<i>City of Ghosts</i>: A New Excerpt City of Ghosts: A New Excerpt Kelli Stanley From San Francisco to Reno, Miranda's journey includes murder, Nazis and her troubled past. <i>Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs</i>: A New Excerpt Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs: A New Excerpt Diane Kelly IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway is head over heels...in trouble. FM: <i>Well Read, Then Dead</i> by Terrie Farley Moran FM: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran Laura K. Curtis Crime comes to life for this cozy Florida book club. <i>Boston Mob</i>: A New Excerpt Boston Mob: A New Excerpt Marc Songini A historical retelling of the reign of the ruthlessly violent Boston mafia.
From The Blog
July 28, 2014
Tourist Trap: Mexico's Super-Creepy Island of the Dolls
Crime HQ
July 27, 2014
The Movies of 1944: Laura
Jake Hinkson
July 25, 2014
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing: First Trailer for The Imitation Game
Joe Brosnan
July 24, 2014
Erotic, Gothic, Belgian Vampires: Daughters of Darkness (1971)
Brian Greene
July 24, 2014
Committing Word Crimes with Weird Al
Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Mon
Jul 28 2014 11:00am

The Strain 1.03: “Gone Smooth”

Episode 3, “Gone Smooth”, opens with a truly Extreme Makeover. While sweeping classical music plays in the background, a man who most certainly isn’t a man sets to work affixing a fake nose over the gaping hole in his face. Glues a foam neckpiece over some disturbing folds. Attaches rubber ears and inserts normal dentures over serrated teeth. And adds a layer of healthy flesh tones over his corpse-gray skin. The transformation complete, he adjusts his tailored suit and brushes his shoulders clean with a satisfied smirk.

Of course the man is none other than Herr Eichhorst. Fitting, that a Nazi pretending to be otherwise to the outside world is also a monster pretending to be a man.

At the CDC headquarters, not even the higher ups are sure what happened to the missing bodies. Knowing how inept government agencies can be, they assume that the military has gotten involved and is perhaps mixed up in the cover-up. Not a bad guess, really, except it allows everyone to turn a blind eye to the truth. Thinking the situation out of their hands, Eph’s boss at the center assures him to forget what’s happened. It’s none of their concern any more.

[Well that doesn't seem like the best way to act...]

Mon
Jul 21 2014 11:00am

The Strain 1.02: “The Box”

We pick up only hours from where we left off last week in Episode 2 “The Box”. A well-built exterminator is prepping his gear for the day like a warrior preparing for battle. As we’ve already est ablished that the vampires of The Strain are caused by parasitic worms, this is a dead giveaway that Vasiliy Fet (played by genre favorite and hulking Canadian Kevin Durand) is going to join our roster of heroes, soon to stand alongside Dr. Eph in the good fight—

Sorry. Kevin Durand started speaking Russian and my brain just sort of short-circuited.

Moving on, we watch as errand boy Gus delivers Mr. Master’s Coffin O’ Dirt to a conveniently underground, dimly lit garage. At least Gus has more common sense than your typical horror movie character: as soon as the coffin starts to shake and yowling shrieks fill the air, he promptly peaces out.

[Can you blame him?]

Mon
Jul 14 2014 10:30am

The Strain 1.01: Series Premiere “Night Zero”

Regis Air Flight #753 is arriving at JFK from Berlin—our first warning that, in true Guillermo del Toro fashion, creepy Germans will play a part in the unfolding horror. As the plane begins its descent, a flight attendant is worried. It seems something has been moving in the cargo hold. Sure enough, the hatch promptly explodes and a black thing erupts to the accompaniment of screams.

So far, so creepy.

Enter our hero: Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, a CDC doctor who is perhaps a little too devoted to his work. Hence the court-appointed counseling sessions with frustrated, estranged wife Kelly. I know this is establishing plot and adding tension, but I’m honestly just trying to wrap my head around frequent character actor (and frequently bald) Corey Stoll’s hair.

While Eph and his partner Nora (Mia Maestro) prepare to enter the “dead” plane, we meet the elderly Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), owner of a pawnshop in Queens. Old he may be, but helpless Abraham most certainly isn’t. When a pair of hoodlums—one of whom happens to be Weevil from Veronica Mars, looking somewhat different with hair; why can’t I stop focusing on everybody’s hair?—try to rob the old man, he responds with an impressive turn of speed and a stone-cold threat. Clearly, Argus Filch is not to be messed with.

