<i>Twelve Days</i>: Excerpt Twelve Days: Excerpt Steven Barnes A paranormal thriller about a family who struggles against a plot to unleash global genocide. Review: <i>Lowcountry Bonfire</i> by Susan M. Boyer Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer John Valeri Read John Valeri's review! Review: <i>Indigo</i> by Charlaine Harris Review: Indigo by Charlaine Harris Doreen Sheridan Read Doreen Sheridan's review! <i>Blackmail</i>: Excerpt Blackmail: Excerpt Rick Campbell A bold military and political strike by the Russian government leaves the U.S. reeling.
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Showing posts by: Ardi Alspach click to see Ardi Alspach's profile
Jun 22 2017 4:30pm

Beyond Reasonable Doubt: “The Murdered Bride” Episode Review

HLN, a channel affiliated with CNN, has released their first acquired produced content (Nutopia) in Beyond Reasonable Doubt, and true crime fans should rejoice at this news! The first three episodes in this six-part series have already aired and are available On Demand. The next episode, “The Murdered Bride,” airs on HLN on June 25th at 8 pm ET/PT, and it’s definitely not too late to start watching.

Each episode in this series is an in-depth look into one high-profile case from the past century that remained unsolved until advances in forensic science and technology shed new light on old evidence. In “The Murdered Bride,” it was advances in DNA profiling that turned things around. The investigators were heading in one direction when the search came to a dead end. Evidence was lacking, and there were no clear suspects in the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen.

[Learn more about Beyond Reasonable Doubt...]

May 25 2017 4:30pm

Review: Netflix’s True Crime Documentary The Keepers

The story begins with two retired women who come together to try to solve the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, their former high school teacher. It sounds like the premise of a cute cozy mystery, but this story is anything but cozy. It’s a tale of abuse, pedophilia, cover-ups by the Catholic Church, and forbidden love, as this explosive documentary uncovers layer after layer of secrets across seven episodes.

The first episode introduces us to the facts of the case. It’s a chilling overview of an unsolved murder of a Catholic nun in a small town outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The physical evidence was almost non-existent at the time, and the two women—Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins, former classmates at Archbishop Keough High School—attempt to find out what happened to their beloved teacher.

[Who killed Sister Cathy?]

May 15 2017 1:00pm

Review: HBO’s True Crime Documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest

If you’re looking for a quick bit of interesting true crime and don’t have time for the long docuseries that have become popular lately, look no further that HBO’s newest, Mommy Dead and Dearest, premiering tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.

This new documentary focuses on the relationship between Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blancharde and the controversial psychological condition of Munchausen by proxy syndrome that led to Dee Dee’s murder.

On June 15, 2015, Dee Dee Blancharde was found murdered in her home in Springfield, Missouri, with no clues about who could have committed such a horrible crime. Worse yet, her wheelchair-bound daughter, Gypsy Rose, was missing. Shortly after the grisly discovery, a Facebook post on Dee Dee and Gypsy’s shared profile stating, “That Bitch is dead,” led investigators to Wisconsin where they found Gypsy living with her boyfriend, Nick Godejohn. What was most astonishing to the investigators, and to friends and family of the Blanchardes, is that Gypsy could walk without a problem.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Mommy Dead and Dearest...]

Apr 24 2017 1:00pm

Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden

Ararat by Christopher Golden is the heart-pounding tale of an adventure that goes wrong—on a biblical scale.

Personally, I can’t think of a more interesting mystery than an historical one—unsolved mysteries from our past tantalize as historians, scholars, scientists, and writers dig for clues and come up with plausible scenarios for what might have happened—and I think Biblical mysteries, most of all, are incredibly interesting. It’s where science and faith intersect for a common goal: to prove the existence of God. Chistopher Golden’s latest novel, Ararat, delves into the mystery of Noah’s Ark and puts a thrilling, and at times horrific, twist on the myth.

