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Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Corrina Lawson click to see Corrina Lawson's profile
Apr 6 2014 11:30pm

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.



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?]

Mar 22 2014 11:15pm

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?...]

Feb 24 2014 7:00pm

With Chicago P.D., executive producer Dick Wolf may have the beginnings of a new dynasty on his hands, this time set in The Windy City instead of New York.

Spun-off from the surprise success of Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. looks to be around for a while, if the show’s initial ratings remain stable. P.D. already has all the necessary elements for a long lasting show: a solid cast, especially leads Jason Beghe and Jon Seda, good storylines that move forward each week, and intense action sequences.

Wolf’s second act is something of a surprise. Law & Order: SVU is the only show left in the long-running Law & Order franchise, and the reviews when Chicago Fire debuted were not kind. But Wolf has managed to reinvent his style, rather than imitate what he’s done before, and that gives these two stories a fresh feel. 

[You have the right to continue reading...]

Feb 10 2014 10:45pm

Murder in the Afternoon by Frances BrodyMurder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody is the third in the series about Kate Shackleton, a woman whose husband went missing—presumed dead—in WWI, and who will investigate one of the local quarry's stone masons whose dead body has disappeared (available February 11, 2014).

Kate Shackleton is a keeper. It took me about two chapters to know that she was someone I wanted to spend time with.

This is the third book in the series, which is set in the British countryside after the Great War. The story evoked a lost time and place and introduced me to a large, but well-drawn, cast of characters, none more interesting than Kate, an understated and wholly involving detective.

Kate is a war widow, though she’s not quite ready to accept that fate since her husband’s body was never identified. The daughter of a police inspector, Kate earns her living as an investigator, usually in insurance matters. But the case that arrives at her doorstep early one morning in the form of a strange woman becomes something far more. The woman, who claims a hidden family connection to Kate, demands help in finding her missing and possibly murdered husband. 

This begins a story that’s as personal journey for as an investigation.  Clearly, I’ve missed some character development by being unfamiliar with the earlier novels in Frances Brody's series but I never felt lost, even with the abundant cast, who were a fascinating mix, from Kate’s able assistant, former policeman Jim Sykes, to her client’s family, and the residents of the village where the missing man lived. I particularly loved the insights into how their lives were changing with the times, especially among the workers at the stone quarry.

Even though this eventually becomes a murder mystery and a search for clues to the victims’ demise, the story is really driven by the undercurrents among the village residents and the murdered man, and between Kate and her various family members.

[Secrets are also mined at this quarry...]

Feb 3 2014 5:15pm

Who Thinks Evil by Michael Kurland is the fifth in a historical mystery series that takes a look at an alternative portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty (available February 4, 2014).

There are two famous characters who yet appeared only once in the Sherlock Holmes Canon by Arthur Conan Doyle. And despite those brief appearances, they’ve become an indelible part of the modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes.

The first, naturally, is “the woman,” the late Irene Adler from “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

The second might be a surprise to some, since nearly every modern version of Holmes picks him as the ultimate enemy: Professor James Moriarty.

The out-of-story reason for Moriarty’s existence is that Doyle wanted to stop writing Holmes stories and move onto what he considered more literary works. That’s why there is no lead-up to Moriarty in the stories that ran in The Strand magazine before “The Final Problem.” The “Napoleon of Crime” was created purely to as a device to kill off Holmes.  (Note: Moriarty is mentioned in The Valley of Fear, however that was written after Holmes had returned from the dead in “The Empty House.”)

And yet…Doyle underestimated his skill at character creation. The Professor almost has as much immortality as Holmes himself. Years ago, British writer John Gardner, who was picked to write new novels in the James Bond series, wrote three books in a series featuring Moriarty as the main character. His Moriarty was a villain but one fleshed out, very much like a British “Godfather” type.

And now we have Michael Kurland’s series featuring Moriarty, currently up to five books with this week’s publication of Who Thinks Evil.

[Another incarnation to enjoy!...]

Sep 27 2013 2:30pm

Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa by Andrez BergenWho is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa by Andrez Bergen depicts murders within a virtual city of heroes and adoring masses—now isolated from the rest of dystopian reality—as a stylistic homage to 1940s detective noir and the 1960s Marvel age of comics (available September 27, 2013).

