Review: <i>Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert</i> by Patricia Cornwell Review: Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell John Valeri Read John Valeri's review! Discount: <i>Invisible City</i> by Julia Dahl Discount: Invisible City by Julia Dahl Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99 through February! <i>Bel of the Brawl</i>: New Excerpt Bel of the Brawl: New Excerpt Maggie McConnon The 2nd book in the Bel McGrath Mysteries series. Review: <i>Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal</i> by Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski Review: Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review!
From The Blog
February 24, 2017
Carnage Count: Ranking 2017’s Best Picture Nominees
Joe Brosnan
February 24, 2017
New Noir-Themed Programming Franchise from TMC Announced!
Crime HQ
February 23, 2017
Reviewing the Queue: Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986)
Thomas Pluck
February 21, 2017
Page to Screen: Mildred Pierce
Brian Greene
February 20, 2017
Happy President's Day to the Most Famous Lawyer/Thriller-Writer In History (It’s Not Who You Think)
Barry Lancet and Anthony Franze
Feb 24 2017 5:30pm

Carnage Count: Ranking 2017’s Best Picture Nominees

It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth time writing this article. What started out as merely a brainstorming joke has turned into my favorite singular piece of writing I do each year. On Sunday, February 26th, the Oscar’s return, and with it comes nine nominees for Best Picture. While I’m not necessarily worthy of judging these movies on the cinematic level that the Academy does (Spoiler: I’m going to do that anyway), I am definitely worthy of judging them on how they fare as a crime film.

For those not familiar with how this works, let me break it down for you. Here at Criminal Element, we put three things above all: murder, mystery, and mayhem. So in keeping with the site’s themes, I’m ranking all Best Picture nominees on these three categories.

Each movie will be judged on its three categories on a scale from 1 to 10, which will then be added together to give a final ranking. I’ll also be squeezing in some general predictions and opinions throughout the post, so when you inevitably disagree with me, take your pitchforks to the comments and let’s have at it.

[Let's get to it, shall we?]

Feb 24 2017 4:30pm

“Sloe Gin with Murder” Cocktail

What could be worse than being stuck in a snow storm? Unwittingly getting stuck in a snow storm with the cast and crew from a reality TV show! 

So warm your soul, drown your sorrows, and wait out the weather with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—“Sloe Gin with Murder," inspired by Auralee Wallace's 3rd Otter Lake Mystery, Snowed In with Murder!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Feb 24 2017 3:00pm

Review: Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell is a comprehensive and intriguing exposé of one of the world’s most chilling cases of serial murder—and the police force that failed to solve it (available February 28, 2017).

In 2001, acclaimed crime novelist Patricia Cornwell stepped away from fiction to investigate the facts and fallacies surrounding London’s infamous Jack the Ripper killings. The book that followed, Portrait of a Killer (2002), identified British painter Walter Sickert as the culprit—and earned Cornwell widespread derision among so-called Ripperologists. Fifteen years later, she returns with Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert—a revised and expanded edition of her earlier work, featuring eight new chapters, detailed maps, and hundreds of images that further illuminate her case.

Cornwell—internationally recognized for her novels featuring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who most recently appeared in Chaos (2016)—is credited with popularizing the forensic thriller, and she continues to research advanced scientific principles for use in her books. She applies these same techniques in pursuit of the Ripper; in addition to the countless hours required for investigation and travel, she also invested millions of dollars of her own money in her search for truth.

[Read John Valeri's review of Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert...]

Feb 24 2017 2:00pm

New Noir-Themed Programming Franchise from TMC Announced!

Eddie Muller, president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation, is pairing with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) to bring film noir back to television with Noir Alley. Every Sunday at 10 a.m. beginning March 5th, Muller will explore the genre from different angles as he introduces a different noir classic each week. 

“With this series dedicated to nothing but film noir, we will trace the evolution from its cinematic origins to its influence on more recent films,” said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM. “As one of the foremost experts on film noir and a noir preservationist, Eddie Muller is the perfect guide to lead fans into the shadows each week for an immersive, hard-boiled experience.”

The first month of Noir Alley will present four absolute classics: 

  • March 5: The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • March 12: Detour (1945)
  • March 19: Act of Violence (1948)
  • March 26: Tension (1949)

For more information of to see a full schedule, visit:

Feb 24 2017 1:00pm

Discount: Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Invisible City by Julia Dahl is the 1st book in the Rebekah Roberts series, which introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage. Now through the month of February, get a digital copy of this thrilling debut for only $2.99!

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she's also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah's shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD's habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can't let the story end there. But getting to the truth won't be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a Million Buy at iTunes

Feb 24 2017 11:00am

Prostitute Behind Bars After Offering Sex for Tacos

I felt like keeping the taco truck rolling with yet another taco-related tale for you this week.

According to the folks over at KJRH 2, a prostitute—Buffy Suzanne Bryan, 47—was arrested after offering to give a man oral sex in exchange for ... two soft tacos from the ultra high-end Taco Bell restaurant. Tasty!