Adam and Meryam are an adventurous couple engaged to be married when they get word from their Turkish mountain friend, Feyiz, that an avalanche has uncovered a geologically impossible cave on Mount Ararat. Although scholars agree that the references to the “mountains of Ararat” in the Bible are not referring to the Ararat we know today, it has still been long speculated that this mountain in far eastern Turkey is the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Ararat...]

Apr 20 2017 2:00pm

Review: Incendiary by Michael Cannell

Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling by Michael Cannell follows a serial bomber who stalked the streets of 1950s New York and details the race to catch him that would give birth to a new science called criminal profiling (available April 25, 2017).

The concept of criminal profiling is not new to those of us who read crime fiction or watch TV shows such as Law & Order and Criminal Minds, but I’m willing to bet that the landmark case that ushered forth criminal profiling as a new method of crime-solving is relatively unknown. Even more startling, given the ubiquity of the method, is how new it is. It wasn’t until 1956 that a psychiatrist provided the first “reverse psychology” profile using a combination of intuition and Freudian concepts that helped police pinpoint the suspect of a string of bombings after all other clues failed them.

In 1956, Elvis Presley was topping the charts, Eisenhower was President of the United States, Mickey Mantle was playing baseball for the New York Yankees, Nelson Mandela was arrested in South Africa, and my own mother had her first birthday. In the grand scheme of things, criminal profiling hasn’t been around that long. And it’s hard to imagine where we’d be today without it.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Incendiary...]

Apr 15 2017 1:00pm

Review: Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry is a riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry is up for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and what a well-deserved nomination indeed. Others have compared this novel to the wildly popular Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and while there are some similarities—most particularly the unreliable narrator trope—its unique style of writing, which both obscures and reveals, creates its own path that sets it above others in an increasingly crowded field of psychological thrillers.

Our narrator Nora begins her story—told in close, first person present—by taking the train from London into the countryside to visit her sister, Rachel. Upon entering the house, however, she discovers the brutally murdered bodies of her sister and her sister’s dog. The imagery, some of the first we see in this novel, is disturbing and haunts both Nora and the reader throughout the rest of the book.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Under the Harrow...]

Mar 21 2017 1:00pm

Review: Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love is an astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White.

Melissa Scrivner Love has written an absolutely remarkable and completely unforgettable heroine in Lola, the titular character of Love’s debut thriller. It should come as no surprise—given Love’s accomplishments in screenwriting for television shows like Life, CSI: Miami, and Person of Interest—that this novel is well-paced, expertly plotted, and cinematic in scope. There is nothing predictable here, as Lola fights for a place in the male-dominated gang culture of South Central LA.

There are only five living members of the Crenshaw Six, a new gang fighting for territory and respect. Pretty soon, they’ve caught the eye of a major drug cartel and are tasked with stealing from a rival cartel in order to prove their worth. We discover that Garcia, the gang’s supposed leader, is a front for the real leader of the Six—Lola. She’s a smart, inventive woman who has figured out how to lead a gang and gain respect for them not by using brute force, but by using cunning and men’s assumptions about a woman’s place in this society. She can go more places, hear more things, and spy on her rivals because they all have made the mistake of underestimating her. It’s brilliant.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Lola...]

Mar 16 2017 1:00pm

Q&A with Lyndsay Faye, Author of The Whole Art of Detection

Lyndsay Faye is the author of five critically acclaimed books: Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper; The Gods of Gotham, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel; Seven for a Secret; The Fatal Flame; and Jane Steele. Her latest work is a collection of short stories called The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, out this month.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Mar 9 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye is a stunning collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories inspired by the original Arthur Conan Doyle classics.

The Whole Art of Detection is such a remarkably well-done pastiche of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories that it does indeed feel like lost mysteries written by Conan Doyle himself, as the subtitle suggests. Lindsay Faye expertly channels Watson’s voice as official biographer of the famous detective, and this collection would not be out of place among the very best stories of Sherlock Holmes.

The spirited banter of Holmes and Watson hits the reader right away, as this example from the first two pages of the first story, “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness,” shows:

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of The Whole Art of Detection...]