[Let's get back to that plane...]

Wed
May 28 2014 11:00am

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Pacific Rim (2013)

Okay, I have to be entirely upfront about this: I love Pacific Rim with every fiber of my being. I want this movie played on a continuous loop on my tombstone—you know the tombstones of the future are going to have televisions embedded in them, don’t try to deny this. I’m even planning to incorporate the Gipsy Danger sigil into my sleeve tattoo; yes, I want something from this movie permanently imprinted on my skin. That’s how serious my love for Pacific Rim is.

Forewarning out of the way…

Summers have been all about big action blockbusters for years now. We’ve come to expect them to the point where it just isn’t July if there isn’t a superhero or robot blowing crap up in the local theater. And when del Toro announced that his summer release Pacific Rim was going to be about heroes in giant robots fighting monsters from another dimension, we had a pretty good idea what to expect.

[But don’t call it cookie-cutter!]

Wed
May 21 2014 3:15pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

With three technical Oscars for Pan’s Labyrinth under his belt, Guillermo del Toro returned to Hollywood with the clout necessary to finally have full creative control on a project. (It’s harder to argue with a filmmaker when he’s got an Academy Award in the hand not holding the camera.)

Eager to return to one of his favorite fictional worlds, del Toro had been working on the script for Hellboy II: The Golden Army even as he was filming Pan’s Labyrinth. Unlike the first film, however, there wouldn’t be high-handed demands from producers or the studio—this time, del Toro would not compromise on his vision. Actor Doug Jones would be the face and voice of Abe Sapien; the budget would be bigger; the sets would be more elaborate.

[With del Toro, bigger is definitely better...]

Tue
May 13 2014 2:45pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

While flashy comic book adaptations established Guillermo del Toro as a bankable director in Hollywood, it was his sixth film—and third Spanish-language outing—that brought him the full critical success he deserved. Pan’s Labyrinth is not only a great achievement in fantasy film-making, it’s also the film that finally gave de Toro the clout he needed to have full control in an industry that is infamous for outside interference and micro-managing.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a richly dark fairy tale firmly in the vein of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. A companion piece to the earlier The Devil’s Backbone, this is a young girl’s coming of age in war-torn Spain, where the horrors of war are equally reflected by the horrors of a world full of magic and monsters.

[Everything del Toro did in the past was building towards this film...]

Wed
May 7 2014 12:15pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy (2004)

Following the box office success of Blade II, it wasn’t a surprise when Guillermo del Toro announced his next film would also be a comic book adaptation. At the time, the Dark Horse series Hellboy was hardly as recognizable as DC or Marvel franchises like Batman and The X-Men. But Mike Mignola’s gothic comic about a demon-turned-monster hunter was right up del Toro’s alley—Hellboy was, in fact, a longtime dream project for the Mexican director, and when offered the chance to do the third Blade film or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he chose Hellboy instead.

The titular hero works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or B.P.R.D.: a secret organization tasked with protecting humanity from the things that bump in the night. The irony is that Hellboy (del Toro fave Ron Perlman) himself is a literal monster—or, more accurately, a demon from another dimension that was summoned by the immortal sorcerer Rasputin (Karel Roden) on Hitler’s orders.

(Yeah, this is a story that’s so pulpy it could come in a carton, but it’s also deliciously over-the-top and wildly fun.)

[Like everyone, Hellboy's working for the weekend...]

Thu
Apr 24 2014 10:30am

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Blade II (2002)

After his terrible experience with Mimic, Guillermo del Toro was understandably hesitant about making another American film in Hollywood. But when he was offered the chance to helm the sequel to the successful Blade, the lifelong horror comic fanboy couldn’t resist. With his unique handling of the vampire mythos in his debut Cronos, the studio knew he would bring something new and interesting to the table.

Blade II opens two years after the events of the first film. The titular antihero (Wesley Snipes)—a half-human, half-vampire also called The Daywalker—is searching for his father figure and mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who was bitten before being snatched by their vampire enemies.