This story is, quite simply, a love letter to superheroes.

It’s also a mystery wrapped in a virtual gameworld wrapped within an adventure that is deadly, inside and out, and also a commentary on what’s real versus what should be real.

Mostly, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa by Andrez Bergen is fun, with a style that strongly reminded me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. There are the same wild leaps of imagination in a world not unlike our own and the same jokey tone that masks some serious themes.

Readers enter the virtual world of Heropa at the same time as our hero, Jack, aka Southern Cross of Australia.

Heropa is populated by all sorts of Western superhero and manga archetypes, though Brick is absolutely the standout from his first appearance:

He glanced up to see a ton of bricks stuck together in the shape of a person. There were even patches of white cement smeared between the ochre-coloured bricks.

This arrival had on a giant-size trench coat that was open, displaying more paving across the torso, and propped up on the back of his great, stony skull was a small hat at a jaunty angle. The charcoal-grey straw number had an indented, fedora-style crown like every other man Jack had seen here, but contrarily sported a narrow brim, only about two inches wide, making it more 1960s than 1940s.

If you notice a resemblance to the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing of the Fantastic Four, that’s entirely intentional.

[Among all the heroes in Heropa, how could villainy possibly occur?]

Sep 20 2013 11:00am

Dets. Logan and Wheeler from Law and Order: Criminal IntentWhile Goren and Eames were the core of Criminal Intent, as the show progressed and Vincent D’Onofrio preferred less screen time due to a heavy shooting schedule, other detectives were introduced beginning in season five. In their own way, the back-up teams were all interesting. The scripts for their characters were excellent. However, some stood a bit above the crowd, while others never really had a chance to shine.

I wanted to rank the detective teams, as Goren and Eames are impossible to separate and team rankings provided symmetry, but I realized to do that would be slighting the highly underrated Julianne Nicholson, who appeared with two different partners and worked well with both, and has gone on to roles on Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife.

In my personal order of preference, then, the other detectives of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, most of whom could (and sometimes did) carry the show on their own.


Aug 8 2013 9:30am

A detective with a past that includes mental instability and difficulty connecting emotionally, a professional woman assigned as his partner/handler, and a female arch-nemesis.

It sounds like the recipe for Elementary, but I’m referring instead to Law & Order: Criminal Intent. If you’re a fan of Elementary and pining for more, I highly recommend binging on Criminal Intent this summer. 

Like most of the L&O franchise, Criminal Intent is on daily all over the cable channels, making it easy to record and watch at leisure. I always liked the show, but I’ve now acquired a newfound respect for Robert Goren, his partner Alexandra Eames, their arch-nemesis Nicole Wallace, and the show’s writers.

**Caution if you're spoiler-sensitive,  because this post contains information about the larger character arcs over the series with this set of partners.

[It's not about who Goren and Eames aren't, but who they ARE]

Jul 26 2013 10:45am

Author Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic)It is a tenet of television that a show featuring sexual tension between two lead characters should never consummate their relationship lest the show lose what made it great in the first place.

It certainly was true in Moonlighting, and some would say, with Bones or X-Files. Be it a sitcom or drama, if the show is running out of steam, a quick fix is to pair up the leads.

And while there have been successful shows with happily involved leads, such as Hart to Hart, I haven’t watched one that’s made the transition from tension to happily involved without losing a beat.

Until Castle.

I was wary and skeptical when the fifth season started last fall. The romantic consummation Castle and Beckett at the end of Season 4 seemed contrived and somewhat one-sided, as much was made of Beckett’s obsession with her mother’s killer and how it kept them apart and very little was made of Castle keeping this huge secret from Beckett for “her own good.” It all seemed very unequal but, then, the episodes surrounding the conspiracy at the heart of Kate’s mother’s murder have always seemed a bit illogical.

I should have loved their kiss at in the finale. Instead, it drove me nuts.

[...just when it was getting good?]

Jun 1 2013 10:00am

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

I know more of the Shadow than I know about the Shadow. I know the familiar catchphrase. I know he was a radio hero created in the 1930s and the star of pulp magazines. I know he was an influence on Batman’s creation. And I know he was played by Alec Baldwin in a not-very-well-respected movie.

