Audiobook Review: <i>Murder on the Orient Express</i>, Read by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh Danielle Prielipp Read Danielle Prielipp's review! Review: <i>Stealing Ghosts</i> by Lance Charnes Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Killin Pace</i>: Excerpt Killin Pace: Excerpt Douglas Schofield A high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy. Review: <i>A Season to Lie</i> by Emily Littlejohn Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
From The Blog
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
November 16, 2017
Why the Time Is Ripe for the Farming Cozy
Wendy Tyson
November 15, 2017
Q&A with Jessica Keener, Author of Strangers in Budapest
Jessica Keener and John Valeri
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!]

Nov 17 2017 3:30pm

Accidental Research ... Into the Mob

Read Alan Hruska's guest post about how his experiences as a lawyer accidentally became research into mob-related activities that eventually inspired and informed his fiction. Then, make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win his legal thriller, It Happened at Two in the Morning!

I write books, mostly thrillers. But earlier, and for many years, I tried civil cases, large and small, of almost every variety. I never thought of it as research for writing, but of course, it was. I also never thought that any of it—being almost entirely civil not criminal—would lead me into Mafia territory, much less beget some of my most interesting villains, but that, too, proved short-sighted. 

[Read more about Alan Hruska's accidental research!]

Nov 17 2017 2:00pm

Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh

In addition to directing the new version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh expertly narrates a new audiobook recording of this classic Poirot mystery.

Before you read any further, I have a confession to make. While I like to think of myself as being fairly well-read, and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is one of the most widely read mysteries ever, this audiobook marks only my second foray into Christie’s work—the first of which took place mere months ago when I picked up And Then There Were None as a quick summer weekend read. That same weekend, I purchased a copy of Murder on the Orient Express at a local bookstore in hopes of tackling it before the latest film adaptation hit theaters in November. Fortunately, I never actually got around to reading that paperback, so I got to experience the story for the first time through the vocal talents of Kenneth Branagh.

[Read Danielle Prielipp's review of Kenneth Branagh's reading of Murder on the Orient Express...]

Nov 17 2017 1:00pm

Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes

Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes is the second book in the DeWitt Agency Files series.

The DeWitt Agency opens for business again, and I, for one, appreciate the clever way that author Lance Charnes jumps into the plot with his protagonist Matt Friedrich eyeing an attractive lady.

The first thing you notice is her eyes.

Big, dark, luminous. She’s no blushing ingénue; those eyes grab you and pin you to the wall. Think you got what it takes? they say. Come find out.

If you don’t fall in, you see the face around those eyes. High cheekbones, a razor-sharp jaw, a long semi-Roman nose, full lips parted just a bit.

Mr. Charnes goes on to emphasize the woman’s creamy skin, and I thought, here we go: a male writer getting lost in the overboard and often cringy explanation of a female character. But then comes the kicker: “Her names Dorotea. She’s ninety-one years old. One look stole my heart. Now I’m stealing her.” Ha! 

[Read David Cranmer's review of Stealing Ghosts...]

Nov 17 2017 12:00pm

Man Flees Police, Hides Under the Covers, Claims He’s “Just Sleeping”

When you're a kid, what's the safest place of which you can think? In bed, under the covers—nothing can hurt you there. But does that work when you're an adult? 

According to the Hartford Courant, a 27-year-old Mustapha Mboob fled from police when they attempted to pull him over after he drove away from a CVS in a car with the alarm blaring and ran a stop sign. After pulling into his own yard and running into a wooden fence, Mboob ran past officers and into his own home. When the police followed him inside, they found him under the covers claiming to be “just sleeping.”

Unfortunately, the police didn't buy it, and now Mboob faces a nightmare of charges, including operating under the influence, interfering with police, failure to obey a stop sign and failure to obey an officer’s signal.

Wait a minute, I think I've heard that defense before:

Nov 17 2017 10:00am

Douglas Schofield Excerpt: Killing Pace

Douglas Schofield

Killing Pace by Douglas Schofield is a high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy, with three important questions: Where am I? ... How did I get here? ... and most importantly … Who am I? (available November 21, 2017).

These three questions have plagued Lisa Green for the past two months since she crawled barefoot and bleeding from the wreckage of a catastrophic car accident. Her boyfriend Roland has been nursing her back to health under close watch. Lisa has amnesia. They both know that, but only Lisa knows that she hasn’t lost her ability to reason. And reason tells her that she is not Roland’s girlfriend. She is his prisoner. Escape is her only option, and Lisa must figure out who she can trust and how to stay alive.

It's bad enough that she's been held against her will, but worse, it seems that she wasn't randomly chosen. There's more to her story than kidnapping, and the details appear to cross borders and continents. With organized criminals hard on her heels, Lisa must expose her enemies before they choose their next victim.

[Read an excerpt from Killing Pace...]

