<i>Too Sharp</i>: New Excerpt Too Sharp: New Excerpt Marianne Delacourt The 3rd Tara Sharp novel. <i>The Devil's Feast</i>: New Excerpt The Devil's Feast: New Excerpt M.J. Carter The 3rd book in the Blake and Avery series. <i>The Wages of Sin</i>: New Excerpt The Wages of Sin: New Excerpt Kaite Welsh A page-turning debut of murder, subversion, and vice. Review: <i>Baker Street Irregulars</i> Review: Baker Street Irregulars Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
From The Blog
March 23, 2017
Review: Personal Shopper (2017)
Peter Foy
March 21, 2017
Q&A with Gretchen Archer, Author of Double Up
Crime HQ and Gretchen Archer
March 17, 2017
Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)
Angie Barry
March 16, 2017
Research Ride-Along
kristen lepionka
March 16, 2017
Q&A with Lyndsay Faye, Author of The Whole Art of Detection
Lyndsay Faye and Ardi Alspach
Showing posts by: Jenny Maloney click to see Jenny Maloney's profile
Mar 23 2017 12:00pm

Review: The New York Times Book of Crime, Edited by Kevin Flynn

The New York Times Book of Crime, edited by Kevin Flynn, is a thorough collection of history's greatest crimes covered by one of the top news sources of all time.

The title says 166 Years of Covering the Beat, and nothing makes that clearer than the opening chapter: “Assassination.” This compilation of articles is kicked off by an 1865 article on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening. The breakdown of the crime and its aftermath serves as the starting point for a very thorough and interesting exploration of The New York Times’ journalism on some of the most fascinating crimes in history. 

Editor Kevin Flynn has gathered the stories with the largest impact of the past century and a half. Each chapter depicts a different kind of crime: assassination, heists, kidnappings, mass murder, the mob, murder, prison, serial killers, sex crimes, vice, and white collar criminal activity all get their moment on the page. And every page is covered by some of the best journalists who have ever lived. You want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the biggest news stories in the last 166 years as presented at the time they happened? Then this book is for you. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The New York Times Book of Crime...]

Mar 16 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Return by Joseph Helmreich

The Return: A Novel by Joseph HelmreichThe Return by Joseph Helmreich will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered ... what’s out there?

What begins as an astrological fluff piece for a local news station—a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice—becomes an international sensation when renowned physicist Andrew Leland is pulled into the sky by a strange green light. It’s the first proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life and the first alien kidnapping to be televised. 

Fast-forward a few years later: the world gets an influx of alien invasion films, students change majors to focus on science, and then Andrew Leland reappears in a New Mexico desert—emaciated, bearded, and apparently with no memory of what happened to him. He disappears soon afterward. 

Except Shawn Ferris, brilliant physics student at Brown University, believes that Leland does remember his experiences and needs to share his story with the world. Via online chat groups, Shawn finds the answer he’s looking for: the address where Leland supposedly lives. But when Shawn arrives to speak to his idol, he finds more than he bargained for. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Return...]

Feb 1 2017 3:00pm

4 Reasons You Should Read J.D. Robb ... According to My Mom

As you may have noticed, we—the reviewers here at Criminal Element—are happily gorging ourselves on J.D. Robb’s In Death series in preparation for the upcoming release of Echoes in Death. But there’s an important voice you need to hear if we’re going to talk seriously about J.D. Robb: my mom’s.   

When you walk into my mom’s house, you go straight into the living room (it’d probably be called a “formal living room” if my mom was a “formal living room” kinda gal … which she isn’t), and the first thing you see is a large entertainment center. You see the normal entertainment center kinda things: television, the entire series of NCIS, and other movies/shows that don’t star Mark Harmon or Michael Weatherly. 

But one thing you will notice very quickly is, along the top shelf of the entertainment center, the entire series of J.D. Robb’s In Death novels on full display—from number one to number whatever-number-J.D. Robb-is-up-to-by-the-time-of-this-writing. (That’s 44 in February once Echoes in Death comes out.)

[Mom knows best...]

Jan 19 2017 2:00pm

Review: Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Jenny Maloney reviews #31, Indulgence in Death.

Even on vacation, there are two things Lieutenant Eve Dallas can’t avoid: being billionaire Roarke’s wife and murder. The first is a pleasure, even though reporters follow their every move and report her food and clothing choices. The second is business as usual. 

After helping local Irish police on a case—when she’s supposed to be relaxing—Dallas arrives back in New York to find violence has not taken a holiday. Limo driver Jamal Houston, a man who has overcome his past as an illegals drug dealer and built a driving service from scratch, is found shot with a crossbow in the front seat of one of his limos. Houston’s final fare was registered under a stolen identity, and there are no immediate clues to help a just-back-from-vacation detective out. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Indulgence in Death...]

