Now Win <i>This</i>!: The Shot in the Dark Sweepstakes Now Win This!: The Shot in the Dark Sweepstakes Crime HQ These five books will hit you when you least expect it! FM: <i>The Nightingale Before Christmas</i> by Donna Andrews FM: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews Nikki Bonanni Christmas decorating is serious business. 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.
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Showing posts by: Andy Adams click to see Andy Adams's profile
Sat
Feb 8 2014 7:00pm

Fresh Meat: Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Pillar to the Sky by William R. ForstchenPillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen is a futuristic thriller about a space elevator facing financial, engineering, and political challenges to save a world and humanity in decline (available February 11, 2014).

Taking an elevator into space. It’s straight out of science fiction. But like so many other ideas that have been dreamed up—flip-up wireless communicators, touchable computer slates, and so many more—they can become reality. William Forstchen’s Pillar to the Sky shows science fiction on the verge of becoming science fact.

What is truly compelling about Pillar to the Sky are the spirits it captures, which become overarching parts of the conflict. Throughout the book, readers are constantly reminded of challenges against science fiction becoming reality.

“In these times of economic stress, of towering deficits and public demand for budget cutbacks“— he paused for effect—”pipe-dream schemes that are a waste of taxpayers’ money are utterly absurd and, frankly, a waste of my time as a senator who believes in fiscal responsibility."

. . . “I find it disturbing that such a proposal even reached this level and was not terminated by the proper administrators in your program, and believe me, I shall question them about that after this hearing. We are facing the worse deficit crisis in our nation’s history. If I approved continued research funding for this sci-fi fantasy, let alone the insanity to actually go ahead and build it, I can only imagine the howls of protest from my constituents and every other taxpayer. I agree NASA should continue as a government entity, but let it set realistic goals and not allow this type of idea to worm its way up through the bud get proposal. I know it has been popular with some to praise the recent mission to Mars, but even with that I ask: Why do we spend more than a billion to go explore a lifeless rock when that same billion could be better spent  here on earth, solving a multitude of  problems rather than being wasted out there?”

[Visionaries always face opposition...]

Fri
Nov 29 2013 7:00pm

Iago: A Villain Without A Cause?

Provenda We love a good villain. Villains with complex characters, mysterious motivations, and great resourcefulness are the best. The hero needs to be challenged, right? The better the villain, the greater the hero’s triumph will be at the end. (Going by movies such as Thor and The Avengers, Loki hits pretty high on the villain scale. This is a character that challenged not only one hero, but an entire group. Even Holmes had his Moriarty, a villain so great that they both went over Reichenbach Falls.)

When villains are emotionally sympathetic, we even like to cheer for them at least a little bit; however, appreciating them as characters is not the same thing as wanting them to win entirely. When it comes to criminal stories, we can’t allow the villain to truly win. It’s not in our nature. By the end of the book, movie, or episode we want, even demand the resolution that allows the villain to be brought to justice. In those rare instances where the villain gets away, it is only because at some later date the villain will return and have to face justice then.

But what if that’s not the case? Rereading the story of Jason and Medea got me thinking about how she got away in the end. She murdered her children, Jason’s fiancée Glauce, and Glauce’s father Creon, and then set fire to a city before disappearing completely. She got away. She never faced justice.

Okay, some may say that what she did actually balanced justice. Jason betrayed her, first, and she responded as was befitting (I won’t debate whether acts of murder and arson are equal to casting Medea aside.)

What about a villain who was not wronged first? Shakespeare’s play Othello has a lot in common with Medea's story, especially concerning the villain Iago.

[Some bad just goes bone-deep...]

Tue
Sep 10 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Beloved Enemy by Eric Van Lustbader

Beloved Enemy by Eric Van LustbaderBeloved Enemy by Eric Van Lustbader is the fifth Jack McClure thriller, in which the Secretery of Homeland Security is killed and Jack must decide whether to help the woman he loves or to destroy her as an enemy of the state (available September 10, 2013).

