Review: <i>The Night at the Crossroads</i> by Georges Simenon Review: The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon Jake Hinkson Read Jake Hinkson's review! <i>To Right the Wrongs</i>: Excerpt To Right the Wrongs: Excerpt Sheryl Scarborough The second book in the Erin Blake series. Discount: <i>Don't Look for Me</i> by Loren D. Estleman Discount: Don't Look for Me by Loren D. Estleman Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99! Review: <i>All the Deadly Lies</i> by Marian Lanouette Review: All the Deadly Lies by Marian Lanouette John Valeri Read John Valeri's review!
From The Blog
February 23, 2018
What If We’re Living In an Alternative-History Novel?
Mitch Silver
February 23, 2018
How to Lose the Cops in 10 Days: Suspected Car Thief Tries to Convince Police He's Matthew McConaughey
Adam Wagner
February 22, 2018
5 Crime Fiction Titles with a Strong Sense of Place
Chris Rhatigan
February 21, 2018
Judging a Book by Its Covers
Eric Beetner
February 19, 2018
What I Learned from Tom Ripley, Bruno Antony, and Patricia Highsmith
Mitch Silver
Feb 23 2018 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “The Lush”

When you live alone on six thousand acres of land, a drink or two (or 10) can help pass the time.

And what better drink to imbibe than this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—"The Lush” cocktail, inspired by John Hart's The Hush!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Feb 23 2018 3:00pm

What If We’re Living In an Alternative-History Novel?

Walk into any bookstore or library and you’ll find them: the big signs overhead that guide you to “Fiction” and “Nonfiction.” Oh sure, there are signs for subcategories too, like “Mystery” and “Biography.” But let’s just think for a moment about that binary Fiction/Nonfiction divide. Are we really sure where to draw the line?

Here’s a definition some librarians use: “Does a text discuss the factual world or the world of the imagination?”If you’ve been awake the last year, you know the factual world now contains real facts and alternative facts—pseudo-facts masquerading as the real thing. And the way we know they’re ersatz—these “facts”—is when we put one like “biggest inaugural crowd ever” up against reality. Quod erat demonstandum.

But … what if reality is the lie? I’m not talking Sci-Fi here but, rather, PoliSci-Fi.

[Read more from Mitch Silver!]

Feb 23 2018 1:00pm

Review: The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon

The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon is the seventh book in the Maigret series—a sensational tale of deceit and back-stabbing in an isolated community.

The Night at the Crossroads was Simenon’s seventh book in the Maigret series, released in the insanely prolific year of 1931. After the publication of the first book in the series, The Strange Case of Peter the Lett, Simenon had produced 10 more books almost monthly—books that burst out of him like a volley of gunfire.

His methods for achieving this level of prolificacy are legendary. Each book took about 11 days to write; working without an outline, he would plan the book in his head, put on a “lucky shirt” (not always the same lucky shirt), and then write a first draft in about a week, with a few days to revise. With a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and all connection canceled to the outside world, he’d produce one or two chapters in the morning, vomit in the afternoon, and then rest in the evening. This way of writing, complete with the daily puking, was like nothing so much as going on a binge.

The results of Simenon’s “produce and purge” technique were impressive, and the public scooped up the Maigret books as fast as he could write them. One of the best books of this first year, and in some ways the breakout book of the series, was The Night at the Crossroads.

[Read Jake Hinkson's review of The Night at the Crossroads...]

Feb 23 2018 12:00pm

How to Lose the Cops in 10 Days: Suspected Car Thief Tries to Convince Police He’s Matthew McConaughey

When police officers in Georges Township, PA, got a call about a suspicious man prowling around outside, they knew this was their chance to be true detectives. When they arrived on the scene, however, they found Troy Miller, 46, sitting in another person’s car.

Dazed and confused, Miller tried to make everything alright, alright, alright by telling the officers he was none other than Matthew McConaughey. But since the car he was in wasn’t a Lincoln, the officers didn’t fall for his fool’s gold.

Miller was arrested and charged with attempted theft of a motor vehicle, false identification to law enforcement authorities, and loitering and prowling at night.

Feb 23 2018 10:00am

Sheryl Scarborough Excerpt: To Right the Wrongs

Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl Scarborough continues the adventures of teen amateur sleuth and aspiring forensic scientist Erin Blake in To Right the Wrongs, the sequel to To Catch a Killer (available February 27, 2018).

Barely three weeks after catching the killer of Erin’s mother and their biology teacher, Erin and her crew are back, up to their elbows in forensics projects. But this time it’s with the full approval of their parents.