Jan 12 2017 3:00pm

Review: This Is Not Over by Holly Brown

This Is Not Over by Holly Brown follows a seemingly innocuous and soberingly real situation as it escalates to a shocking climax (available January 17, 2017).

Meet Dawn: Thirty years old, struggling financially, working on her bachelor’s degree, working to live up to her in-law’s expectations, and unsure if she wants a baby. She enjoys vacations in beautiful destinations like Santa Monica and regularly rents getaway homes for several days to feel like a new, hopeful person. 

Meet Miranda: Sixty years old, in a bloodless marriage, and supporting her addict son while trying to get him into rehab. She volunteers, cooks dinners, and cares for her aging mother. She also owns a getaway home, which she rents out to people looking to be free from their real life for a little while. 

After Dawn finishes renting Miranda’s home, she expects to have her security deposit returned. But Miranda returns only half of the deposit, claiming that Dawn and her husband left a “stain” on the bed sheets. Irritated, Dawn puts up a negative review on the rental website. Miranda sends angry texts. Each woman, convinced she is in the right, raises the stakes with each internet encounter. As their livelihoods become more and more threatened, it’s a question of which one will take it one step too far. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of This Is Not Over...]

Jan 12 2017 2:00pm

Review: Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Jenny Maloney reviews #26, Strangers in Death.

Thomas Anders—wealthy businessman and family man—is found tied up and strangled with black velvet ropes in his Park Avenue apartment. His general popularity and the salaciousness of his murder combine to create a perfect storm of a public relations nightmare for Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Dallas throws the tricky work of controlling the press to her partner, Detective Delia Peabody, tossing the less experienced detective into the deep end of media interviews while Dallas handles the strange details of the case itself.

And the details are, indeed, strange. At first, it seems like something kinky gone wrong, considering the—ahem—position the body was found in: naked, tied to the bed, and surrounded by naughty adult toys. Nothing, however, is what it seems in Dallas’s world. By all accounts, Thomas Anders was a loving husband in a good marriage. No one seems to want to do him harm. 

Plus, for such a seemingly intimate crime, there are hallmarks of an organized personality behind it. Nothing is ever easy.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Strangers in Death...]

Jan 5 2017 2:00pm

Review: Origin in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Jenny Maloney reviews #21, Origin in Death.

Dr. Wilfred B. Icove, Sr. is perfect on paper—which makes sense for a doctor dedicated to making other people “perfect” via cosmetic surgery. He has no outstanding bank accounts, a smaller-than-average number of malpractice suits in his long career, and a loving family. His clients come out of his office with robust busts, pert noses, and svelte waistlines. So, when he’s stabbed in the heart with a scalpel, it comes as quite a surprise. 

And Eve Dallas is convinced Icove’s perfect persona is a front for some other, darker second life. After all, no one is perfect. When she’s stonewalled with Icove’s records, Dallas turns to husband/crime-fighting partner Roarke. Together they break through Icove’s coded records and find that Icove is, indeed, searching for perfection—in the most inhumane, imperfect way possible. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Origin in Death...]

Dec 22 2016 1:00pm

Review: The Hollow Men by Rob McCarthy

The Hollow Men by Rob McCarthy follows police surgeon Harry Kent, who's determined to help those the world would rather brush aside, in a smart and electrifying new crime series that evokes the often-hidden medical world of the London Metropolitan Police.

As an army medic, Dr. Harry Kent has seen the effects of war and the damage they can do to personal and professional relationships. Determined to make a positive difference in the world despite his history, Kent serves as an emergency doctor and police surgeon for the London Metropolitan Police. He doesn’t sleep much. He’s managing. 

Enter teenager Solomon Idris.

Idris, a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, takes eight people hostage in a fast-food restaurant. His demands are simple: a lawyer and a BBC reporter. What he receives is Harry Kent—sent in by the MET to determine Idris’s health and mental stability. But in the middle of Kent’s evaluation, things go wrong. Shots are fired, and Idris is hit in the abdomen.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Hollow Men...]

Dec 13 2016 3:30pm

Review: Time of Death by Lucy Kerr

Time of Death by Lucy Kerr is a debut novel and the 1st book in the new Stillwater General Mystery series (Available today!).

ER Nurse Francesca “Frankie” Stapleton moved to Chicago for its fast pace and the opportunity to make a difference. She stays in the big city for ten years before she’s called back home to the small town of Stillwater. Her pregnant sister, Charlotte “Charlie” Stapleton, has come down with pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Frankie returns to her hometown—and all of her past regrets—to help.

