Review: <i>The Broken Girls</i> by Simone St. James Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review! Review: <i>Death by Dumpling</i> by Vivien Chien Review: Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien Doreen Sheridan Read Doreen Sheridan's review! Review: <i>Second Story Man</i> by Charles Salzberg Review: Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review! <i>Not That I Could Tell</i>: Excerpt Not That I Could Tell: Excerpt Jessica Strawser An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn...
From The Blog
March 19, 2018
Q&A with Christi Daugherty, Author of The Echo Killing
Christi Daugherty and Crime HQ
March 16, 2018
Like Stealing Candy from... "Gumball Bandit" Steals Large Gumball Machine from Sacramento Animal Shelter
Adam Wagner
March 13, 2018
Q&A with Sebastian Rotella, Author of Rip Crew
Sebastian Rotella and John Valeri
March 9, 2018
Murder and Mayhem in Chicago
Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye
March 9, 2018
Robbery with a Chance of Meatballs: Man Steals Meatballs & Gets Caught Red-Handed
Adam Wagner
Showing posts by: Jenny Maloney click to see Jenny Maloney's profile
Mar 12 2018 12:00pm

Review: The Sandman by Lars Kepler

The Sandman by Lars Kepler tells the chilling story of a manipulative serial killer and the two brilliant police agents who must try to beat him at his own game.

Thirteen years ago, Mikael and Felicia Kohler-Frost disappeared and were thought dead—victims of Sweden’s sadistic serial killer Jurek Walter. After his arrest by Detective Inspector Joona Linna, Jurek refused to speak. Mikael and Felicia are declared dead. Time passes. Then, on an icy night over a decade after Jurek’s imprisonment, Mikael—emaciated and suffering from Legionnaire’s disease—stumbles out of the forest. And he has important news: his sister Felicia is alive too.

But Mikael can’t remember where he was held. All he remembers is darkness, a capsule-like door, and a strange man who may or may not be Jurek Walter. Whenever the man arrives, he smells like sand, and Mikael and Felicia fall asleep. Detective Joona Linna always suspected that Jurek Walter had an accomplice. Now, with the appearance of the Sandman, it looks like he was right, and the race is on to save Mikael’s sister.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Sandman...]

Feb 26 2018 4:00pm

Review: The Hush by John Hart

Building on the world first seen in The Last Child, The Hush by John Hart delivers a stunning vision of a secret world, rarely seen (available February 27, 2018).

Take a visual tour of The Hush with GIFnotes!

For 150 years, the Freemantle family has owned the 6,000 acres of North Carolina know as Hush Arbor. But the last male Freemantle heir just died, so the land reverts back to the original owners: the Merrimons. The last Merrimon, Johnny Merrimon—a wild and reclusive young man—lives hermit-like in the Hush, visited only by his childhood best friend, Jack Cross. However, Johnny’s relative peace and Jack’s burgeoning law career are both challenged when Cree Freemantle comes to stake her claim to the land.

Over a century of mysterious rumors surround this tract of land. Men disappearing or driven mad. Geographical features that shift. Majestic creatures shot by trespassers. Johnny, Jack, and Cree find themselves caught up in this web of magic and mystery. As they try to untangle their legal difficulties, they discover they are caught up in something far more sinister than they ever imagined.

The Hush by John Hart is the second novel featuring Johnny Merrimon and his best buddy Jack. They previously appeared as intrepid 13-year-olds in The Last Child. The Hush is a novel that is reminiscent of many Southern Gothic novels: hanging trees, slave graveyards, gritty characters who have seen the inexplicable, and a history that refuses to be buried.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Hush...]

Jan 16 2018 1:00pm

Review: The Weight of an Infinite Sky by Carrie La Seur

The Weight of an Infinite Sky by Carrie La Seur explores the heart and mystery of Big Sky Country in this evocative and atmospheric novel of family, home, love, and responsibility inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

After his father’s surprise death, Anthony Fry—son of cattle ranchers Dean and Sarah Fry—returns home to Billings, Montana, to run a small theater camp and to, ostensibly, help his mother with the ranch. When he arrives, he finds his uncle Neal helping out much more than he ever could. Anthony’s mother and his uncle then proceed to get married … a mere three months after Dean’s death.