No sooner is Whistler recovered and cured of his vampirism before their base is infiltrated by a pair of bloodsuckers. The twist is that they haven’t come to destroy the hunters: they arrive bearing a peace treaty on behalf of the vampire nation. It seems there’s a new monster stalking the streets, a creature even the vampires fear, and in their desperation they are forced to turn to their enemy for help.

[The enemy of your enemy is your friend...]

Mon
Apr 21 2014 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins

From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins, is the second book in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series set in 1666 London where a body found amidst the debris of the Great Fire turns out to be a victim of murder (available April 22, 2014).

London, 1666. Just days after the Great Fire, former chambermaid Lucy Campion is helping to clear away the debris of her devastated city. Mind already swirling with turbulence—from the fire, from her uncertain place in her master’s household, and from her recent heart-to-heart with her master’s son, Adam—Lucy finds herself caught up in even more turmoil when the body of a man is found in the rubble. A man not killed by the fire.

From the vermin crawling all over him, he’d clearly been dead for a while. Lucy dimly noted a shock of black hair and brownish skin before her eyes fixed on the handle of a knife protruding from his chest…

The constable who takes on the case happens to be the same man who only weeks ago arrested Lucy’s brother for a crime he didn’t commit. Determined to see justice carried out for the stranger stuffed ignominiously in a barrel, Lucy attaches herself to the investigation.

[Even fire can't hide the truth...]

Thu
Apr 17 2014 1:00pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

“What is a ghost?” It’s the question at the heart of Guillermo del Toro’s near-perfect The Devil’s Backbone, the pin that holds together the interwoven threads of his layered story. Is it a literal ghost: a restless spirit that persists in stalking the halls at night? Or perhaps the looming specter of war, in a place full of orphans whose parents were claimed by the conflict... Or is a ghost simply the lingering regret for words unsaid, chances untaken, dreams unfulfilled?

The story opens at a remote orphanage in the final days of the Spanish Civil War. Young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives with a suitcase and shoebox of childish treasures, confused and uncertain. And for all that the teachers—including the eloquent Dr. Casares (del Toro fave Federico Luppi) and the elegant Carmen (Marisa Paredes)—are kindly, Carlos has a hard time settling in. The resident bully Jaime immediately dislikes him, the orphanage echoes eerily with secrets, and there is an unsolved mystery surrounding a boy who abruptly disappeared the night a bomb fell in the courtyard.

When Carlos is given the boy’s bed, he soon suspects that the missing Santi never actually left the orphanage. Something began haunting the school in the wake of his disappearance, a being the other boys call “The One Who Sighs”, and it isn’t long before Carlos comes face to face with the ghost and hears a most frightening warning: “Many of you will die.”

[But even in the midst of violence, there can still be hope…]

Wed
Apr 9 2014 3:30pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Mimic (1997)

Last week, I discussed Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 debut, Cronos, and now I'm back to examine his 1997 thriller Mimic, which opens with dire circumstances: a sickness akin to a Biblical plague has broken out in New York, striking down an entire generation of children. No cure can be found, no treatments are working, and in desperation the CDC turns to an entomologist to attack the source of the disease with one of mankind’s oldest pests—the common cockroach.

Given the resilience of the insects, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) resorts to genetically splicing DNA to create the Judas Breed, a super predator that eradicates the plague carriers. As they are designed to be sterile and die out once their work is done, Dr. Tyler and her husband, Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) of the CDC, promptly move on with their lives.

Fast-forward to three years later, when strange happenings in the city’s subways prove that the Judas Breed did not die out as expected. With their genetically modified metabolism, they have been breeding and evolving at exponential rates. Until the insect has begun to mimic its new prey…

[And you thought it was hard to kill a cockroach now…]

Thu
Apr 3 2014 2:30pm

Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Cronos (1993)

Over the past two decades, Guillermo del Toro has more than proven himself as a master of his craft. I’ve long been an outspoken fan of his and have made it a mission to introduce as many people as possible to his work. And while most know him for his action blockbusters, I wanted to shine a light on his earlier works as well.

It was 1993 when a then unknown Mexican filmmaker burst onto the scene with a low budget and most unusual take on the vampire mythos. Cronos enjoyed quite a lot of buzz at Cannes and won several critics’ choice awards but had a minimal release in the States. Even now, while many recognize del Toro’s name, it seems that few are familiar with his feature debut.

