<i>The Italian Party</i>: Excerpt The Italian Party: Excerpt Christina Lynch A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena. Review: <i>I Bring Sorrow & Other Stories of Transgression</i> by Patricia Abbott Review: I Bring Sorrow & Other Stories of Transgression by Patricia Abbott Kristin Centorcelli Read Kristin Centorcelli's review! <i>Gods of Howl Mountain</i>: Excerpt Gods of Howl Mountain: Excerpt Taylor Brown A world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in 1950s North Carolina. Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: April 2018 Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: April 2018 Crime HQ Check out April's offerings!
From The Blog
March 16, 2018
Like Stealing Candy from... "Gumball Bandit" Steals Large Gumball Machine from Sacramento Animal Shelter
Adam Wagner
March 13, 2018
Q&A with Sebastian Rotella, Author of Rip Crew
Sebastian Rotella and John Valeri
March 9, 2018
Murder and Mayhem in Chicago
Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye
March 9, 2018
Robbery with a Chance of Meatballs: Man Steals Meatballs & Gets Caught Red-Handed
Adam Wagner
March 6, 2018
50 Years of Reading Mysteries
Patricia Abbott
Mar 17 2018 10:00am

Christina Lynch Excerpt: The Italian Party

Christina Lynch

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America's role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party by Christina Lynch is a smart pleasure (available March 20, 2018).

Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany's famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher―a teenager with secrets of his own―disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

[Read an excerpt from The Italian Party...]

Mar 16 2018 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “The Purloined Swizzle”

A stolen puzzle. A bloody knife. A dead body.

I think the Puzzle Lady could use a drink! And what better drink than this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—"The Purloined Swizzle” cocktail, inspired by Parnell Hall's 19th Puzzle Lady Mystery, The Purloined Puzzle!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Mar 16 2018 3:00pm

Très étrange: Amazon’s Black Spot

In the real world, you might leave the big city and move to a small, picturesque town in the countryside to find peace and quiet. Maybe one with a nearby forest would be nice—the majestic trees, the woodland critters, the wind rustling through the leaves … how restful.

In the film/TV world, going to that small town surrounded by forest is like settling next door to a meth lab or a satanic death cult; you just know that all hell is going to break loose (maybe literally). Remember Twin Peaks? Silent Hill? Covington (from the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village)? And it’s not just an American thing. Case in point: Zone Blanche, renamed Black Spot for Amazon Prime.

[Read Lance Charnes's review of Black Spot...]

Mar 16 2018 1:00pm

Review: I Bring Sorrow & Other Stories of Transgression by Patricia Abbott

I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories of Transgression by Patricia Abbott is a collection of extraordinary, riveting, and thought-provoking stories that explore the dark side of human behavior.

If you haven’t yet discovered Patricia Abbott’s work, I Bring Sorrow is a perfect place to start. I read the fantastic Concrete Angel a while back and was blown away, so I was pleased to discover that Abbott included a short story featuring Eve Moran, the singular mother in Concrete Angel. The story is “Mad Women,” about an unfortunate incident where Eve is caught pilfering bits and bobs at Wanamaker’s Dept. Store in 1962 Philly. Eve’s shame when she’s pulled into a side room by a security guard is palpable, and he seems intent on shaming her further:

He tossed her hard-won booty back in the bag. “Half your haul is junk, lady. A dish probably selling for two dollars and ninety-nine cents? Crissake, there’s dust in it. It’s a display piece.” He held up his dirty finger, and she felt heat rising on her face. The charm bracelet from Wanamaker’s, with its dice and rabbit and one-armed bandit, still lay on the table. “This is something a twelve-year-old girl buys. Not a woman like you.” He fingered the dice charm. “Kind of a sign? You like taking chances, right? Have to have your souvenirs even if they’re worthless.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of I Bring Sorrow...]

Mar 16 2018 12:00pm

Like Stealing Candy from... “Gumball Bandit” Steals Large Gumball Machine from Sacramento Animal Shelter

Apparently, it’s easier to steal candy from a baby than it is from puppies and kittens. A man in Sacramento, CA, broke into a local animal shelter by busting a small window near the door and attempting to steal a large gumball machine, ostensibly for the collection of quarters contained inside. Unfortunately for him, the small hole he made in the window to get in wasn’t large enough for the large gumball machine. But the determined “Gumball Bandit” was not deterred.

