Now Win <i>This</i>!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Yule Be Sorry Sweepstakes Crime HQ All I want for Christmas is you (to die)! <i>A Nip of Murder</i>: New Excerpt A Nip of Murder: New Excerpt Carol Miller A robbery gone wrong leaves Daisy scrambling. <i>Thief</i>: New Audio Excerpt Thief: New Audio Excerpt Mark Sullivan Could the secret to eternal life really reside in a remote South American tribe? Fresh Meat: <i>Kill 'Em with Cayenne</i> by Gail Oust Fresh Meat: Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust Rachel Kramer Bussel Murder wasn't supposed to be on the menu...
From The Blog
December 19, 2014
Number 1 of the Scams of Christmas: Santa Letter Scams
Terry Ambrose
December 18, 2014
Number 2 of the Scams of Christmas: Holiday Heartbreakers
Terry Ambrose
December 17, 2014
Number 3 of the Scams of Christmas: Season's Breachings
Terry Ambrose
December 16, 2014
Number 4 of the Scams of Christmas: Sly Shipping
Terry Ambrose
December 15, 2014
Number 5 of the Scams of Christmas: Grumpy Greeting Cards
Terry Ambrose
Showing posts by: Deborah Lacy click to see Deborah Lacy's profile
Mon
Nov 24 2014 4:30pm

Major Crimes is Back: Executive Producer James Duff Gives us the Rundown

Major Crimes returns to TNT Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. EST for its winter season of nine episodes. I recently had a chance to sit down with James Duff, executive producer and co-creator of Major Crimes (and before that The Closer) to talk about the new season. He brought a slew of people with him: Jonathan Del Arco who plays Dr. Morales, Kathe Mazur who plays DDA Hobbs, Writer and producer Adam Belanoff, executive story editor, Damani Johnson, former Detective Mike Berchem and writer Kendall Sherwood. They shared a bit about their writing process and what’s up next this season in Major Crimes. Let’s start with what he said about he writing process first and get to the spoilers at the very end.

[Proceed with caution...]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 3:30pm

Fan Favorites: 2014’s Mystery Conventions

2014 promises to be chock full of wonderful mystery conventions and conferences ranging from Bouchercon— the world’s largest crime fiction convention—to more tightly-focused conferences like Malice Domestic, which specializes in traditional and cozy mysteries. Thrillerfest is, of course, primarily about thrillers, and Left Coast Crime is regional, but also offers the year's only humorous mystery award. Most conventions feature opportunities not only to meet your favorite authors and get your book signed, but also to make tons of new friends who love crime fiction as much as you do.

So, here's a rundown of the major crime fan conventions and conventions taking place in 2014:

[And don't forget your chance to win...]

Tue
Dec 3 2013 2:00pm

The Modern Speakeasy in Ten Thirsty Stops

During the Prohibition years from 1920 to 1933, alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States. But it was still fairly easy to get a drink. One of the easiest ways was to find a speakeasy—a hidden bar that served bootleg liquor and that often required a password to get in. Legend has it that the name speakeasy came from patrons being told to “speak easy,” or softly, so the police wouldn’t hear the party.

When the Volstead Act, which put Prohibition in place, was repealed in 1933, 80 years ago on December 5th, the speakeasies disappeared. But if you want to revisit that time in a new way, you have your chance because modern speakeasies have popped up all over the country. These bars take the mystery and romance of history and create a fun atmosphere.

Hallmarks of the modern speakeasy include:

1) Individually mixed drinks with fresh ingredients, often invented at that bar. We’re talking fresh, muddled fruit and innovative concoctions. A far cry from the quality of spirits found in most speakeasies back in the day. This also means you pay more than you would for an average cocktail, and depending on the city you’re in, it can be a lot more.

 

The winking sign outside Bourbon & Branch2) An unmarked door or a misleading sign. You have to know where the speakeasy is. Most doors are unmarked, but I’ve visited one behind the façade of a Fortune Telling shop and another where you had to go into a restaurant and pick up an antique phone to gain admittance.

 

3) Reservations are commonly a must, and many times, you’ll need a password. It pays to do your research. I’ve never had trouble getting into a popular place—as long as I made a reservation and knew in advance if I needed a password.  

4) An intimate atmosphere with lots of attention from your bartender to help you get exactly what you want. These places are small (thus the need for reservatinos), and the décor is well planned. Many of the speakeasies even play the music of the time.