In this installment, Lustbader keeps the action switching back and forth between Jack McClure, an agent known as Redbird, and directors of various intelligence agencies. The shifts in POV are rapid, keeping the action flowing forward, but it doesn’t come across as simply switching off. The view of Jack and Redbird and others are much like pawns in a chess game while the directors are clearly higher up in the food chain trying to dictate the moves on the board.

Like many people in power, though, especially when it comes to intelligence agencies, there is distrust all around and an air of one-upmanship among these people who—ostensibly—should be working towards a common goal, and it escalates to the point where they implicate one another in front of the President of the United States.

[The old circular firing squad...]

Sun
Aug 18 2013 11:00am

The First Femme Fatale?: Don’t Mess with Medea

Opera Singer Maria Callas in her only film role as Medea (1969).

Here's where to start if you haven't already read about Medea's involvement in Jason's Big Heist.

Continuing...

Medea’s adventures didn’t stop just with obtaining the Golden Fleece, though. She married Jason. Now, if this were a modern romantic comedy, the couple marries, has children (which they did), and they live happily ever after. However, we’re dealing with the Greeks, here. Happily ever after is not their forte. Betrayal, murder, and revenge are the stuff of ancient Greek stories, and Medea’s is no exception.

Medea by artist Frederick SandysBut first, we need to know a little bit more about Medea. She is a princess of Colchis, what we consider modern-day Georgia (the country east of the Black Sea, not the place where Sherman marched). This country is around 1,500 miles away from Greece, as far east as a person can get through sailing. The people, according to the ancient Greeks, were uncivilized, tribal, and worshiped strange deities. She is royalty in this foreign land, which allows her character to act in ways outside of the Greek norms for women.

She is also a sorceress, and puts her arcane knowledge to use aiding Jason in obtaining the Golden Fleece through dispensing magic potions and important tidbits of information. She’s also the niece of the witch Circe (the one who transformed Odysseus’s crew into pigs).

[A seriously dangerous femme fatale...]

Wed
Jul 17 2013 10:00am

Jason’s Big Heist

Acastus and Jason (Gary Raymond and Todd Armstrong) in Jason and the Argonauts (1963)Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece is one of the more well-known stories. Told in the Argonautica and other stories, it chronicles a group of heroes sailing into parts unknown, braving monsters, facing perils, and doing many other questy things. However, what the stories don’t tell is that the whole thing is an elaborate heist.

While most heroic quests follow a group of people out for treasure and facing peril, Jason is out for a very specific treasure, one that already has an owner. Sure, he’s doing it in order to appease a king so he can prove his worth, but theft is theft.

The entire set up is that of a heist, too. Jason assembles a crew for his ship the Argo (the getaway car, sort of). Each member of his crew seems to fulfill the same criteria as on a heist. He outfits himself with specialists to get the job done.

[Oooh—did he assemble the team in a montage?]

Wed
Jun 19 2013 2:00pm

Murder One

Murder is old. We can’t call it the oldest profession simply because, well, it wasn’t really a profession when it was invented, at least according to one set of accounts. There just weren’t enough people around, which became a problem later, as we’ll get into. Murder most foul, it was, brother against brother. The incident with Cain and Abel is interesting for a lot of reasons.

For one, it's happening in the first generation. Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden, and their first two sons turn out like this. It’s not really fair to call it bad parenting, either; I mean they got 50% right. Not bad for a couple of kids freshly kicked out of Paradise, especially considering there were no parenting books yet.

What we have with Cain and Abel is a simple crime of passion. Abel got recognition for what he did, Cain felt slighted. Cain kills Abel. End of story, right? Pack up, go home. Not quite. See, what we also have here is the first act of pre-meditation.

[To civilization, murder came early and awful...]

Fri
May 24 2013 12:00pm

It’s All in the Duds: What the Well-Dressed Detective is Wearing

It is said that “Clothes make the man,” but that may be true for some more than others. I’ve been thinking it over, and found a pattern when it comes to clothes in crime fiction. Detective characters stand out in the crowd. Usually their manner—curious, attentive to detail, driven, and intelligent—sets them apart, but there’s more than that. The way they dress is actually quite conspicuous.

