Fresh Meat: <i>Shark Skin Suite</i> by Tim Dorsey Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey Neliza Drew Lawyers, like sharks, are tough to swim with. <i>Crazy for You</i>: New Excerpt Crazy for You: New Excerpt Michael Fleeman One moment, you're just dropping your kid off at school... Now Win <i>This</i>!: 3x3 Sweepstakes Now Win This!: 3x3 Sweepstakes Crime HQ The best things come in threes! <i>Fear the Darkness</i>: New Excerpt Fear the Darkness: New Excerpt Becky Masterman What do you do when a psychopath moves in?
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January 27, 2015
William Gillette: The Actor Who Saved Sherlock Holmes
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Lowdown Calendar: More of 2015's Mystery Conventions
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January 25, 2015
Literary Mysteries: Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
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Announcing 2015’s Edgar Nominees
Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Corrina Lawson click to see Corrina Lawson's profile
Tue
Jan 27 2015 11:45am

Gotham 1.13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, L) address corruption within the GCPD in the "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon" episode of Gotham.Welcome back, indeed. This was the most coherent and compelling episode of Gotham to date. Not only did we get the usual surface fun—Oswald and Mama Kapelput, Fish being gleefully defiant—but the story reached far deeper in simultaneously giving Jim and victory and a defeat.

Gotham's unpredictability has always been a strength, and that’s in evidence, too. I expected Fish might die, I expected crazy Mama Kapelput to get caught in a crossfire, and, most of all, I expected Gotham's signature quick cuts between storylines to interfere with the overall impact of the episode. Instead, the police plot and the mobster plot coalesced into something greater than both, while the subplots of Bruce and Selina’s break-up and Eddie’s fumbling courtship of Miss Kringle reinforce the grief and loss of the overall story.

[Let's hope this is the new Gotham...]

Tue
Jan 20 2015 11:00am

Gotham 1.12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

“You think you’ve been careful so far?”

Lest we forget, Harvey Bullock repeats the phrase three times, each more incredulous than the last in the latest Gotham.

It’s a perfect line, well-delivered by Donal Logue, and points out the single biggest issue with Gotham: Jim Gordon should be dead by now.

But for plot reasons, he lives. It’s certainly not because his skills are invaluable to Gotham.  Oh, he yells at people for being corrupt and he condescends to those not doing real police work but it’s been a long time since we’ve actually seen him do something that makes things better for the city.

But yet Jim holds himself up as better than everyone else. He yells at other cops, various mobsters and the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. Yet no one takes him out.  This frustrates me to no end because the character has such potential.

[Jim, like Gotham, needs to find its identity...]

Tue
Jan 6 2015 11:15am

Gotham 1.11: “Rogues’ Gallery”

Somehow, I expected Gotham’s biggest flaws to have vanished in its return. But the quick cuts between stories, the failure to give Gordon any plan for accomplishing his objectives, and the introduction of Batman villains for no particular reason are all flaws in stark evidence in “Rogues’ Gallery.”

It’s a measure of how off Gotham’s return was that a Shakespeare play performed by the inmates at Arkham Asylum instead reminded me of a King Tut routine from the campy Batman television show of the 1960s.

And then there are the vast issues with the show’s worst-written character: Barbara Kean. We learn why Barbara never left the Clocktower: all she does, apparently, is hang around the place and do drugs, a lifestyle that even Montoya can’t get behind. Montoya claims she and Barbara are “toxic” for each other but it’s Barbara who’s bringing everyone down. (What do Jim and Montoya see in this person?)

[Besides the obvious...]

Tue
Nov 25 2014 1:30pm

Gotham 1.10: Mid-Season Finale “Lovecraft”

In Season 1 Episode 10 of Gotham 1.10 "Lovecraft", teens Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have been surprising bright spots.

I expected a great deal from Gotham. I expected it would be mostly a police procedural. I expected to strongly feature Jim Gordon, one of my favorite comic characters, and I expected it to be a street-level story.