That is until the glass in the machine broke, spilling gumballs all over the floor like a Home Alone movie. When he finally realized he wasn’t getting out the way he came in, he managed to remember that most buildings have more than one door. He took his bubblegum booty through a door in the back, tossed it over a barbed-wire fence, and escaped.

In response, the City of Sacramento's Front Street Animal Shelter shared the security footage on their Facebook, kindly pointing out the donation box full of cash the perp derp managed to overlook. Seriously, of all the things to steal from all the places in the world…

Watch footage of the “Gumball Bandit”!

Mar 16 2018 10:00am

Taylor Brown Excerpt: Gods of Howl Mountain

Taylor Brown

In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina (available March 20, 2018).

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood—a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains—a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing—Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that “some things are best left buried.” A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows ... or protect her only grandson from the past.

[Read an excerpt from Gods of Howl Mountain...]

Mar 15 2018 5:00pm

Unmasking a Killer, Part 1: “Launching the Manhunt for The Golden State Killer” Episode Review

Close your windows and lock your doors, friends, because the most prolific killer/rapist in California history is still at large. Between 1976 and 1986, this unknown subject raped at least 51 people and murdered at least 12 across the state of California—that we know of. He was originally known as the East Area Rapist for his tendency to select victims who lived in the eastern side of Sacramento, CA, but he later went on to victimize more people throughout the state, changing his MO as he moved further south. Michelle McNamara, true crime writer and author of the recently published account of this same criminal, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, dubbed him the Golden State Killer after a series of brutal slayings by the Original Night Stalker were linked to the East Area Rapist via DNA.

And now, HLN has a brand new docuseries that not only brings us all up to speed on what the Golden State Killer has done but also highlights the progress that has been made in law enforcement’s efforts to catch him. The first episode of this five-part series premieres this Sunday, March 18th, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and it will go over the motives, methods, and mind games of what is probably the scariest killer I’ve ever encountered in the countless true crime stories I’ve read about.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Episode 1 of Unmasking a Killer...]

Mar 15 2018 3:00pm

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: April 2018

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! Last month, we welcomed spring with great March cozies; this month, April showers bring awesome reads! Let us know in the comments how you like it and what you can't wait to read next!

Like this shopping list? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay in touch with all our cozy content!

[Let's get to the goodies!]

Mar 15 2018 1:00pm

Review: The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall

In The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall, amateur sleuth and crossword impresario Cora Felton is asked to solve a puzzle, only to find that it’s been stolen―and a murder weapon has been left in its place (available March 13, 2018).

Take a visual tour of The Purloined Puzzle with GIFnotes!

Wow, 19 Puzzle Lady books in and they’re still as fun and witty as they’ve ever been! Cora Felton is famous for being the Puzzle Lady—the renowned creator and solver of crossword puzzles—complete with a lucrative endorsement deal for Granville Grains breakfast cereals. What very few people know, however, is that Cora can’t solve a crossword puzzle to save her life, much less compose one. She’s a huge fraud who merely serves as the kindly-seeming frontperson for her niece Sherry, the real mastermind behind the crosswords. Which isn’t to say that Cora is a slouch in the brains department; she’s a whiz at Sudoku and—more relevant to her everyday life in the small town of Bakerhaven—crime-solving, often while working as an investigator for local lawyer Becky Baldwin.

As The Purloined Puzzle opens, Cora is enjoying her day, minding her own business as she gets a scone and a latte from her favorite bakery, when an obnoxious teenage girl comes barging in demanding Cora solve a crossword puzzle for her. As usual, Cora attempts to fob off her “fan” on Harvey Beerbaum, another Bakerhaven resident who happens to be a genuine cruciverbalist. She succeeds in getting Harvey to go with the girl, Peggy, to retrieve the puzzle, which is when things start getting weird. The puzzle goes missing, and a chagrined Peggy files a police report, prompting Police Chief Harper to bring the case full circle by consulting with the town’s most famous puzzle-solver:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Purloined Puzzle...]

Mar 15 2018 12:00pm

Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

When a murder echoing a 15-year-old cold case rocks the Southern town of Savannah, crime reporter Harper McClain risks everything to find the identity of this calculated killer in Christi Daugherty's new novel The Echo Killing.

I was immediately pulled into this novel and read it in just a few sittings over two days. This might be Christi Daugherty’s first novel for adults, but her storytelling skills have been well-honed by the five novels she’s written for young-adult readers.

