Review: <i>Best Intentions</i> by Erika Raskin Review: Best Intentions by Erika Raskin Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! Review: <i>Best Laid Plans</i> by Allison Brennan Review: Best Laid Plans by Allison Brennan Danielle Antosz Read Danielle Antosz's review! <i>Assassin's Code</i>: Excerpt Assassin's Code: Excerpt Ward Larsen Assassin David Slaton returns in this adrenaline-packed adventure. Review: <i>Dead Heat</i> by Allison Brennan Review: Dead Heat by Allison Brennan Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review!
From The Blog
August 15, 2017
Page to Screen: Hopscotch
Brian Greene
August 15, 2017
Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, Author of Rituals
Kelley Armstrong and John Valeri
August 14, 2017
A Different Kind of Crime Family
Allison Brennan
August 11, 2017
Man Straps Huge Stolen Street Lamp to Car
Teddy Pierson
August 10, 2017
Tracking the American Bandito
Christopher Brown
Aug 17 2017 4:00pm

Marvel’s The Defenders Primer: Catch Up On Their Solo and Group Comic Exploits

In 2015, with the launch of the first season of Daredevil, Marvel television and Netflix began building their own corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, they’ve delivered a steady bit of payout as fans got to meet compelling characters like the title character of Daredevil, blind lawyer turned costumed vigilante Matt Murdock; superpowered P.I. Jessica Jones; and the bulletproof hero of Harlem, Luke Cage. (They also met the fairly underwhelming Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, but the less said about his show, the better, in my opinion.)

Now, they’re set to deliver the ultimate fan payoff with the release of The Defenders—an eight-episode Netflix series that brings together the title characters and supporting casts from the previous Marvel Netflix shows for an Avengers-style team up. Early buzz is saying The Defenders series is as good as—and perhaps even better—than Netflix’s previous Marvel endeavors (and in the case of Iron Fist ... way, way better). So it’s a good chance these episodes will go quickly and leave viewers wanting more.

But you won't have to wait for Netflix to release Season 2. Marvel Comics has plenty of fascinating titles featuring the group as well as several individual stories of each of the Defenders. In this article, we’ll take a look at those books and tell you how to get caught up on them.

[Catch up with The Defenders!]

Aug 17 2017 3:00pm

Review: Best Intentions by Erika Raskin

Best Intentions: A Novel by Erika RaskinBest Intentions by Erika Raskin is a captivating domestic suspense novel that weaves together high-stakes hospital politics, the pressures of family life, and the consequences of trying to do the right thing, particularly in a city with a history as fraught as Richmond's.

Erika Raskin’s sophomore effort, Best Intentions, is a fast-paced, chilling story about family, motherhood, and the failure of a marriage. The novel begins at the end and at the beginning. It’s a first-person narrative told by Marti Trailor, and the first thing we know about her is she’s entangled in a murder trial. The second thing we know about her is that she’s the loving mother of three children and the wife of a successful OB-GYN in Richmond, Virginia. What we don’t know is the full truth, which lies between the two narratives as the story unfolds. We’re going from future to past in one timeline and from past to future in the other. 

It may sound confusing, but it isn’t. As these two stories are told by Marti in parallel, there’s a sense of foreboding because we don’t yet know what happened at the point where these two timelines connect. It’s a beautifully executed plot device that is extremely effective because of the stark contrast between the two. In one timeline, we know Marti has been accused of murder. In the other, she’s a loving mother and frustrated wife. Completely relatable to the core as she constantly worries about the attractive young nurses at her husband’s job, among other things. Marti is an extremely likable character, and I found her humor despite her troubles endearing:

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Best Intentions...]

Aug 17 2017 2:15pm

Dog Handler: Why David Handler Included a Canine Sidekick

Read David Handler's exclusive guest post about why he included his sidekick dog Lulu in his acclaimed Stewart Hoag mystery series, then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the long-awaited return of Hoagy and Lulu in The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes!

I confess. I never intended to give a sidekick to Stewart Hoag, that major American novelist turned major burn-out case turned preeminent ghostwriter of celebrity memoirs. And I definitely never planned to give him a sidekick with short legs, long ears, and a taste for 9Lives mackerel for cats and very strange basset hounds.

This was back in 1985 when I was a very young writer. After I’d drafted the first 50 pages of the first Hoagy novel, The Man Who Died Laughing, I sent them to my agent, the late Roberta Pryor. It was my first stab at crime fiction, and I was hungry for feedback. Roberta kindly gave me hers: she hated it. Thought that Hoagy was a bitter, dislikeable loser. “No one will spend their hard-earned money on this,” she informed me. “They can already get it at home for free.”

