Review: <i>The Killer Who Hated Soup</i> by Bill A. Brier Review: The Killer Who Hated Soup by Bill A. Brier John Valeri Read John Valeri's review! <i>Gin and Panic</i>: Excerpt Gin and Panic: Excerpt Maia Chance The third book in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries series. Review: <i>Madness Treads Lightly</i> by Polina Dashkova Review: Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! Discount: <i>The Prisoner of Hell Gate</i> by Dana I. Wolff Discount: The Prisoner of Hell Gate by Dana I. Wolff Crime HQ Get a digital copy for $1.99 through October!
From The Blog
October 20, 2017
The Deep and Twisted Roots of Lore
Angie Barry
October 20, 2017
Florida Man Googled "How to Rob a Bank" Before Robbing a Bank
Adam Wagner
October 17, 2017
Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Peter Foy
October 15, 2017
Executed 100 Years Ago: Who Was Mata Hari?
David Cranmer
October 13, 2017
6 Eerie, Mysterious, and Unsettling Unsolved Mysteries
Angie Barry
Oct 20 2017 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “Purrfect Pumpkin Cider”

It's almost Halloween, and even cats get thirsty when they're out solving murders all month!

So knead your favorite pillow (for what seems like hours), stretch out your claws, and lap up this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Purrfect Pumpkin Cider” cocktail, inspired by Mandy Morton's second Hattie Bagshot Mystery, Cat Among the Pumpkins!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Oct 20 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Killer Who Hated Soup by Bill A. Brier

The Killer Who Hated Soup by Bill A. Brier is the first book in the new Killer Who Hated series, featuring amateur photographer/sleuth Bucky Ontario and his adventures in the fictional town of Defiance, OK (available October 21, 2017).

Bill A. Brier has a list of credentials that lend themselves to storytelling: he grew up in California, attended Hollywood High School, and worked in the movie business for more than 25 years in roles that included cameraman, film editor, and general manager. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a combat cameraman and earned a master’s degree in psychology. Eight years ago, Brier switched from reading scripts to writing mysteries; his first, The Devil Orders Takeout, was published last April. Now, he’s back with The Killer Who Hated Soup—the inaugural title in a projected new series set in the fictional town of Defiance, Oklahoma, in the 1950s.

As the story opens, readers are introduced to 21-year-old dynamo Bucky Ontario, an amateur photographer with an impressive front hair curl who left his Louisiana home two years ago in pursuit of greater ambitions. Following the close-your-eyes-and-point method of decision making, he boarded a bus to Defiance, OK—one of Time magazine’s picks as the next great boomtown—and hasn’t looked back. After all, Defiance—much like Bucky himself—is laden with potential, and the potential for prosperity, while maintaining a down-home charm: 

[Read John Valeri's review of The Killer Who Hated Soup...]

Oct 20 2017 1:00pm

The Deep and Twisted Roots of Lore

Werewolves. Witches. Vampires. Ghosts. Monsters.

They’ve rampaged, romanced, and revenged across our screens for a century and have populated our stories—both oral and written—since humans became, well, humans.

We’ve always been drawn to the supernatural and the horrific, the Other lurking in the darkness. We’ve told such tales to explain the inexplicable, to come to terms with death and violence and the natural world. And since 2015, Aaron Mahnke has made a point of untangling many of these knotted narratives in his bi-weekly podcast, Lore

[Learn more about the world of Lore...]

Oct 20 2017 12:00pm

Florida Man Googled “How to Rob a Bank” Before Robbing a Bank

These days, you can Google just about anything, but there are some things you probably shouldn’t. Like “How to rob a bank.” Especially if you’re actually going to rob a bank. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, William Joe Johnson, 26, stole an undisclosed amount of money from an Achieva Credit Union in Pinellas County, Florida. Johnson entered the bank just before 11 a.m., implied he had a gun, and told the teller to give him the cash.

After an investigation, the police discovered Johnson had Google searched “how to rob a bank” just before his harrowing holdup—I guess he was “feeling lucky.” They found him at a nearby hotel where they promptly arrested him and booked him into the Pinellas County Jail. 

Do you know how to rob a bank? 

Oct 20 2017 10:00am

Maia Chance Excerpt: Gin and Panic

Maia Chance

Gin and Panic by Maia Chance is the third book in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries series (available October 24, 2017).

Take a visual tour of Gin and Panic with GIFnotes!