With Uncle Victor at the helm, Erin and her best friends, Spam and Lysa, are prepping a new classroom for CSI summer camp, where they will serve as camp counselors. Meanwhile, Erin's super-hot new boyfriend, Journey, is graduating, just in time for him to take a position as Victor’s intern in the new CSI lab on campus. Journey and Victor are going to take another look at the evidence in the murder trial that sent Journey’s father to prison. The girls are under strict orders not to meddle with the murder case, but that's easier said than done...

[Read an excerpt from To Right the Wrongs...]

Feb 22 2018 4:30pm

Waco: “Stalling for Time” Episode Review

Those of us with even a passing interest in crime—whether fact or fiction—are probably thinking about death a lot. And as media has taught us, there are a lot of pretty terrible ways to die. Now, I want you to imagine for a second that you are a child. Imagine what it’s like to be trapped in a room, not knowing what’s happening outside. All you know is the adults are scared, people are shooting at each other, and you might die in a haze of confusion and abject fear. Imagining yourself in this position is a terrifying prospect in and of itself, but there are kids out there who lived this, and there are kids out there who died under these circumstances.

Though the scenario might sound familiar, this not 2018. This is not a school. It’s 1993 in Waco, Texas. Can you, a child, tell the difference between a bad guy and a good guy when they are both pointing guns? It’s a hot-button topic as protests rage in the here and now, but the debate over the right to bear arms has been an ongoing issue for many years. The siege at Waco is an important moment in the history of how we, the American people, view law enforcement.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of “Stalling for Time”...]

Feb 22 2018 3:00pm

5 Crime Fiction Titles with a Strong Sense of Place

Crime fiction writers tend to consider plot and character to be the most important elements. Setting is a minor consideration, something a writer should take care of only if they have time. Beginning a novel with setting is considered an amateurish move that could turn off readers looking for action.

While this take has an element of truth to it—a static setting with disconnected descriptions of buildings or the weather may bring the pace to a crawl and dump extraneous information on the reader—for my money, sense of place can propel the story forward and make it more meaningful. When strongly connected to character and plot, setting makes a book stand apart.   

Unfortunately for crime fiction fans, bookstore shelves are packed with “thrillers” that take place in “New York,” also known as “any city in America.” But outside the confines of standard commercial fiction, it’s easy to find books using setting to their advantage. Here are five titles to check out—and note that three of them are from independent publishers and one is self-published.  

[Check out the five great examples below!]

Feb 22 2018 1:00pm

Discount: Don’t Look for Me by Loren D. Estleman

In Loren D. Estleman's Don't Look For Me, Amos Walker's up to his neck in dames, drugs … and murder, again.

In anticipation of Loren D. Estleman's 27th Amos Walker novel, Black and White Ball, get a digital copy of the 23rd book in the series, Don't Look for Me, for only $2.99 through March 5th!

Amos Walker doesn't mean to walk into trouble. But sometimes it finds him, regardless. The missing woman has left a handwritten note that said, “Don't look for me.” Any P.I. would take that as a challenge, especially when he found out that she'd left the same message once before when having an illicit affair.

But this time it's different. The trail leads Walker to an herbal remedies store, where the beautiful young clerk knows nothing about the dead body in the basement…or about any illegal activity that might be connected to the corpse. She is, however, interested in Walker's body, and he discovers he's interested in hers as well.

But he can't tarry long, for the Mafia could be involved…or maybe there's a connection to the porno film studio where the missing woman's former maid now works. But when two Mossad agents accost Walker―and then are brutally killed―he realizes he's discovered a plot far darker run by someone more deadly than either the Detroit Mafia or a two-bit porn pusher.

Who―or what―could be so viciously murderous? Walker has few clues, and knows only that with every new murder he is no closer to solving the case. When he finally gets a break, he recognizes the silken, deadly hand of a nemesis who nearly killed him twice before…and this time may finish the job.

Read a review of Don't Look for Me!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at iTunes

Feb 22 2018 12:00pm

Review: All the Deadly Lies by Marian Lanouette

Homicide Detective Jake Carrington takes murder personally in All the Deadly Lies by Marian Lanouette, the first book in the Jake Carrington Thriller series (available February 27, 2018).

Amazon bestselling author Marian Lanouette arrived on the scene with her first Jake Carrington thriller, If I Fail, in 2012; a sequel, Burn in Hell, followed, as did several holiday-themed romances written under the pseudonym Merry Holly. The two initial series entries were recently acquired through Kensington’s Lyrical Press imprint and are being re-released with new cover art and titles as well as additional content.

