Review: <i>Darkansas</i> by Jarret Middleton Review: Darkansas by Jarret Middleton Gabino Iglesias Read Gabino Iglesias's review! Review: <i>No Good Deed</i> by Allison Brennan Review: No Good Deed by Allison Brennan Meghan Harker Read Meghan Harker's review! <i>The Other Girl</i>: Excerpt The Other Girl: Excerpt Erica Spindler A horrific crime. One witness: a fifteen-year-old girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Review: <i>Best Intentions</i> by Erika Raskin Review: Best Intentions by Erika Raskin Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review!
From The Blog
August 18, 2017
From HR to PI
Adam Walker Phillips
August 18, 2017
Boat’s Distress Call Leads to Huge Marijuana Bust
Teddy Pierson
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
Aug 18 2017 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “Rosé & DiNunzio”

What happens when the quest for justice pits you against your own partner? 

Try and make amends this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Rosé & DiNunzio” cocktail, inspired by Lisa Scottoline's fifth Rosato & DiNunzio novel, Exposed!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Aug 18 2017 3:00pm

From HR to PI

Read this exclusive guest post from Adam Walker Phillips, then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Silent Second!

Human Resources and private detection were never meant to be a good match.

The basic premise for a new kind of amateur sleuth was to throw a disaffected corporate cog—someone searching for a meaning in a job that has none—into the heart of a murder mystery where he might very well find that purpose in life. When I was refining the premise further to a specific job within a company, Human Resources became the clear choice. What better job to personify disillusionment and existential crisis than the person watching over all the disillusioned people undergoing existential crises in their meaningless jobs? 

[Read more from Adam Walker Phillips!]

Aug 18 2017 2:00pm

Review: Darkansas by Jarret Middleton

Darkansas by Jarret Middleton is a dark, compelling novel of country noir about a family with a secret past and a curse several generations old.

Rural or country noir can be one of the most heartfelt and entertaining crime subgenres when done by capable authors such as Daniel Woodrell and David Joy. Now, Jarret Middleton’s extraordinary new novel, Darkansas, has placed its author in that distinguished group. Dark, bizarre, and steeped in the culture of the Ozarks, Darkansas is a hybrid narrative that inhabits the interstitial space between crime, horror, literary fiction, and mystery. 

Jordan Bayne is an ex-con eking out a life working as a musician and living in a small, filthy room in San Antonio, Texas. He is a haunted man who’s constantly in trouble and always on the run, sometimes from things he can’t put his finger on. He’s also condemned to live in the shadow of his brother, Malcolm, who works in the insurance business and has never been in trouble, and his father, Walker, a man who’s a legend in the music business. When Malcolm comes back home to the Ozarks to get married, the two brothers and their father are thrown into a maelstrom of repressed emotions and dark family history that threatens to not only derail the festivities but also end in death.

[Read Gabino Iglesias's review of Darkansas...]

Aug 18 2017 1:00pm

Review: No Good Deed by Allison Brennan

No Good Deed by Allison Brennan is the tenth Lucy Kincaid novel, where the FBI agent must stop a corrupt former DEA agent who is out for revenge.

Allison Brennan’s tenth Lucy Kincaid novel, No Good Deed, starts out with a bang—well, machine-gun fire. Well, a villainy internal monologue and then machine-gun fire. Followed by an explosion. As one does. 

FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid is hot on the trail of corrupt former DEA Agent Nicole Rollins, recently escaped from her prison transport in the above-mentioned blaze of glory. A church school bus full of children and one active bomb provide the perfect distraction for her getaway. Kincaid suspects bombing and body count are a smoke screen for a far more sinister plot. When a former FBI agent with ties to a previous case is murdered and Kincaid’s fiancé’s brother vanishes, Lucy is more certain than ever that Rollins is gunning for her.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of No Good Deed...]

Aug 18 2017 12:00pm

Boat’s Distress Call Leads to Huge Marijuana Bust

Here is another story where a couple of lame-brain crooks did something just plain stupid. This time, we take to the seven seas to follow a couple of marijuana smugglers who ran into some mechanical problems with their boat.

According to a report by CNN, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that they arrested two people and seized 1,200 pounds of marijuana after receiving a distress call while out on patrol off the shores of San Diego.

According to the reports, two boat flares were spotted by two different patrols at around 10:45 p.m. After reaching the boat in distress and learning of the shipment, the crew transferred the huge bundles of pot to a Coast Guard ship and towed the seized boat to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection dock.

Aug 18 2017 10:00am

Erica Spindler Excerpt: The Other Girl

Erica Spindler

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler is a chilling new thriller about a ritualistic murder of a college professor that sends a small-town cop back into the trauma she thought she’d put behind her (available August 22, 2017).

A horrific crime. One witness: a fifteen-year-old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.

Is it any surprise no one believed her?

Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.

When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.

Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda..

[Read an excerpt from The Other Girl...]

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!]