Feb 2 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe

The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe is a spellbinding combination of memoir and psychological suspense where a female journalist chronicles her unusual connection with a convicted serial killer and her search to understand the darkness inside us.

The story begins as any true crime story might—a reporter writes a letter to a criminal in prison. But this isn’t just any reporter or any criminal. It’s a woman on the edge of a dark obsession and a black serial killer with a preference for women who look just like Claudia. This isn’t a cat and mouse game—sometimes the mouse is clever enough to get away. This really is a spider building a web and a fly who gets caught with no chance for escape.

Claudia Rowe is a stringer for the New York Times when this story begins. She’s on the crime beat in Poughkeepsie, NY when she hears about women who keep disappearing. She’s poised to chase down all the leads, investigate the families, and talk to the police when she learns that the killer has confessed.

The killer is Kendall Francois, and the confession is a bit of a shock as he wasn’t on anyone’s radar for murder. When Rowe begins to exchange letters with Kendall, she has no idea how much of an impact it would ultimately have on her life.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of The Spider and the Fly...]

Jan 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: HBO’s Beware the Slenderman (2017)

I want you to go back in time for a moment and try to remember when you were twelve. You would have been in the fifth or sixth grade then, and if your childhood was anything like mine, you'd remember that middle school was a pretty brutal time. It's when hormones start flooding our systems and muddling our brains. Popularity is more important than it ever has been before, especially for girls, and sometimes we'd do anything just to fit in and be accepted.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, two twelve year old girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin, felt the burdens of loneliness and unpopularity keenly. For them, the only escape was the internet. When they found friendship in each other through a common interest in the online fable of Slenderman, their parents were relieved. Little did they know, the combination of loneliness, mental illness, and the general susceptibility of children would have violent consequences.

[Beware the Slenderman...]

Dec 12 2016 2:00pm

Review: Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Ardi Alspach reviews #3, Immortal in Death.

Immortal in Death, the 3rd installment of the In Death series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas, is a thrilling and complicated crime story that I’d argue is the best in the series so far. Robb gets better and better as each book comes along, giving hope that this series will only continue to improve and get more thrilling over time.

The theme of this novel is trust. Relationships are evolving, as we see more of Eve’s personal life become entwined with her work. Her best friend—the wild and crazy singer Mavis—has a new love: Leonardo. Unfortunately, Leonardo is not without baggage.

As an up-and-coming fashion designer, Leonardo has been relying on the biggest model of the time, Pandora, to support his new fashion show. Pandora happens to be an ex-lover of his, and she doesn’t take kindly to being replaced in Leonardo’s affections by Mavis. After Pandora and Mavis are seen fighting, Pandora ends up dead in Leonardo’s apartment, and Mavis’s prints are all over the crime scene. Can Mavis trust Dallas to clear her name?

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Immortal in Death...]

Dec 9 2016 2:00pm

Review: Glory in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Ardi Alspach reviews #2, Glory in Death.

Eve Dallas is back in Glory in Death—the thrilling follow up to Naked In Death and the second book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series—and this time, things get personal.

She’s now New York City’s most well-known detective after solving a high-profile murder case involving a senator and some major sex scandals, and she’s discovering that being in the spotlight is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her relationship with Roarke continues to be rocky, as the two of them try to reconcile their feelings while battling trust issues and shadows from their pasts. Eve is called to work on another high-profile case, this time involving the city’s star prosecutor.

She blocked it out. What choice did she have? The job came first. Had to come first. If she wasn’t a good cop, she was nothing. She was as empty and helpless as the child she had been, lying broken and traumatized in a dark alley in Dallas.

She could bury herself in her work. The demands and pressures of it. When she was standing in Commander Whitney’s office, she was only a copy with murder on her hands.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Glory in Death...]

Dec 8 2016 1:00pm

Review: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Ardi Alspach reviews #1, Naked in Death.

