Review: <i>Trace</i> by Archer Mayor Review: Trace by Archer Mayor Kristin Centorcelli Read Kristin Centorcelli's review! Discount: <i>The Beautiful Mystery</i> by Louise Penny Discount: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99 through October! <i>Hello Again</i>: Excerpt Hello Again: Excerpt Brenda Novak The second book in the Dr. Evelyn Talbot series. <i>If You Knew My Sister</i>: Excerpt If You Knew My Sister: Excerpt Michelle Adams A debut novel of psychological suspense.
From The Blog
September 25, 2017
Q&A with Liz Mugavero, Author of Purring Around the Christmas Tree
Liz Mugavero and John Valeri
September 22, 2017
Drunk Man Calls 911 for Lift Home
Teddy Pierson
September 22, 2017
Video: M. C. Beaton Discusses The Witches' Tree
M. C. Beaton
September 21, 2017
Adventures in Research, Part III: Killing Pace
Douglas Schofield
September 15, 2017
Drunk Man Sells Car, Forgets, Reports Car Stolen
Teddy Pierson
Wed
Sep 20 2017 3:30pm

The Witches’ Tree by M. C. Beaton: A Visual Guide

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

This week, head back to the Cotswolds with a visual tour of M. C. Beaton's 28th Agatha Raisin Mystery, The Witches' Tree!

[Like CliffsNotes, but more fun...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 2:00pm

5 New Books to Read this Week: September 19, 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!

A new Sophie Hannah and Nelson DeMille highlight an awesome week of books! See what else we're reading:

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

Wed
Sep 20 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille is a blistering new novel featuring an exciting new character—U.S. Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

All 35-year-old Army vet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick wants to do is take out fishing groups on his charter boat, The Maine, make a little money, and enjoy the Key West sunsets. When he’s approached with a job by a lawyer named Carlos Macia, known for being heavily involved with anti-Castro groups, he’s admittedly a little suspicious.

“I’m interested in chartering your boat for a cruise to Cuba.”

I didn’t respond.

“There is a fishing tournament, sailing from here to Havana in a few weeks.”

“Does the Cuban Navy know about this?”

He smiled. “This is an authorized event, of course—the Pescando Por la Paz.” He reminded me, “We are normalizing relations. The Cuban Thaw.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Cuban Affair...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher is the first book in the Roger Blanc Provence Mystery series.

Welcome to Provence, that picturesque area of France to where hard-nosed Capitaine Roger Blanc of the gendarmerie has just been transferred from Paris after nearly single-handedly exposing the corruption of a former trade minister. It might sound like a promotion (is Provence not the loveliest part of France, located in the warm south, after all?), but Blanc knows that he’s really being removed from investigating the powerful in the nation’s capital. On hearing the news, his wife decided it was time to come clean and admit that she had a lover in Paris whom she’d rather stay with than accept exile with Blanc. At least Blanc has a place to stay in Gadet, the nowhere town to which he’s been assigned; an uncle willed him a decrepit old olive oil mill years ago. Admittedly, it’s a dump.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Murderous Mistral...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 10:00am
Excerpt

Archer Mayor Excerpt: Trace

Archer Mayor

Trace by Archer MayorTrace by Archer Mayor is the 28th book in the Joe Gunther series (available September 26, 2017).

The Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) has been pulled onto three cases at the same time; meanwhile, VBI head Joe Gunther has to take time off to care for his ailing mother.

Those cases are now in the hands of the individual investigators. Sammie Martens is assigned a murder case. The victim is a young woman, the roommate of the daughter of Medical Examiner Beverly Hillstrom. A recent transplant from Albany, New York, Sammie must find out what put a hit man on the trail of this seemingly innocent young woman.

Lester Spinney takes over a famous cold case, a double murder where a state trooper and a motorist were killed in an exchange of gunfire. Or so it has seemed for years. When Lester is told that the motorist’s fingerprints were planted on the gun he’s supposed to have fired, it opens the question—who really killed the state trooper?