Cronos is a film that defies convention and expectations. Gone are the typical trappings of vampires. There are no castles or Victorian houses, no mysterious gentlemen in fancy evening wear or nubile ladies in revealing nightgowns. Rather, del Toro indulges in his uniquely distinctive aesthetics.

At the heart of the story is a mystical object created by an ancient alchemist, a golden scarab that houses delicate clockwork and a strange insect. When the device is activated and attached to a living person, the transformation into an immortal—and bloodthirsty—creature of the night begins…

[There's always a price to pay for immortality...]

Sat
Jan 25 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris

The Arnifour Affair by Gregory HarrisThe Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris is the first book in the Colin Pendragon historical, detective mystery series (available January 28, 2014).

A genius detective and his faithful partner are sitting in their London flat having a quiet evening at home when a rich woman of a certain age arrives on their doorstep. She’s ushered in by the pair’s housekeeper and reveals that there’s been a dreadful murder that requires their personal attention.

“It’s my husband…” She hesitated. “He was murdered nearly a fortnight ago and my young niece, who was with him at the time, was savagely attacked and remains in a coma even now.”

It’s a set-up that’s been done dozens of times. And for anyone with even a passing knowledge of Sherlock Holmes, it would be easy to assume that this was another tale featuring that acerbic gentleman detective and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson.

But this is, in fact, a new mystery series starring Colin Pendragon, the genius, and Ethan Pruitt, our narrator. And what distinguishes it from the Holmes canon Harris is clearly playing with is how he subverts the original tropes.

[We love setting tropes on their heads!]

Thu
Jan 2 2014 10:45pm

Fresh Meat: The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas

The Harlot's Tale by Samuel Thomas is the second in the Midwife's Tale mystery series about seventeenth-century English midwife Lady Bridget Hodgson (available January 7, 2014).

As a midwife, Lady Bridget Hodgson is all too familiar with death. But, thankfully, it isn’t a constant companion. That is until a murderer begins stalking the whores of York. Summoned by her brother-in-law Edward, the chief constable, to examine the bodies, Bridget finds herself drawn into a sordid web of prostitution and religious fanaticism.

…It had served as a bedchamber, but now seemed like nothing so much as a slaughterhouse. Blood covered the uneven wood floor, a thin coating in some places, but pooled so deeply in others that it would take hours to dry. As I slowly raised my eyes to the bed, horror welled up and a scream clawed to escape my throat…as I tried to comprehend the terrible scene before me.

It is the summer of 1645 and a terrible heat wave holds York in its grip. Animals are dying of thirst, crops are withering in the sun, and a fire-and-brimstone one-eyed preacher named Hezekiah Ward has come to town. In his impassioned public sermons, Ward lays the fault of the weather upon the sinful ways of the people, singling out York’s prostitutes as particular offenders inciting God’s wrath.

[Oh, sure, always blame the pros...]

Wed
Nov 13 2013 2:30pm

Fresh Meat: Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson

Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, a historical mystery by Catriona McPhersonDandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson is the third of the witty historical mystery series to be published in America (seventh in total), in which Dandy goes undercover at a girls' school in Scotland where schoolmistresses have a habit of disappearing (available November 19, 2013).

The setting: 1920s England. The situation: Dandy Gilver—wife, mother, and lady detective—receives a most unusual phone call from an old friend. It seems that the friend’s youngest sister, Fleur Lipscott, has taken up a position as a teacher at a remote girl’s school in Scotland and is acting most strangely.

As Fleur’s reputation is that of a wild flapper and airy dreamer, Dandy is intrigued and more than a little confused. So off she gets to Scotland to uncover the cause behind Fleur’s transformation.

But once in Portpatrick, things only get more confusing and muddled. Mistaken for a replacement teacher sent by an agency, Dandy finds herself in the middle of the mystery at St. Columba’s School for Girls. It seems several past teachers disappeared abruptly, some in the middle of the night. The remaining teachers are acting odd, and Fleur herself is almost unrecognizable and clearly terrified of something.

Then a body washes up on the nearby shore.

[Isn't that always the way...?]

