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January 16, 2018
Q&A with Christopher Reich, Author of The Take
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Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Oct 31 2017 12:00pm

The Warren Case Files: Fact or Fiction?

The average person would be shocked—not to mention terrified—if objects suddenly started flying around their bedroom. If black figures began lurking in the corners, glimpsed only from the corner of the eye. If cabinets started slamming in the kitchen and malevolent voices whispered beneath the basement steps.

Most would jump to a single explanation thanks to a preponderance of movies, TV shows, and spooky stories told around campfires: the house must be haunted. And because the average person on the street works in retail or in an office, those who feel woefully out of their depth may then seek out professional help.

In the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, Ed and Lorraine Warren were often those professionals. Ed was the only non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church, while Lorraine was a clairvoyant and light-trance medium. Over a five-decade career, the married couple assisted hundreds of families in America and the UK who were terrorized by unseen and otherworldly forces.

Or did they?

[Spooky music intensifies...]

Oct 27 2017 12:30pm

Stranger Things, It, and the Rise of Nostalgia Horror

According to innumerable think-pieces—and I use the term with the utmost sarcasm—Millennials are killing just about everything from napkins to the diamond market. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that horror tailored for such a bloodthirsty demographic is carving a vicious swathe through the box office and slaying the ratings. 

The financial success of the It reboot and the instant, overwhelming popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things proves that Millennials are more than happy to support products catered to their interests. We don’t give two figs about unnecessary businesses like Hooters when we could be spending our meager funds on things that actually resonate with us.

[Read more about nostalgia horror and the rise of Stranger Things!]

Oct 20 2017 12:00pm

The Deep and Twisted Roots of Lore

Werewolves. Witches. Vampires. Ghosts. Monsters.

They’ve rampaged, romanced, and revenged across our screens for a century and have populated our stories—both oral and written—since humans became, well, humans.

We’ve always been drawn to the supernatural and the horrific, the Other lurking in the darkness. We’ve told such tales to explain the inexplicable, to come to terms with death and violence and the natural world. And since 2015, Aaron Mahnke has made a point of untangling many of these knotted narratives in his bi-weekly podcast, Lore

[Learn more about the world of Lore...]

Oct 13 2017 2:00pm

6 Eerie, Mysterious, and Unsettling Unsolved Mysteries

Who doesn’t love Unsolved Mysteries?

With his deep voice, stoic manner, and popular performance as the infamous Federal Agent Eliot Ness, Robert Stack was an ideal host for stories that were strange, criminal, and creepy. Sure, the mixture of interviews and reenactments could be hammy, but the mysteries themselves…

I like to think my fascination with the weird stems from childhood viewings of Unsolved Mysteries with my grandma. To this day, the distinctive theme music hits me directly in the nostalgic solar plexus.

Amazon has made the early seasons available on Prime streaming, and I highly recommend revisiting them. Meanwhile, here are a few of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries Stack never got the chance to narrate—some true campfire stories to tell this Halloween season:

[See all the spooky unsolved mysteries!]

Oct 12 2017 11:00am

Review: Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander

Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander is the 12th book in the Lady Emily Mysteries series.

From a distance, the crimson spray coloring the snow looked more like scattered rose petals than evidence of a grisly murder. Upon closer approach, however, the broken body, delicate and graceful, revealed the truth of the scene in its full horror. 

The victim’s pale skin, almost translucent, had been slashed and desecrated in an act of inhumane violence. But even so, her beauty could not be denied.

Perhaps St. Petersburg required elegance even in death.

Lady Emily is enjoying the magic of snowy St. Petersburg, attending balls, high-society dinners, and ballets with her old friend Cécile while her husband, Colin Hargreaves, does his usual shadowy, secretive work as an agent for the English crown. The beauties of Russia have thoroughly charmed the lady detective—right up to the moment she finds a dead prima ballerina lying in the snow. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of Death in St. Petersburg...]

Sep 18 2017 11:00am

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...]

Sep 11 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Gospel of Mary by Philip Freeman

The Gospel of Mary by Philip Freeman is the third book in the Sister Deirdre series, where a young Irish nun finds herself the guardian of a mysterious manuscript claiming to be the lost gospel of Mary and realizes that church authorities are willing to kill to get their hands on it.

I held the end of the fragile scroll in front of the flickering light.

“What does it say?”

