Review: <i>Bad Boy Boogie</i> by Thomas Pluck Review: Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck Neliza Drew Read Neliza Drew's review! <i>Conviction</i>: New Excerpt Conviction: New Excerpt Julia Dahl The 3rd book in the Rebekah Roberts series. Review: <i>Lola</i> by Melissa Scrivner Love Review: Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! The Dark Tower: <i>The Wind Through the Keyhole</i> Part II The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole Part II David Cranmer Join the discussion!
From The Blog
March 21, 2017
Q&A with Gretchen Archer, Author of Double Up
Crime HQ and Gretchen Archer
March 17, 2017
Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)
Angie Barry
March 16, 2017
Research Ride-Along
kristen lepionka
March 16, 2017
Q&A with Lyndsay Faye, Author of The Whole Art of Detection
Lyndsay Faye and Ardi Alspach
March 14, 2017
Mathematical Mysteries, Sci-Fi, and Thrillers
David Cranmer
Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Fri
Mar 17 2017 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)

THE SUBGENRE: Sword and sorcery adventure.
THE HERO: Conan the Barbarian, aka Conan the Cimmerian
THE VILLAIN: Thulsa Doom, leader of a snake cult (Conan the Barbarian); Queen Taramis, who plans to sacrifice her niece to raise a death god.
THE SETTING: The mystical “Hyborian Age,” after the fall of Atlantis but before known ancient civilizations appeared.

Conan the Barbarian hardly needs an introduction—the Robert E. Howard character has set the bar for almost every sword and sorcery adventure since his first pulp magazine appearance in 1932. We can thank Conan for the preponderance of giant, beefy strongmen that are such a staple of the genre. He's a rescuer of damsels in distress, an adventurer always ready for the next battle, and a king by his own hand.

In short: he's the ultimate testosterone-fueled male fantasy.

[Conan, what is best in life?]

Wed
Mar 15 2017 11:00am

Review: Murder at the Fortune Teller’s Table by Janet Finsilver

A Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver is the 3rd book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series.

“First you drink the coffee,” Auntie said. “ ... You must drink from the same side of the cup for the entire process and leave a little in the bottom. With your last sip, make a wish.”

I drank some more, then put the cup down with thoughts for a positive future. “Okay. There's just a little left.”

“Now put the saucer on it upside-down, swirl it three times, and flip it over.”

I did as instructed and managed to keep everything together when I upended it.

“Now it must rest for a short while.” Her voice was a broken whisper, and I leaned forward to catch her words. “The grounds need to flow into their shapes.”

She folded her hands and stared at the cup. After what seemed an eternity, Auntie carefully separated the cup and saucer. “The patterns—they tell of your past, present, and future...”

In the 3rd Kelly Jackson mystery from Janet Finsilver, the curious B&B manager finds herself embroiled in a double murder-by-poison, a convoluted family drama fifty years in the making—and a frightening encounter with some dangerous topiary.

Yes, really.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table...]

Mon
Mar 13 2017 1:00pm

Review: Skeleton God by Eliot Pattison

Skeleton God by Eliot Pattison is the 9th book in the Inspector Shan Tao Yun series (available March 14, 2017).

If you would know the age of the human soul, an old lama had once told Shan Tao Yun, look to Tibet. Here at the roof of the world, where humans were so battered, where wind and hail and tyranny had pounded so many for so long, it was a miracle the human spark remained at all. As Shan gazed at the old Tibetan herder beside him, knee deep in mud, grime covering his grizzled, weathered face, and saw the eyes shining with the joy of life, he knew that he was looking at something ancient and pure. In Tibet, souls were tried, and souls were tormented, but always souls endured.

With the very first paragraph, author Eliot Pattison sets the tone for the entire mystery to follow. Skeleton God is a heavy piece of fiction—frequently bleak, often vibrating with rage and terrible sadness, but ultimately laced with shreds of hope to buoy the spirit amidst all of the heartache and atrocities.

Inspector Shan has fallen greatly over the previous eight books in the series. After surviving years of hard labor in a brutal prison, after investigating corruption and incurring all manner of official punishments, the honor-bound and duty-driven investigator has been made constable of a remote village high in the mountains of Tibet: Yangkar. Here, the locals distrust him because he is Chinese, though he is far kinder and more sympathetic to their awful plights than many of his communist comrades would be.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Skeleton God...]