Are you ready to go? Some friends and I started visiting these places as we traveled, and we've compiled our Top Ten list from around the country.  So here are my favorites in no particular order:

[Suddenly... so ... thirsty...]

Mon
Nov 25 2013 4:00pm

Yes, You Must Watch The Blacklist With Me!

James Spader as criminal Red Reddington and Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen in NBC's The BlacklistBack in September, I wrote about five new crime TV shows  that I was excited to watch. Of those five: Ironsides was cancelled, Dracula was a disappointment (although I am still watching it) and I like Almost Human, but we haven’t seen much of it yet. There are only two shows of the original five that are absolute DVR Keepers: The Blacklist and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (This post is about The Blacklist, so you’ll just have to set your DVR for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and prepare to laugh really, really hard. You can watch full eposodes of The Blacklist online at NBC, too.)

So, why do I love The Blacklist? Let me count the ways and in the process tell you everything you need to know—without spoilers—to get you up to speed. (I like to do these countdowns in reverse order for maximum dramatic impact.)

Number 5 – The characters:

Red Reddingon, played by James Spader. Red is a Whitey Bulger-esque bad guy who turns himself in to help turn in other bad guys. Red mockingly calls his own super-bad guy list, The Blacklist. And that’s where the show gets its name. Red is a man who gets what he wants even when he turns himself in. He will only cooperate if he gets to work with….

Lizzie and Tom KeenElizabeth Keen played by Megan Boone, also known as Lizzie by Red. Elizabeth is literally on her first day of work as a super-secret badass special agent profiler when super-criminal and bad guy, Red, turns himself in and asks for her. She has no idea why… but she has her suspicions. Everything is suspect in her life, even her husband…

Tom Keen, played by Ryan Eggold. Red conveniently tells Elizabeth that her husband is more than he seems. Elizabeth doesn’t believe him, or does she?  One person who is quick to check out any irregularity in Elizabeth’s life is her work partner…

Donald Ressler played by Diego Klattenhoff. Donald is your typical follow-the-rules, there is no-grey-in-my-world, lawman. We have no idea what he is really thinking behind that square jaw, only the overt rule following that he shows us.

[And that's just the beginning...]

Sat
Oct 12 2013 7:30pm

Fresh Meat: Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

Dead Man's Time, a Roy Grace novel by Peter JamesDead Man’s Time by Peter James is the ninth procedural featuring Brighton's Detective Superintendent Roy Grace,  who confronts a case spanning nations and generations (available October 15, 2013).

Dead Man’s Time starts in 1922 New York, when we see a little boy lose his parents to murder. This same little boy gets shipped off to Ireland to be cared for by his aunt, but not before a mysterious stranger arrives at the dock with a valuable watch that belonged to the boy’s dead father. That’s our tie in to the book’s title: Dead Man’s Time. Without going into to too much detail, I will say that the 1922 story line dovetails nicely with the crime happening in the story in the present day in a very interesting way.

Then, we fast forward to the present day, where we have a particularly nasty career criminal by the name of Amis Smallbone (love that name) preparing to make our hero, Detective Superintendent Grace pay dearly for doing his job and putting Smallbone in jail years ago. This character is richly rendered and jumps off the page. Here’s a little peek into Amis Smallbone’s revenge-getting thought process, one that also enables him to avoid taking any responsibility for his own life:

Of course, Grace hadn’t been a Detective Superintendent back then: just a jumped-up, newly promoted Inspector who had picked on him, targeted him, fitted him up, twisted the evidence, been oh so clever, so fucking smug. It was Grace’s persecution that had condemned him, now, to this cruddy rented flat, with its shoddy furniture, no-smoking signs on the walls in each room, and having to report and bloody kowtow to a Probation Officer regularly.

He put the paper down, stood up a little unsteadily, and carried his glass over to the dank-smelling kitchenette, popping some ice cubes out of the fridge-freezer into his glass. It was just gone midday, and he was thinking hard. Thinking how much pleasure he was going to get from hurting Roy Grace. It was the one thing that sustained him right now. The rest of the nation had Olympic fever—the games were starting in a month’s time. But he didn’t give a toss about them; getting even with Roy Grace was all he cared about.

[Will revenge clean Grace's clock...]

Thu
Oct 10 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth GeorgeJust One Evil Act by Elizabeth George is the seventeenth installment of the Inspector Lynley series (available October 15, 2013).

Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers are back in the latest novel by Elizabeth George, Just One Evil Act. This book is set both in London and in Italy, which adds a fun new dimension to the book.