Adults who read YA novels often say they do so because the focus is on telling a good story without the clutter of gratuitous sex and violence that is often found in adult novels. Daugherty’s success with writing for young adults is evident in that she’s written a solid story with steady action that does not involve a complicated and/or superfluous subplot. Sure, there is some sex and violence in the book, but it is seasoning rather than the main course.

At 22 years old, Daugherty started working as a crime reporter in Georgia. Her experience and familiarity with the job and the setting are evident from page one of the novel:

[Read Chris Wolak's review of The Echo Killing...]

Mar 15 2018 10:00am

Robert Parker Excerpt: Crook’s Hollow

Robert Parker

Crook's Hollow by Robert Parker is a thrilling country noir involving greed, betrayal, secrecy, and more blood than farmer Thor Loxley could ever imagine (available March 22, 2018).

In the quiet village of Crook’s Hollow, almost exactly between Manchester and Liverpool, land and pride are king.

And now someone has just tried to kill Thor Loxley—but Thor has no clue as to why. As the estranged youngest of the omnipresent Loxley farming dynasty, all of whom view him as a traitorous turncoat, in a village where everybody knows everybody else’s business, life is hard enough.

But here, farmers do things the old way. You deal with problems on your own terms. You keep everything in house where possible. You avoid involving the authorities. With nobody to turn to, Thor sets out to uncover who wronged him. But with corrupt land developers circling, the rival Crook family seeking to unsettle the Loxley’s at every turn, his own family despising him, and jealous old acquaintances lurking, the mystery plunges ever deeper—and up floats more greed, betrayal, secrecy and blood than Thor could possibly imagine.

[Read an excerpt from Crook's Hollow...]

Mar 14 2018 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Dipped to Death by Kelly Lane

The third installment of the Olive Grove Mystery series delves really deep into our heroine Eva Knox’s romantic past, as one of her exes, Dudley Dexter Codman III (or Dex, for short), shows up unannounced at the Knox Plantation with a bevy of his cronies from Boston. Eva’s eldest sister, Daphne, is only too happy to accommodate paying guests at the inn that the sisters run, even if she’s completely in the dark about Eva’s relationship with Dex.

Eva hasn’t shared any of that portion of her past with the residents of her hometown of Abundance, Georgia, and thought she’d left that all behind when she left Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Dex seems far less interested in letting go than she is—even as he and his friends are ostensibly in town just for bird watching, an interest none of them have ever expressed before.

After a very public altercation on the night of Dex’s arrival, Eva downs a bunch of wine to help fight her chronic insomnia and, for once, is out like a light in her cottage a short distance from the inn’s main building. The next day, she does her best to avoid Dex and his buddies and decides to go on a picnic down by the pond with only her dog for company. Discovering Dex’s dead body in the water is a huge shock—especially after all the other bodies she’s only very recently stumbled upon—but it’s even worse when it becomes clear that she herself is the prime suspect in his murder.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Mar 14 2018 4:00pm

Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope: A Visual Guide

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

A series of bizarre murders―the victims nearly unidentifiable―forces FBI tracker “Steps” Craig to match wits with the most cold-blooded killer he’s ever encountered—take a visual tour of Spencer Kope's second Special Tracking Unit novel, Whispers of the Dead!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Mar 14 2018 1:00pm

Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2 Review: Episodes 1-4

Hello! It's time, once again, to visit the mean streets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's New York via Season 2 of Jessica Jones! I’m very excited for the return of the hard-drinking, foul-mouthed PI, as Season 1 of Jessica Jones was my personal favorite of all the Marvel Netflix series so far, and I thought Krysten Ritter's Jones was one of the best elements of Netflix's mostly underwhelming The Defenders series.

I'll be examining these new episodes from my perspective as a longtime Marvel Comics fan and journalist. Today, we kick things off with a look at Episode 1: “AKA Start at the Beginning”; Episode 2: AKA Freak Accident”; Episode 3: “AKA Sole Survivor”; and Episode 4: “AKA God Help the Hobo.”

So finish your whiskey, and let's get started!

[Read Dave Richards’s review of Episodes 1-4!]

Mar 14 2018 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: March 13, 2018

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, David Rosenfelt returns to his Doug Brock series and Clare Mackintosh delivers another twisting psychological thriller! See what else we're reading:

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

Mar 14 2018 10:00am

Tiffany King Excerpt: Losing Leah

Tiffany King

Losing Leah by Tiffany King follows twin sisters Leah and Mia Klein, 10 years after the tragic abduction of Leah, as Leah struggles to escape her captor and the two start to realize that their fates are linked in ways that could never have imagined (available March 20, 2018).