All the Deadly Lies (formerly If I Fail) opens with a summons: “Sergeant, in my office, please.” Seldom is such an invocation cause for celebration, and Wilkesbury, Connecticut, Homicide Detective Jake Carrington’s face-to-face with his superior officer is no exception. Captain Shamus McGuire has the unfortunate distinction of alerting Jake to the fact that his younger sister’s killer, George Spaulding, is once again coming up for parole—and that this time, he’s requested a DNA test and samples from the crime scene prior to appearing before the board. Though 17 years have passed since the crime, Jake—who accompanied his father to identify Eva’s body—still suffers from survivor’s guilt and can feel his world begin to reel with the prospect of Spaulding’s release.

[Read John Valeri's review of All the Deadly Lies...]

Feb 22 2018 10:00am

Donald Bain Excerpt: Margaret Truman’s Allied in Danger

Donald Bain

PI Robert Brixton is back in Margaret Truman's Allied in Danger by Donald Bain, the 30th installment in the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series (available February 27, 2018).

David Portland works security for America’s British Embassy in London. His life is upended when his son Trevor dies mysteriously in Nigeria, while employed by a suspicious security/mercenary company known as SureSafe. One night, Portland sees a man in a bar wearing a bracelet―a family heirloom, which he had given his son―and attacks the man. The information he learns will send Portland down a rabbit-hole of deadly deception―one which he hopes will lead him to the truth about his son’s death.

Meanwhile, Robert Brixton, a noted Washington DC-based international investigator, has been hired to look into a fraudulent charity and a criminal warlord in Nigeria. His life and his investigations will soon become intertwined with Portland’s probe and that of his estranged, ex-wife, Elizabeth. Their interconnected cases will take Brixton to Nigeria, into that country’s Heart of Darkness and on one of the most violent and dangerous journeys of his life.

[Read an excerpt from Margaret Truman's Allied in Danger...]

Feb 21 2018 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke

Several months have elapsed since the emotional cliffhanger ending of the previous book in the Hannah Swensen series. Fortunately for Hannah, that unreformed cad Bradford Ramsey has had sense enough to stay out of her way—despite now teaching at the local college—so Hannah can concentrate on the rest of her life without him. Which, as summer begins, includes getting roped into a charity event run by the mayor’s wife, Stephanie Bascomb.

When Stephanie shows up at The Cookie Jar to solicit donations, Hannah’s quick-thinking partner Lisa Beeseman suggests that they make apple turnovers for volunteers to toast and sell over the course of the three-day charity gala instead. Stephanie accepts and provides Lisa with even more good news: one of the gala nights will feature a talent show! Lisa quickly volunteers her amateur magician husband (and town patrolman), Herb. When his usual assistant has to withdraw due to illness, Hannah is asked to step in, leading to a humorous subplot involving the cursed purple dress she had to wear the last time she took on the role.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Feb 21 2018 3:30pm

Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien: A Visual Guide

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

Welcome to the Ho-Lee Noodle House, where the Chinese food is to die for—take a visual tour of Vivien Chien's first Noodle House Mystery, Death by Dumpling!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Feb 21 2018 1:00pm

Judging a Book by Its Covers: The Evolution of a Book’s Cover Through Time

People love a vintage car. A classic Mustang, a cherry Corvette. So why don’t they just keep the same body style and make them year after year? Because the only thing people like more than a classic is something brand new.

Same goes for books. If a book is lucky enough to be reprinted—either in softcover or with a new publisher—the look of the book always changes. It’s an interesting practice—to take something people know and liked (enough to put a book into a second edition) and then change it. If a book goes on being published for decades, a novel can end up with a dozen different looks through the years.

[Explore the covers of classics through the years!]

Feb 21 2018 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: February 20, 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, the first in a new series from Walter Mosley and a prequel Charles Lenox story from Charles Finch highlight a wonderful week of books! See what else we're reading:

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

Feb 21 2018 10:00am

Seth Patrick Excerpt: The Dead Road

Seth Patrick

The Dead Road by Seth Patrick is the third and final installment in the genre-bending Reviver Trilogy, which delivers chilling twists as a forensic detective revives the dead to exhume a world-changing conspiracy (available February 27, 2018).

Opening with The Reviver and continuing in Lost Souls, this genre-bending series has been described as CSI meets The Sixth Sense. The trilogy takes place in our world, but with a chilling twist: certain people have the ability to wake the recently dead for testimony that is accepted in courts worldwide. The use of these so-called Revivers has long been a routine part of police investigation. But things are changing ... something vast and dangerous is hiding in the dark, just waiting to wreak havoc on our world.

The Dead Road is where it all comes to an end―maybe literally.

[Read an excerpt from The Dead Road...]