A deerstalker hat, a mantled coat, a snuffbox, and a pipe. Just from that brief description we come up with Sherlock Holmes. The hat alone is enough to name him. Throw in the pipe and he’s unmistakable.

A fedora, a trench coat, a hip flask, and a cigarette. These are the trappings of the American hard-boiled detective. Characters such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and Columbo firmly embed the picture of the grizzled detective into our minds.

[What do you wear to a stakeout?]

Sun
May 19 2013 10:00am

You Talkin’ to Me?: Criminal Language

Criminal enterprises are dangerous, no, really, I heard that somewhere. The risks of the job, though, are part of the deal. Hardly a criminal would balk at the prospect of being arrested or facing a prison sentence. It’s a risk; always has been, always will be. The job itself isn’t the only risk, though. Criminals have a need to go about their work in secret, and the only thing worse than getting arrested on the job getting arrested before the job.

For that reason criminals have to hide what they’re about, but they still have to talk about it. Talking about a big heist or, worse, a plan to kill someone is a quick way to tip off the police. If the cops don’t outright arrest someone for planning a crime, you can bet they’ll take steps to make sure that the crime goes down in their favor, ending with thieves and other criminals behind bars, or even in body bags.

[Keep your lip buttoned up...]

Tue
May 7 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis

The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis is a new mystery by the author of the Marcus Didius Falco series, set in ancient Rome and featuring a no-nonsense investigator who just happens to be a woman (available June 11, 2013).

A woman PI (informer, to use the period parlance) on the mean streets of ancient Rome. That’s the one-line summary, but what Lindsey Davis gives us with this kick-off of a brand new series is much more than that.

Flavia Albia is hard-boiled (something the Stargazer bar can actually manage to do correctly) and taking on cases that no one else will touch in a city that is steeped in its own corruption and mistrust.

[The mean streets of Rome...]

Sun
Apr 28 2013 12:00pm

The Appeal of the Heist

Movie poster: The Italian JobHeists are a staple of the crime genre. Who doesn’t love stories like Ocean’s 11, The Italian Job, or even A Fish Called Wanda? But, unlike murder and other crimes, heists are crimes we can get behind. We actually cheer on the criminals in their attempt to rob people. But why is that? Why can we get behind a group of people out to steal, yet condemn the mugger?

Heists are always against someone big and oppressive. Either some kind of large corporation or viciously wealthy individual is the target. We dislike the big bad corporations and the viciously wealthy because, well, they’re not us and their character is shown to be flawed in some way, much as Andy Garcia’s character in Ocean’s Eleven. He’s powerful, shows himself to be a jerk, and has very little sense of humor. This last reason is enough to justify robbing him.

[Sure it is!]

Wed
Apr 3 2013 9:30am

Warning: Virgins Bathing Ahead

The Greek gods are kind of funny, and by that, I’m not talking comedians. They do like jokes, but most of those tend to be one-sided, as in one side thinks it’s funny, but the other side is mightily ticked. When a joke is between gods, not a whole lot happens. One might go complaining to Zeus, who never seems to spend much time on Olympus. If it was your job to settle disputes between the gods you might choose to be out of the office, too. Of course, what Zeus spends his time doing out of the office is a story for another time.

When it comes to mortals, the jokes gods play are very seldom funny. Worse than that, the gods have a funny sense about pride. The absolute worst thing you can do to the Greek gods is to wound their pride. They take that personally. Worse, they won’t kill you. They’re fond of turning people into other things whether it be plants, animals, or insects. When you wound a god’s pride, expect to undergo a metamorphosis. There’s actually an entire collection of myth stories by the Roman poet Ovid called The Metamorphoses detailing these stories.

[Ch...ch...ch...changes...]

Sun
Mar 17 2013 10:00am

Lepre-Con-Artists

Lucky the leprechaunThat guy on the cereal box isn’t the real deal. You know the one I mean: Green suit, jaunty green hat, gigantic clover sticking out of it. He carries a magic wand and fairy dust follows him around whenever he flies—does he have wings? How does he fly, exactly? Anyway, that’s not a real leprechaun. No doubt real leprechauns want to perpetuate this as their image because people will leave them alone, but I’m here to set the record straight.