Willy Kunkle’s case starts with a child's discovery of three teeth on a railroad track, leading eventually to a case of possible sabotage against critical military equipment.

[Read an excerpt from Trace...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 3:00pm

Mysterious Ways: 5 Books Featuring Ordinary People Solving Mysteries

Read Brad Abraham's exclusive guest post about mysteries featuring ordinary people, then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of his debut novel, Magicians Impossible!

To describe a novel as a mystery conjures images of hardboiled detectives, plucky criminologists, driven cops, and clever British pensioners. But at their heart, every book is a mystery in its own way. What story hasn’t centered on a character or characters seeking the answer to some question or a higher truth about the world or about themselves? A mystery can be set in worlds both mundane and magical and in times past, present, and future—some don’t even have a resolution at all, other than to impart some lesson on the one seeking an answer to the thing that keeps them up at night. Some don’t even need a detective.

Here are five of the latter, mysteries featuring ordinary people seeking answers that put them into physical, emotional, and psychological danger. Scheming corporate headhunters, grieving boyfriends, white-trash detectives, hipster writers, and an entire community—they’re all here.

[Check out Brad Abraham's list of mysteries!]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 2:00pm

Review: A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley

A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley is the third book in the James Hicks series, where Hicks has finally discovered his true enemy: a criminal organization known as The Vanguard.

The University is an elite intelligence agency that has been operating for years, tracking down terrorists and several other high-profile criminals. James Hicks is The University’s new Dean, and he has his work cut out for him. After successfully hunting down key operatives, Hicks has discovered that he has one powerful enemy: The Vanguard, a crime organization that has as many spies, toys, and trouble-making capabilities as The University itself. 

As Hicks and his University faculty dig deeper into the Vanguard’s activities, the Vanguard pushes back—hard. Hicks’s home is destroyed, and operatives are killed across the globe. The Vanguard operation is not subtle. They send missiles into the heart of New York in the middle of the day. The situation is now open warfare. It will take all of Hicks’s considerable skill and the cooperation of some hesitant international intelligence agencies to stop them.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of A Conspiracy of Ravens...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen is the seventh book in the Department Q series.

Carl Mørck, the crotchety-but-very-skilled homicide detective whose Copenhagen-based Department Q is relegated to the basement, is back in the seventh installment of Adler-Olsen’s unusual series. I’ll admit, when I read the first book, The Keeper of Lost Causes, I wasn’t sure if Carl was for me. He ticks a lot of my boxes, though. I like my detectives cranky with a genuinely good heart buried underneath all that rough and tumble, but he’s missing some of the existential angst that I love so much. But … that’s ok. I fell in love with Carl and his Middle Eastern “assistant” Assad, who serves up a coffee concoction that will knock your socks off and is so much more than he seems. His background still isn’t clear seven books in, although he seems well-versed in the more darker arts of policing, much to Carl’s frequent chagrin. 

For those new to the series, Department Q is basically the department’s cold-case crew, formed as a way for Carl’s (former) boss to relegate him to the basement while showing the brass they could get things done. It was formed after a shooting that killed a member of Carl’s team and paralyzed another—he’s now living with Carl—and Carl was a right mess after that. But it’s been nine years, and a LOT has happened. 

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Scarred Woman...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 12:00pm

Review: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda is a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage … or a life.

Four paragraphs into Kaira Rouda’s Best Day Ever and I’ve learned that our protagonist, Paul Strom, is a grade-A asshole. So why do I want to keep reading his story? It’s intriguing, at first, that the author would make that choice—to immediately alert the reader that we’re not going to like this guy. But I had to find out what she had in store for us next.

Paul and his wife, Mia, are getting ready to go on a weekend trip to their lake house. It’s just the two of them for the first time since they’ve had kids, and according to Paul, it’s going to be the best day ever. He has lots of plans. And they are all a surprise. But as the trip continues, tension mounts. Mia is ruining everything. I mean, how dare she question Paul. He’s right about everything. He’s in charge. It’s all going to be perfect, just like their perfect little family.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Best Day Ever...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 10:00am
Excerpt

Ronald H. Balson Excerpt: The Trust

Ronald H. Balson

The Trust by Ronald H. BalsonThe Trust by Ronald H. Balson is the fourth book in the Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart series (available September 19, 2017).