Former socialite Lola Woodby is now struggling to make ends meet as a not-so-discreet private eye in Prohibtion-era New York City, along with her stern Swedish sidekick, Berta. When they’re offered a piece-of-cake job―retrieving a rhinoceros trophy from the Connecticut mansion of big game hunter Rudy Montgomery―it seems like a no-brainer. After all, their client, Lord Sudley, promises them a handsome paycheck, and the gin and tonics will be plentiful and free. But no sooner do they arrive at Montgomery Hall than Rudy is shot dead.

When the police arrive to examine the scene, they conclude that Rudy had actually committed suicide. But Lord Sudley can’t believe his friend would have done that, and there’s a houseful of suspicious characters standing by. So Lord Sudley ups the ante for Lola and Berta, and suddenly, their easy retrieval job has turned into a murder investigation. Armed with handbags stuffed with emergency chocolate, gin flasks, and a Colt .25, Lola and Berta are swiftly embroiled in a madcap puzzle of stolen diamonds, family secrets, a clutch of gangsters, and plenty of suspects who know their way around a safari rifle.

[Read an excerpt from Gin and Panic...]

Oct 19 2017 4:00pm

Watch the First Official Trailer for Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.

Two artists that changed hip-hop forever—both in life and in death. Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. were both murdered within a year of each other after one of the biggest and most public feuds in entertainment history. However, neither of their murders have ever been solved.

Now, Emmy Award-winner Anthony Hemingway (American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson) and Kyle Long (Suits) team up with LAPD Detective Greg Kading—who led multiple law-enforcement task forces investigating the murders and authored the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations—to bring you Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.

Premiering in 2018 on USA, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. stars Josh Duhamel (Detective Kading), Marcc Rose (Tupac), Wavyy Jonez (Biggie), Jimmi Simpson (Detective Russell Poole), Bokeem Woodbine (Officer Daryn Dupree), and Luke James (Sean “Puffy” Combs).

[Watch the trailer below!]

Oct 19 2017 3:00pm

Review: Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova

Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova is a Russian mystery where only three people can connect a present-day murderer to a serial killer who, fourteen years ago, terrorized a small Siberian town—and one of them is already dead.

Polina Dashkova, dubbed Russia’s Queen of Crime, first published Madness Treads Lightly in Russian in 1998. This edition was translated by Marian Schwartz, which I found surprising given Dashkova’s work as a translator herself. I’m not entirely sure that the translator served this book well, as Russian naming conventions were preserved, which can be a bit confusing to an American audience and contributed to my inability to become immersed in the story right away. But regardless of that, once I became accustomed, I found the story interesting, if standard, for a thriller.

The novel takes place in two time periods and two locations. Lena Polyanskaya is our protagonist, a young mother living in Moscow in 1996 who edits a prominent magazine and is married to a high-ranking police officer. She soon learns that an old friend of hers, Mitya, has died of suspected suicide, but she finds it all suspicious even though Mitya’s sister, Olga, has accepted it without question. But the further Lena digs, the more she feels that Mitya’s death was no accident and might, in fact, be somehow connected to a string of murders that happened in Siberia in the 1980s.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Madness Treads Lightly...]

Oct 19 2017 1:00pm

Discount: The Prisoner of Hell Gate by Dana I. Wolff

Four decades after Typhoid Mary went to her grave, five curious graduate students struggle to escape alive from the abandoned island that once imprisoned her. Contagion doesn't die. It just waits. Get a digital copy of Dana I. Wolff's The Prisoner of Hell Gate for only $1.99 through October!

In the Hell Gate section of New York’s East River lie the sad islands where, for centuries, people locked away what they most feared: the contagious, the disfigured, the addicted, the criminally insane.

Here infection slowly consumed the stricken. Here a desperate ship captain ran his doomed steamship aground and watched flames devour 1,500 souls. Here George A. Soper imprisoned the infamous Typhoid Mary after she spread sickness and death in Manhattan’s most privileged quarters.

George’s great-granddaughter, Karalee, and her fellow graduate students in public health know that story. But as they poke in and out of the macabre hospital rooms of abandoned North Brother Island―bantering, taking pictures, recalling history―they are missing something: Hidden evil watches over them―and plots against them.

When death visits Hell Gate, it comes to stay.

As darkness falls, the students find themselves marooned―their casual trespass having unleashed a chain of horrific events beyond anyone’s imagination.

Disease lurks among the eerie ruins where Typhoid Mary once lived and breathed. Ravenous flies swarm puddles of blood. Rot and decay cling to human skin. And spiteful ghosts haunt the living and undead.