Leprechauns are faerie. The spelling’s important. We’re not talking Tinkerbell’s kind of fairy—though maybe the cereal box guy is related to her. We’re talking an entire race of enchanted folk belonging to Celtic mythology. All kinds of people belonging to the race of faerie—some people call them elves, dwarves, goblins, etc—can be found throughout Ireland and the rest of the British Isles, particularly in Faerie mounds.

[Watch out for those Faerie mounds...]

Sun
Mar 3 2013 11:00am

Interactive Fiction: Now You’re the Detective

I’m one of those people who shouts at a book when a character does something stupid or ignores a vital clue. I will smack the page with a “No, you idiot, the lamp. Look at the lamp. Don’t waste time with the knife.”

This can be awkward when I shout it at the TV or in the movie theater.

There are times, of course, when I’m absolutely wrong, but I still wish for the character to follow my instructions. I wish for the ability take over and control the action myself. This is more the case with crime and mystery stories. I want to solve the case rather than wait for it to be revealed to me. I want to interact more with the story.

[And so you shall!]

Sun
Feb 24 2013 11:00am

A Catfight of Epic Proportions

It started with a beauty pageant. One day, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite got into a rather vocal discussion about who was the most beautiful. Unable to resolve this pressing issue, they went to Zeus and asked him to decide who was the most beautiful.

Now Zeus often isn’t given a lot of credit. He’s seen as the god who just goes out to schtup mortals; however, on this occasion he paused and looked around. The contest was between Hera, his wife; Athena, his daughter; and Aphrodite, his adopted daughter. Under these circumstances, he decided, most wisely, that he wasn’t the man for the job—really, what man would actually go through with that, knowing the headaches it would later cause? Instead, he sent them off to a guy named Paris, claiming Paris had sound judgment.

Zeus is a smart cookie.

[And he never crumbles...]

Thu
Feb 14 2013 10:30am

Vicious Valentine: Cupid was a Hit Man

Watch where you point that arrow, buddy!The stereotypical view of Cupid is one of an adorable, irresistibly cute, infant cherub winging his way toward couples to help people fall in love. He’s the poster child of St. Valentine’s Day, and I very much doubt he’s collecting any royalties from people using an image based on him.

Of course, like so many things, the reality of Cupid is far, far different from the Hallmark version. Most of the reality has to do with understanding the Greek and Roman gods. (The Roman gods were basically the Greek gods adopted into Roman culture—Rome at the time didn’t care about copyright, they just sent in the legions to deal with troublemakers.)

Lesson 1: The Greek gods don’t have morality. They are capricious, proud, and exceptionally self-centered. They frequently became involved in the affairs of mortals simply for their own amusement; and their amusements tended to be pretty malicious.

Lesson 2: Comparing yourself to a god, especially claiming to be better than one in some way, was a form of blasphemy. It never turned out well. Usually someone was transformed into an animal, plant, or insect. Killing is generally too quick and not nearly enough fun.

[So, what you’re telling me here is that gods are psychopaths?]

Wed
Jan 9 2013 1:00pm

By Jove! Crime in Mythology

Crime is old, as old as written language itself, and a favorite theme in the world’s mythology. Whether it’s the murder of Abel by Cain, the theft of fire by Prometheus, Actaeon spying on a naked Artemis, or stealing away Helen of Troy, crime is everywhere, and in every variation.

Not only is crime prevalent, there are some interesting features about crime that come forward. First and foremost is that there is no getting away with it. For the gods it’s a simple matter to look down at the mortal world to see the crimes, whether it’s Zeus catching Prometheus or the God of the Old Testament asking Cain some pointed, uncomfortable questions in what is not only the first murder, but the first murder investigation and interrogation.

Now these first crimes aren’t committed by what anyone thought of as a master criminal (Really, Cain? “Not my brother’s keeper”? Is that the best you can do?). There were no CSI teams to comb the scene for miniscule evidence, so disposing of the weapon and abandoning the scene was advanced thinking. It’s a long time before a James Bond villain emerges with something approaching a good scheme.

[Still, they did come up with some memorable crimes...]