24 2016 5:00pm

The Origins of Vera Stanhope

Read about how Ann Cleeves conceived of her famous character, Vera Stanhope, and then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win Season 1 of the hit series Vera on DVD!

Vera Stanhope arrived fully formed into a book that was never planned to include a detective. The Crow Trap was meant to be a stand-alone novel about three women conducting an environmental survey in the Northumberland National Park, but somehow, Vera forced her way in, demanding to be recognized. I loved her from the minute she arrived, looking more like a bag lady than a senior police officer. I loved her independence and the fact that she didn’t care at all what she looked like. I knew immediately that I’d want to write about her again.

[And again, and again...]

Oct 24 2016 4:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 7.01: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

Well, between last night's soulcrushing Walking Dead season premiere and HBO's latest episode of Westworld, Sunday proved to be a field day for caved-in skulls on cable television.

Okay. We admit it. We were getting ready to tear the season premiere to shreds for once again copping out on a major character death after Negan initially chose Abraham. Between the Great Glenn Fakeout of Season 6 and its protracted, unwelcome cliffhanger, TWD spent much of last year cheapening its own brand.

Then that happened. And lo, credibility was instantly restored.

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

Oct 24 2016 1:00pm

Beauty & the B-Movie: Loving a Hated Genre

What is a B-movie?

Some—dismissive and so-called “highbrow” critics—say B-movies are irredeemable dreck. A waste of celluloid, money, and precious time. Films that scraped the bottom of the barrel and shouldn't have bothered.

A part of me pities these detractors. Such attitudes strike me as very narrow, dour, and joyless. Such folks probably deny themselves all sorts of cheap, simple pleasures and can't be much fun at parties.

As an ardent horror and adventure fan—and a lover of zombie flicks in particular—I'm often put into a position where I have to defend B-movies.

Think you know zombie films? Take our quiz and find out! Angie got 9/10—see if you can best the best!

[With a lawnmower? Or possibly a chainsaw hand!?]

Oct 24 2016 11:00am

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency 1.01, Series Premiere: “Horizons” Episode Review

In a word: Wow. Don’t talk, don’t blink, and don’t get up to get a drink of water. If you miss even one second of the first episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, you will be completely lost.

Ok, so I feel that I must be honest—even if you see every single second of it, you will still be lost. But keep watching, because everything is supposedly interconnected, and I am sure—or at least hopeful—that things will start to make sense.

Viewer discretion is advised, and we find out why in the very beginning: The opening sequence is quite a gruesome crime scene. Blood spatter everywhere, a severed arm on the floor, and the complete destruction of what looks to be a hotel room. The only thing living is a cute black kitten. This may seem innocuous, but trust me, it will come up again later.

[They always do...]

Oct 24 2016 10:00am

Ash Island: New Excerpt

Barry Maitland

Ash Island by Barry Maitland is the 2nd book in the Belltree Trilogy (Available November 1, 2016).

Detective Sergeant Harry Belltree is back on the job after a near-fatal confrontation with corrupt colleagues and his presence has become a departmental embarrassment. Because of what happened, he can’t―and doesn’t want to―return to his old position with the Sydney Police Department. Instead, he accepts a post with a police department far away and attempts to build a new, quiet life in Newcastle, Australia.

But that quiet life soon eludes him. A corpse has been found buried just offshore on Ash Island and that one body may well just be the first of many. Not only that, Belltree finds himself engaged in some unfinished business from his own past. The car crash that killed his parents and blinded his wife happened not far from Newcastle. Belltree knows it was no accident, but his own investigations lead him to wonder how well he really knew his own parents.

With his wife Jenny now pregnant, a much longed-for event, it’s up to Belltree to decide how he can confront the evil from the past while protecting his loved ones in the present and future.

[Read an excerpt from Ash Island...]

Oct 23 2016 10:00pm

Westworld 1.04: “Dissonance Theory” Episode Review

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) are having another sit down, talking more about feelings—specifically the loss of her parents. When Bernard offers to take away her pain, she asks why she would want that, using the same words Bernard had used when talking with his ex-wife about the death of their son—basically, it’s the only thing she has left of them. Is Bernard programming her with dialog based on his own life, and if so, to what purpose? To make her more real? 

In any event, Bernard offers Dolores another way to search for her soul: a game called The Maze, where the goal is to find the center. He tells her if she can do that, then maybe she can be free. She replies, “I think … I think I want to be free.” Could it be that both Ford and Bernard are using pawns to find the center of this mythical maze, first one there wins a prize? 

[Read David Cranmer's review of “Dissonance Theory”...]