In Just One Evil Act, we get a great mix of my favorite regular characters from Elizabeth George’s previous novels. Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers returns at her poorly dressed but obstinate best. Inspector Thomas Lynley has regained his footing although he is a much-changed man.  One of the main reasons I love this series is the relationship between the police detective earl and his very common sergeant. 

We also see the return of Barbara’s favorite neighbors—Talmullah Azhar and his daughter, Haddiyah. The book gets rolling immediately when little Haddiyah is snatched away by her mother and taken away from Azhar. Of course, Barbara involves herself in the investigation, although Azhar was not named on Haddiyah’s birth certificate and has therefore has no legal standing as her parent.   

[This could make it difficult to get her back...]

Sat
Sep 14 2013 6:00pm

Set Your DVRs: Five New Crime TV Shows to Watch

According to TV Guide, there are fifty-seven new shows premiering this fall. Fifty-seven. That’s a lot of shows. Clearly, not all of them will succeed, but there are five new shows with criminal elements (ha) that I am excited about. So, I thought I’d share a bit about each one.

Here are my top five, in reverse order of interest (trailers included!):

5) Ironside

This is a remake of the late '60s, early seventies show starring Raymond Burr as Robert Ironside, a paraplegic chief of detectives who doesn’t mess around.  This version has been updated and features Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) as Ironside.  There has been some controversy, because a paraplegic actor was not given the Ironside role. Other stars include Brent Sexton (former Sheriff Hunter Mosely on Justified), Spenser Grammer, and Kenneth Choi.

Ironside premieres on NBC on October 2 at 10/9c.

[Rolling on...]

Thu
Sep 12 2013 9:13pm

Friday the 13th: The Evolution of a Superstition

Most Americans have known about the superstition surrounding unlucky Friday the 13th since grade school. Some people take this superstition very seriously, refusing to fly on airplanes or even leave their houses. Others joke about it, take flashlight tours of spooky houses, or watch horror movies. But have you ever wondered how Friday the 13th got such a bad reputation in the first place?

It turns out Friday the 13th draws its reputation from many sources throughout history, and our old friend Popular Culture keeps it there. The superstition stems from a marriage between the perception of the lack of luck involving the number 13 combined with a series of bad events that happened on Fridays. Here’s a quick rundown of events taken from history, myth, literature, and popular culture that may have contributed to keeping the superstition alive.

Let’s start with the ancient roots:

Norse Gods

The first reference of unlucky 13 is believed to have occurred in an ancient Norse myth, where twelve gods are eating dinner and an unwelcome guest arrives. The 13th guest, named Loki, schemes to murder Baldur for trying to get him to leave. Killing the most beloved god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation causes the entire earth to go dark in the very first “blackout.”   A worldwide blackout is very unlucky indeed.

 

[Bouncer-hating Loki is not the only unlucky 13th guest...]

Wed
Aug 14 2013 5:00pm

The Rhyme and the Crime: Lizzie Borden’s Forty Whacks

Lizzie BordenLizzie Borden had an axe
She gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

 

Do you remember that rhyme from childhood? A friend recently brought it up to a group of us and it just rolled off my tongue.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  But as we started talking about the rhyme none of us knew how much of this short deadly poem is true. So we decided to do a little research on those murders that took place 121 years ago this month, in 1892.

Andrew and Abby Borden were in fact brutally killed that hot August day at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, but did Lizzie Borden kill them?  The facts may surprise you.

Who Actually Died?

Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Gray Borden, Lizzie's Father and StepmotherThe body of Lizzie Borden’s father, wealthy banker Andrew Borden, was found hacked to death in the parlor of the Borden home. When police arrived on the scene and went upstairs the body of Andrew’s second wife, Lizzie’s stepmother, Abby was discovered.  The coroner at the time confirmed that Abby was killed before Andrew, so our poet got the timeline right, but Abby was Lizzie’s stepmother not her mother. They didn’t have such a great relationship, which is one of the reasons Lizzie landed on the suspect list so quickly. Lizzie and her sister, Emma, thought their stepmother was only after their father’s money. Emma was out of town when the murders went down and was never suspected.

Why Was Lizzie Borden the Only Suspect?

[Very good question!]

Wed
Jul 17 2013 12:00pm

Summer Reads with Drinks, Part Two

There were just too many great summer reads and matching drink selections for one post, so here is Part Two. Book and drink selections were matched and tested by the same dedicated team that recently brought you Summer Reads with Drinks, Part One and Halloween Drinks and Reads last October.