However, on the way into Stillwater General Hospital, Frankie stumbles on to Clem Jensen, a handyman suffering all the classic signs of a heart attack. But the Stillwater ER is filled to the brim with teenagers injured in a high-school bus accident. Moving quickly, Frankie grabs supplies from a nearby ambulance and manages to get the attention of the staff. She saves Clem’s life … for a little while. Later that night he dies in his room.

But Clem’s death is no accident.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Time of Death...]

Oct 11 2016 1:30pm

Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser by Tana French is the 6th Dublin Murder Squad novel from the New York Times bestselling author. (Available today!)

Antoinette Conway worked hard to get into the prestigious Dublin Murder Squad, but now that she’s there, she finds her professional life filled with harsh hazing and harassment. Witness statements disappear from her files, her phone is dropped into her coffee, and someone urinates in her locker. So she’s already stressed when she and her partner, Stephen Moran, receive yet another domestic violence death at the end of a long shift.

At first this case seems like many others: Aislinn Murray, a beautiful, delicate young woman is found dead in her picture-perfect apartment. The most obvious suspect is her new boyfriend, and it looks like an open-and-shut case. But the deeper Conway and Moran dig into Aislinn’s life, the more the puzzle pieces refuse to fit. Witness stories aren’t matching the evidence. The Murder Squad—the one place Conway has always wanted to be—is divided and hostile, forcing Conway and her partner to discover the truth by themselves. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Trespasser...]

Sep 9 2016 3:00pm

Review: Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker

Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker is the debut novel from the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award winner (Available September 13, 2016).

The last murder to take place on the isle of Anegada, located in the British Virgin Islands, happened in 1681 and involved pirates. So it’s no wonder that when biologist Paul Killiher is murdered—shot in the head—the small island’s Special Constable Teddy Creque finds himself in over his head. Creque stumbles hard enough through processing his first crime scene to be pulled off the investigation. The only thing the “real” police officers of the British Virgin Islands are willing to let Creque handle is contacting Killiher’s next-of-kin. 

Creque, hoping to keep his job, follows instructions and works to find Killiher’s family. There’s only one snag: Killiher doesn’t seem to exist. The “biologist’s” passport is false, his license is false, and no one on the island or the American mainland seems to know who he is. To keep the case from going cold and to catch a murderer terrorizing his small island home, Creque decides to investigate despite strict orders from higher-up to do nothing. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Sun, Sand, Murder...]

Jul 6 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a thriller about a group of sisters who barely escape their murderous father, only to run right into even more danger (available July 7, 2015).

Years ago, Jess and her two older sisters, Dani and Courtney, were doing what they could to make ends meet at the Canadian ranch where they lived. Their struggle was compounded by their alcoholic father, who became more and more violent and unreliable after their mother’s death. When he comes home one night, raging at Courtney’s relationship with a married man, the situation goes from bad to dangerous. He attacks Courtney, drowning her in a toilet. To protect her sister, Jess is forced to shoot her father.

Then the girls have to run. They manage to make it to the next town before the truck breaks down. However, their hoped-for salvation becomes a nightmare of the first order when the girls are attacked. And they’re alone. The cops will arrest them for the murder of their father, their mother is dead, and there are no friends in this isolated town. There’s no one and nothing to turn to  – except for each other.

Now, years later, the decisions they made as teenagers and the consequences of this dark period are coming back to haunt them.

[Will they persevere?]

Jun 14 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby

The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby is a psychological thriller featuring Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan, who's hunting a serial rapist and murderer (available June 15, 2015).

Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. She’s seen some dark things, and has done a few dark things herself. But, as the lead detective on a series of rapes, she’s never faced anything quite like this. There is no set pattern. No indication of how the rapist manages to get into his victims’ houses. To make matters worse, the violence is escalating. It’s only a matter of time before one of the victims is killed. DI Dolan has no leads.

Until Jane. Jane Webster is a volunteer at a confidential hotline – her job is to listen as people tell her their darkest secrets. One night she receives a caller who needs to unburden himself. As he talks, Jane remembers the news stories about a rapist, and the details this man reveals are eerily similar. She decides to go against her work’s directive and goes to the police. Soon, both Jane and DI Dolan are swept into a cat-and-mouse game with a very creepy killer.

[Both sides can't come out winners...]

May 15 2015 10:45am

Fresh Meat: Vanishing by Gerard Woodward

Vanishing by Gerard Woodward is a historical mystery set in the years leading up to WWII where an artist is found painting a landscape of a new airport, and his motives are questioned (available May 15, 2015).

