<i>The Good Thief's Guide to Murder</i>: Excerpt The Good Thief's Guide to Murder: Excerpt Chris Ewan A Good Thief's Guide short story! Review: <i>A Strange Scottish Shore</i> by Juliana Gray Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray Janet Webb Read Janet Webb's review! Review: <i>Don't Let Go</i> by Harlan Coben Review: Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben Susan Amper Read Susan Amper's review! Review: <i>Trace</i> by Archer Mayor Review: Trace by Archer Mayor Kristin Centorcelli Read Kristin Centorcelli's review!
From The Blog
September 26, 2017
Q&A with Joe R. Lansdale, Author of Paradise Sky
Joe R. Lansdale and John Valeri
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
Thu
Sep 21 2017 3:00pm

Review: OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman’s Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd

OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd is the story of a remarkable woman, Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh, who fought World War II on the front lines of psychological warfare.

OSS Operation Black Mail is the story of Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh and so much more. The bulk of this book concerns McIntosh’s experience in World War II and how the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operated against the Japanese in China-Burma-India. Along the way, we learn about how the U.S. intelligence community rapidly formed during WWII, the gender obstacles that women agents faced, interagency bickering, tensions between allies, and how agents operated on the ground, all from a very different theater of war—one that hasn’t been written about as much as the war effort in Europe or the Pacific. The book also touches on the early years of the Cold War, Hoover’s investigations into communist activities, and McCarthy’s fanatical assault on American citizens.

McIntosh was recruited into the OSS in 1943 due to her background as a reporter and her personal interest in Japanese language and culture. She was also not afraid of taking risks, as attested by her hike up an active volcano as multiple pairs of shoes melted under her feet.

[Read Chris Wolak's review of OSS Operation Black Mail...]

Thu
Sep 21 2017 1:00pm

Discount: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak is the first in a new series featuring psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Talbot and her controversial Alaskan mental institution, Hanover House—get a digital copy for only $2.99 through October 2!

Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart.

Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again ... and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same… 

Read Janet Webb's review of Her Darkest Nightmare!

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Books a MillionBuy at iTunes

Thu
Sep 21 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club by Peter “Big Pete" James with Kerrie Droban

The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club by Peter “Big Pete” James is a startling and unprecedented expose into the inner workings of the Outlaw Nation from the unique perspective of its renowned leader, all brought to life through never-before-revealed interviews, police files, wiretaps, recordings, and trial transcripts.

The Last Chicago Boss surprised me. To be honest, I’m not sure what I expected from the memoir of the ex-boss of one of those most notorious motorcycle clubs in the country, but this insider’s view of a tribe of people often feared and shunned by the general public reveals that, while some of the stereotypes of motorcycle gangs have a foundation in truth, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

Peter “Big Pete” James is a legend in the international motorcycle community. At the age of 45, he joined the Outlaws with the intention of being Boss of Chicago—but he didn’t stop there. Big Pete details in his memoir how he not only built up the Outlaws as the most badass and elite motorcycle clubs in Chicago but how he also created the Confederation of Clubs (CoC) to unite all kinds of clubs under his command.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of The Last Chicago Boss...]

Thu
Sep 21 2017 10:00am
Excerpt

Philip Jett Excerpt: The Death of an Heir

Philip Jett

The Death of an Heir by Philip JettThe Death of an Heir is Philip Jett's chilling true account of the Coors family’s gilded American dream that turned into a nightmare when a meticulously plotted kidnapping went horribly wrong (available September 26, 2017).

In the 1950s and 60s, the Coors dynasty reigned over Golden, Colorado, seemingly invincible. When rumblings about labor unions threatened to destabilize the family's brewery, Adolph Coors, Jr., the septuagenarian president of the company, drew a hard line, refusing to budge. They had worked hard for what they had, and no one had a right to take it from them. What they'd soon realize was that they had more to lose than they could have imagined.

On the morning of Tuesday, February 9, 1960, Adolph “Ad” Coors III, the 44-year-old CEO of the multimillion dollar Colorado beer empire, stepped into his car and headed for the brewery twelve miles away. At a bridge he stopped to help a man in a yellow Mercury sedan. On the back seat lay handcuffs and leg irons. The glove box held a ransom note ready to be mailed. His coat pocket shielded a loaded pistol.

What happened next set off the largest U.S. manhunt since the Lindbergh kidnapping. State and local authorities, along with the FBI personally spearheaded by its director J. Edgar Hoover, burst into action attempting to locate Ad and his kidnapper. The dragnet spanned a continent. All the while, Ad’s grief-stricken wife and children waited, tormented by the unrelenting silence. The Death of an Heir reveals the true story behind the tragic murder of Colorado’s favorite son.

[Read an excerpt from Null States...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere

I finally went back and read the first in this series, and oh man, I definitely missed out by not starting here first. The second and third books are each enjoyable standalone experiences, but I have to say that this first novel in the Costume Shop Mystery series really sets the stage for everything that follows—especially when it comes to the interior life of our heroine, Margo Tamblyn.

In A Disguise to Die For, Margo’s dad, Jerry, has just suffered a heart attack, so she’s taken time off from her job as a magician’s assistant in nearby Las Vegas to come tend to the family business. Disguise DeLimit is a store that has specialized in costumes for decades, stocking not only the relatively inexpensive items you can purchase from your average party store but also deluxe costumes that you can either rent or buy, which many do, even ordering from far away or in bulk for themed events.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

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...]