Now let’s get to those recommendations.

Raylan by Elmore LeonardRaylan by Elmore Leonard

I love the TV FX show, Justified, and that is based on characters created by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Elmore Leonard. In the novel Raylan, Leonard gives us a little more depth. It does touch on some of the events covered in season two of the show, but there is enough of a difference that this is worth a read for true Justified fans. If you haven’t seen Justified, you’ll want commence watching immediately and reading the book, probably at the same time. (Criminal Element also has weekly recaps while the season is running—it’s on hiatus now—but binge on previous seasons.)

[So what goes down easy for Raylan on a hot day?]

Sat
Jul 13 2013 3:15pm

Summer Reads with Drinks, Part One

It’s summertime and what could be better than getting a great summer read? A festive drink to go with it!

We've reassembled the team that brought you Halloween crime cocktails to bring you a fabulous list of books for summer and matching beverages. We went for a wide range (in fact, so many that Part Two's coming up on Wednesday), and there’s a little something for everyone here. So read and drink up!

The Buzzard’s Table by Margaret Maron

This novel, from MWA Grand Master Margaret Maron, is a mélange of suspicious murders and family secrets. It's set in Colleton County, North Carolina, where it’s all charm on the outside and festering emotions under the seething underbelly. Our matching drink is an adult float, pairing sweetness with that little kick you didn’t expect.

[A delicious tease before the recipe...]

Fri
Jun 7 2013 11:00am

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Baseball Mysteries

Baseball season is well under way, so it’s time to start reading about fictional murder in our favorite ballparks. Here are some of my favorite series and standalones, and even a short story anthology that talks about the great American pastime. So let’s play ball…

[Bring on the boys crimes of summer...]

Thu
May 30 2013 8:30am

New Series Premiere: King & Maxwell

On Monday, June 10, TNT will premiere King & Maxwell, a new private eye drama with romantic overtones. The show stars Jon Tenney (Fritz from The Closer and Major Crimes) and Rebecca Romijn (Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty).

The main characters, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, are based on characters created by David Baldacci who appear in his novels Split Second, Hour Game, Simple Genius, First Family, and The Sixth Man.  

Both are former Secret Service agents who made huge mistakes that ended their careers. Recovering alcoholic Sean King’s mistake occurred when the presidential candidate he was protecting was assassinated. Yikes. Not sure how you get over that one. Former Olympic athlete, Michelle Maxwell’s charge disappeared on her. Still, not great to lose the man you are protecting.

Past failures and their release from the Secret Service don’t stop them from fighting crime on their own and that’s where this show starts. I can see both characters doing anything to find the bad guys, having failed so spectacularly in the past.

[Second time’s the charm?]

Sun
May 5 2013 9:00am

So Bad They’re Good: Sympathizing with the Bad Guy

Deliciously complex, these characters are bad, sometimes even evil, but by showing us moments of goodness and their humanity we get sucked in to rooting for them. Don’t worry this isn’t a paper on the antihero in contemporary crime literature. It is a list of some of my favorite complicated fictional criminals.

Tony Soprano, The Sopranos

Mob boss Tony Soprano is a classic example of the antihero and as we watch him with his kids we forget that he makes a living through crime. But it’s okay, because he and all his mobster friends follow their own moral code. Again, I got lulled into rooting for him, until later in the series when he started offing other characters we loved because they posed some perceived danger to him—his nephew-in-law Christopher and Christopher’s wife Adriana come to mind. Even in the end, I didn’t want to see Tony gunned down or arrested.

[We all love a bad boy...]

Tue
Apr 2 2013 7:45am

It’s Not Quite the Future Crimes Unit . . . Yet: Using Big Data to Solve Crimes

Memphis criminals are in big trouble. The city’s police department is using technology in new ways to fight crime and as a result they’ve managed to reduce crime 28 percent over the last five years. 

They are doing this in part by using data about where crimes have occurred in the past and analyzing it with some pretty serious technology from IBM to predict where crime will occur in the future. They are also using personal data devices and smartphones to get real-time information to officers on the ground.

Maybe I’m a geek, but I think this is super cool and as Larry Godwin, Director of the Memphis Police Department, says in the short video above:

“Tell me an officer that doesn’t like to lock up a bad guy.”

We’re with you Larry. We like to see them locked up, too. Well done and keep up the good work.