Near the end of WWII, British Lieutenant Kenneth Brill is arrested. His crime? Painting the landscape around Heathrow Village, where he grew up. The official story is that the village is going to be plowed under and a military airfield will be put in its place. Brill insists he is only painting the village for posterity, to protect the memory of his childhood home before it disappears forever. The trial goes forward anyway and Brill is forced to tell his story – but is he everything he claims to be?

On paper, Brill is a camouflage officer, one of a few men designated to hide Allied troop movement from the enemy. As such, he was a hero of the battle at El Alamein, Egypt. He studied art at Slade. He is married with a son. These things are documented. But as Brill tells his life story to Davies, his trial lawyer, a much more complex picture emerges. A picture of a world as transient as Brill himself. Stories of expulsions, violent encounters, homosexuality, and relationships with fascists are told.  

[Life, like art, is layered with deeper meaning...]

Apr 22 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Anne of the Fens by Gretchen Gibbs

Anne of the Fens by Gretchen Gibbs is a historical young adult novel about a fifteen year old girl whose budding curiosity crosses paths with a young man her father is hiding from authorities (available April 30, 2015).

Anne Dudley is a fifteen year old who has very little experience when it comes to trouble – that’s more her sister Sarah’s issue. Raised as a Puritan, Anne knows it is wicked to lie, cheat, steal, and lust after men. Still, she is caught in a world that is anything but Godly and pure. Her religion prohibits the reading of certain books, like William Shakespeare. And, on the other side of things, King Charles I is demanding taxes and limiting her family’s freedom because of their religion.

When Anne discovers her father is hiding a Puritan fugitive from the King’s justice, she finds herself learning how to lie. She sneaks the man, John Holland, food. During their midnight meetings, she discovers that perhaps she feels more than just duty towards him. However, as she gets to know John and becomes better at telling lies, she starts to wonder if she isn’t being lied to.

Anne of the Fens is based on the historical life of a girl who would grow up to become America’s premiere female poet Anne Bradstreet, who is an ancestor of author Gretchen Gibbs – and the passion for her predecessor in life and letters is clear in Gibbs’ novel. It’s a story set against the dark, threatening landscape of pre-English Civil War, when men and women were hanged or burned alive for their religious beliefs.

[Harsh doesn't even scratch the surface...]

Feb 16 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Killing at the Creek by Nancy Allen

A Killing at the Creek by Nancy Allen is a legal thriller set in Oklahoma following prosecutor Elsie Arnold, who's convinced herself that the violent boy discovered at a murder scene is indeed guilty of the crime (available February 17, 2015).

McCown County prosecutor Elsie Arnold just wants a murder case. Not that she really wants anyone to get hurt, but there’s a gap in her experience she wants to fill. She gets more than she bargains for when a woman is found dumped in a local creek. Assigned to the case as third chair, Elsie heads to the scene. The victim has been in the water for a while and the dump scene looks nothing like the movies.

However, the scene at the creek isn’t the scene of the crime. The victim was a driver taking a school bus from Detroit, Michigan, to northern Arkansas. The bus turns up in Oklahoma.

The cook bristled and grabbed the young man by the arm, but he ripped his arm away and turned with such ferocity that the cook backed off. Stepping backwards, raising the palms of both hands, the fry cook said, “No problem, dude. Forget about it.”

The young man jumped behind the wheel of the bus and threw it into reverse; before he drove off, he rolled down the driver's window and thrust his arm out, extending the middle finger of his left hand.

“Eat shit!” the cook yelled in response.

The young driver's arm disappeared inside the bus. He grappled under the seat, then brandished a blood-stained item in his hand for the cook to see.

It was a bloody knife.

When the Oklahoma authorities investigate, they find an additional surprise: someone is alive in the bus. A fifteen year-old kid. Now the question has to be answered: is the boy another victim or the killer?

[Trouble ahead, trouble behind…]

Feb 2 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Bet Your Life by Jane Casey

Bet Your Life by Jane Casey is the second in the YA mystery series featuring Jess Tennant, a teen living on the English seaside whose life offers more complications than murder (available February 3, 2015).

Jess Tennant is adjusting to life in Port Sentinel after leaving London. In the past few months, she’s gone through crazy upheavals: her parent’s divorce, moving in with her aunt and uncle, breaking up with her boyfriend, and—no small thing—discovering her cousin’s murderer. She is understandably off-center about a lot of things, but she’s beginning to carve out a niche for herself.

That niche includes being in the wrong place at the wrong time and asking too many questions.