Some bonds can’t be broken.

Ten years after the tragic disappearance of her twin sister Leah, 16-year-old Mia Klein still struggles to exist within a family that has never fully recovered. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind lies an overwhelming shadow, taunting Mia with mind-splitting headaches that she tries to hide in an effort to appear okay.

Leah Klein's life as she knew it ended the day she was taken, thrust into a world of abuse and fear by a disturbed captor―“Mother,” as she insists on being called. Ten years later, any recollections of her former life are nothing more than fleeting memories, except for those about her twin sister, Mia.

As Leah tries to gain the courage to escape, Mia's headaches grow worse. Soon, both sisters will discover that their fates are linked in ways they never realized.

[Read an excerpt from Losing Leah...]

Mar 13 2018 4:00pm

Vote for Your Favorite of Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone Thrillers

Read an excerpt from Steve Berry's upcoming Cotton Malone thriller, The Bishop's Pawn!

Mar 13 2018 3:00pm

Review: Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen's Death of an Unsung Hero brings more secrets and more charming descriptions of the English countryside to the wonderful Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson series (available March 13, 2018).

In the summer of 1916—while the Great War rages on across the Channel in France—Lady Montfort opens her dower house to a group of shell-shocked soldiers. The newly dubbed Haversham Hall Hospital is championing medical techniques most of society looks askance at—talking and working cures.

Clementine, the Lady Montfort, and her devoted servant/sleuthing assistant-turned-head nurse Mrs. Jackson are all passionate defenders of these unconventional treatments. After seeing firsthand how poorly many of the traumatized soldiers are treated in traditional hospitals, Clementine is determined to convince the War Office that her Haversham doctors are making genuine progress—that their patients improve significantly under their supervision.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Death of an Unsung Hero...]

Mar 13 2018 2:30pm

Discount: The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

A humble bookshop finds itself in the midst of a murder plot in The Cracked Spine—the first novel of bestselling author Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop Mystery series.

In anticipation of the third book in Paige Shelton's Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, Lost Books and Old Bones, get a digital copy of the book that started it all, The Cracked Spine, for only $2.99 through April 2nd!

Delaney Nichols is on the literary adventure of a lifetime when she leaves the States for Edinburgh, Scotland, to take a job at The Cracked Spine. A legendary bookshop filled with special editions and rare manuscripts, it’s a house of biblio delights―one as eclectic as those who work there: the spirited and ever-curious Rosie, along with her tiny dog, Hector; a nineteen-year-old thespian named Hamlet (of course); and Edwin, the big boss, who Delaney likes but just can’t get a read on. Then there’s Tom, the bartender from across the street, whose gentle brogue pulls at Delaney’s heartstrings―and who can rock a kilt like none other.

But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact from the shop goes missing―and Delaney is terrified to find out that Edwin’s sister is brutally murdered. Never did Delaney think that her dream job would turn into a living nightmare. Can she, along with Tom and her coworkers, help close the book on this killer mystery … before it’s too late?

Read an excerpt from The Cracked Spine!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at iTunes

Mar 13 2018 2:00pm

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh is another unique and twisting psychological thriller from the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You (available March 13, 2018).

Full disclosure: I’m already a huge fan of Clare Mackintosh’s books. I loved I Let You Go and I See You, so I was anxious to dive into this one. Mackintosh is a master of misdirection, and it’s on full display here.

Anna Johnson is a new mom to eight-week-old Ella, and it wasn’t a planned pregnancy. In fact, it was even more of a shocker since the father is Mark Hemmings, her few-years-older boyfriend who was also her grief counselor—the one she saw after both of her parents, Tom and Caroline, committed suicide: her father 19 years ago, and her mother seven months after that. It’s something she’s had a hard time coping with, and she’s had to reconcile this with the joy that has come with having sweet little Ella. She’s very aware of the sometimes-intractable nature of grief.

I stopped seeing a therapist when I realized all the talking in the world wasn’t going to bring back my parents. You reach a point where the pain you feel inside is simply sadness. And there’s no cure for that.

Grief is complicated. It ebbs and flows and is so multifaceted that unpacking it makes my head hurt. I can go for days without crying, then barely be able to breathe for the sobs that rack my body. One moment I’ll be laughing with Uncle Billy about something stupid Dad once did; the next I’ll be filled with rage for his selfishness. If Dad hadn’t killed himself, Mum wouldn’t have done either.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Let Me Lie...]