<i>Secrecy World</i>: Excerpt Secrecy World: Excerpt Jake Bernstein An inside look at the world revealed by the Panama Papers. <i>Hunter Killer</i>: Excerpt Hunter Killer: Excerpt David Poyer World War with China explodes in this new military thriller. Review: <i>The Best American Mystery Stories 2017</i> Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2017 David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Blood Business</i>: Excerpt Blood Business: Excerpt Joshua Viola and Mario Acevedo An anthology of noir tales and crime stories from this world and beyond.
From The Blog
November 23, 2017
The X-Files Fanfic: The Stories Are Out There
Joanna Schaffhausen
November 23, 2017
Thanksgiving—America’s Deadliest Holiday
Philip Jett
November 17, 2017
Man Flees Police, Hides Under the Covers, Claims He's "Just Sleeping"
Adam Wagner
November 16, 2017
Back to J. D. Robb's Future
Janet Webb
November 16, 2017
Writing the Private Detective vs. the Police Detective
T.R. Ragan
Nov 23 2017 12:00pm

The X-Files Fanfic: The Stories Are Out There

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are set to return next year for another revival season of The X-Files, but for some fans, it’s like they never really left—even during that 15-year gap when the show was off the air. Devotees of The X-Files keep the characters forever alive through fanfiction (aka “fanfic”), which are unofficial stories written by fans of the show and shared on the internet with fellow fans. I penned more than a dozen of them back in the day, along with other writers using pseudonyms to disguise some possibly surprising true identities. X-Files fanfic writers include newspaper reporters, a TV executive, a judge, a CIA-type operative, and multiple published authors.

At its peak, The X-Files fandom produced more than 100 different stories per week, and fans could select from a dizzying array of “what-if” stories. Would you like a tale about Agent Mulder reuniting with his abducted sister, Samantha? There are dozens. Or maybe you wanted to see Agent Scully get fed up with chasing aliens and strike out on her own. Yup, we’ve got that too.

[Read more about The X-Files from author Joanna Schaffhausen!]

Nov 23 2017 11:00am

Thanksgiving—America’s Deadliest Holiday

Like a Norman Rockwell painting hanging prominently inside our heads, many of us cherish memories of Thanksgiving gatherings with loved ones complemented by honey-glazed turkey and succulent desserts. A heartwarming tradition believed to have originated in 1621 by the Pilgrims, now celebrated every fourth Thursday of November since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863.

But life is not a Rockwell painting, and the remembrances we cherish are often more glazed than the turkey that rests as the centerpiece on the holiday table. In fact, a survey compiled last year found that 68% of individuals polled expected “trouble” during their Thanksgiving assemblage. No wonder.

[Have a great Thanksgiving!]

Nov 23 2017 10:00am

Jake Bernstein Excerpt: Secrecy World

Jake Bernstein

Secrecy World by Jake Bernstein, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, takes us inside the world revealed by the Panama Papers, a landscape of illicit money, political corruption, and fraud on a global scale (available November 21, 2017).

A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of global finance, carrying trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises. This network masks the identities of the individuals who benefit from these activities, aided by bankers, lawyers, and auditors who get paid to look the other way. 

In Secrecy World, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Jake Bernstein explores this shadow economy and how it evolved, drawing on millions of leaked documents from the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca―a trove now known as the Panama Papers―as well as other journalistic and government investigations. Bernstein shows how shell companies operate, how they allow the superwealthy and celebrities to escape taxes, and how they provide cover for illicit activities on a massive scale by crime bosses and corrupt politicians across the globe.

Bernstein traveled to the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and within the United States to uncover how these strands fit together―who is involved, how they operate, and the real-world impact. He recounts how Mossack Fonseca was exposed and what lies ahead for the corporations, banks, law firms, individuals, and governments that are implicated.

[Read an excerpt from Secrecy World...]

Nov 22 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott

Ugh, what is it with these crappy boyfriends? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Assault and Buttery, the third book in Kristi Abbott’s fun Popcorn Shop Mystery series, opens with our spunky heroine Rebecca Anderson being hauled into a jail cell for obstruction of justice. In the grand tradition of amateur sleuths everywhere, she’s perhaps crossed the line from investigating (in order to clear her own name, of course) to interfering with an official murder investigation—except that the reason she lands in jail is because she went to the victim’s wake, had too much to drink, and responsibly called her boyfriend Garrett to drive her home. Only, he took her straight to the sheriff instead.