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

[Read an excerpt from The Trust...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 5:30pm

Three Clowns Talk About It

Grab the closest rock. Leave the silver bullets. And cue the New Kids on the Block. It's time to discuss It. Let's start with some background info—how familiar were you with the story coming into the new film?

Adam Wagner: I knew there was a clown. And some kids. And a newspaper boat for some reason. I knew Tim Curry was the original Pennywise. And I knew there was an awkward pre-teen gangbang we were thankfully spared.

Other than that, I hadn't read the book or seen the original until last weekend. I watched the 3-hour miniseries first, then I went and saw the new version a few days later. So I'm coming at this with fresh eyes for both films. No irrational fear of clowns stemming from watching It too early as a kid for me. Just a good ol' rational fear of clowns because they're face-painted murder devils.

[Clowns, kids, and a discussion of It...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 3:00pm

Review: Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman is the 16th Jesse Stone novel.

Paradise’s Chief of Police Jesse Stone is in a really bad place. None of his usual crutches—booze, throwing a ball into his beloved baseball mitt, babes (consensual relationships with intelligent women), losing himself in police work—are working. His life has been in a downward spiral since his fiancée Diana was murdered.

Jesse doesn’t really have the option to stay in a state of drunken stasis, however. His loyal deputy, Suitcase Simpson, has asked him to be his best man. On the morning of the wedding, an elderly woman, one of Paradise’s old guard, is brutally murdered. They say trouble comes in threes—the mayor, not one of Jesse’s fans, has told him to do everything in his power to ensure that a birthday celebration for Massachusetts’s answer to Bob Dylan goes swimmingly.

The morning of the wedding, Jesse learns that a gala 75th birthday party is to be held for folk singer Terry Jester. Jester, once the equal of Bob Dylan, has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 1:00pm

Review: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke is a powerful thriller about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice.

The first person we meet in the little Texas town of Lark is Geneva Sweet, proprietor of Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, a small roadside café where you can get a good meal washed down with iced tea—or maybe something a little stronger. We meet Geneva at the local “colored cemetery” where she’s visiting the two men in her life, her late husband Joe “Petey Pie” Sweet—a music man who was a devil on the guitar, Lord forgive him—and their son, Lil’ Joe. She brought her son an offering of two perfect peach fried pies knowing full well that as soon as she’s driven away, the groundskeeper is going to eat the pastries because one of her fried pies should never go uneaten. But before she leaves, she gives the Joes all the latest news and gossip. Or most of it anyway. 

Below her, an eighteen wheeler tore down Highway 59, sending up a gust of hot gassy air through the trees. It was a warm one for October, but nowadays they all were. Near eighty today, she’d heard, and here she was thinking it was about time to pull the holiday decorations from the trailer out back of her place.Climate change they call it. This keep up and I’ll live long enough to see hell on earth, I guess. She told all this to the two men in her life. Told them about the new fabric store in Timpson. The fact that Faith was bugging her for a car. The ugly shade of yellow Wally painted the icehouse. Look like someone coughed up a big mess of phlegm and threw it on the walls.

She didn’t mention the killings though, or the trouble bubbling in town.

She gave them that little bit of peace.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Bluebird, Bluebird...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 12:00pm

Review: Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody is the eighth book in the Kate Shackleton Mystery series—an intricate, absorbing plot that captures the atmosphere and language of 1920s England.

Private investigator Kate Shackleton is taking a well-deserved holiday at the coastal village of Whitby. She’s going to reconnect with a very old friend from school, spend some time with her teenaged goddaughter Felicity (the daughter of said old friend), take long walks along the beach, and read a few books in the comfortable library at the Royal Hotel.

That was the plan anyway—right up to the moment she walks into the jeweler’s shop and finds the man dead on the floor.