I also expected it to be good. It is good. But not in any way I’d anticipated. After ten episodes, it’s clear there are strengths and weaknesses to the storytelling.

The Good?

1. Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, brilliantly portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. He’s creepy, he’s fun, he’s murderous but he’s also the smartest person in Gotham, albeit with a few lapses here and there. He’s also the only character to get a real arc this season, from literal holder of Fish’s umbrella to Falcone’s most trusted advisor. He’s a revelation and the heart of the show.

[There's more good. And some bad. And worse...]

Tue
Nov 18 2014 10:45am

Gotham 1.09: “Harvey Dent”

 Bruce Wayne (David Mazouza) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) strike a deal in Gotham Season 1 Epiosde 09 "Harvey Dent."

This episode was called “Harvey Dent” but it should have been dubbed “Two-Face,” for the dual nature of nearly everyone involved, starting with those crazy kids, Bruce (David Mazouz) and Selina (Camren Bicondova).

With far more subtlety than this show has shown so far, young Selina brings out the Bruce and eventual Batman selves in the young rich orphan. First, she tells Bruce that his training in boxing and self-discipline won’t help on the streets. “In Gotham, people don’t fight with gloves on.” We know, Selina.

Then Selina brings out the fun side of Bruce, hinting at his later, playboy, persona. She challenges him to a food fight with a kiss from her as the prize and the pair play like, well, the kids they are. She also provides solace when Bruce reveals his regret over not saving his parents. “What could you have done? A gun’s a gun!” Selina states. More than anything, this gets through to him.

[Everyone needs a friend...]

Tue
Nov 11 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.08: “The Mask”

In Gotham Season 1 Episode 8 "The Mask" Richard Sionis takes his name quite literally.

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little dizzy this morning from all those quick jump edits on Gotham last night. I appreciate the show wants a quick pace but this is becoming ridiculous.

In no particular order, “The Mask” brought us Black Mask Fight Club, Jim getting a Dear John note from Barbara, the GCPD finally finding some semblance of courage, Bullock being awesome, Fish as a believable liar, more crazy Carol Kane/Simka Mom, and Oswald killing people. Oh, and Selina getting caught. Again.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, though not Jim Gordon’s. He’s consistently hard-headed and focused on the one goal: clean up Gotham City, and if you stand in his way, he’s had enough of you.

[Barbara's had enough of Jim...]

Tue
Nov 4 2014 11:15am

Gotham 1.07: “Penguin’s Umbrella”

It’s time to give up on my hope that Gotham will become a dark, twisted and deep story that showcases what a scary place a superhero universe can be without extraordinary heroes.

Instead, it’s time to embrace Gotham for what it is: a dark, twisted and sometimes over-the-top story of a city without a Batman. It’s compelling but in a different way than I’d once hoped.

And when it amps up the action, as in this episode, it’s a whole lot of unpredictable fun. There’s very little slow burn. Secrets tumble out fast, sides are chosen and the board is reshuffled. Oh, and Oswald gets to kill someone again.

[It's what we've come to expect...]

Tue
Oct 28 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.06: “Spirit of the Goat”

You have to love the way Oswald makes entrances. First, he shows up at Barbara’s clock tower to say “hi” to his good friend, Jim, then he shows up at his mother’s place with “I’m alive!,” and at the end of this episode, he drops the bombshell on everyone by walking into police headquarters.

I love the ending cliffhanger. It feels like an homage to monthly comics, which often end on that kind of big revelation.

And, despite the presence of a serial murderer, Oswald still wins the creepy award this episode, for the disturbing bathtub scene with his mother, who seems like a weirder, more twisted version of Carol Kane’s Valerie from The Princess Bride. I half expected Miracle Max to show up as Oswald’s Dad and for them to start arguing about whether their son was pursuing the right career path or maybe where to get the best pastrami.

[You said something about pastrami?]

Tue
Oct 21 2014 1:00pm

Gotham 1.05: “Viper”

The full scope of the corruption in Gotham and the impossible task that Jim Gordon has taken on himself becomes clear in this fifth episode, where the series finally coalesces into full coherence.