Sheriff Dan, who is her brother-in-law in addition to allegedly being her best friend, promptly tosses her in jail for a very long weekend. With friends like these, who needs enemies? And don’t even get me started on how Garrett earlier insisted she stay to lunch at a restaurant where the owner straight up, non-stop insulted her while walking them from door to table. Unacceptable.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 22 2017 4:30pm

Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander: A Visual Guide

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

Torte―the beloved small-town bakeshop run by Jules Capshaw―is set to hit the stage. But who would have guessed that murder would make a surprise appearance? Take a visual tour of Ellie Alexander's seventh Bakeshop Mystery, Another One Bites the Crust!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Nov 22 2017 1:30pm

Marvel’s The Punisher Season 1 Review: Episodes 1-4

Hello! Welcome to a new era of the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the first spinoff. When Marvel announced their partnership with Netflix, they outlined their plan for four interlinking shows starring individual characters that would culminate with the team-up miniseries, The Defenders, which I reviewed for you earlier this year. Now, the streaming giant and the pop-culture giant have reunited for a 13-episode series that puts the spotlight on the best element of Daredevil's second season and one of my favorite Marvel Comics' characters, the Punisher.

I'll take a look at the similarities and differences between the show and the comics that inspired it, offer my opinion on the episodes, and clue you in on some Easter Eggs for longtime Punisher fans, like me, that you may have missed. Today, we begin with a look at the show's first four episodes: “3 A.M.”; “Two Dead Men”; “Kandahar”; and “Resupply.”

So make sure you're wearing your vest, we're about to go in hot!

[Read Dave Richards's review of The Punisher, Episdoes 1-4!]

Nov 22 2017 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: November 21, 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 James Patterson and Dean Koontz combine with a murder in the 42nd Street Library to highlight a week of books for which to be thankful! See what else we're reading:

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

Nov 22 2017 10:00am

David Poyer Excerpt: Hunter Killer

David Poyer

World War with China explodes in Hunter Killer, David Poyer's powerful, all-too-believable novel about how the next world war might unfold (available November 28, 2017).

The United States stands nearly alone in its determination to fight, rather than give into the expansionist demands of the aggressive new “People’s Empire.” The naval and air forces of the Associated Powers—China, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea—have used advanced technology and tactical nuclear weapons to devastate America's fleet in the Pacific, while its massive army forced humiliating surrenders on Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other crucial allies.

Admiral Dan Lenson, commanding a combined US-South Korean naval force, and Commander Cheryl Staurulakis of USS Savo Island fight to turn the tide and prepare for an Allied counteroffensive. Meanwhile, SEAL operator Teddy Oberg escapes from a hellish POW camp and heads west through desolate mountains toward what he hopes will be freedom. Hector Ramos, an unwilling recruit, learns the Marine Corps has an ethos all its own. And in Washington, DC, Dan’s wife Blair Titus helps formulate America's political response to overwhelming setbacks in the Pacific and at on the home front.

[Read an excerpt from Hunter Killer...]

Nov 21 2017 4:00pm

What Is Your Thanksgiving Murder Weapon of Choice?


Have a better Thanksgiving murder weapon? Let us know in the comments below, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Nov 21 2017 3:00pm

Q&A with Catherine Richards, Editor of The Other Woman

Read the second installment of The Life of a Book, where we sit down with the editor, Catherine Richards, to discuss an editor's role in the publication process. Then, make sure you're signed in and comment below for another chance to win an early copy!

Being an editor sounds like a fairy-tale dream job. Tell us a little about your career: was this always your plan? You're also relatively new to Minotaur Books—what excites you about working for Minotaur?

Yes, I am a stealthy Brit in NYC! I moved to Minotaur Books about nine months ago from our sister company Pan Macmillan in the UK, where I had been for eight years. I originally wanted to be a journalist, but while I was at university, a literary agent approached final year English Lit students to see if anyone wanted to read through her slush pile. I found myself reading dozens of submissions and writing reader reports—one morning a week, in her cozy office, with two black Labradors curled up at my feet—and thought, this is the life! Of course, in reality, working in a big house is rather different (disappointingly no dogs, nor much time for reading during the working day).

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Nov 21 2017 1:00pm

Setting a Mystery Series at New York City’s 42nd Street Library

Read Con Lehane's guest post about setting his mystery series in the iconic 42nd Street Library, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of Murder in the Manuscript Room!