Fri
Mar 10 2017 3:00pm

Review: When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris

When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris is the 11th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series.

It was the fly that got to him.

In the misty light of early morning, the dead woman looked as if she might be sleeping, her dusky lashes resting against cheeks of pale eggshell, her lips faintly parted. She lay at the edge of a clover-strewn meadow near the river, the back of her head nestled against a mossy log, her slim hands folded at the high waist of her fashionable dove gray mourning gown.

Then that fly came crawling out of her mouth.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, has hardly arrived in the quiet village of Ayleswick-on-Teme in August of 1813 before he finds himself caught up in yet another series of mysterious deaths. 

Emma Chance, a young widow on a sketching excursion, had been in the area for less than a week before someone snuffed the life from her—and then posed her in a manner that suggested suicide. This careful cover leads Devlin to wonder: perhaps some of the other untimely deaths in the area were no mere accidents or suicides. Perhaps there's a murderer lurking in Ayleswick ... one who has been operating for nearly two decades.

[Read Angie Barry's review of When Falcons Fall...]

Thu
Feb 23 2017 5:30pm

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.”

“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...]

Fri
Feb 3 2017 2:00pm

Review: Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Angie Barry reviews #42, Brotherhood in Death.

Eve leaned forward, just a little. “You can kiss my ass.”

Color flooded Mandy's face. “How dare you. You can be sure I'll contact your superior and report your behavior.”

“That would be Whitney, Commander Jack. Cop Central.” Eve took out her badge. “Make a note of the name and number. I cleaned up some of your husband's blood in that ridiculous old house today—you think about that. You think about that and the fact that you can't find him. And you remember Dennis Mira ended up unconscious on the floor, shedding some of his own blood, because he tried to help. And you—”

“Eve,” Roarke murmured.

“No, not done. And you think about the fact a cop came to your door to inform you, to gather information in the investigation of your husband's whereabouts, and you stonewalled. As a cop I'm now looking right at you, right straight at you as my chief suspect. You got anything hiding in your closets, sister? I guarantee I'll find it.”

In the 42nd installment of her In Death series, J.D. Robb makes things decidedly personal for Lieutenant Eve Dallas. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of Brotherhood in Death...]

Mon
Jan 9 2017 1:00pm

Review: Burning Bright by Nicholas Petrie

Burning Bright by Nicholas Petrie is the 2nd book in the Peter Ash series, where Ash has a woman’s life in his hands—and her mystery is stranger than he could ever imagine (available January 10, 2017).

One week ago, investigative journalist June Cassidy lost her mother. Two days ago, men in a black SUV tried to snatch her off the street. Today, she's hiding over a hundred feet off the ground, on a research platform built around California redwoods.

Meanwhile...

Last night, Peter Ash was trekking through the forest with nothing but a pack on his back and the white static in his head—a souvenir from his tours in Afghanistan. So long as he sticks to wide open spaces, the static is manageable. It's only when he ventures indoors that the claustrophobia becomes too much to bear. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of Burning Bright...]

Fri
Dec 30 2016 5:00pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Scud: The Disposable Assassin

The Series: Scud: the Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab (co-creator of The Sarah Silverman Program), featuring additional writing from Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty)
The Hero: The aforementioned disposable robot assassin, Scud.
The Ideal Format: An animated show in the style of Freakazoid or Invader Zim (with Æon Flux flourishes).  

Imagine what the world will be like five hundred years in the future—or even a thousand. What do you see?

Filmmakers in the forties and fifties imagined flying cars, helpful robots, and heroic square-jawed astronauts facing off against monstrous aliens. Gene Rodenberry gave us an even more optimistic vision in the sixties, with all of mankind finally united in peace, allied with interplanetary species not so different from us, human enterprise now driven by space exploration and the advancement of knowledge. 

The future hasn't always been a bright and rosy place, though. There are plenty of pessimists who have predicted dystopian governments (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World), man's creations turning against us (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Terminator), or extraterrestrial life-forms that will never come in peace (Alien, The War of the Worlds).

Which is more plausible: the golly gee-whiz brightness of technological and societal advancement, or the grittier and more nihilistic darkness of galactic violence and degradation?

[What will the future bring?]