Instead of unrelated quick cuts between the ever-growing cast, Viper pulls them all into one over-reaching plotline: take down Carmine Falcone.

Falcone controls the police, the courts, the mayor and the underworld. Fish and her bondage-loving new boyfriend want to replace Falcone, as does Maroni. Fish’s new weapon is her baby doll, a lethal lady trained to pull at Falcone’s heartstrings and something below belt as well. Maroni’s new weapon is the newly-dubbed Penguin, our old friend Oswald. (Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.)

[Gotham owes a hat tip to Breaking Bad for that one...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 2:30pm

Gotham 1.04: “Arkham”

Gotham should be subtitled “Rise of the Penguin,” as it’s clear by this fourth episode that this season is all about Oswald Cobblepot’s bid for power.

Focusing on the villain is a tradition in Batman screen adaptations, all the way back to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. And Oswald is perfectly cast to fill this need. Robin Lord Taylor has on-screen charisma to burn, enough so that while he’s a cheerfully unrepentant murderer, I find myself rooting for him. Oswald took a big step forward with this week’s orchestration of a robbery and then dispatching his hired help via poisoned cannoli. (He takes the gun, the cannoli, and the money.)

As I was watching the double-cross, it occurred to me that Oswald is an excellent suspect for the mastermind behind the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Their deaths caused the chaos he needs to thrive and he certainly tried to use the killings as leverage to get rid of Fish, his one miscalculation so far. If this is the case, it adds more resonance to the scene at the end of the pilot in which Jim Gordon, sworn to find the murderer of the Waynes, refuses to kill Oswald. 

[If only, if only...]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 11:00am

Gotham 1.03: “The Balloonman”

If one thing is clear from three episodes of Gotham, it’s that the show is going to be obvious in its themes. Jim Gordon is always the “boy scout,” Bruce is the brooding youngster interested in crime, and Gotham officials are corrupt, to the point where a drinking game can be made of any character saying “it’s Gotham,” in the same tone as “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

If the pilot intrigued me and the second episode disappointed, this third outing, “The Balloonman,” showed some promise that the show is finding its tone: wry humor, some over-the-top situations, and a quick pace.

The return of the humor is particularly welcome after the dreary and dull mystery of episode 2. “The Balloonman” even gets mileage out of the ridiculous idea of rounding up all the street kids to ship them off to juvenile prison facilities upstate, as that serves as motivation for this week’s villain.

[Glad we're revisiting that...]

Tue
Sep 30 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.02: “Selina Kyle”

Bruno Heller, the co-creater of Gotham, talked in an interview about the influence of 1970s New York City on the show. That’s evident in much of the cinematography, such as the elevated tracks at the murder scene in “Selina Kyle,” very similar to the setting of the car chase in The French Connection.

But what I hoped was also a tone similar to The French Connection.

Instead, from Falcone’s public beating of Fish’s lover, to the too on-the-nose dialogue about being “with the program” from Capt. Essen, and Bullock’s repeated badgerings of Jim Gordon to stop acting all high and mighty, Episode 2, “Selina Kyle” became, at times, almost as silly as its Monday night companion, Sleepy Hollow but not nearly as fun as Sleepy Hollow, which embraces its ridiculousness. (Look, everyone, studly naked torso!)

[The young bat and cat!]

Tue
Sep 23 2014 11:00am

Gotham Series Premiere: You Won’t Miss Batman

If you’re a casual television viewer, you probably remember Jim Gordon as the bumbling commissioner on the Batman live-action television show. If you’ve seen the recent Dark Knight trilogy, you might have a more positive opinion of Gordon as a hero.

But if you’re a reader of comics, especially Batman: Year One, then you know Gordon serves an incredibly important role in the Gotham mythos: he’s Batman’s conscience and the moral center of a city already half in ruins.

This is why he was picked as the centerpoint of Gotham.