Never had I been so glad to see a police station. Yet one of those moments of uncertainty came over me. Had I really just walked into a shop and found a body? Why me? Why today? A black and white dress was a perfectly satisfactory gift without my having to add a bracelet. I needn’t have stepped across the threshold of J Philips, High Class Jeweler. For all I knew, Felicity wouldn’t want a bracelet. Bracelets could be annoying. Did you push it up your arm or let it dangle? I tried to picture the bracelet, so that I would not have to see the man, with his neat attire, his bloodied head and the paleness of his skin. How long had he lain dead? Certainly, he was as cold as any stone. But see him I did, in the glow of a long-ago afternoon, behind his counter, with his red hair and understated manner. And then in the cold light of his back room, lying so still and pale, and forever…

[Read Angie Barry's review of Death at the Seaside...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 10:00am
Excerpt

Andrea Kane Excerpt: A Face to Die For

Andrea Kane

A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane is the sixth book in the Forensic Instincts series.

In A Face to Die For, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Kane explores the urban legend of the doppelganger, as the readers' favorite team of investigators (Forensic Instincts) find themselves in a conflict of interest between two clients. When one case unexpectedly intersects with the other, the only solution is to find the link between the two and unearth who is pulling the strings and why.

Chapter 3

Gia scanned the traffic-crammed street, walking to the curb and simultaneously raising her arm to hail a taxi. She wasn’t up for the subway today. Nor for the marathon walk. She’d grab a cab to Grand Central Terminal, where she’d hop a train to her suburban townhouse in Rye.

She’d made eye contact with one driver who began veering his way through pre-rush-hour traffic in her direction, when a breathless female voice beside her said, “Danielle! What are you doing in the Big Apple? Is there some kind of veterinary conference going on? Or do you have another interview at that prestigious animal clinic? And I love your hair! Did you get extensions? Did you have it done here?”

[Read the full excerpt from A Face to Die For...]

Sun
Sep 17 2017 10:00pm

The Deuce 1.02: “Show and Prove” Episode Review

“There’s not enough smoke.” That’s one criticism I overheard about The Deuce, HBO’s 8-episode series set on 42nd Street in the ‘70s. Everyone lights up, but there’s no cancerous haze across the barroom; you can actually see people. That’s one thing I don’t miss. 

I’ll admit, I never frequented bars in Times Square back in the day. I was too young to order a drink, and I didn’t have a fake ID. I was more like the “birthday boy” from the pilot. My uncle owned a bar and came home with crates of kickback booze and half-empty bottles of crap that didn’t sell, so I never wanted for liquor. Of course, sometimes that meant getting schnockered on Harveys Bristol Cream instead of Jack Daniel's, but you don’t piss and moan on the gravy train.

[Free booze is free booze...]

Fri
Sep 15 2017 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “The Invisible Hand”

What do you do when you're a bartender with dormant magical abilities?

Say the magic words and whip up this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “Invisible Hand” cocktail, inspired by Brad Abraham's debut novel, Magicians Impossible!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Fri
Sep 15 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad

The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad builds relentlessly on its spellbinding premise, luring readers into its dark and macabre mystery, right to its shocking end.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Eric Rickstad has made a name for himself with his critically acclaimed Canaan Crime series of psychological thrillers set in remote northern Vermont. In his newest, The Names of Dead Girls, he revisits characters from those earlier books to deliver a story that draws on the past but is firmly rooted in the present.  

As The Names of Dead Girls opens, readers are introduced to college student Rachel Rath. Rachel is the daughter of former detective Frank Rath (Silent Girls), who gave up his badge to pursue justice as a private investigator. What she doesn’t know, but will soon find out, is that Frank—whom she’s ably assisted in his inquiries—is actually her uncle (at least biologically speaking) and that her parents died a horrific death at the hands of murderer and serial rapist Ned Preacher. Preacher, who worked the system to his benefit and is now out of prison, professes to have found God. But Rachel feels his eyes on her, and they burn as if carrying the heat of hellfire:

[Read John Valeri's review of The Names of Dead Girls...]