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 14 2017 2:00pm

Review: Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson

Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson is the third book in the Greenhouse Mystery series.

Wendy Tyson has a background in law and psychology, which lends itself nicely to her endeavors as a crime fiction novelist. Having formerly worked as a therapist, she now balances writing and her responsibilities as an attorney with her passion for organic gardening and sustainable living—another pursuit that informs her creative output. In addition to the four-book (and growing) Allison Campbell series and a standalone novel, The Seduction of Miriam Cross, she also pens the bestselling Greenhouse Mystery series featuring lawyer-turned-farmer (sound familiar?) protagonist, Megan Sawyer.

The third book in the Greenhouse series, Seeds of Revenge, finds Megan—who left her life as a lawyer in Chicago behind to care for her grandmother and oversee the family’s organic farm and its cozy store and restaurant in Winsome, Pennsylvania—trying to drum up year-round business with the onset of winter. It’s on a snowy drive home from Philadelphia—where she’d been pitching fresh produce to restaurateurs—that she encounters a young woman stranded by the side of the road. Megan offers her a ride and is happy to learn that her unexpected passenger, Rebecca (“Becca”) Fox, is the niece of aptly named Merry Chance, one of Winsome’s most well-known, civic-minded, and seasonally spirited residents—as evidenced by her house, which also reflects the radiance of her heart:

[Read John Valeri's review of Seeds of Revenge...]

Nov 14 2017 1:00pm

The Weather Outside Is Frightful: Using Weather to Enhance Setting

Read Emily Littlejohn's guest post about using weather events to enhance setting, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of her second Detective Gemma Monroe novel, A Season to Lie!

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

Though it is much parodied and oft-mocked, aspiring mystery writers would do well to study the opening sentence of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel, Paul Clifford. Why? Because it works. It’s instantly relatable. With just seven words, the reader immediately understands the setting and can imagine the scene.

Weather is a great equalizer in fiction. Consider a further example: 

The detective chased the man, barely conscious of the slick street, unfazed by the torrential summer downpour driving pedestrians and bicyclists to take cover. In minutes the rain ceased. The steamy July swelter returned and still the two men ran.

The story’s location could be anywhere, from Los Angeles to Beijing to Mumbai. It is the weather—the rain, the humidity—that is familiar. The reader feels the oppressiveness of the heat, the wetness of the downpour.

[Read more from Emily Littlejohn!]

Nov 14 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber is the climactic third installment of The Eterna Files series, delivering a delightful Gaslamp fantasy set in 19th-century New York and Washington D.C. that is rich with detail and embroidered with a cast of captivating characters.

The coolest part about being a reviewer is getting to read books I love and being able to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the world. When a copy of Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Eterna Solution landed in my inbox, I could not have been happier. For a lot of the creatively minded people I know, this year has been a struggle in terms of producing art, and for me, even enjoying it felt like pulling teeth. The sheer joy of reading Hieber’s work reminded me of what I strive for as an artist and the power that love and friendship have in fighting against the darkness—which, incidentally, is the culmination of her Eterna Files series.

The Eterna Solution is the final book of the series, and it does not disappoint. Picking up where Eterna and Omega left off, our assemblage of Sensitives along with the lone resident skeptic return to America where the Society’s dark magic continues to scar New York. A new heir to evil has risen, and it’s up to the Eterna and Omega teams to derail her. And I mean this quite literally—where Moriel had taken to stealing souls, Lady Celeste harnesses the power of industry, drawing her brand of magic from Edison’s new electrical grid and dynamos as well as the rails and waystations.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of The Eterna Solution...]

Nov 14 2017 10:00am

Con Lehane Excerpt: Murder in the Manuscript Room

Con Lehane

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane is the second book in the 42nd Street Library mystery series—a smart, compelling mystery in which the characters themselves are at least as interesting as the striking sleuthing (available November 21, 2017).

Take a visual tour of Murder in the Manuscript Room with GIFnotes!

When a murder desecrates the somber, book-lined halls of New York City’s iconic 42nd Street Library, Raymond Ambler, the library’s curator of crime fiction, has a personal interest in solving the crime. His quest to solve the murder is complicated by personal entanglements involving his friend―or perhaps more-than-friend―Adele Morgan. Not only does Adele’s relationship with the young woman staffer who was murdered get in the way of Ambler’s investigation, more disturbing for him is Adele’s growing interest in a darkly handsome Islamic scholar.