[Read more from David Handler!]

Aug 17 2017 1:00pm

Review: Best Laid Plans by Allison Brennan

Best Laid Plans by Allison Brennan is the ninth book in the Lucy Kincaid series, where the newly minted FBI agent must help uncover a far-reaching conspiracy run by a ruthless killer who will do anything to get what he wants—and kill anyone who gets in his way.

On the surface, Lucy Kincaid’s story is a classic survivor’s tale. After a brutal event, survivor meets love interest, love interest helps survivor overcome the emotional baggage, survivor is “fixed,” and they ride off into the sunset. Happily ever after, right?  

It is a popular but, to be honest, predictable and inauthentic story arc. 

Except in Best Laid Plans, there is no happily ever after and Lucy is no normal damsel. As a highly-trained FBI agent, she can save herself (and the reader from the contrived damsel in distress/survivor storyline, thankfully). 

Best Laid Plans is a masterful blend of complex characters with real histories and emotional baggage that both makes sense and makes for a great story. You don’t overcome a tragedy in 400 pages or a 30-minute sitcom episode, and neither do Brennan’s characters. For Lucy, healing is and continues to be an ongoing process. This feels real and authentic. Her strengths and hang-ups caused by her past create a dynamic, highly relatable character who feels a bit like an old college friend I haven’t seen in a few years—meaning I understand her past but still have plenty to learn about what makes her tick. 

[Read Danielle Antosz's review of Best Laid Plans...]

Aug 17 2017 12:00pm

Possible Remains of Natalee Holloway Found 12 Years After Disappearance

In 2005, the world searched for Natalee Holloway. Now, twelve years later, her father is hoping for some closure.

On Wednesday, Dave Holloway and Private Investigator T.J. Ward announced on TODAY the discovery of human remains that are being DNA tested to confirm if they are Natalee's. This is the first major lead to the case since Holloway’s disappearance in 2005. After graduating high school in Alabama, the 18-year-old Holloway and her friends traveled to Aruba—a Dutch island in the Caribbean—on vacation. When she failed to show up for her return flight on May 30, the search began. 

According to TODAY: 

An informant known as “Gabriel” put Ward and Holloway in contact with a man they claim had direct knowledge of Natalee's disappearance.

“We have a person who states he was directly involved with Joran van der Sloot in disposing of Natalee's remains,'' Holloway said. ”I thought, you know, there may be something to this."

Follow the investigation leading up to the discovery this Saturday on Oxygen’s new series The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

Watch the trailer for The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway:

Aug 17 2017 10:00am

Ward Larsen Excerpt: Assassin’s Code

Ward Larsen

Step aside, Jason Bourne: David Slaton, the perfect assassin, returns for another adrenaline-packed adventure by USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen in Assassin's Code (available August 22, 2017).

Former assassin David Slaton discovers a cryptic message: on a memory stick, a photograph of the man who will soon assume command of DGSI, France’s elite counterterrorism force. With that country reeling under a wave of ISIS attacks, Zavier Baland will be trusted to make the Republic safe again. The problem—Slaton has seen Baland’s face before. He is Ali Samir, a terrorist Slaton is certain he killed fifteen years earlier. Unable to reconcile this frightening disconnect, he attempts to raise the alarm.

Thousands of miles away, the chief information officer of ISIS tries to keep networks running amid crumbling infrastructure. With the caliphate’s very survival at stake, the leadership commits to a last-ditch gambit: France must be attacked on a massive scale, forcing the West into the battle of the Apocalypse.

Slaton keeps a breakneck pace, traveling to Tel Aviv, Paris, and the deserts of Syria. In the end, he uncovers a labyrinthine plot—and one that only he can stop.

[Read an excerpt from Assassin's Code...]

Aug 16 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: French Fried by Kylie Logan

Laurel Inwood has a lot on her plate with the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty giving the tourist-starved town of Hubbard, Ohio, a reason to throw a week-long celebration to try to draw in more. As the chef of her adoptive Aunt Sophie's Terminal at the Tracks restaurant—and, more importantly, as the mastermind behind the semi-regular ethnic cuisine initiative meant to elevate the eatery from greasy spoon to healthy and innovative dining—Laurel is cooking up a French menu to dovetail neatly with the festivities. Aunt Sophie isn't the hugest help, but her friend Raquel Arnaud—long-time French expatriate and now herb farmer with her own estate just out of town—is more than happy to contribute both recipes and ingredients.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 16 2017 3:00pm

Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris: 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 Charlaine Harris's 10th Aurora Teagarden Mystery, Sleep Like a Baby!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Aug 16 2017 1:00pm

Review: Dead Heat by Allison Brennan

Dead Heat by Allison Brennan is the eighth Lucy Kincaid novel, where Agent Kincaid must risk her life and her career to try and bring down a crime lord's empire.