Like Sandman Mystery Theatre, the Shadow inhabits a setting that I love: 1930s New York City. I knew vaguely there was a new Shadow comic series by Dynamite Entertainment but I wasn’t moved to pick up any issues until I saw the name of Matt Wagner on The Shadow: Year One. It seemed perfect, especially since Wagner was one of the creators of SMT.

The first two issues of the miniseries did not disappoint. As the cover promises, the story starts at the beginning, with Lamont Cranston’s return from a long sojourn overseas. We see very little of Cranston and are in the dark about where he’s been and why he’s come back.

[Evil is lurking...and we want to know all about it!]

May 22 2013 12:00pm

I wasn’t sure why I kept watching Blue Bloods until this week because the show has many faults.

The police procedural aspect of the show is serviceable, not great.

It seems all New York City crime is solved by Danny Reagan, sometimes with an assist from his little brother, Jamie or Danny’s partner of the week.

It’s also frustrating that Danny Reagan’s jurisdiction seems to include all of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. The show also needs to be a bit less white bread in one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

Erin Reagan, the show’s main female character, has very little to do save act as foil for the menfolk.

Tom Selleck is glum a great deal of the time. (Where did Thomas Magnum’s charm go?)

And yet when I watched the season finale earlier this month, I finally knew why I watched.

[The viewer has her reasons...]

May 15 2013 9:30am

The Private Eye is an experiment.

From a creative standpoint, the setting is daring, a strange new future in which all technologies have advanced except for communication and images.

From a distribution standpoint, it’s unprecedented. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin placed the 32-page Issue 1 of The Private Eye up at their site, Panel Syndicate, where it can be downloaded on a “name your price” payment system. The 27-page Issue 2 was released May 7, 2013. The plan is for a 10-issue “old-school maxiseries.”

[Try it and buy it...]

Apr 25 2013 9:30am

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is a historical mystery set in London during the Restoration (available April 23, 2013).

I’m the type of reader who loves a thrill ride, especially set in somewhere unfamiliar and fascinating. Which makes me not quite the right reader for this beautifully written book.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is set in the time after Charles II’s Restoration in London, and revolves around a servant trying to solve the murder of her friend. I was eager to read a mystery set in the time period, as it’s one not normally covered in mysteries.

[Timing is everything...]

Mar 26 2013 12:00pm

Cassandra Cain Batgirl finally got her own series!is the forgotten Batgirl. She’s the least known among the general public and is currently gone from DC Comics stories. Worse, she’s unlikely to make a re-appearance, as requests to use her by several of DC comics writers, including Grant Morrison, have been turned down.

Yet Cassandra is important. She was the first Batgirl to headline her own series, a book that lasted for six years and seventy-three issues, one of the longest runs ever for a non-white character in mainstream comics.

Cassandra shares an origin unique among the Bat-Family. Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Barbara Gordon, Kate Kane...all of them are trying to live up to their parents’ legacy in some form. Only Stephanie Brown, who succeeded Cassandra as Batgirl, shares one similarity: their fathers were super villains.

[Luckily in their case the apple falls far from the tree...sort of...]

Mar 18 2013 9:30am

Sometimes it seems like this police drama is all but forgotten. Later shows such as Homicide: Life on the Street and NYPD Blue seem to have all the acclaim. And the show lasted just six seasons, a fraction of the staying power of the Law & Order and CSI franchises.

But it’s still the best and here is why:

1. The many and varied characters.
While many cop shows focus on one detective or a pair of detectives, Hill Street Blues threw a truckload of characters at us. On the police side, there were patrol officers, detectives, precinct commanders and even the police commissioner. Lawyers, judges, gang members, drug addicts, witnesses and crime victims ensured the focus wasn’t just on the police. This was a show about a city, the people who protect it, and everyone caught in the middle.

[But that's not all]

Feb 15 2013 2:00pm

I wanted to hate the new Batwoman.

She was a replacement for a character I liked very much, circus owner Kathy Kane. Kathy Kane was a silly Silver Age Batwoman who showed up in Batman comics in the 1970s as older, wiser, and tougher than in her previous stories. She was then abruptly killed off by someone brainwashed by the League of Assassins, kicking off a Batman story.