Oct 23 2016 10:00am

Cataclysm: New Excerpt

Tim Washburn

Cataclysm by Tim WashburnCataclysm is the latest thriller from Tim Washburn (Available October 25, 2016).

At Yellowstone National Park, earthquake tremors are common. But today, park scientist Tucker Mayfield detects something different: a disturbing new increase in activity—and intensity...

Lurking beneath the park’s natural wonders, earth’s largest supervolcano begins to awaken after 640,000 years. If—or when—it blows, two-thirds of the North American  continent will be destroyed...

Racing against time, Tucker Mayfield mobilizes a team to evacuate all visitors from the park—including his family at the Old Faithful Inn. But when the earthquakes intensify, and the death toll rises, a shockwave of panic spreads across the nation. Troops are deployed, emergency plans activated. But nothing can stop a natural disaster of this magnitude. When the volcano erupts, doomsday begins—and no one gets out alive...

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone National Park

“Hello…Hello?” Jessica hangs up the phone, bewildered.

Matt steps in from the balcony. “Who was on the phone?”

“No one.  But I heard noises––”

There’s a series of popping sounds as the building shakes violently. A water bottle wobbles toward the edge of the dresser and drops to the floor. The floor undulates like a slimming machine at a health fair. Jess reaches for the wall and Matt braces himself him in the doorway.  In seconds, the shaking stops and Jess turns to her husband. “That’s not a small earthquake. That was the largest of the morning. We should really consider leaving the park.”

[Read the full excerpt from Cataclysm...]

Oct 22 2016 10:00am

Skin & Bone: New Excerpt

Robin Blake

Skin & Bone by Robin BlakeSkin & Bone by Robin Blake is book #4 in the Cragg & Fidelis Series (Available October 25, 2016).

It’s 1743, and the tanners of Preston are a pariah community, plying their unwholesome trade beside a stretch of riverside marsh where many Prestonians by ancient right graze their livestock. When the body of a newborn child is found in one of their tanning pits, Cragg’s inquiry falls foul of a cabal of merchants dead set on modernizing the town’s economy and regarding the despised tanners—and Cragg’s apparent championship of them—as obstacles to their plan. The murder of a baby is just the evidence they need to get rid of the tanners once and for all.

But the inquest into the baby’s death is disrupted when the inn where it is being held mysteriously burns down, and Cragg himself faces a charge of lewdness, jeopardizing his whole future as a coroner. But the fates have not finished playing with him just yet. The sudden and suspicious death of a very prominent person may just, with the help of Fidelis’s sharp forensic skills, bring about Cragg’s redemption...

Chapter 1

T WAS A DAY on which the sun was a disc of polished brass, and flocks of white cloud chased each other cheerfully across a blue field of sky: the perfect September afternoon for a game of bowls.

I was on the green by Friar Gate Bar and just about to cast my second wood. My opponent’s two bowls lay temptingly together like a pair of cherries just in front of the jack, and I planned a drive shot that would crash violently into them both, shooting them away to one side and the other while mine, with luck, would come to rest in their place and win the end. I grasped the wood firmly in my right hand, took up the bowling position with care and swung my arm. Then I heard a voice shouting my name from the direction of the Greenkeeper’s hut and it sounded as rough as the caw of a raven.

[Read the full excerpt from Skin & Bone...]

Oct 21 2016 3:30pm

7 Books to Read If You Love The Walking Dead

It's no surprise that The Walking Dead remains one of the most popular series on TV.

After all, it combines the best qualities of zombie fiction into a single package: an unsettling and plausible post-apocalyptic setting; badass survivors to love and root for; intimidating villains; and some of the goriest action, scariest moments, and most disgusting monsters ever seen on cable. 

When you only get an episode a week, however, and have to suffer through weeks/months of hiatuses in between seasons, there's plenty of time to crave more zompocalypse goodness. 

Make sure to check back each Monday for CrimeHQ's unique coverage of Season 7 of The Walking Dead!

To that end, here's an Angie Approved (TM) List of Must Read Novels that will help scratch that undead, End of Times itch...

[See what you'll be reading next!]

Oct 21 2016 2:30pm

A Cozy Competition: Minotaur Books & Malice Domestic Best First Novel

Previous winners of the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Novel competition.

Do you love cozy mysteries? Have you ever wanted to get your own cozy published? Well, now's your chance! Minotaur Books invites you to submit your cozy to the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First competition. As long as you have never had a mystery published, you're free to enter. Past winners include Donna Andrews and Julia Spencer-Fleming; this is your chance to see your name on a bookshelf in their company. The deadline is November 15, so enter now!

(For complete rules, see here.)

See Also: Criminal Element's November 2016 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List!

Oct 21 2016 1:00pm

Dear Lisbeth Salander: What Are You Going to Be for Halloween?