Soon five students of history will learn more than they ever wanted to know about New York’s foul underbelly: the meaning of spine-tingling cries down the corridor, of mysterious fires, of disfiguring murder, and of an avenging presence so sinister they’d rather risk their lives than face the terror of one more night.


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at iTunes

Oct 19 2017 12:00pm

Cover Reveal: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Emotionally powerful and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.

Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma Townsend is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal—and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she’s gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return—and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.  

NOT HER DAUGHTER is available for pre-order now! Release date: August 14, 2018.

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

Buy at Amazon



Rea Frey is a food and relationship writer as well as a novelist. She writes a monthly vegetarian food column for Martha's Stewart's site, Whole Living, as well as her own food blog, Clean Convenient Cuisine, hosted by Chicago Tribune. She writes two columns for Cheeky Chicago, is a regular contributor to YumUniverse, and is a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. A common guest on WGN radio, she discusses how to live a balanced life at She lives in Chicago, IL.

Oct 19 2017 10:00am

Michael Stanley Excerpt: Dying to Live

Michael Stanley

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley is the sixth crime novel to feature the humble and endearing Detective Kubu, set against the richly beautiful backdrop of Botswana (available October 24, 2014).

A Bushman is discovered dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Africa. Although the man looks old enough to have died of natural causes, the police suspect foul play, and the body is sent to Gaborone for an autopsy. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but is greatly puzzled by the man’s physiology. Although he’s obviously very old, his internal organs look remarkably young. He calls in Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu. When the Bushman’s corpse is stolen from the morgue, suddenly the case takes on a new dimension.

[Read an excerpt from Dying to Live...]

Oct 18 2017 4:45pm

Cooking the Books: Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Okay, wow, this one is a little different from the previous books. For starters, our heroine Hannah Swensen is not the one to stumble across the body, a habit that her mother Delores despairs of in the context of attracting a marriage proposal (because, in a case of Mom-logic that I find insufferable but intensely realistic, Hannah is totally doing it on purpose).

Instead, it is Delores herself who finds the body in the basement of the house that dentist Norman Rhodes has just bought in order to tear down and build the dream house he and Hannah collaborated on in previous novels. But only for a contest, sadly. Come on, Hannah! Pick Norman!

Anyway, the body belongs to Rhonda Scharf, who’d just sold the house to Norman after inheriting it herself. Since lead detective Mike Kingston (the other of Hannah’s suitors) won’t release the crime scene back to Norman till progress is made on the case, Hannah has a lot of people urging her to investigate. In a departure from previous books, Mike takes her efforts in stride—though he’s quick to remind her that while she may be a talented amateur, she still has to defer to him as a professional.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 18 2017 3:45pm

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane: A Visual Guide

GIFnotes: Giving you the basic plot summary of an upcoming book with the help of the Graphics Interchange Format.

This week, take a visual tour of Con Lehane's second 42nd Street Library Mystery, Murder in the Manuscript Room!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Oct 18 2017 1:00pm

Discount: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

One small, New England town is taken by storm―and nothing will ever be the same. Get a digital copy of Christopher Golden's chilling horror novel Snowblind for only $2.99 through the month of October!

Once upon a time, Coventry weathered a horrific blizzard, one that left many people dead―and others mysteriously lost. Twelve years later, the town is still haunted by the snow that fell that one fateful night…and now a new storm is on the way.

Photographer Jake Schapiro mourns the little brother he lost in the storm and, this time, he will see another boy go missing. Mechanic and part-time thief Doug Manning, whose wife was never found after she wandered into the whiteout, is starting over with another woman―and more ambitious crimes. Police detective Joe Keenan has never been the same since that night, when he failed to save the life of a young boy…and the boy's father vanished in the storm only feet away. And all the way on the other side of the country, Miri Ristani receives a phone call―from a man who died twelve years ago. Old ghosts are trickling back to life as a new threat rolls in. Could it be that this storm will be even more terrifying than the last?


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at iTunes

Oct 18 2017 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: October 17, 2017

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!

This week, a new John Sandford and Faye Kellerman highlight a fantastic week of books! See what else we're reading:

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

Oct 18 2017 10:00am

Donna Andrews Excerpt: How the Finch Stole Christmas!

Donna Andrews

How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews is the 22nd Meg Langslow Mystery, which is guaranteed to put the “ho ho hos” into the holidays of cozy lovers everywhere with its gut-bustingly funny mystery (available October 24, 2017).

Meg's husband has decided to escalate his one-man show of Dickens's A Christmas Carol into a full-scale production with a large cast including their sons Jamie and Josh as Tiny Tim and young Scrooge and Meg helping as stage manager.