Fri
Dec 23 2016 4:00pm

The Cautionary Tale of Gremlins

Each year there's some new, hot thing every kid wants and every parent is desperate to get. Cabbage Patch Dolls. Tickle Me Elmo. This year, it's some bizarre Tamagotchi/Furby hybrid called Hatchimals

Such toys may be outrageously over-priced and hard to find, but at least they're inanimate. If the kids fall out of love with them midway through January, the worst thing that happens is some grumbling about money swirling down the drain and just one more toy to clutter up the house. 

What about all of the cute puppies and kittens and hamsters purchased every year for Christmas morning? The sweet little pets that might not stay little for long or require more upkeep than anticipated? The animals that end up buried in shoeboxes when Little Timmy forgets to feed them for a straight week, abandoned by the side of the road, or dumped at the pound when the novelty wears off?

[That got dark quick...]

Wed
Dec 21 2016 1:00pm

Under the Radar: Movies You May Have Missed—The Ref (1994)

As the poet once said: it's a hard knock life.

For Gus (Denis Leary), Christmas is an especially trying time. His latest job is a bust. He's had a nasty run-in with a rather toothy dog. His boozy business partner Murray (Richard Bright) vamoosed and left him up the proverbial creek without a paddle (or a van).

Oh, and every cop in town is looking for him.

See, Gus is a cat burglar. The good ol' American Dream ain't what it used to be, and after being disappointed by life, he's just making the best of it. This gig was supposed to be the last, the big score, the job that would allow him to finally retire his safe-cracking skills for good. Instead, he finds himself bleeding, reeking of cat pee, and in a real bind.

How to escape town before the city-wide manhunt closes in on him like a noose? The answer seems simple enough: just take a hostage or two, steal their car, and get out while the getting's good. 

[Simple enough, right?]

Tue
Dec 20 2016 4:00pm

A Christmas Party (Is Always More Fun with Murder)

Wouldn't it be lovely if Hallmark actually told the truth about the holiday season? 

Sure, it would be great if every family get-together was full of warmth, good cheer, and high spirits. If the only problem was running out of eggnog and the only arguing was over who was going to hand out the presents after dinner.

Unfortunately for a lot of us Scrooges, the holidays aren't nearly so saccharine and tingly. Instead of jingle bells, there's screaming children, politics-fueled war over the candied yams, and a general sense that the time would have been better spent in bed at home, alone, our sole company a bottle of wine.

It's no real wonder, then, why murder mysteries set during the Yuletide are so appealing. Where better to find a body than under the Christmas tree, in a house packed full of resentment, frayed feelings, and bow-bedazzled gifts? Murder tends to occur close to home, after all, and a forced gathering of disjointed family members provides a jolly pool of suspects.

[I like my eggnog with a little murder...]

Wed
Nov 30 2016 5:15pm

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

The Series: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
The Heroes: Alana and Marko—once enemy combatants in an intergalactic war, now married and on the run from both of their governments—and a ragtag bunch of allies.
The Ideal Format: A live-action fantasy epic with extensive animatronics, CGI, and sweet alien makeup.

Star-crossed lovers aren't a new thing.

The trope has been a staple of fiction since long before Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet (to the frustration of high school students as-yet-unborn).

Star-crossed lovers in space is pretty new, though. In the case of Saga, the lovers are—at times—even literally star crossed.

When we first meet Alana—a lady with fairy wings growing out of her back—and Marko—a handsome guy with curved ram's horns—the couple are on the run with significant bounties on their heads. Seems they've broken one of the cardinal rules of their galaxy: rather than blindly hate or kill each other, they've fallen in love.

[All ya need is love, doot da doo do doo...]

Fri
Nov 18 2016 4:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting The Phantom (1996)

THE SUBGENRE: Comic adaptation/supernatural adventure.
THE HERO: Kit Walker, aka jungle hero The Phantom.
THE VILLAIN: Megalomaniac businessman Xander Drax.
THE SETTING: 1939 NYC and the jungles of the fictional country “Bengalla.”

Twenty generations ago, a young cabin boy witnessed the slaughter of his ship's entire crew—including his father—by merciless pirates known as the Singh Brotherhood. 

Taken in by a native tribe, the boy vowed vengeance and assumed the crime-fighting mantle of The Phantom, a title and mission that are passed down from father to son until “piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice” are finally defeated. 