When Seb Dawson, a handsome, popular boy is beaten into a coma and left for dead, Jess is there moments after the attack. She tries to distance herself from the case. Her cousin’s death and the crazed aftermath are still too fresh for her to feel comfortable investigating. But when Beth, Seb’s little sister, asks her to dig into the assault Jess can’t say no. Very quickly, she discovers Seb is not all he claimed to be and that he’s been hiding some very dark secrets.

Bet Your Life is the second in Jane Casey’s YA series centering on Jess Tennant. As Jess navigates the ins-and-outs of the popular crowd in Port Sentinel, it’s pretty easy to get pulled into this small-town English world where the houses are named, the students home from boarding school cause all kinds of trouble, and Jess tries to hunt down a bad guy who has a lot to lose.

[The lovely seaside can present dangerous undertow...]

Oct 7 2014 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Murder Man by Tony Parsons

The Murder Man by Tony ParsonsThe Murder Man by Tony Parsons is a debut thriller, introducing newly-minted homicide detective Max Wolfe, whose first case will involve murdered members of London society, all connected to an exclusive boarding school (available October 7, 2014).

After a heroic turn on the street, Max Wolfe is promoted to Detective in the Homicide division of London’s West End and he’s just pulled his first case: the brutal slaying business man Hugo Buck.

Shortly after, a homeless man is killed in the exact manner of Buck—both victims found with their throats practically ripped out. There seems to be no connection between the murders except for money. Both men were born with it.

As news of the killings spread, Bob the Butcher, an anonymous Internet personality, claims that he is responsible for the murders. Quoting Robert Oppenheimer and claiming to be the “destroyer of worlds,” the Butcher manages to insert himself squarely into the case. The only problem is, Wolfe doesn’t think Bob the Butcher is the killer. While Wolfe hunts for evidence and tries to protect the next targets, he becomes a target himself.

The Murder Man is journalist and author Tony Parsons’ debut crime thriller featuring Detective Max Wolfe. In this fast paced, well-researched introduction to Wolfe, Parsons creates a lot of twists and turns. And a pretty gruesome death toll. 

[Let's tally it up, shall we?]

Sep 30 2014 1:15pm

Fresh Meat: The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan is a novel set against the landscape of Montana, involving the relationship between a weathered, old serial killer awaiting trial and the troubled young deputy guarding him overnight (available September 30, 2014).

Copper County, Montana: Sheriff’s Deputy Valentine Millimacki is a man with a talent for finding people. With his dog, Tom, he tracks people who have lost themselves in the Montana wilderness. He understands how people think, how they react. Unfortunately, none of the people he’s found in the last few months have survived the harsh conditions that Millimacki seems born into.

John Gload also understands people. In the past fifty years, Gload has killed and disposed of dozens, perhaps hundreds of people. He’s a hunter. Then one mistake, one lapse of judgment, costs him his freedom and lands him in a Copper County jail cell.

When Millimacki, the low man in the sheriff’s department, pulls the graveyard shift at the jail, he’s tugged into the insomniacal Gload’s center of gravity. As sleep becomes more and more rare between hunting for the missing and his overnight shifts, Millimacki’s marriage begins to collapse. And his odd connection with the most notorious killer in Montana’s history grows stronger.

[Stronger and Stranger...]

Sep 26 2014 11:45am

Fresh Meat: Bad Bones by Linda Ladd

Bad Bones by Linda Ladd is the sixth Missouri-based mystery featuring homicide detective Claire Morgan where a frozen and broken corpse is found in a state park (available September 29, 2014).

A nasty ice storm covers Missouri, and Canton County Homicide Detective Claire Morgan and her partner are stuck directing the slip-and-slide traffic when they get called in to investigate a questionable death. A man has been found at the base of a cliff in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. When they arrive, they find a frozen, battered corpse. Suicide is quickly ruled out because every bone in the victim’s body is broken.

Paulie Parker, the vicitim, a.k.a. “Parker the Punisher,” was an MMA cage fighter, but no fight has ever resulted in the injuries he’s sustained. As Claire digs deeper into Parker’s past, she finds ties to the Russian mafia, fighters willing and able to kill anything that moves, and a backwoods society that raises young boys, like Paulie, to fight or die.

Bad Bones is the sixth installment in Linda Ladd’s series about Claire Morgan. Unlike previous Claire Morgan novels, this one is told entirely in the third person. (Previous installments have Claire’s point of view in the first person.) While this may seem a small adjustment, it actually serves to make the stakes higher. With this small change, you never know if Claire will be taken out of commission as she hunts down the most brutal killer of her career: a man who was trained to break bones from childhood.

[Well that's frightening...]