Nov 16 2017 5:00pm

Back to J. D. Robb’s Future: How the Futuristic Technology of the In Death Series Has Fared in the Present

The dichotomy between the head (futuristic technology) and heart (the prime directive since the world began) informs J. D. Robb’s In Death series: “It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.”

J. D. Robb published Naked in Death in July 1995. Secrets in Death, the 45th book in the In Death series, came out in September 2017—22 years later. The pertinent number, however, is 63—because in 1995, Robb imagined a New York City 63 years into the future. What did she foresee? Was she prescient? What did she envision that hasn’t happened?

[Read more about the technology from the In Death series!]

Nov 16 2017 3:00pm

Writing the Private Detective vs. the Police Detective

Writing a private detective series as opposed to a detective in the police force is always thrilling because it gives me the freedom to explore unique cases. My protagonist doesn’t have any of the headaches of working within a bureaucracy. She doesn’t have to answer to a supervisor. She makes her own rules. She’s in control. And it’s always interesting because every case is different. My PI can make a living working strictly on background checks, or she can work murders, kidnappings, and missing-person cases. There are no limits, especially in the life of a fictional PI.

To succeed in any career, it takes some degree of desire, professionalism, dedication, and motivation. I make sure my protagonist has a healthy dose of all of these characteristics and more. Although Jessie Cole in Her Last Day (the first book in my newest PI series) didn’t grow up with an obsession for all things Sherlock Holmes, and she never watched Magnum PI, life circumstances drew her to become a private eye.

[Read more from author T.R. Ragan!]

Nov 16 2017 2:00pm

Why the Time Is Ripe for the Farming Cozy

I started my first garden at age 10. Notice I didn’t say I planted my first garden because that would imply completion. Rather, fueled by images of the farms in James Herriot novels and my father’s joy when buying ripe Jersey tomatoes, I dug a big hole in the backyard. “What’s that for?” my father asked. He was a patient man. “My garden,” I told him. He probably rolled his eyes—I don’t remember. The thing is, digging a garden was tough work, and eventually, summer games of freeze tag and Kick the Can won out over hard labor. My father probably filled the hole back in; I don’t remember that, either.

What I do remember is that my obsession with farm life continued.

[Read more about farming and cozy mysteries!]

Nov 16 2017 1:00pm

Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn

A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn is the second Detective Gemma Monroe novel, where a twisted killer stalks his prey in the dead of winter.

Read Emily Littlejohn's guest post about using weather to enhance setting & learn how to win a copy of A Season to Lie!

It’s winter in the Rockies. Add in a brutal blizzard, hardly any daylight, and a bleak and terrible murder, and you’ve got the winning combo for an intriguing mystery.

The second novel by author Emily Littlejohn, A Season to Lie follows detective Gemma Monroe as she makes her way back from maternity leave and straight into a complex murder. It’s been three months since Gemma had her baby, and she is feeling a little rusty. But there’s a strange murder to solve involving a bestselling author, Delaware Fuente, who's been staying incognito in their peaceful town of Cedar Valley, Colorado. When the killer leaves behind a cryptic note in the dead man’s mouth that claims, “This is only the beginning,” the chase is on.

As Gemma puts it, “Death is coming, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”

[Read Amber Keller's review of A Season to Lie...]

Nov 16 2017 12:00pm

Don Fulsom Excerpt: The Mafia’s President

Don Fulsom

The Mafia’s President by Don Fulsom draws on newly released government tapes, documents, and other fresh information to offer a carefully reported, deeply researched account of Richard Nixon’s secret connections to America’s top crime lords (available November 14, 2017).

Unbeknownst to most people even now, the election of 1968 placed the patron saint of the Mafia in the White House. In other words, Richard Nixon would go on to not only lead a criminal presidency; he would be totally indebted to our nation’s top mobsters.

By 1969, thanks in large part to his long-time campaign manager and political advisor Murray Chotiner, a lawyer who specialized in representing mobsters, Nixon had participated in secret criminal dealings for more than 20 years with sketchy figures such as Mickey Cohen, Mob financial guru Meyer Lansky, Teamsters union chief Jimmy Hoffa, and New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. And with Chotiner as one of his key behind-the-scenes advisors in the White House, Nixon's ties to the Mafia didn't end there. The Mafia’s President reveals a mind-blowing litany of favors Nixon exchanged with these sinister characters over decades, ranging from springing Jimmy Hoffa from prison to banning the federal government from using the terms “Mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra.”

[Read an excerpt from The Mafia's President...]

Nov 16 2017 10:00am

Charles Finch Excerpt: The Woman in the Water

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).

Read this early excerpt from The Woman in the Water, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win an advance copy of Charles Finch's prequel Charles Lenox mystery!

London, 1850: A young Charles Lenox struggles to make a name for himself as a detective…without a single case. Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously and his friends deride him for attempting a profession at all. But when an anonymous writer sends a letter to the paper claiming to have committed the perfect crime―and promising to kill again―Lenox is convinced that this is his chance to prove himself.