In other words, Kathy Kane was fridged and she’s never come back.

Then there was the publicity surrounding the arrival of the new Batwoman, now named Kate Kane. She was heralded in news stories as a “lipstick lesbian” in a way that seemed determined to play to the fantasies of the sometimes adolescent male readers of weekly comics. Kate Kane being a lesbian made no difference to me. What I wanted to know was who she was and what she was about.

[So do we! So do we!]

Jan 30 2013 1:00pm

I cannot stand to watch Sherlock Holmes on Elementary.

He’s a humorless snot with no redeeming value and I’m amazed that this show has found an audience.

Maybe they’re tuning in for Lucy Liu’s Jane Watson, who is the best part of the show. I certainly hope so. I’ve read or watched just about every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes in books and movies and this show’s version of Holmes is the only one I actively dislike.

It’s not that Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is arrogant. Arrogance is an essential part of Holmes’ personality, as is a certain disregard for other people’s thoughts or feelings. But what Miller’s Holmes is missing is that essential charm, some elemental curiosity mixed with mischief that makes Holmes fascinating to watch.

Holmes isn’t interesting because he’s got a nice body, as the Elementary pilot unnecessarily showed us that Miller does.

[Yes, right, we love Holmes for his mind...]

Jan 24 2013 10:30am

Those are some pretty awesome ruffles you have going on over there, Batgirl...No fewer than four Batgirls, two Batwomen, two Huntresses, and a female Question have called Gotham home in the DC Universe.

Barbara (Batgirl/Oracle) Gordon, daughter of Gotham’s police commissioner, is easily the most well-known. A one-time U.S. congresswoman; one of the smartest people in the DC Universe; and, in her identity as Oracle, an inspiration to disabled readers, and now a post-traumatic stress disorder survivor, Babs Gordon is one of DC’s most recognizable female characters, up there with Wonder Woman and Lois Lane.

Barbara’s superhero career began not in comics but with the 1960s Batman TV show. That’s where I first saw her, complete with her own motorcycle and theme song. I was hooked and went looking for any comics featuring her.

[With an awesome bike like that, who wouldn’t be addicted!]

Jan 9 2013 10:30am

The fun of reading mysteries laced with romance is the double plot: 1) solve the crime; and 2) watch the characters banter while solving the crime. Romance is often about how they compromise and learn to trust. There’s no better way learn that than if you’re working together to stay alive.

Note: I left Nick and Nora Charles off this list, even though they originated in Dashiell Hammett’s books, because their movie counterparts are so well known.

1. Eve Dallas and Roarke

Eve and Roarke are not only one of my favorite couples but Eve is simply one of my favorite fictional characters ever.

The “In Death” series by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) is set in the latter half of the 21st century in a New York City that’s still recovering from the scars of urban warfare. Holding the line is Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas: fiercely dedicated, intelligent, and disdainful of rank and privilege. Roarke is her opposite number, a charming, handsome former criminal who has turned straight to run his (mostly) legitimate business empire. Their romance is not an easy road, especially as Roarke becomes a suspect in the murder that begins the series.

Favorite: Glory in Death. Excellent mystery wrapped around a sometimes heartbreaking courtship.

[It takes two to solve a mystery...]

Dec 20 2012 1:00pm

Sandman Mystery Theater #5Two heads are better than one, they say, but in the comics we’re often talking about the four fists that go along with those two heads. What would Batman be without Robin, after all? But sometimes there’s more to a partnership than just fighting crime. Here are the top five crime-fighting couples of comics and graphic novels.

1. Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont, Sandman Mystery Theatre.
Set in New York in the 1930s, SMT owes a great deal to the pulp novels of days gone by. Wesley is haunted by precognitive dreams that show people in trouble, and investigates dressed in a suit and gas mask and armed with sleep pellets. Dian, the daughter of a prominent district attorney, falls for Wesley and eventually becomes his partner in crime solving. The series is rated mature not just for sexual subject matter but because of graphic violence. Despite the bleakness, there’s real joy in watching how Wes and Dian’s relationship grows and changes over the course of time.

[Even the darkest hero needs a heroine]