“I don’t know yet. It’s not in Greek or Roman letters. It looks like Hebrew—no, Aramaic.”


“Yes, it was the language of Syria and Palestine centuries ago. Father Ailbe taught it to me when I was younger. It was spoken by the Jews and others when the Romans ruled there.”

“Okay, but what does it say?”

“I’m working on it. Give me a moment.”

The writing was so faint that it was hard to make out the letters. But after a minute my eyes adjusted to the low light and the writing style of the scribe. At last I could read the first line.

“No … it can’t be.”

“What? What does it say, Deirdre?”

I took a deep breath, then translated it for Dari:

These are the words of Miryam, mother of Yeshua of Nazareth, the one they call the Christ.

Sister Deirdre is an Irish nun living in Kildare, well versed in many languages. When a dying, desperate nun collapses at her feet and begs her to protect an ancient scroll—“They will be coming.”—the young woman discovers that she holds what claims to be the words of the Holy Mary.

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Gospel of Mary...]

Sep 4 2017 2:00pm

Crimes Against Film: Barb Wire (1996)

THE DEFENDANT: Barb Wire first hit stands as a Dark Horse comic in the early ’90s. A part-time bounty hunter, Barbara Kopetski (aka Barb Wire, played by Pamela Anderson), owns a bar called The Hammerhead in the lawless city of Steel Harbor, the “last free city” in the midst of the second American Civil War. She’s an ass-kicking former freedom fighter turned mercenary who wears a lot of leather.

THE PROSECUTION: Alright, so the movie opens with five straight minutes of a soaking wet Pam Anderson writhing on a stage, bosoms out and proud. Barb Wire is shamelessly soft-core porn amidst the gunfire and explosions. When Anderson isn’t outright naked, she’s in S&M bondage gear.

Yes, Anderson is a pretty atrocious actress. She’s never been popular for her sparkling eloquence or charming personality. The leaden, melodramatic script doesn’t help, either.

[Cheers to over-the-top B-movies!]

Aug 25 2017 2:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting The Shadow

THE SUBGENRE: Comic adaptation.
THE HERO: Playboy millionaire Lamont Cranston, also known as the vigilante superhero, The Shadow.
THE LOVE INTEREST: Socialite Margo Lane.
THE VILLAIN: Shiwan Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan bent on global domination.
THE SETTING: 1930’s New York.

Sometimes passion can lead you into the bad parts of town. Case in point: 1994’s The Shadow.

You’d think a beloved character like The Shadow would be easy to adapt for the big screen. The comics, pulp novels, and radio program were extremely popular for decades. We’ve seen so many of the character’s elements elsewhere (see: Batman, which was heavily influenced by the series). “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” has been a part of the pop culture lexicon for 70 years.

Unfortunately, what we got was pretty much a hot mess.

[Read more about the 1994 film The Shadow...]

Aug 11 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester is set during the dangerous days of World War II, where Honey Deschamps—who spends her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park—starts to receive bizarrely coded packages. When everyone is keeping secrets, who can you trust?

There were two things that separated the Park estate, that sat along the lane from Bletchley station, from others like it. The first was the eight-foot chain-link fence that surrounded the perimeter, topped by curls of barbed wire. The second was the people.

The Park buzzed like a university campus at most times of day, but it was something else to watch at changeover time, which came every eight hours. Quarter to eight in the morning and a patch of land no bigger than the Buckingham Palace grounds would be transformed into the like of London’s Piccadilly Circus. In each direction, to and fro, close to a thousand people poured past the gates, on foot and bicycle, waving papers at the red-capped staff of the Military Police, spilling out of khaki rusting buses and grey jeeps and the glossy black Rollers requisitioned for the purpose. 

You could tell the ones coming off night shift even before they got onto the buses by their faces: brains leeched of energy but still doing the jitterbug overtime. Their clothes would smell of the coke stoves kept inside the Park’s huts. The Wrens—the Women’s Royal Navy Service—could be picked out by their blue uniform, skewed after a night doing whatever furtive and noisy things they did inside the wood walls of Hut 11.

On paper, Honey Deschamps is a typist for the Foreign Office. Her own mother thinks she works in a normal office and does light secretarial work for the war effort. But in truth, Honey works at Bletchley Park: a highly covert place of strict regulations where the brightest minds in England frantically break German and Italian codes in the hope of stopping another bombing, another raid, or another torpedoing. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Amber Shadows...]

