Review: <i>Dark Matter</i> by Blake Crouch Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Brian Greene Read Brian Greene's review! <i>The Second Death</i>: New Excerpt The Second Death: New Excerpt Peter Tremayne The 26th book in the Mysteries of Ancient Ireland series. <i>Trials of the Century</i>: New Excerpt Trials of the Century: New Excerpt Aryn Z. Phillips and Mark J. Phillips True crime, justice gone awry, and the media often at its worst. <i>Murder on Brittany Shores</i>: New Excerpt Murder on Brittany Shores: New Excerpt Jean-Luc Bannalec The 2nd Commissaire Dupin mystery.
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July 22, 2016
Page to Screen: Comics I’d Love to See on My TV—Rat Queens
Angie Barry
July 22, 2016
Man Uses Brain to Get High Like a Zombie
Teddy Pierson
July 21, 2016
10 Essential Giallo Films
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July 21, 2016
One and Done: Vern E. Smith, The Jones Men
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Why We Are Fascinated with Hell, the Devil, and Monsters
Kristen Houghton
Showing posts by: Crime HQ click to see Crime HQ's profile
Jul 20 2016 1:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: July 19, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Jul 19 2016 11:00am

What Is Your Favorite Show Airing this Summer?

Television has hit its stride again, returning to the glory days of quality programming. With streaming networks opting for original content, the days of formulaic drivel seem numbered—or at least avoidable—as creativity has once again found prominence. 

Sure, The Big Bang Theory is still a thing, but so is Daredevil and Better Call Saul. For every Whitney Cummings sitcom that gets greenlighted, another HBO powerhouse does too (see: The Night Of).

If the Golden Age of Television was the ‘50s, we’ve surely gone platinum now. My question is: 

What is YOUR favorite show airing this summer? 

[Vote below!]

Jul 15 2016 12:00pm

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: August, 2016

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! Last month, it was nothing but fireworks with July's releases; this month, beat the heat with August's cool reads! Let us know in the comments how you like it and what you can't wait to read next!

Like this shopping list? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay in touch with all our cozy content!

Criminal Element's July 2016 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List!

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Jul 14 2016 4:00pm

Q&A with Ellie Alexander, Author of Caught Bread Handed

We peppered Ellie Alexander, author of Caught Bread Handed, with some questions and she was gracious enough to spice up our blog with some delicious answers about her Bakeshop Mystery series, her recipes, and more!

Torte is the bakeshop owned by the Capshaw family. Are there any real life bakeries that inspired Torte?

Yes! In fact, there are quite a few bakeries that have inspired Torte. The series is set in Ashland, Oregon, which is one of my favorite places. The town is designed with Elizabethan architecture and centers around the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. There’s a great artisan coffee shop and bakery on the plaza, Mix, where I imagine Torte would sit because it has a fabulous view of all of the action downtown. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with professional bakers through writing the series, and my pastry “muse” is Tier Catering. They craft gorgeous, elegant cakes and pastries that are works of art and taste divine. 

[Read the full Q&A here!]

Jul 14 2016 1:00pm

Pokémon Go Leads to a Shocking Discovery

Gotta catch ‘em all.

Unfortunately for some, with the new augmented reality game, Pokémon Go, people have been catching some pretty shocking things other than their little 3D Poké friends. Shayla Wiggins, a 19-year-old in Riverton, Wyoming, went for a walk to “get a Pokémon from a natural water resource.” After hopping a fence and walking along the shore, she noticed something floating in the distance.

“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water, Ms. Wiggins said. “I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body.”

While no foul play is suspected, a dead man was probably not what the teen was Seaking.

Jul 13 2016 1:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: July 12, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Jul 12 2016 11:30am

What Is the Best Zombie Movie?

Zombies. The Undead. Walkers. Biters. 

Whatever you call them, they've left there imprint on the horror genre, ever since the release of Victor Halperin's White Zombie in 1932. While not all zombies are the same, they tend to terrify their audiences with their decaying flesh, cannibalistic nature, and unrelenting hunger. 

[Vote for your favorite Zombie film below!]

