Fresh Meat: <i>The Furies</i> by Mark Alpert Fresh Meat: The Furies by Mark Alpert Leigh Neely Are tales of witchcraft and sorcery just the byproduct of a genetic mutation? "The Barnacle": New Excerpt "The Barnacle": New Excerpt Hilary Davidson Read the complete story of pregnant Jess, the cops, and a bloodstained shirt. Fresh Meat: <i>The Long Shadow</i> by Liza Marklund Fresh Meat: The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund Jordan Foster Thorny reporter Annika Bengzton even detests leaving wintry Stockholm for sunny Spain... <i>No Way Back</i>: Exclusive Excerpt No Way Back: Exclusive Excerpt Matthew Klein Is the new (and newly sober) CEO of a failing company paranoid, or not paranoid enough?
From The Blog
April 19, 2014
Vladimir Nabokov's Hidden Noir: Despair
Edward A. Grainger
April 18, 2014
That's DAME Jessica Fletcher To You!
Crime HQ
April 17, 2014
Burglar Butt-Dials 911 During Heist
Teddy Pierson
April 15, 2014
My Zombie War: Snyder Beats Romero, and Other Horrific Curiosities
Tim Lebbon
April 15, 2014
Tread Lightly: Walter White, Prom Date
Jennifer Proffitt
Apr 19 2014 12:30pm

Mention the name Vladimir Nabokov and Lolita springs immediately to mind, and rightfully so. The 1955 novel is a flashpoint in 20th century literature, notable for its controversial subject matter: a professor and his obsession with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze. From the Russian born author, there are additional legendary milestones like Pale Fire and Speak, Memory. What may not be as well known is that Mr. Nabokov was weaving that rich, vigorous prose many years earlier with 1937’s Despair. A first-rate crime novel with strong noir elements.

The protagonist of Despair, Hermann Karlovich, is a Russian businessman who encounters a homeless man by the name of Felix in the city of Prague. Hermann is struck by how similar they look to the point he believes he has found his doppelgänger. Felix, at first, doesn’t seem to think the resemblance is quite that strong and doesn’t seem to know what to make of the colorful Hermann.

Is Felix a dead-wringer for Hermann or not? One of the reasons we may doubt the doppelgänger fixation is a chapter later, Hermann discusses for several paragraphs his late mother only to conclude: “A slight digression: that bit about my mother was a deliberate lie … I purposely leave it there as a sample of one of my essential traits: my light-hearted, inspired lying.” Obviously, Nabokov is having a bit of merriment with one of his well-used tools from his writer’s handbag: the unreliable narrator.

[I feel like I know you from somewhere...]

Apr 18 2014 1:00pm

The Furies, a thriller by Mark Alpert, introduces us to a family like any other, with the exception of a genetic mutation that they've been forced to hide from the world for hundreds of years (available April 22, 2014).

They Walk Among Us!

Nothing is more chilling than hearing those words. Whether they are supernatural, extraterrestrial, or just plain spooky, thinking about a being that’s different from our human selves always feels creepy when everything around you looks normal.

The prologue of Mark Alpert’s The Furies gives us a glimpse of Elizabeth Fury and her family, a family so different that the other people in town are determined to kill them for fear that they’re the ones who’ve brought the recent troubles people were dealing with. It’s 1645, and Elizabeth has escaped with her children, but she can still hear the cries of her husband being tortured.

We move from there to modern-day New York City, where John Rogers sits in a bar nursing a single beer as he thinks about how many ways his life is a mess. A former gang member and military loser, only the faith and grace of a local priest helped him turn his life around. However, turning from the street life to life of service didn’t exactly fill his pockets with gold.

[A girl is about to change his life...]

Apr 18 2014 8:45am

Dame Angela Lansbury/ Photo: PA

Angela Lansbury, forever the face of the nosiest author in Cabot Cove, was just awarded the DBE by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. A British subject at birth, born a year earlier than the current monarch, Lansbury was recognized for services to drama, charity, and philanthropy. Read more about the ceremony, her family's background in politics, and her current stage productions at the Daily Mail.

Congratulations, Dame Angela!