The first episode of the series nails Jim Gordon’s essential morality. There’s a line he won’t cross and shortcuts he won’t take. At least so far, because the first hour of Gotham promises some serious challenges to his worldview. It also provides Gordon an excellent counterpoint in cynical, slovenly and yet smart Detective Harvey Bullock. If Ben McKenzie doesn’t watch out, Donal Logue’s Bullock is going to steal the show from his Gordon. Watching the two of them this season together promises to be a lot of fun, especially if they can continue to exchange the wryly funny looks like the ones they gave each other while upside down on meathooks.

[Wait, what was that about meathooks?]

Fri
Sep 19 2014 7:45am

Gotham: Join Us for the Journey Through Batman’s Origins

“The attraction of this story was the chance to tell the origin stories,” said Gotham Executive Producer/Writer Bruno Heller in an interview last week.

Gotham is the story of what went on before Bruce Wayne put on the cape and cowl, seen through the eyes of young Detective Jim Gordon. Not only is it the story of how Gordon struggled to bring some order to Gotham City’s chaos, but it’s the beginning of some of Batman’s iconic villains, such as the Penguin and the Riddler. The story is set against the backdrop of a Gotham City heavily influenced by New York City in the 1970s, a time of great tumult.

Heller says you don’t have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy the show. He’s hoping to grab a wider audience by the strength of the story and the characters.

So follow me here beginning with the premiere on September 22, as I recap each episode on Criminal Element. If the pilot is any indication, we’ll have much to discuss, from the major tweak on Batman’s origin, to the addition of characters who’ve never been seen on-screen before, like Crispus Allen and Barbara Kean, the eventual mother of Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon.

Wed
Sep 10 2014 1:00pm

Gotham’s Girls: Comic Noir’s New Leading Ladies

Noir has long been a male bastion in comics, from Frank Miller reimagining Daredevil and Batman to Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka creating Gotham Central, an inspiration for the upcoming Gotham television series.

Female creators writing noir stories for comics have been few and far between. But that’s changing. Batgirl is being re-imagined by a creative team that includes Babs Tarr and acclaimed artist Becky Cloonan is part of a team working on the all-new Gotham Academy series, both debuting in October.

On the independent side, Erica Schultz is the co-creator of M3, an award-winning independent series with art by Vicente Alcázar. M3 is the story of a female assassin who entered the trade after being raised by the hit man who murdered her parents. Machiavella Maria Marcona’s (hence: M3) always believed her assassinations were for the right reasons and that she was murdering for the greater good. As her story unfolds, mixing flashbacks with the current day, it becomes clear everything she was certain of in her life could be wrong.

[That's a big pill to swallow...]

Tue
Aug 19 2014 11:30am

Legends: Sean Bean Is Legendary But the Writing Isn’t (Yet)

The way Sean Bean’s craggy face commands the screen in the new television crime show, Legends, which premiered on TNT last week, is the show’s best asset.

But the writing needs to level up.

Legends has a ten-episode run on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on TNT. It stars Bean as Martin Odum, a “legendary” FBI undercover agent who creates legends, aka false identifies, and inhabits them with ease. This leads to personality confusion, as when Martin takes on a particularly unhinged legend as a right-wing extremist to infiltrate a group planning a bombing.

But the bombing is only the crime of the week. The pilot teases the real arc of the show: discovering the lost identity hiding under Martin Odum, who apparently is just one more legend. Martin receives several hints about who he really is from a man who is then murdered before he can reveal all, as happens frequently in spy shows.

Editor's Note: There are spoilers for the pilot.

[Uncover the rest...]

Fri
May 30 2014 1:00pm

Gotham: The City Without Batman

How can Gotham be an interesting show if it doesn’t have Batman?

It’s a question I’ve been asked numerous times since Fox Television announced that Gotham would join their fall schedule. The show will focus on a young Jim Gordon investigating the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and track the evolution of the city that becomes the eventual home of Batman.

For casual fans of Batman, Gordon and the police department seems an odd focus. But to comic fans, there are two clear influences for this show and they’re two of the best Gotham-focused stories ever written: Batman: Year One (1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and Gotham Central (2003-2006) by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.