Jul 11 2016 3:00pm

Q&A with Wendy Walker, Author of All Is Not Forgotten

Wendy Walker, author of All Is Not Forgotten, took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about her new book, the controversial topic of memory supression, and the upcoming film based on the novel!

What authors inspired you to write and/or influenced your writing style?

I was influenced by many authors, as well as some recent television series, films, and even Broadway. Years ago, I started reading John Grisham and I was immediately drawn in by the structure of his narrative and also the underlying moral issues he wove into his plots. More recently, the “grip-lit” books have intrigued me because of their focus on an unreliable narrator and fearlessness in delving into dark subject matter.

So, when I started writing All Is Not Forgotten, I was very focused on the development of the issue of memory science, but also on creating a structure for telling the story that would appeal to our changing appetite for entertainment across all mediums.

[Read the full Q&A here...]

Jul 8 2016 12:00pm

Q&A with John Farrow, Author of Seven Days Dead

John Farrow, author of the Storm Murders Trilogy, was able to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about his retired detective, Émile Cinq-Mars, his new book, Seven Days Dead, and what we can expect in the final book of the series!

Why choose a retired detective? 

The first Émile Cinq-Mars novel, City of Ice, was published in 1999, when my detective was in the prime of his career. As time has moved along, I’ve chosen to age him naturally. He depends upon his wit and wisdom rather than physical prowess, so he can still do the job his way, even as he gets older. 

The benefits of allowing him to retire are various. He maintains all the police connections in the world (literally) and can make use of them, but he’s no longer subject to any department’s rules or bureaucracy. This allows him to travel off his turf at will, and as an example of that, in Seven Days Dead, he’s on a vacation island. He no longer requires anyone’s permission to stick his nose into other people’s business. 

[Read the full Q&A here!]

Jul 7 2016 3:00pm

Now Win This!: True Colors Sweepstakes

Sooner or later, everyone shows their true colors. Travel through the full spectrum by registering for a chance to win this rainbow of books!

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins July 7, 2016, at 3:00 pm ET, and ends July 21, 2016, 2:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[The colors, Duke! The colors!]

Jul 7 2016 2:00pm

Elsa Hart Sweepstakes!

In anticipation of Elsa Hart's upcoming novel, The White Mirror (Available September 6th), and the recent release of Jade Dragon Mountain in trade paperback, CrimeHQ is thrilled to offer our readers a chance to win not only ARCs of both Li Du novels, but also a special edition Jade Dragon Mountain poster!

[Comment below for a chance to win!]

Jul 6 2016 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: July 5, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we're reading for the week!

[See this week's Top 5...]

Jul 6 2016 9:32am

Discussion Questions: The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

The Life I Left Behind

Reading Group Discussion Guide

1.     Eve narrates her story from beyond the grave. What impact do you think this has?

2.     The Life I Left Behind has an unusual and complicated structure of voices, with which you piece together what has really happened. How do you think Colette McBeth manages to sustain the narrative drive, while keeping the suspense going?

3.     Melody manages to control her new life with order. Do you think this is a normal reaction to living through a traumatic event?

4.     One of the keys to clever suspense writing is keeping the reader hooked, while making the characters very credible. Which characters did you find you really believed in?

5.     Science is used as much as psychology in solving a crime or outlining a criminal profile. How do you think the blend of science and nature works in this novel?

6.     Melody gets to know Eve through the work she has left behind. How does this ‘friendship’ help Melody reawaken her old self?

 7.     Each of the women in this novel feels guilty about something, which influences ensuing actions in their lives. Do you think that a sense of guilt is a particularly female trait?

8.     The Life I Left Behind has a very real sense of place and period. Do you feel location is important in contemporary novels of this sort?

9.     Which is more important to you as a reader: hook, plot, character or twist?

10.     If you left something behind to denote your character, what would it be?

Click here for an easily printable PDF version!


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Jul 6 2016 9:22am

Discussion Questions: Run you Down by Julia Dahl

Run You Down

Reading Group Discussion Guide

1.     How does structure of the novel, alternating between Aviva and Rebekah’s perspectives, affect your understanding of the story? How does it inform Aviva and Rebekah's relationship with each other? Do you feel more sympathetic with or drawn to one of their points of view over the other?