Apr 17 2014 5:00pm
Original Story
Hilary Davidson

“The Barnacle” by Hilary Davidson appears here in its entirety, and is joined by 13 other short crime stories in Criminal Element's inaugural e-collection, The Malfeasance Occasional's Girl Trouble issue.

After enjoying this springtime treat, try “Follow Us on Facebok and Twitter” by Eric Cline and “Her Haunted House” by Brendan DuBois from this collection or learn more about the issue's contents and contributors.



Jess was washing bloodstains out of her husband’s shirt when the police came knocking at her door. She cleaned her hands at the pitted porcelain sink while they beat an aggressive tattoo. Not again, she thought, avoiding her own eyes in the scratched cabinet mirror. Twenty-seven and pregnant by a man who couldn’t hold down a straight job, that was the truth of her life.

[Continue Reading The Barnacle by Hilary Davidson...]

Apr 17 2014 1:00pm

“What is a ghost?” It’s the question at the heart of Guillermo del Toro’s near-perfect The Devil’s Backbone, the pin that holds together the interwoven threads of his layered story. Is it a literal ghost: a restless spirit that persists in stalking the halls at night? Or perhaps the looming specter of war, in a place full of orphans whose parents were claimed by the conflict... Or is a ghost simply the lingering regret for words unsaid, chances untaken, dreams unfulfilled?

The story opens at a remote orphanage in the final days of the Spanish Civil War. Young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives with a suitcase and shoebox of childish treasures, confused and uncertain. And for all that the teachers—including the eloquent Dr. Casares (del Toro fave Federico Luppi) and the elegant Carmen (Marisa Paredes)—are kindly, Carlos has a hard time settling in. The resident bully Jaime immediately dislikes him, the orphanage echoes eerily with secrets, and there is an unsolved mystery surrounding a boy who abruptly disappeared the night a bomb fell in the courtyard.

When Carlos is given the boy’s bed, he soon suspects that the missing Santi never actually left the orphanage. Something began haunting the school in the wake of his disappearance, a being the other boys call “The One Who Sighs”, and it isn’t long before Carlos comes face to face with the ghost and hears a most frightening warning: “Many of you will die.”

[But even in the midst of violence, there can still be hope…]

Apr 17 2014 8:45am

A couple of clumsy burglars were arrested after one of them accidentally dialed 911 and didn’t realize it. Maplewood, Minnesota Police Chief Paul Schnell says the 911 dispatcher received a dead call and then another call that stayed active. The on-duty dispatcher overheard a conversation about where police were located.

“If it goes off, they are right across the street,” said one of the men, according to the dispatcher.

It was “pretty clear based on some of that conversation that this was a burglary,” Schnell said.

The calls were made using the cell phone’s emergency-call feature. The dispatcher saw the location was a car-repair shop and then alerted the local police.

The police arrived to see two men exiting the building wearing dark clothing. One carried a TV, the other a box. The men ditched the goods and tried to get away, but were brought down by police dogs.

Apr 16 2014 4:25pm

One of the most gripping elements, at least for me, is the vulnerability of the children and the lengths to which the adults will go to keep these kids alive – a theme that was front and center this past month as I almost simultaneously finished playing The Last of Us videogame and watching AMC’s They Walking Dead.

Although I’ve also played both of The Walking Dead videogames games, I’ve opted to write about the TV show and the The Last of Us because of some of the differences between game and show. (Speaking of differences, there are also many between TWD show and comics. I’ve tried to read ahead and been surprised when something doesn’t happen the way I expect. And no Darryl! I love Darryl.)

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the last few episodes of The Walking Dead or played either of The Walking Dead games or finished The Last of Us, don’t read any further.

[Come on in, you’ve been warned…]

Apr 16 2014 8:45am

Set to premiere on FX in July, Guillermo del Toro's The Strain is adapted from the successful vampire trilogy written by del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The thriller will follow a team from New York City's Center for Disease Control as they investigate a viral outbreak that resembles an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. The show will star Corey Stoll who recently portrayed Congressman David Russo on Netflix's House of Cards.

The Strain will actually premiere at the ATX Television Festival (June 5-8) in Austin, Texas, where FX will also be showing an unaired episode of their new drama Fargo, which premiered last night and has gathered strong reviews thus far.