Jul 28 2017 12:00pm

Review: Penance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne

Penance of the Damned by Peter TremaynePenance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne is the 27th book in the Sister Fidelma series, set in Ancient Ireland, AD 671 (available July 25, 2017).

“Here we are, bereft of a good friend and counselor, and find his death could plunge the kingdom into unrest and conflict,” Colgú sighed. “Now do you see why it is so important for you to go to the fortress of the Prince of the Uí Fídgente?”

“In other words, you want me to report on the details of the events connected with poor Ségdae’s death. You want a report on who the culprit is, assess if he has been tried fairly, discover a way that we can avoid conflict among the religious, stop any talk of execution and bring the Uí Fídgente religious back to the law of the Brehons.” A wry smile formed around Fidelma’s mouth. “Anything else you wish to ask of me, brother?”

“Sister, I am relying on you and Eadulf. I can sense some mystery here. Something does not quite add up in the facts that have been related to me…”

Seventh-century Ireland is a dangerous place. Peace between kingdoms remains fragile, in danger of breaking into bloody war over the smallest of offenses.

And the murder of a renowned abbot is hardly a small offense.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Penance of the Damned...]

Jul 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: Soul Cage by Tetsuya Honda

Soul Cage by Tetsuya HondaSoul Cage by Tetsuya Honda is the second book in the Lieutenant Himekawa series, where a severed hand, a missing body, and a victim who was living under a false identity all add up to the most complex and challenging case yet for the homicide detective.

Mishima was standing on the scaffolding three windows down. He looked up at a length of scaffolding above his head, stretched out his arm, and applied his wrench to a joint clamp.

He stayed in that position for a while, quite motionless. 

Eventually, Mishima's right foot began to edge silently forward. One centimeter. Two centimeters. Now, just a millimeter or two.

I knew that if I kept watching, chances were I'd yell out before he'd done what he had to do. Which was the last thing I should do—for his sake, more than anyone's.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Soul Cage...]

Jul 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis

The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis is the fifth book in the Flavia Albia series.

My name is Albia, Flavia Albia. I carry out work for troubled people who need answers. I am efficient and discreet. I came to Rome from Britain, which makes me mysterious and exotic. But the bureaucrats knew that, as the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, I could be passed off as a decent, intelligent woman whose mother was a senator's daughter and her father a man of standing in Rome. Wonderfully for the palace, I had just married a well-regarded magistrate—and, as the Daily Gazette said, I would soon be seen nibbling nuts with him among people of the best quality at the Roman Games.

For tricky interviews with highly placed widows, I was ideal.

It's been 20 years since the fall of Nero, and Rome has mostly bounced back from his mad rule. Of course, this being Rome, there's a new tyrant on the throne: Domitian, who can be quite as ruthless and bloody.

Enter our heroine, Flavia Albia. An “informer”—just another way of saying private investigator—following in her adoptive father's footsteps, Albia has plenty on her plate. She's just been married and is settling into a new house, for starters. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Third Nero...]

Jul 5 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris

The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris is a darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities, which is not so much a whodunnit as a blackly comic what-they-did-after-it satire that resonates in a timely way.

Jason turned to walk away. As he did, a doctor came out of the next cubicle. He shot a wary look towards them and departed at speed, but not before informing Andy he was ordering fresh tests for the unknown male.

Jason stopped. “Unknown male?”

“We're sorting it out.”

A quiet bleeping came from the second cubicle and Jason squinted in. A young man lay unconscious, hooked up to a web of oxygen tubes, drips and monitors. He didn't look in a happy state. “Who got it this time?”

“We don't know. That's why we call him an unknown male, Jason. The clue is in the name.”

There was something poignant about the motionless shape. Something Jason couldn't quite pull into focus. “How old?”

“Try cutting him in half and counting the rings.”

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Breaking of Liam Glass...]

Jun 30 2017 12:00pm

Review: Shark Island by Chris Jameson

Shark Island by Chris JamesonIn Shark Island by Chris Jameson, a shark attack survivor believes she has already lived through her worst nightmare—she's dead wrong.

Take a visual tour of Shark Island with GIFnotes!

Hands grab hold of her arms, start to pull, and she turns to see a mop-headed surfer straddling his board. It bumps her again as he drags at her and that's the moment when the worst thing of all happens. Worse than the blood and the tugging and the screams.

It's hope.