The writer’s first victim is a young woman whose body is found in a naval trunk, caught up in the rushes of a small islet in the middle of the Thames. With few clues to go on, Lenox endeavors to solve the crime before another innocent life is lost. When the killer’s sights are turned toward those whom Lenox holds most dear, the stakes are raised and Lenox is trapped in a desperate game of cat and mouse.

[Read an excerpt from The Woman in the Water...]

Nov 15 2017 4:20pm

Cooking the Books: Potions and Pastries by Bailey Cates

I so much enjoy being back in Savannah with Katie Lightfoot and her delightful friends and family. Okay, maybe not so much with her annoying fiancé Declan (#TeamSteve), but it’s so great for me as a cozy mystery fan to be back investigating deaths that look suspiciously linked to paranormal hijinks. Katie, you see, is a Light Witch, which means she’s called to cancel out evil (but not necessarily Dark) magic wherever she may find it. This all too often means bringing a paranormal murderer to justice.

In this case, Orla Black—an acquaintance and regular customer of the Honeybee Bakery that Katie co-owns with her aunt and uncle—has just died right outside the shop after suddenly walking into oncoming traffic. Katie receives a whole bunch of signals from the otherworld urging her to investigate; trouble is, she barely even knows where to start.

Detective Quinn, her sometimes contact in the police department, can’t see Orla’s death as being anything but a suicide or perhaps a singularly unfortunate accident. But Katie is convinced that something darker must be afoot. Her investigations lead her to Orla’s extended family, a tangle of Irish Traveler relations who introduce Katie to a new mystical tradition that could explain what happened to Orla—or could claim Katie as its very next victim.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 15 2017 3:30pm

Comic Sans Murder by Paige Shelton: A Visual Guide

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

Clare Henry’s snowy Star City, Utah, oasis turns deadly in the third Dangerous Type Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Paige Shelton—take a visual tour with GIFnotes!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Nov 15 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Jessica Keener, Author of Strangers in Budapest

Jessica Keener is the author of the bestselling novel Night Swim and a collection of award-winning short stories, Women in Bed. She has also contributed to O, the Oprah Magazine, Redbook, the Boston Globe, and Agni, among other publications. Ms. Keener earned her B.A. in English from Brown University and later received a master’s degree in creative writing (fiction); she has taught English literature and writing at Brown University, Boston University, the University of Miami, and GrubStreet. Her most recent novel, Strangers in Budapest, draws upon the experience of living in that city in the early 1990s. Ms. Keener now makes her home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

The author graciously entertained questions on topics including how fact informs fiction, the diversity of mystery novels, why the juxtaposition of past and present resonates, how short stories and full-length works are both similar and different, and what of craft can be learned vs. what is intrinsic. She also shares a glimpse of what comes next. 

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Nov 15 2017 1:00pm

Cozy Bookshelf Shopping List: December 2017

Discover (or remember to order) your next cozy with a delightfully convenient shopping list of upcoming soft-boiled mysteries! Last month, we gave thanks for all the November cozies; this month, Christmas comes early with these awesome December 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!]

Nov 15 2017 12:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: November 14, 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, Andy Weir's latest space thriller and a new Molly Murphy mystery from Rhys Bowen highlight an awesome week of books! See what else we're reading:

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

Nov 15 2017 10:00am

Galt Niederhoffer Excerpt: Poison

Galt Niederhoffer

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison by Galt Niederhoffer is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute (available November 21, 2017).

Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass' two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland ―a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

[Read an excerpt from Poison...]

Nov 14 2017 3:00pm

Review: Blood Run by Jamie Freveletti

Blood Run by Jamie Freveletti is the fifth book in the Emma Caldridge series, where the biochemist and her team must stop the spread of a smallpox virus and avoid the ruthless government attempting to stop her.

If Jamie Freveletti had arrived on the literary scene ahead of Raymond Chandler, the famous quote instead may have read, “When in doubt, come through the door with a grenade launcher.” In her latest novel, Blood Run, her biochemist protagonist, Emma Caldridge, is three hundred miles east of Dakar, Senegal, when the armored vehicle she and three others are riding in is ambushed.

The heavy car shuddered when a second grenade exploded near the roof, and another rain of bullets hit the driver's side window. It failed in a shower of tiny glass slivers and shrapnel. Emma watched in horror as a splash of red washed over the clear divider between the driver and the passenger area.

“The driver's been hit,” Emma said to the two others.

She pressed the button to lower the glass divider, like those found in limousines, to access the front seat. She was glad that it still moved. That meant that the car hadn't yet lost power. She knew that a car taking fire, even an armored car, had seconds to escape the first hit. A vehicle that didn't move while under attack would eventually be breached, no matter how extensive the armoring.

[Read David Cranmer's review of Blood Run...]