This week's guest columnist is Lisbeth Salander, who's a hacker but not a hack, Wasp but not a WASP, and an all-around tough-as-nails badass.


With a Halloween party just around the corner, I am torn about what to wear. What fairy-tale figure should I be for that one night? Do I go sweet and angelic like the older versions of Disney characters, or do I opt for something more in the vein of tough and can-take-care-of-myself modern mode?

My boyfriend wants me to be either Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, but I have no idea why he chose those two. I’d like to be either Elsa from Frozen or Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. Please help me decide what to do. I value your advice; what would you be for Halloween?

Not Sugar Sweet

[Read Lisbeth Salander’s advice!]

Oct 21 2016 11:00am

Man Attempts to Trade Weed for a Snowmobile

Many say that using Craigslist is risky business. A man from Oregon learned that the hard way when he tried to trade marijuana for a snowmobile.

Here is what went down: According to KATU, police say that Jason Owen, 29, was looking to get a snowmobile on Craigslist and found one he really liked. Owen then asked the owner of the snowmobile if he would consider a pound of marijuana as an even trade for the snowmobile. Little did Own know, the owner of the snowmobile just happened to be a State Trooper. Whoopsie!

The trooper then called in his supervisor and agreed to meet Owen at a local gas station for the trade. At the gas station, the trooper identified himself and dropped the knowledge that he was committing a crime. Police found one and a half pounds of marijuana on him that he was going to use for the trade.

Owen was cited on possession and delivery of marijuana. He was released at the scene.

Oct 21 2016 10:00am

Hell Bay: New Excerpt

Will Thomas

Hell Bay by Will ThomasHell Bay by Will Thomas is the 8th book in the Barker & Llewelyn series (Available October 25, 2016).

At the request of Her Majesty’s government, private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker agrees to take on his least favorite kind of assignment—he’s to provide security for a secret conference with the French government. The conference is to take place on the private estate of Lord Hargrave on a remote island off the coast of Cornwall. The goal of the conference is the negotiation of a new treaty with France. The cover story for the gathering is a house party—an attempt to introduce Lord Hargrave’s two unmarried sons to potential mates.

But shortly after the parties land at the island, Lord Hargrave is killed by a sniper shot, and the French ambassador’s head of security is found stabbed to death. The only means of egress from the island—a boat—has been sent away, and the means of signaling for help has been destroyed. Trapped in a manor house with no way of escape, Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, must uncover which among them is the killer before the next victim falls.


We all make mistakes, of course, even the best of us. Some of us are famous for them. We make big ones, small ones, messy ones, boneheaded ones, spectacular ones, and occasionally deadly ones. Take the fellow in a hurry, who steps off the curb into the path of an approaching omnibus. Something had happened that morning to throw off his schedule, and one by one, events had toppled like standing dominoes until he took the fatal step, which had seemed perfectly reasoned at the time. In one instant, his life became encapsulated in a brief article in The Times.

[Read the full excerpt from Hell Bay...]

Oct 20 2016 4:00pm

21 Disturbing Serial Killers

We’ve all heard of Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy—but serial killers have been living among us, haunting our dreams, and making sure we lock our doors at night for centuries. The stories of the monsters listed above are heinous and hideous, causing us to question our neighbors, our peers, and even our own family members, wondering how someone could do such a thing. But they’re not the only ones. 

Our friends over at The Line Up have scoured their sources and compiled a list of 21 of the most disturbing serial killers in history. From the Harpe Brothers to the Lonely Hearts Killers, these killers are sure to strike fear in the heart everyone. 

1. Mary Ann Cotton: England’s First Serial Killer

This prolific killer from the 19th century left a shocking list of dead in her wake, including 11 of her 13 children, three husbands, one lover, and her mother ...

Head over to The Line Up to see the full list!

Oct 20 2016 2:30pm

A Vague Unease: Reviewing The Kettering Incident

Due to book deadlines, I only watch television and film if it’s either recommended to me, of a particular beloved franchise, or directly relevant to my career in Gothic, historical and/or paranormal fiction. 

The Kettering Incident, an Australian show released this summer via the Foxtel network, is set in and shot in present day Tasmania. As I am a Gothic novelist by trade, this show being a prime example of “Tasmanian Gothic” meant I had to follow the siren call. 

This tradition distinguishes itself as being a unique step-child of Imperialism, born of convict settlers shipped to Australian borders; tales seem told through a dark scrying glass, worlds away from Mother England’s resources, familiarities, or institutions. It is a genre of forests and shadow. It appears to me to be the United Kingdom equivalent of our Southern Gothic.  

[Read Leanna Renee Hieber's thoughts on The Kettering Incident...]