2.     The novel deals with various communities, both social and familial, and those who are excluded from these communities. In what ways does the novel praise the individuality of those marginalized from certain groups? In what ways does it portray the negative effects of exclusion?

3.     Throughout the novel, Rebekah struggles in her attempt to negotiate her multiple identities. What are some of these identities and how are they in conflict with one another? In chapter six, she asks herself “what do I think of what I am doing?” (71). Does she resolve this question by the end of the novel?

4.     Rebekah is constantly observing and taking note of the people around her. But it isn't until the end of the novel that she confesses “with no pressure to call new information in to the city desk every couple hours, I actually got time to absorb what people are saying - not just listen for good quotes” (266). How has Rebekah's experience changed the way she interacts with people? Does her new relationship with Aviva have anything to do with this? Or her job as a reporter?

5.     What is the connection between communication and relationships in the novel? How do the different forms of communication in Aviva and Rebekah's parallel storylines contribute to their respective character development?

6.     Social media has a big presence in this novel; how does it function? Does it act as a way to create communities (for example, the hashtag campaign following “The Playground Shooting” - #ithoughttheywerejoking) or as another way in which people are marginalized from communities? Does the author use social media in a believable way?

 7.     Many of the characters in the novel have a complicated relationship with religion; yet it also acts as a common thread that weaves the different characters and plot lines together. How does religion function in this book? Were you able to relate to any of the characters' feelings about religion? If so, which character and why?

8.     What is the nature of the victims in the novel? Are they all innocent victims, or are there some who are instead casualties of their own circumstances, or caught up in situations they could or should have avoided?

9.     Towards the end of the novel, Ryan reveals that this father believed “loyalty - like, no matter what - was the most important thing” (276). Yet throughout the book, loyalty is broken on a social, communal, and familial level. For whom is loyalty most important? Are Aviva and Rebekah loyal to each other?

10.     What role does death play in this novel? Why do you think the author chose to end the novel with such a violent scene? Was it shocking, or do you think it was a natural escalation of the novel's events?

11.     Which is the most important or the most dominant characteristic of the novel, its suspense? Its social commentary? Its depiction of family drama? Which of these aspects of the book was the most successful? Which was your favorite?

Click here for an easily printable PDF version!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Jul 6 2016 9:10am

Discussion Questions: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart


Jade Dragon Mountain

Reading Group Discussion Guide

1.     Hamza tells stories for a living. Although they may be based in reality, these stories are largely spun out of his imagination. At one point, we find out the killer was inspired by one of Hamza’s stories when he planted a fake suicide note under Li Du’s bed. How do Hamza’s tales mirror the story of the novel itself? How have stories influenced your decisions or made their way into reality?

2.     In Tulishen’s court, manners and decorum are very important, and many of the foreigners fumble when it comes to kowtowing and other social nuances of China. At one point, Li Du shows Hugh Ashton the proper way to brew and serve tea. How important are rituals and customs in your culture? How important should they be?

3.     Besides Brother Pieter’s ultimate killer, Li Du suspected many other people, all of whom might have had reason to want Pieter dead. Whose motive was most convincing to you? Who had the most at stake? How surprising was the solution to you, ultimately?

4.     Following his exile from the capital, Li Du stayed away from society and became a traveling scholar of sorts, a “scholar recluse.” We find out that he generally does not like to be a part of court life and rushes to leave Dayan as soon as he is given permission. In light of this, what about the unsolved murder drew him back? What compelled him to act against his instinct?

5.     Tulishen, who is also Li Du’s cousin, mentions to Li Du at one point that Li Du was long thought by the family to be the smarter one, the one meant for a magistrate position and great power. Why do you think Li Du passed up on the opulence and prestige of higher office to be a humble librarian? If Li Du desired it, do you think he could have achieved the professional success of Tulishen? What matters more to success—innate intelligence or conniving ambition?