It’s San Antonio, Texas, and it’s hot—but the weather isn’t the only thing heating up. An operation is underway to round up known felons and give them what many believe they have coming to them: justice. Cold, sharp, and mean. Operation Heatwave sees more than 150 police officers and federal agents working together. They intend to serve active warrants to the violent criminals at large. 

FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid of the Violent Crimes Squad is delighted to have been chosen to participate and contribute to bringing these people in and neutralizing their web of criminal activities. Her partner is Ryan Quiroz. A Houston cop prior to joining the FBI, he reminds Agent Kincaid of her hot-headed and arrogant brother. But Quiroz is sharp and popular, and she knows she can learn a lot from him. 

The two are after the Sanchez brothers, Jaime and George. Armed and dangerous, they are believed to be staying with their sister. When the team pulls up to the Sanchez sister’s house with warrants, they find her, some young children, and George, who is climbing out of the back window. He doesn’t get far. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Dead Heat...]

Aug 16 2017 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: August 15, 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!

Rosato & DiNunzio. Rizzoli & Isles. New Lisa Scottoline and Tess Gerritsen novels highlight a great week of books! See what else we're reading:

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

Aug 16 2017 11:00am

Review: Dog Dish of Doom by E. J. Copperman

Dog Dish of Doom by E. J. CoppermanDog Dish of Doom by E. J. Copperman is the first book in the new Agent to the Paws series.

Take a visual tour of Dog Dish of Doom with GIFnotes!

Show business is in Kay Powell’s blood. Her parents (Jay and El) were successful Catskill performers back in the day, and when she was a kid, she had her own spot in the show—a bit called “Oh Kay” where she sang and danced. Opting out of the limelight, she headed for college to play around with organic chemistry and history classes before heading for law school. Now, she’s a theatrical agent specializing in animal actors because they’re much easier to deal with than humans. (Her company logo is a cat playing Hamlet that she privately thinks looks more like Donald Trump’s toupee has grown arms.)

Unfortunately, even though her clients are a delight, she still has to deal with their people. Tent Barclay—owner of Kay’s client Bruno, a talented mutt up for the role of “Sandy” in a new production of Annie—is the kind of person Kay would happily ignore if she could.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Dog Dish of Doom...]

Aug 16 2017 10:00am

Julia Keller Excerpt: Fast Falls the Night

Julia Keller

Based on a real-life event, Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller’s latest Bell Elkins novel Fast Falls the Night takes place in a single 24-hour period, unfurling against the backdrop of a shattering personal revelation that will change Bell’s life forever (available August 22, 2017).

The first drug overdose comes just after midnight, when a young woman dies on the dirty floor of a gas station bathroom. To the people of the small town of Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, it is just another tragedy. It is sad—but these days, depressingly familiar.

But then there is another overdose. And another. And another.

Prosecutor Bell Elkins soon realizes that her Appalachian hometown is facing its starkest challenge yet: a day of constant heroin overdoses from a batch tainted with a lethal tranquilizer. While the clock ticks and the bodies fall, Bell and her colleagues desperately track the source of the deadly drug—and engage in fierce debates over the wisdom of expending precious resources to save the lives of self-destructive addicts.

[Read an excerpt from Fast Falls the Night...]

Aug 15 2017 3:00pm

Page to Screen: Hopscotch

I’m not sure if Criterion Collection is releasing a new edition of the 1980 movie Hopscotch because of the timeliness of the plot, but timely it is. A retired CIA agent who threatens to publish a book filled with leaked classified information ... um, yeah, that kinda gels with the present times here in the U.S. The film, directed by Ronald Neame (he also directed The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Odessa File (1974), among others) is based on a 1975 novel by Brian Garfield. Garfield co-wrote the screenplay for the movie with Bryan Forbes. Let’s take a look inside the book and movie.

[Read Brian Greene's Page to Screen review!]

Aug 15 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, Author of Rituals

Kelley Armstrong is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels. These include the 13-book urban fantasy Otherworld saga and the recent Casey Butler books (City of the Lost, A Darkness Absolute) as well as a YA standalone, Missing. Her newest, Rituals (available August 15, 2017), is the fifth and final entry in her popular Cainsville series, also comprised of Omens, Visions, Deceptions, and Betrayals. Ms. Armstrong makes her home in southwestern Ontario, where she writes from her locked basement dungeon.