Nora Roberts, the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writer’s Association Hall of Fame, might be one of the most prolific romance and mystery writers of our time. With over 200 novels in print, she’s gearing up to release the highly anticipated 44th novel in the Eve Dallas series, Echoes in Death, written under her pseudonym J.D. Robb

The Eve Dallas series—also known as the In Death series—is a police procedural set in a science-fictional future New York City, featuring episodic-style crimes that are set up and solved in each novel while focusing on the developing relationship between the title character, Eve, and her lover, Roarke, over its entirety. With the latest novel in the series, Echoes in Death, due out in February, it’s time to take a look back at where it all began—with Naked In Death, published in 1995.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Naked in Death...]

Sep 19 2016 2:00pm

Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is a deliciously creepy horror novel that has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion (Available September 20, 2016).

In May of last year, Hachette Book Group announced the launch of a new children’s imprint, JIMMY Patterson Books, as a part of thriller master James Patterson’s initiatives to encourage kids to become life-long readers. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is both the first novel Mr. Patterson acquired and the first YA novel for the imprint—and it does not disappoint.

When we first meet Audrey Rose Wadsworth, she’s in the midst of slicing open a corpse in her uncle’s laboratory. It’s August of 1888, and this is not an activity that women of that age are normally engaged in—especially when they are only 17 and have yet to come out to society. This is the perfect introduction, however, to the bright young protagonist and her very independent and fearless ways. I love how Maniscalco uses strong visual imagery throughout to further highlight that fearlessness as well:

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Stalking Jack the Ripper...]

Sep 12 2016 3:00pm

Review: Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson is a richly atmospheric Victorian crime novel, set in crumbling 1850s London infirmary, where murder is the price to be paid for secrets kept (Available September 13, 2016).

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson is a beautifully dark portrait of Victorian London that I believe Charles Dickens would feel right at home in. The dingy, dismal streets and crumbling infirmary are vividly wrought and provide the perfect backdrop for the sensational murder of a controversial doctor as well as the unraveling of many dark secrets.

The characters are vivid with their colorful and often larger-than-life personalities and feel as if they’ve stepped right off the pages of the penny dreadfuls that were popular during that time. Our narrator Jem Flockhart, for instance, is a woman who has lived her whole life in disguise. Her father has no male heirs and insists that she pretend to be a man so she can inherit his apothecary business after his death. This becomes the least of her concerns, however, when the ancient infirmary that houses the apothecary is slated for demolition, threatening her livelihood.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Beloved Poison...]

Jul 7 2016 12:00pm

Review: A Killing in Amish Country by Gregg Olsen & Rebecca Morris

New York Times bestselling authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris investigate the 2009 death of a young Amish wife and mother. Faith, sex, and betrayal feature prominently as Olsen and Morris uncover the truth about who murdered the devout Barbara Weaver in her own bed.

I recently spent Memorial Day weekend visiting family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—one of the largest enclaves of the Amish population in America. It’s a charming and bucolic place, filled with rolling farmland, cattle, picturesque farmhouses and barns, and laundry lines filled with the traditional black attire of the Amish swaying in the breeze. It’s not out of place to see black horse-drawn buggies share space in traffic with soccer-mom SUVs and farm trucks.

The largest population of Amish immigrated to Ohio from Pennsylvania, and I imagine the scene is not much different. Handmade quilts and furniture for sale in markets that aren’t wired for electricity and large families where everyone helps out, even the littlest ones.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of A Killing in Amish Country...]

Jun 7 2016 12:00pm

Review: A Golden Cage by Shelley Freydont

A Golden Cage by Shelley Freydont is the 2nd Newport Gilded Age Mystery, where headstrong heiress Deanna Randolph must solve another murder among the social elite (Available today!).

A Golden Cage is the 2nd novel in the Newport Gilded Age Mystery series by Shelley Freydont, and I am pleased to say that this novel stands alone.

As implied by the series title, this novel is set in Newport, Rhode Island—a town that was a popular vacation spot for the elite during the late nineteenth century. Here, we follow events from two points of view—Deanna Randolph and Joe Ballard—providing insight and access to both the male society as well as the female one, which is important in an era where women do not share the same freedoms as men.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of A Golden Cage here...]