Soon the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department takes over the case from NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove, Ambler’s friend and sometimes partner-in-crime-solving. Ambler suspects that the murder of the young woman, who’d been working at the library under an assumed name and the curious intervention of NYPD’s intelligence division are connected. The trail of intrigue leads to a seemingly unrelated murder in an upstate prison and a long-ago murder of a trade union reformer.

No one else sees the connections Ambler is sure are there―not an unusual state of affairs for Ambler. But with the city’s law enforcement establishment determined to stop his investigation, the inquisitive and intrepid librarian faces challenges that may put his very life at risk.

[Read an excerpt from Murder in the Manuscript Room...]

Nov 13 2017 5:00pm

The Walking Dead Power Rankings 8.04: “Some Guy”

What's this? Two entertaining episodes in a row? After last week's morality check in “Monsters,” “Some Guy” ramped up the action and brought tragedy to the people of the Kingdom.

And while there was a bit more context to this week's episode (which was strengthened greatly by the decision to focus on smaller stories within the larger war), it also made the prior episodes feel even more like a huge missed opportunity. The stakes would hold so much more weight if the show had decided to give viewers even a little insight into what the hell was going on.

Still, credit where credit is due: this war seems to be moving in the right direction. Can we keep the momentum going? Or will we inevitably end up with an entire episode stinkin' it up with Discount Milla Jovovich & the Garbage People?

[See who's “Walking Tall” and who's been “Eaten Alive” this week...]

Nov 13 2017 3:00pm

Jupiter! Why I Love 1900s Slang

I write the Anna Blanc mystery series about a saucebox socialite turned police matron turned gum shoer who takes on LA’s Chinatown. Famous for her beauty spot, Anna uses her killer mind to dope it out and catch criminals, but everybody treats her like a vampire. Then, there’s Joe Singer, a hawkshaw who just wants to hook up. He’d make a spanking fine husband, but Anna’s no dill pickle. She knows marriage means obedience. She’s not interested (though she’s curious about his cock stand). It’s bedoozling, and she’s reached a point of severe flummoxation. To make matters worse, Joe’s huffy about it.

Anna and Joe find a deado stuffed in a trunk in Chinatown, LA’s center for fan tan, benzene, and split-arse mechanics. They look from hell to breakfast for someone to jerk up, but they can’t make a collar. Also, Anna’s hunting for two missing singsong girls stolen from the tong, but then, Jupiter, Joe gets thrown in the hoosegow...

[While you told me fortunes, in American Slang...]

Nov 13 2017 2:00pm

Review: Turn on the Heat by Erle Stanley Gardner

Turn on the Heat by Erle Stanley Gardner is considered one of the best Cool and Lam novels in the acclaimed series, now made available from Hard Case Crime.

Love old-school suspense yarns? Yes? Then you’ll love Erle Stanley Gardner’s (writing as A. A. Fair) California-set Turn on the Heat. This was originally supposed to be the second book in the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series, but the publisher passed on the first, The Knife Slipped, which Hard Case Crime published last year. Gardner is the creator of Perry Mason, and he brings a talent for quick-fire dialogue and no-nonsense characters to this fun read.

Bertha Cool, head of the Cool Detective Agency—“profane, massive, belligerent, and bulldog”—is the amply built counterpart to her diminutive investigator Donald Lam. But what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in talent—when he’s not getting batted about by big toughs, that is. Bertha’s got a new job for Lam, and she wastes no time talking him up to her new client, Mr. Smith.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Turn on the Heat...]

Nov 13 2017 1:00pm

Watch the First Official Trailer for The Post

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks join forces to take down government corruption and massive coverups in The Post—the upcoming Steven Spielberg-directed thriller about “the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents.” 

In addition to Streep and Hanks, The Post features an acclaimed cast, including: Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Alison Brie (Mad Men), David Cross (Arrested Development), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), Tracy Letts (The Big Short), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), and more.

[Watch the official first trailer below!]

Nov 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Savage by Frank Bill

The Savage by Frank Bill is an unnerving vision of a fractured America gone terribly wrong and a study of what happens when the last systems of morality and society collapse (available November 14, 2017).

Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister was published in 1947, three years after the allies defeated the axis of evil and two years prior to George Orwell’s more heralded 1984. Completing an essential 20th-century dystopian triumvirate is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which arrived in 1986 during the waning years of the Cold War. All three books at the time of publication were viewed as masterpieces set in the near future. I can remember discussing 1984 in that titular year and my mother’s cautionary remark that it could still happen “a few years from now.”

Unlike the setting of a dreaded near future found in this esteemed trio, Frank Bill’s The Savage feels like the desperate now. It’s not just 21st-century geopolitical fears as two world leaders seem hellbent on taking us down a real Fury Road, it’s also families throughout the American landscape being gutted by the opioid crisis, facing anxieties over losing health care, and befalling the horror of psychotic cretins shooting up music concerts and halls of worship.

[Read David Cranmer's review of The Savage...]

Nov 13 2017 10:00am

Jessica Fellowes Excerpt: The Mitford Murders

Jessica Fellowes

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes is a thrilling Golden Age-style mystery based on a real unsolved murder and set amid the legendary Mitford household (available January 23, 2018).

Read this exclusive early excerpt from The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes, then make sure you're signed up and comment below for a chance to win this thrilling mystery!

It's 1920, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London.

Louisa's salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursemaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy, an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But then a nurse―Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake―is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret...

[Read an excerpt from The Mitford Murders...]

Nov 12 2017 10:00am

Lance Charnes Excerpt: Stealing Ghosts

Lance Charnes

Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes is the second book in the DeWitt Agency Files series (available November 17, 2017).

Dorotea DeVillardi is 91 years old, gorgeous, and worth a fortune. Matt Friedrich's going to steal her.

The Nazis seized Dorotea's portrait from her Viennese family, then the Soviets stole it from the Nazis. Now it's in the hands of a Russian oligarch. Dorotea's corporate-CEO grandson played by the legal rules to get her portrait back, but he struck out. So he's hired the DeWitt Agency to get it for him - and he doesn't care how they do it.

Now Matt and Carson, his ex-cop partner, have to steal Dorotea's portrait from a museum so nobody knows it's gone, and somehow launder its history so the client doesn't have to hide it forever. The client's saddled them with a babysitter: Dorotea's granddaughter Julie, who may have designs on Matt as well as the painting. As if this wasn't hard enough, it looks like someone else is gunning for the same museum—and he may know more about Matt and Carson's plans than he should.

Matt went to prison for the bad things he did at his L.A. art gallery. Now he has a chance to right an old wrong by doing a bad thing for the best of reasons. All he has to do is stay out of jail long enough to pull it off.

[Read an excerpt from Stealing Ghosts...]

Nov 11 2017 12:00pm

Banking on Financial Thrillers

Author Stephen Norman stopped by Criminal Element on his Trading Down blog tour! Read his guest post about financial thrillers and see where he'll be next!

My agent told me that financial thrillers are hard to sell and techie books are tough to write—the protagonists are unappealing, and the technical stuff is hard to translate into words. So why have I spent five years of my life writing Trading Down, a cybercrime novel set in a bank?

It has been a challenge, I admit that. There is a certain amount of jargon that you have to ask the reader to invest in. Acronyms like DBA and DR are not everyday parlance. But here’s what encouraged me: in 2001, I was in a building near the World Trade Center. We (the IT department of Merrill Lynch) had a project to move the trading floor across the River Hudson. It would take a year. After 9/11, we lost our trading floor. We opened the new one across the river one week later. How was that possible?

I told that story to my children and non-geeky friends, and to my surprise, they loved it. They wanted to know more. They wanted other stories. Which was easy for me because I’m like the replicant Roy Batty in the first Blade Runner: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion…” I worked for over 20 years doing banking technology, and I’ve got the scars from every kind of disaster and craziness. I’ve tried to distill some of that craziness into Trading Down.

Look, banks have a lot going for them as a setting. Banks are populated by men (and women, believe me) with huge egos who make loads of money. Or want to. This leads to aberrant behavior when they don’t. Trading banks are utterly dependent on their technology. Speed and time to market are everything. This leads to more dysfunctional behavior when someone screws up. My boss asked the head of Debt Markets what he would give me if I delivered his new bond trading system. “Fuck you,” came the reply, “if he doesn’t deliver, I want his head on a platter.”  