Fri
Mar 15 2013 8:30am

Writing Murder Loves Company: Famous Authors Who Dabbled in Mystery

The Red House Mystery by A.A. MilneIn today’s marketing influenced world, authors tend to be categorized in one segment or another—mystery/thriller, romance, literary, etc. But in reality, most writers try a variety of forms, and people who are not strictly writers also like to try their hand at writing a mystery. The list below is filled with famous people better known for their non-mystery exploits, but who wrote mystery.


A.A. Milne 

Yes, before there was Pooh Bear, there was murder. Alan Alexander Milne's mystery novel, The Red House Mystery, published in 1922 before he created the famous bear of very little brain, received critical acclaim. Rumor has it that he decided to delve into the world of children's fiction because it was a better market, much as many authors are doing today after the success of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.  Milne also wrote a parody on Sherlock Holmes, “The Rape of the Sherlock” that appeared in Vanity Fair.


William Faulkner

Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, but before that he was one of a team of writers that worked on the classic screen adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, staring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  He also wrote other screenplays. His thriller novel, Sanctuary, hit the bestseller list and was also made into a movie.

[Let's see who else is on the list...]

Thu
Mar 14 2013 8:30am

The Americans: The New Cool Kid on the Block

It’s not often that a brand new TV show is renewed only four shows into its first season, but that has just happened to the new FX spy thriller, The Americans, and I can understand why. This is the freshest show I have seen in a long time.

The premise is complicated. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell star as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, KGB sleeper spies who live in suburban Washington, D.C., during the Reagan era. They own and run a travel agency and raise an ordinary family to complete their cover (shades of Alias). 

Things become complicated when Phillip and Elizabeth start to value their family more than their missions. Then an FBI agent who is more interested in other people’s families than his own moves in next door. And despite her grandmotherly tone and appearance, the KGB handler assigned to Phillip and Elizabeth makes it clear that she considers them to be expendable in the name of a mission. Any mission.

[There are plenty more where they came from...]

Sat
Mar 9 2013 5:30pm

The Evolution of Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew is more than 80 years old but she is still going strong.  The titian-haired wonder has been the subject of movies, TV series, hardback books, soft cover, and even graphic novels. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Sandra Day O’Connor are among the many amazing women who have cited Nancy Drew as an early inspiration.

My mom bought me my first Nancy Drew—The Scarlet Slipper Mystery—and it didn’t take long for me to get through it. Next thing you knew I was doing odd jobs around the neighborhood to earn more books—collecting newspapers in my dad’s yellow wheelbarrow for the local pet shop, helping plant pansies, and walking dogs.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I loved reading these stories so much. I don’t think it was any one thing. I loved her because she was independent, loyal to her friends, smart, and she helped people. She relied on herself, solved mysteries and had fun while she did it. Nancy Drew could do anything and she helped me believe that I could too. Back then I only knew one version of her and it was actually the second version of the character in print. Nancy Drew, much like the character of Sherlock Holmes has been reimagined in multiple ways. Since we can’t possibly cover all of her incarnations, lets just visit a few.

[Nancy Drew is timeless!]

Mon
Feb 18 2013 12:00pm

Fan Favorites: Mystery Conventions

Mystery conventions (aka conferences) can be a great way to meet some of your favorite authors and to find kindred crime fiction friends. There are so many different fan conventions to choose from, ranging from those that focus on traditional mysteries and cozies (Malice Domestic) to thrillers (ThrillerFest), up to the big daddy of them all, the world’s largest all-crime convention, Bouchercon. Most conventions feature keynote speeches from big name guests of honor, a multitude of panels filled with authors of all kinds, wonderful book rooms, and special activities like short story contests and charity auctions. Some even have fan guests of honor. Most of the conventions below are held by all-volunteer, non-profit organizations, so mystery fans volunteer their time to make sure attendees have fun.

Here is a rundown of the major fan conventions and conventions taking place in 2013.

[Hang on...let me open my datebook...]

Tue
Feb 12 2013 10:30am

Mardi Gras Madness with Flynn and Provenza!

On Major Crimes Lt. Provenza would never think of riding in Mardi Gras without his buddy, Lt. Andy Flynn. So it wasn't too much of a surprise that when G.W. Bailey, the actor who plays Provenza, rode by as King of Bacchus this year who was on the float behind him, unannounced?

Tony Denison who plays Andy Flynn!

They were both riding to support the Sunshine Kids, a charity that helps children with cancer.