[This is going to be good...]

Fri
May 2 2014 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Invisible City by Julia Dahl is about a murder in a Hasidic NYC community, and the only way for hopeful big-city reporter Rebekah to catch the killer is to must immerse herself in the traditionally closed-door culture (available May 6, 2014).

World building is something readers often associate with fantasy worlds or stories set on far-flung planets. But world building can is also part of contemporary novels, creating a distinct sense of place and time even in the modern world.

That’s the case with Julia Dahl’s debut novel, Invisible City. From the description, I expected a story of an intrepid reporter investigating a murder in the closed-off Hasidic community in New York City. Instead, this is more of a journey of self, as much about the way the victim lived as how she died, and about the young reporter, Rebekah Roberts, facing the mystery of her mother and her own connection to the Hasidic community.

[Rebekah doesn't fully belong in either of the two worlds where she's living...]

Sun
Apr 6 2014 10:30pm

Sherlock Holmes’ Odder Fodder Part 2

Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Dr. John WatsonWith the publication of A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle kicked off a Sherlock Holmes phenomenon that has yet to abate. Sherlock and Elementary are just the latest in a long list of “reinventions” of Holmes and Watson.

We’re all familiar with the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies and Grenada Television’s mostly faithful adaptions of the Canon starring Jeremy Brett. But I have an odd affection for some of the weird and forgotten tales that I’ve found through the years and here are some I wanted to share.

 

Films:

Murder by Decree (1979)

A forgotten gem, Christopher Plummer as Holmes highlights this film in which the Great Detective chases Jack the Ripper. It’s a shame this was Plummer’s one outing as Holmes as he fits the role perfectly. The supporting cast includes Jason Mason as Watson, Frank Finlay (as Lestrade), Donald Sutherland, Susan Clark, John Gielgud, Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings and Geneviève Bujold.

 

Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes and Ben Kingsley as Watson in Without a ClueWithout a Clue (1988)

Ben Kingsley is a Watson who invented Sherlock Holmes. Michael Caine is an actor hired by Watson to play Holmes. Hijinks ensue as the good Doctor gets more than his due as a brilliant detective and even Caine’s fake Holmes manages to help defeat the bad guy.

(We've also got Sherlock's better half with 8 more notable film Watsons!)

 

[Have you see even seven percent of these?]

Sat
Mar 22 2014 10:15pm

Fresh Meat: The Berkeley Square Affair by Teresa Grant

The Berkeley Square Affair by Teresa GrantThe Berkeley Square Affair by Teresa Grant is the sixth Regency-era mystery with Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, this time in pursuit of a lost Shakespeare manuscript and facing the darkest secrets of their pasts (available March 25, 2014).

Some mysteries rely on murder or puzzles or a ticking clock for their suspense. The Berkeley Square Affair is a mystery of manners and hidden family secrets.

Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch are a pair of former spies from the Napoleonic wars. The couple has settled down to domestic bliss (at least on the surface) with their two children in Regency London. Inevitably, they’re drawn into a mystery surrounding a lost Shakespeare revision of Hamlet. But Hamlet quickly takes a back seat to ferreting out a generation’s worth of secrets that include murder, infidelity and treason.

And yet, the secret I was most interested in and the one that kept me reading at the edge of my seat was the very personal secret that Suzanne is hiding from Malcolm.

For her husband, the man she had married out of necessity and come to love so much it frightened her, didn’t know she had been a Bonapartist agent when they met. That she had married him to spy for the French. That she had gone on doing so for the first three years of their marriage. That even now, more than two years after she had made the choice to leave off spying, she felt the tug of divided loyalties. That she lived with the constant fear of discovery, like the nagging pain of a headache that never went away or the gnawing ache of a half-healed wound.

That the couple has two children only adds to her fears. When Malcolm discovers the Shakespeare manuscript contains a code that points to a ring of French spies, Suzanne realizes it’s only a matter of time before Malcolm realizes the truth.

[Can he handle the truth?...]