6.     When Brother Pieter dies, Tulishen at first accepts that it was due to natural causes. When Li Du declares foul play, Tulishen is willing to hoist blame on the Khampa. Li Du also deduces that if he had died from the poisoned wine, Tulishen would have gladly believed his death was suicide. Tulishen repeatedly accepts an easy lie, partly so as to not have to deal with an inconvenient truth. Can you recall an instance when you have done the same? How conscious was this acceptance?

 7.     Brother Pieter and Hugh Ashton are both guided by curiosity and a desire to understand the world around them. Tulishen, and Lady Chen to a certain degree, are guided by a desire for status and power. Jia Huan, we find out, is motivated by political dogma and deep patriotic beliefs. What do you think Li Du is guided by? Hamza?

8.     We find out that Hugh Ashton lied about his identity in order to pursue a harmless dream of studying botany in China. Do you think lying is acceptable if it isn’t harming anyone?

9.     At the end of the novel, Li Du suggests that Mu Gao and old Mu write down the lost books of the Mu kings, as a manner of quiet rebellion. Before that, they were pasting anti-Qing messages on the walls of the city. Which method is more effective? Can you recall instances of silent protest that have made a larger impact than vocal actions?

10.     Throughout its long history, China has vacillated between periods, sometimes dynasties-long, of extreme isolationism on one hand and more open borders on the other. What does a nation stand to gain from opening itself to ambassadors and traders like Nicholas Gray, missionaries like the Jesuits and Dominicans, and intellectual explorers like Hugh Ashton? What does it stand to lose?

11.     Li Du encourages Mu Gao and Old Mu to write their stories down. Hamza, on the other hand, refuses to transcribe his own tales, saying “Books are for government records and alchemical recipes and all the insipid wisdom of Confucius, not for stories.” Why do you think he feels this way?

12.     Thinking of the emperor’s “command” of the eclipse, and the scientists’ tacit alliance of this display, how does the shifting balance between science, religion, and superstition influence power and politics in this era? What about in other times in history? Or in our own country, historically or today?

Click here for an easily printable PDF version!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Jun 30 2016 5:03pm

Discussion Questions: The Impersonator by Mary Miley

The Impersonator

Reading Group Discussion Guide

1.     Did you hear stories from your grandparents about the Roaring Twenties? Prohibition? Women’s rights?

2.     What parallels do you find between Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and today’s prohibiting of recreational drugs? Do you think the government should prohibit or regulate alcohol, recreational drugs, medicine, cigarettes, or other items?

3.     Some historians believe the women’s movement made its greatest advances in the 1920s. What evidence for this did you find in The Impersonator? What examples of limitations on women did you notice in the story? What could Jessie do or not do back then that we take for granted today?

4.     The Twenties brought new freedoms to young American women that older ones never had. How was Grandmother’s life constrained by her times? Aunt Victoria’s life?

5.     Vaudeville began in the 1870s and reached its height in the 1920s when this story takes place. It declined in the 1930s and was gone by the 1940s. Why do you think this popular form of family entertainment disappeared? What replaced it?

6.     What does Jessie want in the beginning of the story? Does she achieve it at the end? What price does she pay for her role in the scam?

 7.     The Roaring Twenties was a virulently racist era, the height of the Ku Klux Klan in both northern and southern states, and a time when anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, and anti-gay sentiments were universal. Why do you think Jessie is more open-minded than was typical in this time period?

8.     Is there more than one impersonator in the story? What themes about impersonation did you notice throughout the novel?

9.     Whom did you first suspect? When did you begin to suspect the real culprit?

10.     How did you anticipate thatthe strong resemblance between the heiress and the imposter might be explained?

11.     What did you find most or least appealing about the historical setting? In what ways might the historical setting have affected the mystery plotline? What do you think a historical setting offers a mystery writer that a modern setting might not?

12.     Do you support Leah's decision to adopt Jessie’s name? Or Grandmother's intentional decision to continue using it? What significance does a name have for the main character?

13.     Which of Leah's skills as a performer overlap with detective skills? How much of the solution depended on luck or coincidence?

14.     How might Jessie become tangled in another crime solving opportunity? What other characters do you hope to find in future books?

15.     If a movie were made of The Impersonator, who could you see playing the role of Jessie? David? Any other characters?

Click here for an easily printable PDF version!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound!Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at Amazon