This tale turned sour after the request because the man she wanted the tacos from was actually an undercover cop. Whoops! Turns out, the police were conducting a city-wide crackdown on prostitution.

After a brief exchange, she was promptly arrested for soliciting sex to an undercover police officer.

Bryan was only one of five other women who were arrested during the operation. Though, the others asked for more than just $2.14 worth of tacos…

Feb 24 2017 10:00am

Bel of the Brawl: New Excerpt

Maggie McConnon

Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnonBel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon is the 2nd book in the Bel McGrath Mysteries series (available March 7, 2017).

Bel McGrath loves her work as a wedding chef. But with her latest event set to take place at Shamrock Manor, she just can’t seem to catch a break. The Casey wedding has left her with ten thousand greenbacks in the hole, a missing staff member, and a dead groom. Now, in between Guinness beers and pub brawls, Bel must find a way to crack the case—even though what she should be cracking are eggs into the batter of the wedding cake. A good Irish girl’s work is never done...

What begins as local town fodder for an episode of “Wedding Gone Wild” is turning into “Gangsters with Guns.” With the Casey family spiraling out of control, and billable McGrath hours being lost by the minute, Bel is definitely in too deep. With all these shenanigans, she barely has time to obsess over her new boyfriend and her own unsolved mystery from years ago! Time is running out on getting the next couple down the aisle before the so-called luck of the Irish takes a deadly turn…

[Read an excerpt from Bel of the Brawl...]

Feb 23 2017 4:30pm

Review: Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski

Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom SniegoskiGrim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski is a beautifully illustrated, 1930s pulp-style novel featuring two unusual heroes who seek justice (available February 28, 2017).

I must look a sight, Bentley Hawthorne thought as he stood in the doorway of his family home, adorned in a ragged black suit and slouch hat, face hidden by a grinning skull mask.

He could just imagine the thoughts racing through his manservant's mind at the moment.

“Dear God, sir!” Pym exclaimed, clutching the heavy bathrobe about his throat. “You gave me a fright. I had no idea...”

The servant closed the door on the frigid morning rain, and turned his full attention on Bentley. “Here, let me look at you,” he said. “You're bleeding.”

“Yes, but not all of the blood is mine. Some of it's monkey.”


Bentley nodded. “Trained to commit the act of murder. Wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes; furry devils wielding straight razors and...”

“Monkeys—with straight razors?” Pym asked incredulously.

Yes indeed, folks: this is a story with murder monkeys armed with straight razors. In a single page, Tom Sniegoski (and artistic collaborator Mike Mignola, who contributed several drawings to accompany the text) sets the entire tone for the following horror adventure.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal...]

Feb 23 2017 3:00pm

Reviewing the Queue: Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)

When discussing the oeuvre of Whoopi Goldberg, it’s important to remember that she started off with an incredible performance in The Color Purple. While it hasn’t always been downhill from there, it took a long time for her to get on her comedic feet in the movie business. It wasn’t until Sister Act that she found the persona people wanted. Her stand-up, one-woman-show special for HBO was a knockout that showed off her acting chops and versatility while also exploring social issues.

Unfortunately, the offers she received and choices she made didn’t always live up to that promise—like Burglar, the abysmal adaptation of Lawrence Block’s beloved Bernie Rhodenbarr novel, which was really not her fault. And let’s not even mention her cop-buddy-dinosaur disaster Theodore Rex. But good movies are sometimes overlooked, like the cop flick Fatal Beauty and one of my favorite computer espionage comedies, Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

[I was born in a cross-fire hurricane...]

Feb 23 2017 1:00pm

Discount: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens debut novel, Still Missing, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. Now through the month of February, get a digital copy of this award-winning debut for only $2.99!

On the day she was abducted, Annie O'Sullivan, a thirty-two-year-old realtor, had three goals―sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive in a remote mountain cabin―which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist―is the second narrative recounting the nightmare that follows her escape: her struggle to piece her shattered life back together, the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor, and the disturbing sense that things are far from over…


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a Million Buy at iTunes

Feb 23 2017 12:00pm

Crimes of the Century: Leopold and Loeb

Compulsion, a novel written in 1956, details the true story of a murder that gripped the nation back in the Roaring Twenties—1924 to be exact. “The Crime of the Century,” screamed the headlines. The murder, committed by two sons of multimillionaire families, captivated America in a case that shocked the public. 

The young men—nineteen-year-old Nathan Leopold and eighteen-year-old Richard Loeb—kidnapped and murdered a fourteen-year-old boy named Robert “Bobby” Franks whose family also lived in the rarefied atmosphere of wealth. Why did these teens kill Robert? For two reasons: simply to prove that they could, and because they decided that it would be fun to “break the commandant, Thou Shalt Not Kill.” 

[Read more about this chilling true crime tale...]

Feb 23 2017 10:00am

The Lioness Is the Hunter: New Excerpt

Loren D. Estleman

The Lioness Is the Hunter by Loren D. EstlemanThe Lioness Is the Hunter by Loren D. Estleman is the 26th book in the Amos Walker series (available February 28, 2017).