Murder in the Manuscript Room—the second book in my 42nd Street Library series—is out today, and I’ve been asked how it came about that I set a mystery series at New York City’s public library’s main branch, the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

The simple answer is in the mid-2000s, I’d published three mysteries—variously described as hardboiled or noir—featuring the New York City bartender and man-about-the-mean-streets, Brian McNulty. But despite some kind reviews, the sales of the books chronicling McNulty’s adventures were not what my publisher had hoped for. 

When the publisher canceled the series, my editor, Marcia Markland at St. Martin’s Press, suggested I think about setting a story at the 42nd Street Library. She thought a book set in New York City with a different cast of characters and setting might work better than a book set in the city’s barrooms. I don’t remember if she suggested using a librarian as the detective. The outline she provided was sparse: “Write a book set at the 42nd Street Library.”

[Read more from Con Lehane!]

Nov 21 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, Edited by John Sandford

From an isolated Wyoming ranch to the Detroit boxing underworld, and from kidnapping and adultery in the Hollywood Hills to a serial killer loose in a nursing home, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, edited by John Sandford, hosts an entertaining abundance of crime, psychological suspense, and bad intentions.

I wouldn’t envy Otto Penzler’s task in compiling these “Best Of” anthologies. Not these days, anyway. In what once may have been a more manageable feat, the flourishing of webzines over the past decade means there must be thousands of stories published in any given year that are arguably in the “Best” category. Whittling down to a tight, chosen few (20 for 2017) might feel like an exercise in futility. Just the same, long-time series editor—and legend—Penzler has done an exceptional job over the last quarter of a century, give or take, in assembling collections of the best short stories that have crossed his desk. 

[Read David Cranmer's review of The Best American Mystery Stories 2017...]

Nov 21 2017 10:00am

Blood Business: Excerpt

Joshua Viola and Mario Acevedo

Blood Business, edited by Joshua Viola and Mario Acevedo, is an anthology of noir tales and crime stories from this world and beyond.

Two books, one anthology.

The grift. The scam. The double-cross. Blackmail and burglary; murder and larceny. Blood Business tracks the underbelly of human nature as it drags itself through the muck of our lesser angels in twenty-seven crime stories set in this world ... and beyond.


by Paul Goat Allen

noun: a slow, lazy person; a sluggard.

The funk in the tiny, upstairs bedroom was overpowering; a stomach-churning mélange of body odor, stale cigarette smoke, Drakkar Noir, and cat piss. The yellowed mattress in the far corner was half-buried beneath piles of dirty clothes and miscellaneous garbage: grease-stained pizza boxes, empty beer bottles, crumpled packs of Marlboro. An expedition of ants explored the topography of a miniature mountain range of crumpled Burger King wrappers on the floor in front of a gray louvered closet door with broken slats. The walls were covered with centerfolds of scantily clad, surgically enhanced women and tattered posters of old ‘80s metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Slayer. Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” thumped from a dust-covered cassette player on an orange plastic milk crate in the corner, next to a rickety table supporting a murky fish tank filled with emerald green water that hadn’t been cleaned in years. There was an undeniable dankness to everything in the room; a sense of slow, inevitable deterioration.

[Read the full excerpt from Blood Business...]

Nov 20 2017 5:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 8.05: “The Big Scary U”

It took us almost a month, but we're finally back at the Sanctuary with Negan and Co. Assuming their fearless leader was zombie food, the hierarchy of the Saviors fell into disarray, making it all the more clear that Negan is el jefe grande. When juxtaposed to Rick, whose leadership has been called into question several times (including the little squabble with Daryl in this episode), Negan is slowly being repainted as the better option at the top. He puts it well when he tells Gabriel that he may kill people, but he doesn't get people killed. Can Rick say the same?

Another decent episode this week, but alas, it seems our prediction about the Garbage People was but a week late. Let's hope the writers get enough stuffing this Thursday and avoid the inevitable filler on Monday.

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Nov 20 2017 3:00pm

Watch the Official Trailer for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Giovanni Maria “Gianni” Versace was a famous Italian fashion designer who was shot and killed on the morning of the 15th of July in 1997. He was murdered by Andrew Cunanan, a 27-year-old murderer in the midst of a spree kill that landed him on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. But after gunning down the fashion legend on the steps in front of his Miami Beach mansion, Cunanan committed suicide and took his motives and any reason for the senseless violence with him.

Now, the Emmy Award-winning American Crime Story is tackling the case with its upcoming The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Slated to premiere on FX on Wednesday, January 17, at 10 p.m. ET, the 10-episode true crime dramatization will star Edgar Ramirez (Gianni Versace), Darren Criss (Andrew Cunanan), Penelope Cruz (Donatella Versace), and Ricky Martin (Antonio D’Amico).