Banks are really important and surprisingly vulnerable. Trading Down illustrates ways (most of which I have witnessed) they could be brought down by a cyberattack. In the climax of Trading Down, the bank is threatened by a rogue software program. The more I researched it, the more convinced I was that this attack would destroy the bank as swiftly and comprehensively as Lehman Brothers, with disastrous consequences for the rest of the financial system. And us.

Read David Cranmer's review of Trading Down!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon



Stephen Norman spent 20 years at the forefront of investment banking IT, facing industry turbulence from the rise and fall of the dotcoms to the destruction of 9/11 to the banking collapse of 2008. He has worked in financial centers across the world—from London and New York to Hong Kong and Tokyo—and has fulfilled a range of high-powered roles, including Chief Technology Officer at Merrill Lynch and an unusually long seven-year stint as CIO of RBS Global Markets. In 2012, he left the world of finance to focus on his writing. Trading Down is Stephen’s first novel.

Nov 11 2017 10:00am

Martin Bodenham Excerpt: Shakedown

Martin Bodenham

Shakedown by Martin Bodenham is a financial thriller dealing with corruption and greed that stretches all the way to the White House (available November 13, 2017).

Damon Traynor leaves a glittering career on Wall Street to set up his own private equity business. When it is the winning bidder in the multi-billion dollar auction for a government-owned defense company, his firm’s future success looks certain.

But soon after the deal closes, Damon makes an alarming discovery—something that makes the recent acquisition worthless. Then, he learns he was duped by the financially-strapped federal administration and that there are many others in the same position. Facing financial ruin, he investigates the US Treasury officials behind the transaction.

What Damon uncovers is a terrifying web of organized crime—extending all the way to the White House itself—involving blackmail and assassination on an industrial scale. When those around him begin to die, Damon finds himself locked in a deadly battle with the leader of the free world.

[Read an excerpt from Shakedown...]

Nov 10 2017 4:30pm

Book-Inspired Cocktails: “A Season for Rye”

What do you do when you're investigating a killer in the dead of winter?

Warm up with this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—the “A Season for Rye” cocktail, inspired by Emily Littlejohn's second Detective Gemma Monroe novel, A Season to Lie!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Nov 10 2017 3:00pm

Q&A with Wendy Tyson, Author of Seeds of Revenge

Wendy Tyson is the author of the bestselling Greenhouse Mystery series featuring former lawyer-turned-farmer Megan Sawyer, which includes the titles A Muddied Murder and Bitter Harvest; the third entry, Seeds of Revenge (available November 14, 2017), is set against the backdrop of the holiday season. Ms. Tyson also writes the Allison Campbell Mystery series and penned a standalone novel, The Seduction of Miriam Cross.

A mainstay in the crime fiction community, she serves as a columnist for The Thrill Begins and is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, which are both International Thriller Writer Organization (ITW) online magazines. Also a lawyer and former therapist, Ms. Tyson now lives on a micro-farm with her family, the experience of which largely informs her fiction.

Recently, the author warmly welcomed questions pertaining to the inherent drama of the holidays, the evolution of her creative canvas, the similarities between gardening and writing, the influence of her former careers on her current endeavors, and the promise of what comes next. 

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Nov 10 2017 1:00pm

The Badass and Child Duo

Read Michael Fiegel's exclusive guest post about the “Badass and Child Duo” trope, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of his debut thriller, Blackbird!

“Is she your child?” asked someone.

“I guess she is now,” the other cried, defiantly; “she’s mine ’cause I saved her. No man will take her from me...”

Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Luc Besson's 1994 crime thriller Leon—better known to many as The Professional—is my favorite movie. Telling the story of a professional hitman (Jean Reno) who rescues a 12-year-old girl (Natalie Portman) from corrupt DEA agents, it was a major influence on my writing. This is most vividly reflected in my novel Blackbird, a thriller that tells a similar story with a twist: rather than the “good guy” rescuing the girl, it explores the consequences of the “bad guy” getting her instead.

Both of these situations are takes on the trope known as the “Badass and Child Duo.” You can read all about it on, but the way it works is fairly self-evident: a badass (usually but not always a man) and a child (often a girl) team up in some way throughout the story, with the badass predominantly acting as the child's protector. There are at least two variants of the trope, and they're both interesting to take a look at, seeing as they appear across multiple genres.