We've been talking a lot about del Toro recently, covering two of his earliest films Cronos (1993) and Mimic (1997). I think it's safe to say we're excited to dig into The Strain come July.

It's about time we got some real vampires, not the ones that glow in the dark.

Apr 15 2014 11:30am

The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund, an Annika Bengzton novelThe Long Shadow by Liza Marklund, translated from Swedish by Neil Smith, is the eighth featuring Stockholm reporter Annika Bengzton, who'll  jet to Spain's glitzy Costa del Sol to investigate the murder of an entire family (available April 15, 2014).

Annika Bengzton is probably annoyed with you. Oh, you two haven’t met? That’s okay. The dogged Stockholm reporter star of Liza Marklund’s long-running series—this is the eighth installment—will find something you did to piss her off. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Humanity irks Annika, and yet her profession puts her front and center for an unending parade of our species’ worst moments. Perhaps if she were a different kind of reporter, the kind who wrote fluffy, feel-good pieces about abandoned puppies finding loving homes or octogenarians celebrating decades of marriage, Annika would be more receptive to the idea that all people aren’t rotten. But she covers crime. Bloody, senseless murders, in whose investigations she more often than not becomes dangerously involved. Few things, after her two young children, are more important to Annika than “The Truth.” Of course, this is a difficult commodity to come by when you’re immersed in the world of death. And when you work for a newspaper that’s often more concerned with protecting its image and reputation than reporting the unvarnished facts.

[Makes for some long, hard days in the fact mines...]

Apr 15 2014 11:00am

In my teens and early twenties, my two best mates and I spent a lot of time watching horror films, drinking Gareth's dad's beer and eating pizza. We saw some good films, some mediocre ones, and some truly bad ones that I'm still trying to erase from my mind. There was Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), Re-Animator (1985), Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Send more cops! – and the classic(ally bad) The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies!!? (1964), billed as “The First Monster Musical.”

But it was, of course, George A. Romero's movies that really stuck in my mind, and in particular Day of the Dead (1985). Maybe it struck a chord just because of the era when we watched it, maybe it was the extreme gore that outdid even the first two outings, or perhaps it was dear old Bub, but we watched that movie again and again. Romero went on to continue his increasingly inaccurately named “trilogy” (copyright Douglas Adams) with Land of the Dead (2005), which I remember watching, but none of which has stayed with me. He went on from that to other zombie films, which I haven't caught up with yet. But it was Day of the Dead that remained my favorite...

Until recently…

I'm already building a basement shelter in which to hide from the shuffling (or sprinting) hordes of fans, who will descend upon me, seeking vengeance and blood, when I say what I'm about to say.  Because my favorite zombie movie is now...

Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (2004).

[Reaching for the chainsaw…]

Apr 15 2014 10:00am
Matthew Klein

An exclusive excerpt from No Way Back by Matthew Klein, a thriller featuring a newly sober CEO who grows suspicious of the company he's hired to turn around when he learns of the former CEO's disappearance (available April 15, 2014).

Jimmy Thane thinks that his new job as the CEO of a failing company will help turn his life around. He should think again.

Jimmy Thane knows all about crossroads. Every time he’s faced with one he’s taken the wrong path. At the peak of his career, he chose alcohol. When his job became shaky, he turned to drugs. And when his wife lost faith in him, he turned to other women. Now, Jimmy’s clean, and he’s at a new crossroad: he’s landed the job of a CEO at a failing company in South Florida and has seven weeks to turn it around.

Except, from the moment he enters the building, he senses there’s something very wrong—the place is too quiet, too empty. When the police come calling about the disappearance of the former CEO, Jimmy begins to wonder what he got himself into.

Then he discovers surveillance equipment in his neighbor’s house, looking straight into his living room. And he begins to notice that his wife isn’t just tired, she’s terrified, and trying to hide it.

Nothing is as it seems. Jimmy no longer feels like he’s living the dream. Instead, he’s plunged into the worst kind of nightmare there is. And when he finally gets to the truth, it’s more shocking and terrifying than could be imagined.

Chapter 2

A corporate turnaround is like a murder investigation. The first thing you do is interview the suspects.