Thu
Oct 17 2013 10:30am

Under the Radar—Horror Movies You May Have Missed: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)I love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Given such a limited release it might as well have been direct to video, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil nevertheless managed to charm on the film festival circuit, and is definitely several tiers above the typical “made for TV” horror out there. While well on its way to achieving cult status, this is still one of those movies that usually elicits a “Huh?” when I reference it.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a couple of innocent, well-intentioned hillbillies who have recently purchased a ramshackle cabin in the woods. While to the horror savvy it has clearly been a place of madness and murder, in Tucker and Dale’s eyes it’s a rustic fixer-upper and the summer home of their dreams.

[It's about to become the home of their nightmares...]

Sun
Oct 13 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander

Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander is the eighth book in the Lady Emily historical mystery series (available October 15, 2013).

Lady Emily Hargreaves is just sitting down for after-dinner coffee in her charming country manor house when a man staggers through the French doors and falls down dead at her husband’s feet.

A most irregular occurrence: unless you’re a lady detective whose gentleman husband happens to be an agent (AKA spy) for the crown, a lady who frequently finds herself entangled in sordid mysteries of just this sort.

In this, the eighth in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, there’s a bit of just about everything. Scandalous affairs that would shock proper society. Suspiciously lost heirs to old family fortunes who turn up at the most inopportune moments. Upstairs/downstairs drama and class commentary. Romance. Intrigue.

[Romance and intrigue are the perfect mix!...]

Sun
Oct 6 2013 10:00am

Cut Andrea Some Slack: In Defense of The Walking Dead’s Whipping Girl

Andrea from AMC's The Walking DeadAt my day job, I’m known as the Zombie Girl—in fact, that’s what my newest manager called me for a solid month before she finally remembered my name. So, naturally, whenever a new movie or book hits the market, people ask me for my thoughts. And after every new episode of The Walking Dead, everyone’s eager to chime in with their two cents and compare them with mine.

This past season there was an almost overwhelming consensus after the third episode. Namely that Andrea was an idiot. So many problems would be fixed if only Andrea did the right thing. In fact, Andrea was the worst. By season’s end, she totally deserved what came to her.

Now, I remember well my rants during season two regarding Lori and her ineptitude, how she was essentially a waste of plot and airtime. (I still stand by those season two opinions, though I appreciated the grace with which Lori faced her death in season three.) So I’m not blind when it comes to ladies in this series acting like fools.

And am I disappointed with how Andrea’s character was handled, given the sheer badassery of her comic counterpart and inspiration? Sure.

But treating Andrea like the show’s whipping girl, publicly flogging her as a stupid and inept woman acting purely on lust who willfully let the situation with the Governor get out of hand? There I have to draw the line.

[The line is drawn!...]

Fri
Sep 13 2013 2:00pm

Under the Radar—Horror Movies You May Have Missed: Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stir of Echoes starring Kevin BaconI love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Released mere weeks from The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes wasn’t given much of a chance to make a stir. At a surface level, both films have the same set-up: the main character sees dead people.

What sets Stir apart in my books is its rewatchability (is that a word? If it isn’t, it should be). The Sixth Sense was great the first time, good the second, but after that…. Once you know the big twist, the story loses much of its power. Stir of Echoes, though, is something you can appreciate no matter how often you watch it.

[No one ever gets tired of Bacon, after all...]

Wed
Jul 24 2013 5:45pm

Riding Shotgun with The Walking Dead: From the Pilot into Season 4

Banner for The Walking Dead's Season 4 on AMCHalloween, 2010: After several months of anticipation, I sat down with some friends and switched on the TV. As a long time zombophile and avid reader of the comics, I had monumentally high hopes. AMC had already proved that they could handle drama, and handle it well. And while I knew there would inevitably be deviations from the source material—this wasn’t HBO or Starz, after all—I was still giddy at the possibilities.

And the pilot did not disappoint. There was Rick, just as I’d pictured him. Morgan and Shane and the Bicycle Walker. In fact, it was an almost frame-for-frame recreation. And Greg Nicotero’s zombies were incredible. I was on Cloud Nine.

Season 1 was solid and enjoyable. The changes made sense, and added the spice of the unexpected. The performances were good, the effects impressive. But…. By the finale, I somehow still wasn’t entirely sold. Something was missing. I enjoyed the show, and I could get very excited about certain aspects. But I didn’t love it.

[Is it blasphemy? Hang on. Salvation awaits!]