[Read more about the Badass and Child Duo!]

Nov 10 2017 12:00pm

Beautifully Crafted Leather-Bound Copy of Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express and Other Hercule Poirot Mysteries is a beautifully crafted, leather-bound, collectible edition of several of Agatha Christie's best Poirot mysteries!

Hercule Poirot, the great Belgian sleuth who was the greatest creation of bestselling author Agatha Christie, brings his formidable skills of detection to bear on three bedeviling murder mysteries in Murder on the Orient Express and Other Hercule Poirot Mysteries.

Murder on the Orient Express—In his most famous case, Poirot must determine who of the passengers about the snowbound Orient Express is responsible for the brutal murder of millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett in his traveling compartment.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd—Generally regarded as one of the most influential novels in the history of crime fiction, this tale pits Poirot against a houseful of murder suspects, none of whom has a solid alibi for the night that its owner was killed.

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case—In his final adventure at the country house Great Styles, Poirot plays cat and mouse with a five-time murderer, hoping to thwart his plans for a sixth kill.

Murder on the Orient Express and Other Hercule Poirot Mysteries is one of Barnes & Noble's Collectible Editions classics. Each volume features authoritative texts by the world's greatest authors in an exquisitely designed bonded-leather binding, with distinctive gilt edging and a ribbon bookmark. Decorative, durable, and collectible, these books offer hours of pleasure to readers young and old and are an indispensable cornerstone for every home library.

Watch the trailer for the new Murder on the Orient Express movie (out today)!

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Barnes and Noble

Nov 10 2017 11:00am

Armed Robber Hands Out Stolen Pastries During Heist

You can be a bad guy without being a bad guy. 

Armed robbers in Houston, Texas, walked into a Shipley Do-Nuts and demanded the money from the cash register. Faces covered, one of the robbers brandished a gun and demanded the money while another seemed to assure customers they were in no danger as he collected their phones. To sweeten the deal, after dropping their phones off behind the counter, the personable perp decided to reward the frightened customers with stolen pastries as his friends finished the heist. What a stick stand-up guy!

The three men fled on foot. The Houston Police Department is currently investigating the case. 

Watch the security-cam footage:

Nov 10 2017 10:00am

Heather Graham & Chad Michael Murray Excerpt: American Drifter

Heather Graham and Chad Michael Murray

American Drifter teams up New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham with celebrated actor and celebrity icon Chad Michael Murray to weave a tale of passion and danger in this captivating and suspenseful thriller (available November 14, 2017).

A young veteran of the US Army, River Roulet is struggling to shake the horrors of his past. War is behind him, but the memories remain. Desperate to distract himself from the images haunting him daily, River abandons the world he knows and flees to the country he’s always dreamed of visiting: Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro is everything he hoped for and more. In the lead-up to Carnaval, the city is alight with music, energy, and life. With a few friends at his side, River seems to be pulling his life together at last.

Then he meets the enchanting Natal, an impassioned journalist and free spirit—who lives with the gangster that rules much of Rio.

As their romance blossoms, River and Natal flee together into the interior of Brazil, where they are pursued by the sadistic drug lord, Tio Amato, and his men. When River is forced to kill one of those men, the chase becomes even deadlier. Not only is the powerful drug boss after them, the Brazilian government is on their trail as well.

Will the two lovers escape—and will River ever be free of the bloody memories that haunt him?

[Read an excerpt from American Drifter...]

Nov 9 2017 4:20pm

My Top 5 Scariest Moments Researching Devil in Ohio

One of the reasons that I write stories—whether they take the form of a novel, play, or TV show—is being drawn to investigate a topic. I became fascinated with exploring cults and what happens to people when they’ve spent time in isolated communities. I was particularly interested in how people manage to get out of these organizations and the ways that their experiences within cults affect their lives moving forward.

Needless to say, when I heard about the true events of a young woman who had escaped from a satanic cult and moved in with her psychiatrist’s family, I had to tell that story. This became the inspiration for Devil in Ohio, and the tale of Mae, Jules, and the Mathis family.

During my preparation to write the novel, I dove headfirst into studying the world of cults. Here are the top five scariest moments I had while researching Devil in Ohio:

[See all the scary moments below!]