The show must go on, even if the famous―though slightly over-the-hill―actor who's come to town to play the starring role of Scrooge has brought a sleigh-load of baggage and enemies with him. And why is Caerphilly suddenly overrun with a surplus of beautiful caged finches?

[Read an excerpt from How the Finch Stole Christmas...]

Oct 17 2017 4:00pm

Vote for Your Favorite Haunted House Story


Don't see your favorite haunted house story? Let us know in the comments below!

Oct 17 2017 3:00pm

Introducing The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Read the first installment of The Life of a Book introducing Sandie Jones and her upcoming psychological thriller, The Other Woman, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win an early copy!

For most of us, a book begins when we pick it up and ends when we finish the last page. But the life of a book begins much earlier than that! We’re excited to be partnering with Minotaur Books and Sandie Jones to offer you an ongoing behind-the-scenes look at the publication process for one of Minotaur’s most anticipated new books of 2018.

Make sure you tune in each month as we update our progress. Not only will we be chatting with Sandie Jones, the author, but we’ll also be featuring the entire team behind the book, including the editor, publicist, designer, and marketer.

And we’re hoping you’ll get involved too! We’ll have ample opportunities for you to ask Sandie and the team questions, and there will be plenty of chances to win an early copy of the book too! But that’s enough about the series … now onto the most important part—the book!

[Read more about the life of a book!]

Oct 17 2017 1:00pm

Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Not many films sci-fi films can truly attest to having the legacy that Blade Runner has accumulated in the 35 years since its release. Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the film told a contemplative tale of a future police officer tasked with terminating artificial humans known as replicants, and it drew as equally from film noir as it did science-fiction.

Directed by Ridley Scott (fresh off his success from Alien), the film hit theaters in the summer of 1982. It wasn’t initially met with great critical acclaim, and it actually underperformed at the box office. Over time, however, its importance became more lucid, as its influence could be felt in countless films from Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi roller-coaster Total Recall (also a Dick adaptation) to the beautiful anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

It’s often considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time by critics, as well as one of the truly great films of the 1980s (perhaps in no small part because a generation raised on Star Wars was liable to adhere to an edgier sci-fi film starring Harrison Ford as they grew up). Of even more distinction, Blade Runner has even been released in different versions over the years, with perhaps even more acclaim than the original (despite the film’s recognition, Ridley Scott’s preferred cut didn’t see release until a decade ago).

[Read Peter Foy's review of Blade Runner 2049...]

Oct 17 2017 12:00pm

Review: Deep Freeze by John Sandford

Deep Freeze by John Sandford is the 10th book in the Virgil Flowers series, where Virgil finds out that class reunions are a time for memories—good, bad, and deadly (available October 17, 2017).

The 10th Virgil Flowers mystery opens with our grief-stricken killer going over the death of banker Gina Hemming in his mind. It had been an accident, but he’d been too overcome with shame to do the right thing and call it in. Instead, he staged her death as a fall down her stairs. So when her body is ice-fished out of the local river a few days later, even he is flummoxed by the news.

Enter the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Virgil Flowers. He’s on vacation, but his boss, Jon Duncan, knows of Virgil’s history with the town of Trippton where Gina Hemming lived. He successfully bribes Virgil into investigating the death, which looks to be connected to Hemming’s upcoming 25th high school reunion. As Virgil starts asking around, he soon discovers that there are about 25 years of drama and bad blood that might very well have culminated in Gina’s death.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Deep Freeze...]

Oct 17 2017 10:00am

Iris Johansen Excerpt: Mind Game

Iris Johansen

Mind Game by Iris Johansen is the 22nd book in the Eve Duncan series and a propulsive thriller that’s impossible to put down (available October 24, 2017).

Take a visual tour of Mind Game with GIFnotes!

Scotland holds a treasure that Jane MacGuire has been hunting for years. But as she scours the highlands in search of it, she’s plagued by dreams of a girl in danger―dreams she can’t ignore no matter how hard she tries. Who is this girl, and what is she trying to tell Jane? And will Jane figure it out before it’s too late―for her and the mysterious young woman?

Things are further complicated when Seth Caleb comes back into Jane’s life. Their history is volatile to say the least. This time Jane finds herself pulled unexpectedly into his world as she fights to save him. But Caleb isn’t the only person sweeping her up into startling developments. When Eve Duncan surprises Jane with news of her own, Jane comes face to face with stunning changes in the lives of those she loves most.

[Read an excerpt from Mind Game...]