Due to this unbroken chain of similarly-uniformed heroes, folks begin to believe the Phantom is immortal and call him “The Ghost Who Walks.” In actuality, the Phantom has no magical powers; he's just an awesome fighter, great with guns, and has an awesome ring and a pet wolf called Devil.

That's still pretty sweet in terms of superhero accoutrements. I want a pet wolf called Devil. 

[Who doesn't?]

Mon
Oct 31 2016 4:30pm

The Adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe: The Good, the Bad, and the Appalling

Poor Edgar. 

While he enjoyed a modicum of critical success in his lifetime, he died at the age of forty, penniless and under mysterious, still unsolved circumstances. He was orphaned at an early age, clashed frequently with his foster father, lost his young wife to tuberculosis, and his reputation was almost completely destroyed by his archrival, who somehow managed to become Poe's literary executor and launched a smear campaign that lingers to this day.

Talk about a tragic, depressing life. No wonder the guy was obsessed with death, loss, and madness. 

In the 150+ years since his death, it's a shame that many adaptations of his stories have been so schlocky. Why is it so hard to do an atmospheric, genuinely thrilling Poe adapt? The man's widely considered the foremost American voice in Romanticism and the inventor of detective fiction for crying out loud.

I think we need to make Guillermo del Toro put down the twelve other projects he's always carrying around and do a big budget Fall of the House of Usher or something. He's the only guy I'd trust at this point.

If you're a fan of Poe, there are plenty of films—and a handful of TV shows—to choose from. Here's just a handful of the most notable:

[See what Poe adapts made the cut...]

Fri
Oct 28 2016 4:30pm

Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The Series: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame!) and Erica Henderson.
The Heroes: The titular heroine, aka Doreen Green, and several friends with similarly rhyming names and animal-based powers (like Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi).
The Ideal Format: A live-action half-hour comedy series—think Marvel's answer to Brooklyn Nine-Nine

She may not be as intimidating as Thor. She's not a snarky billionaire like Iron Man. She's not as noble or as inspiring as Captain America.

So? None of that changes the fact that Squirrel Girl is a legit hero in her own right, despite her goofy name and silly powers. 

What, exactly, are SG's powers?

[Learn more about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!]

Fri
Oct 28 2016 2:00pm

Bruce Campbell: King of B-Movies

You may know him as “that guy with the chainsaw for a hand,” or “the aging Elvis who fights a mummy in a retirement home,” or “the hammy actor with a killer chin.”

Or maybe you don't know him at all.

Bruce Campbell may not be a household name—well, he is in my house, but then, B-movies are a way of life in the Barry family. So, mostly he's not a household name. 

Which is a shame. Because he should be. 

[Hail to the king, baby...]

Thu
Oct 27 2016 5:15pm

The Horror Hostess with the Mostest: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Before Joel, Mike, and the Bots mocked B-movies for Mystery Science Theater...

Before Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax...

There was the bodacious, curvaceous, outrageous Elvira.

The alter ego of Cassandra Peterson, Elvira sprang onto the scene in the early 80s, hosting late night horror flicks for a Los Angeles-based television network. It wasn't long before she busted—hold on to your butts; that won't be my last terrible pun, I promise—onto the national scene, her signature cleavage-baring dress and snarky, innuendo-laced commentary catching on with the public in a big, bosomy way.

[Read more about Elvira!]

Wed
Oct 26 2016 11:00am

Review: Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan is a thrilling action adventure featuring one of the world's greatest fictional monsters facing off against an historical monster in 1941 Romania. 

In the spring of 1941, Hitler's war machine is moving steadily across Europe, crushing any resistance it encounters beneath its fascist boots. Countries fall like dominos beneath the awesome might and horrific violence of the Nazi party. 

Then, the Germans reach Romania, the adopted homeland of one Dr. Abraham Van Helsing...

It has, of course, been decades since the doctor's infamous battle against the greatest evil the world had ever known—the greatest evil prior to Hitler's ascent, that is. Now an old man, Van Helsing recognizes the warning signs and knows that Hitler and his cruel, barbaric forces must be stopped. Sadly, they will not be stopped by the small (if hardy) guerrilla rebels he and his wild daughter Lucy lead.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Dracula vs. Hitler...]

Mon
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!?]

Fri
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!]