Recently, the author generously entertained questions about crafting satisfying conclusions, balancing creative ambitions with reader expectations, and maintaining a sense of realism in her supernatural storytelling, among other curiosities.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Aug 15 2017 1:00pm

Review: Poisonous by Allison Brennan

Poisonous by Allison Brennan is the third book in the Max Revere series, where Max answers the plea of a heartbroken and developmentally disabled stepbrother of a recently deceased girl, investigating an apparent suicide that looks more and more like murder.

A teenage girl is dead, and after more than a year, the case has gone nowhere. When Ivy Wallace’s stepbrother Tommy reaches out to Maxine “Max” Revere, a journalist-turned-television star, his simple plea for help touches her heart. Convinced that there’s a story in the cold case, Max heads for Corte Madera, California, with her best friend and colleague, David Kane, in search of answers and fodder for the next episode of her hit show, Maximum Exposure.

Max soon realizes there’s a lot more going on than a simple case of “Did she fall, or was she pushed?” in the case of Ivy’s death. It’s obvious to her that the only person who has truly mourned her passing is Tommy, who has been banished from the family because his stepmother thinks he’s the one who killed Ivy. There are a lot of suspects who look “good” for the crime, but Max didn’t get where she is by being satisfied with the superficial. 

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Poisonous...]

Aug 15 2017 11:00am

Review: Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, where the stakes are higher and more personal than ever for feline investigator Joe Grey, as death comes to his beloved coastal California town (available August 15, 2017).

In the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, Joe becomes a father! His beloved Dulcie has given birth to three darling kittens—soon named Striker, Buffin, and Courtney—bringing joy to both the cats and to their loving circle of humans. But a string of car break-ins and thefts soon has the residents of Molena Point in an uproar, as a sophisticated gang of car thieves descends upon the town with the onset of a hurricane-force storm.

Joe and his feline friends Kit and Pan are in the thick of it, assisting their humans in the investigation. Most of those humans are, after all, either part of or related to local law enforcement, and this isn’t the first time the cats have been involved. It is, however, a new experience for Dulcie to stay home with her first litter of kittens instead of out helping Joe; this passage is wistfully reminiscent of the feelings of human mothers of newborns:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Cat Shining Bright...]

Aug 15 2017 10:00am

Andrew Gross Excerpt: The Saboteur

Andrew Gross

The Saboteur by Andrew Gross portrays a hero who must weigh duty against his heart in order to single-handedly end the one threat that could alter the course of World War II (available August 22, 2017).

February 1943. Both the Allies and the Nazis are closing in on attempts to construct the decisive weapon of the war.

Kurt Nordstrum, an engineer in Oslo, puts his life aside to take up arms against the Germans as part of the Norwegian resistance. After the loss of his fiancée, his outfit whittled to shreds, he commandeers a coastal steamer and escapes to England to transmit secret evidence of the Nazis’s progress towards an atomic bomb at an isolated factory in Norway. There, he joins a team of dedicated Norwegians in training in the Scottish Highlands for a mission to disrupt the Nazis’ plans before they advance any further.

Parachuted onto the most unforgiving terrain in Europe, braving the fiercest of mountain storms, Nordstrum and his team attempt the most daring raid of the war, targeting the heavily-guarded factory built on a shelf of rock thought to be impregnable, a mission even they know they likely will not survive. Months later, Nordstrum is called upon again to do the impossible, opposed by both elite Nazi soldiers and a long-standing enemy who is now a local collaborator—one man against overwhelming odds, with the fate of the war in the balance, but the choice to act means putting the one person he has a chance to love in peril.

[Read an excerpt from The Saboteur...]

Aug 14 2017 4:30pm

Review: Low Heights by Pascal Garnier

Low Heights by Pascal Garnier, translated by Melanie Florence, is the latest Garnier novel to be translated into English and made available by Gallic Books (available August 15, 2017).

As I’ve noted in other posts on this site, one common thread among several of the novels written by Pascal Garnier (1949-2010) is that the Frenchman liked to study characters who have the left the cities of France and moved into provincial areas. This is true of Low Heights, which was published in its original language in 2003 and is the latest Garnier title to be brought out in a new English translation by Gallic Books.

Édouard Lavenant, the tale’s protagonist, is a widower in his mid-70s who left the city of Lyon for the remote town of Rézumat sometime after his wife’s death and after he’d suffered a stroke. At the outset of Low Heights, we find Édouard to be a grouchy old geezer who has one arm that’s no good to him and a mind that is having episodes during which it loses touch with reality. A businessman who’s financially comfortable, the widower now mostly spends his time sitting around his house in the country and griping about this and that to Thérèse, his live-in housekeeper.

[Read Brian Greene's review of Low Heights...]