[Continue reading No Way Back by Matthew Klein]

Apr 15 2014 8:45am

Walter White has been many things. Teacher, husband, father, murderer, and meth cooker. While he won't be adding “Prom date” to that list (though statistically and fictionally-speaking he probably was someone's prom date once), Bryan Cranston recently helped one teen ask his dream girl to prom.

One enterprising teenager found Bryan Cranston at his Broadway play, “All the Way,” and asked the star to record a message to his intended-prom date. Using a quote known from the show, Cranston recited:

“Maddie, if you don't go to the prom with Stefan than maybe your best course of action is to tread lightly...”

The teen let Cranston know, via twitter, that his date had said “yes.”

What celebrity and/or villain do you think would have convinced your prom date to say yes?

Tread lightly gif courtesy of

Apr 14 2014 4:15pm

When they first announced that Justified would end after Season 6, I was prepared to be heartbroken at the news, but after the recently ended and quite lackluster season 5, I think it’s a good decision. In fact, I wonder it might not have been better if Graham Yost had decided to end “Justified” in five seasons, perhaps doing a Breaking Bad and giving us an extra long fifth season split into two parts.

I say this not because Season 5 was terrible, though I do think it will go down as the weakest one for this usually stellar show, but because it now seems like the entire season was just a setup for the final confrontation we’re going to get in Season 6 between Boyd and Raylan. That confrontation has been brewing from the very first episode of the series, when the TV show let Boyd survive Raylan’s gunshot to the chest. In “Fire in the Hole”, the Elmore Leonard short story that introduces Raylan Givens, Boyd dies, and it’s hard to even contemplate how very different the show would have been if they’d followed the plot of the short story.

[It was always going to be Raylan versus Boyd...]

Apr 14 2014 1:30pm

Everyone has seen the clichéd shot of a man pouring a path of gasoline on the ground that bends and curves away from what he’s actually trying to blow up. He then lights the match and we see the flame dance along the ground, ending in a fiery explosion. That’s how the past three seasons of Game of Thrones have been written — a calculated path of gasoline leading towards an explosive penultimate episode (Ned’s death, The Battle of the Blackwater, The Red Wedding). But that’s not the case this season. Rather than the slow burning path of gasoline, we are being forced to walk amidst a field littered with landmines. There’s no telling when one will explode, as last night’s episode “The Lion and the Rose” convincingly proved.

All we can hope for as this season progresses is that our favorite characters escape the minefield quickly and in one piece.

As always, spoilers after the jump.

[Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding is looking better now, isn’t it?]

Apr 14 2014 11:15am

Bletchley Circle Cast: (l to r) Julie Graham as Jean, Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan, Sophie Rundle as Lucy, Rachael Stirling as Millie

The first series of The Bletchley Circle reminded us that sisterhood is powerful. So it’s no surprise when Jean (Julie Graham) feels compelled to defend the innocence of a former Bletchley Park codebreaker, even when the woman refuses to defend herself.

It’s 1953, ten years after Jean crossed paths with Alice Merren (Hattie Morahan) at Bletchley. Now Alice is facing trial for the murder of John Richards, a fellow scientist with whom she’d had an affair all those years ago. Alice hasn’t denied involvement in his murder, but she hasn’t confessed to it either. That’s enough proof of doubt for Jean, who resolves to demonstrate Alice’s innocence. But Jean can’t do it alone; she needs the other members of the “Bletchley Circle” to help her.

(This trailer's from ITV's UK run of the series in January.)

“Blood on Their Hands” (a two-part episode that concludes next week) packs a lot of plot into a scant 45 minutes, and the show’s creators don’t waste any time reviewing the material from Series 1. So, first, a recommendation: If you don’t have total recall of previous episodes, you’ll want to revisit them; it will help put this story in context.

[Will the circle be unbroken?]

Apr 14 2014 8:45am

If you’ve been watching Turn, AMC’s new Revolutionary War spy drama, you might be wondering where the creators found such authentic filming locations.

Although the series, which is based on the book Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose, is set on Long Island in New York, the filming was done in central Virginia. Locations include Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson, which serves as the home of Richard Woodhull in the series. In Charles City, Westover Plantation is the exterior of Anna’s home. The 400-year-old Shirley Plantation, also in Charles City, was used for several scenes, as were the Farmer’s Market and historic city streets of Petersburg.