Feb 20 2018 4:00pm

Vote for Your Favorite Harry Bosch Novel


Watch the trailer for Season 4 of Bosch!

Feb 20 2018 3:00pm

Ides of March: Beware!

Read Steven Saylor's guest post about the murder of Julius Caesar, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the 16th Novel of Ancient Rome, The Throne of Caesar!

“Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”

—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar: Act II, Scene II

The death of Julius Caesar is arguably the most famous murder in history. This is thanks partly to the enormous importance of Caesar himself and partly to Shakespeare, who mined the historical sources available to him to create one of his best plays—a model of historical fiction as well as crime fiction, since Julius Caesar delves deeply into the psyche of one of the killers, Brutus.

Thanks to Shakespeare, just about every literate person knows at least two things about the event: 1) Caesar was killed on the Ides of March (15 March, 44 B.C., to be exact), and 2) he was warned ahead of time by a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides”—a warning the Roman dictator shrugged off. The foreshadowing presence of this soothsayer and his unheeded warning adds an unforgettable twist of irony to the grisly tale.

[Read more about the murder of Julius Caesar!]

Feb 20 2018 1:00pm

Review: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch is a prequel to the Charles Lenox series, which takes readers back to Lenox's very first case and the ruthless serial killer who would set him on the course to become one of London’s most brilliant detectives (available February 20, 2018).

This is a really great jumping-on point for readers new to the Charles Lenox series, as it details our hero’s first murder case and its consequences. At the callow age of 23, Charles Lenox, the younger son of a landed earl, has defied the Victorian convention that demands he chooses from one of the few professions deemed acceptable by his class in those times: politics, the military, or the clergy. Instead, and rather scandalously, he has chosen to be a consulting detective, with the aid of his indispensable valet, Graham.

Unfortunately, he has few cases to occupy his time. His peers consider him a novelty at best, and the detectives of Scotland Yard openly mock him when they’re not being outright hostile. But Lenox and Graham’s daily habit of going through London’s newspapers for reports and signs of criminal activity leads them to a letter to the editor of The Challenger boasting of a perfect murder and hinting at more to come.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Woman in the Water...]

Feb 20 2018 12:00pm

Cover Reveal: An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver

Witty, stylish, and cleverly plotted, the Edgar Award-nominated Amory Ames series follows husband and wife sleuthing duo Amory and her playboy husband Milo, as they solve mysteries in the glamorous world of 1920s British high society. An Act of Villainy is the fifth novel in the series (available September 4, 2018).

Walking through London’s West End after a night at the theater, Amory Ames and her husband Milo run into wealthy investor and former actor Gerard Holloway. Holloway and his wife Georgina are old friends of theirs, and when Holloway invites them to the dress rehearsal of a new play he is directing, Amory readily accepts.

However, Amory is shocked to learn that Holloway has cast his mistress, actress Flora Bell, in the lead role. Furthermore, the casual invitation is not what it seems—he admits to Amory and Milo that Flora has been receiving threatening letters, and he needs their help in finding the mysterious sender. Despite Amory’s conflicting feelings—not only does she feel loyalty to Georgina, but the disintegration of the Holloways’ perfect marriage seems to bode ill for her own sometimes delicate relationship—her curiosity gets the better of her, and she begins to make inquiries.

It quickly becomes clear that each member of the cast has reason to resent Flora—and with a group so skilled in the art of deception, it isn’t easy to separate truth from illusion. When vague threats escalate, the scene is set for murder, and Amory and Milo must find the killer before the final curtain falls.


To learn more or preorder a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator at the Allen Parish Libraries in Oberlin, Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She is the author of Murder at the Brightwell, Death Wears a Mask, and A Most Novel Revenge. Weaver lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.

Feb 20 2018 10:00am

John Hart Excerpt: The Hush

John Hart

Building on the world first seen in The Last Child, The Hush by John Hart delivers a stunning vision of a secret world, rarely seen (available February 27, 2018).

Take a visual tour of The Hush with GIFnotes!

It’s been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon’s life and rocked his hometown to the core. Since then, Johnny has fought to maintain his privacy, but books have been written of his exploits; the fascination remains. Living alone on six thousand acres of once-sacred land, Johnny’s only connection to normal life is his old friend, Jack. They’re not boys anymore, but the bonds remain. What they shared. What they lost.

But Jack sees danger in the wild places Johnny calls home; he senses darkness and hunger, an intractable intent. Johnny will discuss none of it, but there are the things he knows, the things he can do. A lesser friend might accept such abilities as a gift, but Jack has felt what moves in the swamp: the cold of it, the unspeakable fear.

[Read an excerpt from The Hush...]