Nothing so far has terrified her more than this moment of hope.

She grabs at him, pulls at the wet board, and he's yelling at her to be still, to let him help. Naomi's screams rip from her throat, heart racing so hard that she starts to black out again, and the surfer can see he's got no choice. He drops off the board and into the water, puts a hand under her butt, and tries to hoist her onto the board.

They both see the shark coming back.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Shark Island...]

Jun 7 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg is a new thrilling tale of the great detective’s daughter and her companion Dr. John Watson, Jr. as they investigate a murder at the highest levels of British society.

Take a visual tour of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes with GIFnotes!

Years have passed since the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, passed away peacefully in his sleep. His lifelong friend and crime-solving partner, Dr. Watson, is much grayer and a little stooped, but he still calls 221b Baker Street home—and he's still doing his best to continue Sherlock's work.

“There is a young woman downstairs who wishes to see you, Dr. Watson. Shall I show her up?”

“By all means.”

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes...]

May 22 2017 11:00am

Review: Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie is the 6th and final installment in the Grantchester Mystery series (available May 23, 2017).

Part-time sleuth and full-time priest, Sidney Chambers, is enjoying a beautiful May in 1971. Unfortunately, a peaceful walk gathering flowers with his young daughter, Anna, is ruined when the family discovers a dead body.

Although it was possible the man had died from natural causes, and there was probably a good enough reason for the plants he had been gathering, Sidney could not help but brood on the nature of fate, the chance of discovery and the possible sequence of events that had led up to that moment. He went to his study where he began to pray, seeking some kind of guidance, the beginning of understanding. Was it a sin to be so suspicious so frequently, or was he using the natural intuition that God had given him? Was his role as an accidental detective making him less loving and less effective as a priest?

[Read Angie Barry's review of Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love...]

May 11 2017 2:00pm

Review: The Last Iota by Robert Kroese

The Last Iota by Robert KroeseSet in the world of The Big Sheep, The Last Iota by Robert Kroese delivers another dystopian adventure novel full of wit and intrigue.

When last we saw Blake Fowler and Erasmus Keane—private detectives in a near-future L.A.—they had narrowly escaped a brush with femme fatale Selah Fiore, Hollywood actress-turned-cutthroat-businesswoman, with their lives.

Which makes the opening of their second adventure, The Last Iota, so unexpected. Our heroes have been summoned to a movie set by their erstwhile nemesis—it seems Selah is willing to let bygones be bygones due to a vital job she has for the pair. 

Before she details the exact nature of the job, they get a sneak peak at some movie-making magic:

We weren't watching the real Selah Fiore, of course. Selah Fiore was nearly sixty years old, and the woman on the screen appeared to be closer to thirty. This was Selah from her glory days, circa 2010. The voice was the real Selah's, but the image was a computer-generated facsimile combining Selah's appearance from thirty years ago, the real Selah's facial expressions, and the body of an android stand-in. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Last Iota...]

May 4 2017 12:00pm

Review: A Purely Private Matter by Darcie Wilde

A Purely Private Matter by Darcie Wilde is the 2nd Rosalind Thorne Mystery—inspired by the novels of Jane Austen—which sees the audacious Rosalind strive to aid those in need while navigating the halls of high society.

Regency London has been much romanticized thanks to the BBC and Masterpiece Theater; for most, the setting immediately brings to minds the witty romances of Jane Austen. But life there was not always rosy and romantic for the women of the haute ton. Society was a stifling, constrictive cage for many, and ladies could be ruined at the slightest provocation. 

Such is the case for the glamorous poet Mrs. Margaretta Seymore. Her belligerent husband is threatening to file a suit of “criminal conversation” against her oldest friend, infamous actor Fletcher Cavendish. As women are legally owned by their husbands, any man who interacts with them without the express permission of the husband can be sued for property damage under criminal conversation laws.

[Read Angie Barry's review of A Purely Private Matter...]

May 1 2017 1:00pm

Under the Radar: Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is hearing voices.

Well, a voice. A middle-aged British woman's voice, to be exact. She's narrating everything he thinks, everything he feels, everything he does.

He's beginning to wonder if he isn't going crazy. That would be the logical assumption; given how bland and boring Harold's lonely life is as an IRS agent, he finds it hard to believe that something magical could actually be happening to him.

However, fact can be—as they say—stranger than fiction.

[Hey! That's the title of the movie...]