Fans who are hooked on the intrigues of Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) and Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall)—not to mention the potential for a showdown between Anna Strong (Heather Lind) and Mary Woodhull (Meegan Warner)—might want to take a look at some of these places for themselves. For them, and everyone else hitting the road this summer, the state of Virginia has devised the “Turn Trail,” a map of destinations that were used in or are related to the series. Expect plenty of twists and turns, but you’re probably safe from the Redcoats.

Apr 13 2014 11:00am

The reputation of Scandinavian thrillers has really taken off in recent years. Stieg Larson was the first author to gain international fame, but other writers such as Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, and Camilla Läckberg are equally well regarded. At the moment, there’s also a great deal of Scandinavian crime drama available on television and given that I live in the United Kingdom, I have a front-row seat to all the latest imports. I remember my first taste of The Killing, a Danish crime drama that aired on the BBC. I watched all 40 episodes sitting at the edge of my seat. Thankfully, the Danish-Swedish collaboration entitled The Bridge soon followed. Diehard Killing fans will take offence when I say The Bridge it is even better than The Killing (cue the hate mail), but I will admit that with shows this good, there’s very little to separate them outside of personal taste. The Scandinavian version of The Bridge isn’t dubbed in English so if you’re not into reading subtitles it may not be your cup of tea, but I’m a master at the multitask, so I really appreciate the opportunity to read, soak up some culture, and watch a crime drama at the same time – talk about sanctimonious guilty pleasure.

[Every body is connected...]

Apr 12 2014 12:00pm

The Axe Factor by Colin Cotterill is the third Jimm Juree Mystery about a relocated news reporter in rural Thailand who finds herself entwined with a suspicious crime writer (available April 15, 2014).

The setting is Thailand.  I close my eyes and hear the sounds of Chiang Mai and the smell of cooking fills my nostrils, only to be interrupted by the unavoidable stench of death from the pages of Colin Cotterill’s particularly well written crime thriller. It starts off in the minimalist style  of a killer and gets straight to the point:

I write.

It is how I earn my living. I used to think there were those who wrote and those who performed, as separate as those who dreamed and those who lived their dreams. But tonight I stepped across that line. I graduated from writer of death to taker of life. I’ve never felt as free as I do now. If they arrest me, not that they’re likely to, I couldn’t pretend it was spontaneous: a spur-of-the-moment red rage or passion. I’d imagined it, you see? I’d pictured it vividly in solid oils rather than washed-out watercolours. It had been a recurring multicoloured vision for so many years it was only a matter of time before it took on the grisly form of reality.

[The plot thickens quickly, like a Thai curry…]

Apr 11 2014 11:00am

Sometimes a good setting is all an ace novelist needs to pen a memorable story. Give an able scribe a backdrop that is the stuff of fertile literary ground and they can go to work in spinning a yarn that will please their faithful. One such setting, particularly around the middle of the 20th century and particularly for writers of what we now call noir fiction, was a motor court, or auto court. You know, those old roadside motels that were generally found right off highways and that were meant to lure tired travelers in need of a quick, cheap, frills-free stay before they started the next leg of their trek. As I wrote about in an earlier installment of this column, Clifton Adams employed a motor court as primary setting to great effect in his top rate noir novel Death’s Sweet Song. Similarly, Wade Miller very effectively used the same kind of physical grounds as the place around which to base the superb 1956 book Kiss Her Goodbye.

While Adams’s novel has the troubled owner of a motor court as its lead character, the Miller book follows the doings of a pair of guests at one of the inns. Ed Darnell and his little sister Emily wind up at the Quality Auto Court in Jimmock, Calfornia by chance. And while they initially had no plans to remain in their room at the place for more than a night or two, they become long-term visitors.

[Emily, not Ed, is the ticking time bomb...]

Apr 11 2014 8:45am

Everyone has seen a movie where a stunt actor on screen is suddenly engulfed in flames and runs around flailing and eventually dying. As green screens continue to replace sets and props, it would be easy to assume that the fire is just another computer-generated gimmick. But thanks to Play'n With Fire HydraGel, a product produced by Action Factory, you can be sure that the actor on screen is actually on fire. The gel is a transparent and is designed to resist heat altogether, allowing stunt actors to have no fear. Actually, not having fear is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a stunt actor.