Detroit entrepreneur Carl Fannon hires Walker to trace Emil Haas, his partner, whose sudden disappearance has jeopardized their firm’s plans to purchase the historic Sentinel Building. Almost immediately, the missing man shows up and asks the detective to meet him in the empty Sentinel to discuss a top-secret concern. Walker complies, only to find not Haas, but Fannon’s suffocated corpse locked in a basement vault.

When Gwendolyn Haas, the partner’s adult daughter, enters the picture, the client number rises to three, including one missing and one murdered. But the worst is yet to come: Emil Haas’s “concern” is that Fannon’s been buying up depressed real estate on behalf of Charlotte Sing, the international fugitive Walker knows only too well as Madam Sing. Madam Sing is believed to have been executed in Asia for capital crimes without number, but instead may be engaged in rebuilding her fortune to relaunch her assault on civilization.

[Read an excerpt from The Lioness Is the Hunter...]

Feb 22 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

I’ve greatly enjoyed Krista Davis’s Domestic Diva series, so I was quite excited to check out her Paws and Claws series—even though I’m jumping in here on the 5th book, Mission Impawsible. In the pet-friendly but entirely fictional, alas, town of Wagtail, Virginia, Holly Miller runs the Sugar Maple Inn with her sprightly grandmother, Oma. They’re preparing the inn for Animal Attraction, a matchmaking event for pet owners, and have invited a celebrity matchmaker to assist with the proceedings. 

Oma is quite intent on matching Holly with someone new, despite Holly’s reluctance, which only deepens when her ex-boyfriend shows up in town needing a place to stay for the event. He claims to want her back, which puts her off the idea of romance altogether (and the guy that the celebrity matchmaker does wind up pairing her off with is no prize either, in my opinion). Still, Holly is determined to make the experience a terrific one for her guests, unwanted or otherwise, as she helps both the lovelorn and the meddling fumble their way towards happiness.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Feb 22 2017 3:00pm

Review: Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout is a gripping thriller that follows a young woman who comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it (available February 28, 2017).

Reaching for the pantheon of serial killer novels comes Jennifer Armentrout’s Till Death, with a narrative that begins by staking claim on a terrain already littered with flags.

Dim artificial light was her home now. The musky, earthy scent would be with her right down to the very last breath she took, and that scent would clog her pores and cling to her hair.

This would be her final place.

The woman tipped her head back against the damp brick wall. The terror in her gaze gave way to pleading. Always did. So fucking predictable. So pointless. There was no hope here. There was no chance of a miracle. Once they came here, there was no knight riding to the rescue.

She’s under the sadistic control of the “Groom,” a sicko who’d had a flawless record of torture and death until ten years ago when Sasha Keeton managed to get away—and he has not forgotten.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Till Death...]

Feb 22 2017 1:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: February 21, 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, M.C. Beaton pubishes a new Hamish Macbeth Mystery, and Clare Mackintosh delivers a truly chilling psychological thriller! See what else this week brings in the way of books:

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

Feb 22 2017 12:00pm

Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson: A Visual Guide

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

This week, everything seems to be coming up Megan Sawyer—until the annual Oktoberfest celebration is interrupted when the local pub owner is found dead.... Take a visual tour of Wendy Tyson's 2nd Greenhouse Mystery, Bitter Harvest, with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Feb 22 2017 10:00am

Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal: New Excerpt

Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski

Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom SniegoskiGrim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski is a beautifully illustrated, 1930s pulp-style novel featuring two unusual heroes who seek justice (available February 28, 2017).

An uneasiness festers upon the city streets, threatening the peace and safety of law-abiding citizens. A war is escalating, and it seems as though the good and righteous are being crushed beneath the unholy weight of evil’s onslaught. Organized crime is spreading in an unchecked reign of terror.

Until a mysterious agent of retribution rises up from the shadows to challenge the villains. A lone figure, clad in a slouch hat and clothes seemingly stitched from the blackest shadows, masked in the guise of a skull-faced death―a Grim Death―emerges with guns blazing. With him, a wronged ex-con clad in the striped costume of his misfortune―Bill the Electrocuted Criminal.

In this beautifully illustrated 1930s-pulp-style novel, two dark new characters take to the street to fight the growing infection of organized crime. Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal are not your average heroes, but they want justice.

[Read an excerpt from Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal...]

Feb 21 2017 3:30pm

Page to Screen: Mildred Pierce

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

That oft-cited sentence from Shakespeare’s King Lear would have been well placed on an opening page of James M. Cain’s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce and just after the opening credits on Michael Curtiz’s 1945 same-named film adaptation of the story. Criterion Collection has just released a new Blu-Ray version of Curtiz’s movie, and that gives me an excuse to write about it—as well as the Cain book—and to think about the Shakespeare quote while considering both.

The book was the 3rd published novel from the hardboiled crime fiction leading light Cain, whose works The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1943)—among others—were also adapted for notable films noir. Curtiz’s career as a movie director was too lengthy for me to try and sum it up in a sentence or two, so I’ll just mention that he was also the auteur behind the camera on Casablanca (1943) and one of my personal favorite Elvis movies, King Creole (1958).

[Thank you, thank you very much...]