[Watch the trailer below!]

Nov 20 2017 2:00pm

Review: After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard

After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard is the second book in the Carter & Lovecraft series, which brings the H. P. Lovecraft mythos into the 21st century.

A few months after the explosive events of Carter & Lovecraft, our heroes—former cop Dan Carter and H. P. Lovecraft descendent Emily Lovecraft—find themselves in the Unfolded World. It’s like ours. Kinda. Except, the Cold War never happened because the Germans obliterated Moscow with an atomic bomb in 1941.

The bookstore that Lovecraft and Carter co-own—called Carter & Lovecraft, of course—is thriving, especially with Miskatonic University right around the corner. But Carter and Lovecraft were understandably shell-shocked in the beginning.

“How can everyone be so cool with the Nazis?” Carter had asked. “What about the Holocaust? They can’t have been given a free pass for that, can they?”

For her answer, Lovecraft passed him an atlas and told him to look up Israel in the index. He did, and found it listed, which was a relief. But then he went to the page indicated, and found himself looking at a map of the southern half of the continent of Africa. In the corner was an inset of Madagascar; the north of the island down to the nineteenth parallel was labeled “Israel.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of After the End of the World...]

Nov 20 2017 1:00pm

5 Ways Holmes and Lovecraft Work Together

Read James Lovegrove's exclusive guest post about the ways in which Sherlock Holmes works with H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win the second book in the Cthulhu Casebook series, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities!

On the face of it, there isn’t much to tie together Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. They’re almost mutually exclusive. On the one hand, we have in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation perhaps the most rational character in all of fiction, who snortingly dismisses the very idea of the paranormal. In Holmes’s own words, “This Agency stands flat-footed upon the ground and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.” On the other hand, we have a literary universe predicated on the notion that ancient, star-spawned gods not only exist but exert their evil influence over all humankind. To meet a Lovecraftian elder being in the flesh—or even to worship one from afar—is to risk your sanity and your very life.

But there are, in fact, more common elements between these two polar opposites than you might think.

[Read the ways Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft mix!]

Nov 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane is the second book in the 42nd Street Library mystery series—a smart, compelling mystery in which the characters themselves are at least as interesting as the striking sleuthing (available November 21, 2017).

Take a visual tour of Murder in the Manuscript Room with GIFnotes!

Mystery and secrecy wind their way back through the stacks of the New York City 42nd Street Library, intertwining a murder of the past with the present in Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane. This marks the second installment in the author’s new crime series following the relentless sleuth and librarian, Raymond Ambler.

The comfortable notion of a library as a safe haven is shifted as a room of crime novels becomes the scene of the crime itself. When there is a murder at the library, Ambler becomes intricately involved, not only as a suspect but as a self-appointed freelance investigator as well. 

[Read Michelle Carpenter's review of Murder in the Manuscript Room...]

Nov 20 2017 10:00am

Trey R. Barker Excerpt: When the Lonesome Dog Barks

Trey R. Barker

When the Lonesome Dog Barks by Trey R. Barker is the third book in the Jace Salome series.

Two bodies, recently beaten to death, are discovered on the edges of Zachary County. There is a recent attempt to break into the security office at a resort in nearby Rooster County. And the Zachary County Jail has exploded with seemingly random fights.

A year into the job now, Deputy Sheriff Jace Salome is edging into being more comfortable with her role in the department. When she finds a smartphone in the jail she learns the random fights are anything but, that they have been filmed and then emailed from the phone to an intricate web of private email servers and access-only websites. And the fights seem to be directed from someone outside the jail.

The two dead bodies, as well as the investigation of the resort break-in, and Jace’s look into the fights, all collide when she discovers that a dead girl had been in the Zachary County jail and that video exists of her getting beaten both in the jail and in the security office of the hotel.

Jace realizes the darkest recesses of her imagination cannot keep up with reality. This is a world of technology and online predators, and the stakes are much higher than her pay-grade. Worse still … Jace Salome has to face this case alone.

[Read an excerpt from When the Lonesome Dog Barks...]

Nov 17 2017 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “Bourbon in the Manuscript Room”

What's the only thing that could make New York City's iconic 42nd Street Library better (especially after a murder puts a damper on the fun)? Bourbon!

So mix bourbon and books with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Bourbon in the Manuscript Room” cocktail, inspired by Con Lehane's second 42nd Street Library mystery, Murder in the Manuscript Room!

[Check out the recipe below!]