The shock of his mother’s remarriage isn’t the only thing playing on Anthony’s mind. A mining company is insisting that he sign away his rights to the ranch so they can strip the ranch land for coal. The love of Anthony’s life—Hilary, who had a nervous breakdown just before he left for New York—is back in town. And teenagers are leaving him love poetry.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Weight of an Infinite Sky...]

Oct 2 2017 3:00pm

Review: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan is the second book in the Detective Jim Clemo series (available October 3, 2017).

Detective Jim Clemo is back on the Bristol police force after six months of enforced counseling. To ease him back into service, he’s given a case that doesn’t seem too difficult on the surface: Noah Sadler, a terminally ill teenager, is found near death in Bristol’s Feeder Canal. There are reports of an altercation. One of only two witnesses to the incident is a woman who was parked rather far away—she claims there was a fight between Noah and the other witness, Abdi Mahad, a Somali refugee and Noah’s best friend.

When Clemo goes to interview Abdi, he finds the boy in shock and unable—or unwilling—to speak about what happened to his best friend. As Clemo delves deeper into the seeming accident, he finds himself in the center of a hotbed of racial political dispute. Abdi is Somali. Noah is British. And somewhere between the two families trying desperately to defend their sons, Detective Clemo has to find the truth of what happened at the Canal. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Odd Child Out...]

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...]

Sep 15 2017 1:00pm

Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan is an electrifying story of love and deceit where parts of a crime writer's latest novel start to blend with things happening in her real life, proving that truth can sometimes be darker than fiction. 

It’s been awhile since crime writer Liza Cole has had a bestseller, and now she has a great idea—but there are a couple snags in her personal life making writing difficult. Her husband’s best friend and law partner has disappeared, last seen by the East River. Fertility issues were already making it hard to have a baby, and now her husband is too distracted by the investigation into his best friend’s disappearance to spend time with her. Liza finds solace and escape in the one thing that has always worked for her: writing. 

She creates a new story about Beth. Beth is a new mother whose lawyer husband is cheating on her with a co-worker. In a fit of rage, Beth kills her husband’s mistress and dumps her … in the East River. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Lies She Told...]

Aug 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: Stolen by Allison Brennan

Stolen by Allison Brennan is the sixth Lucy Kincaid novel, told from the point of view of her boyfriend, Sean Rogan, as he attempts to help the FBI, clear his own name, and keep it all from Lucy.

Lucy Kincaid is knee-deep in training at the FBI Academy. While she’s busy learning the ropes, her boyfriend—private investigator and computer whiz Sean Rogan—is trying to keep life as normal as possible. But Sean has never lived a normal life, and now his past is catching up with him. When a former “associate” approaches him with a job offer, it’s the FBI and Agent Noah Armstrong—Lucy’s mentor—who insist he takes the job as part of a sting operation. 

Sean reluctantly takes on the assignment. He must convince his old college circle—a group of “hacktivists” (hackers who expose corporate and government cover-ups)—to trust him in their current attempt to expose a pharmaceutical company who may be poisoning leukemia patients and gain information on a United States Senator’s involvement, all while toeing the line with the FBI to avoid jail time for his own past misdeeds. And he needs to keep all of this from Lucy.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Stolen...]

Aug 9 2017 1:00pm

Review: Silenced by Allison Brennan

Silenced by Allison Brennan is the fourth Lucy Kincaid novel, where the new analyst for the FBI must track down two sisters who might hold the key to a political corruption scandal and a recent string of murders.

It starts with the murder of a Congressman’s mistress. Wendy James is found in a park, strangled. Lucy Kincaid, now an analyst for the FBI—while waiting to start the FBI Academy at Quantico—is called in as part of the investigating team. Very quickly, it becomes obvious that Wendy was involved in something much larger than a single affair with a politician. Blackmail. High-powered men caught on tape with prostitutes. And now those young prostitutes are dying around Washington, D.C. Kincaid needs to find out who is involved and who is responsible before more women end up dead.

Then, the situation becomes much more complicated. One of the girls in Wendy’s ring of call girls, Ivy, has survived molestation by her father and is desperate to keep her younger sister from suffering the same abuse. Ivy rescued her sister—what the law calls “kidnapping”—and will do anything to keep her hidden. However, Ivy has seen the murderer, knows the major players involved, and is a key witness. Kincaid must find Ivy before the killer does. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Silenced...]

Jul 31 2017 1:00pm

Review: Maximum Exposure by Allison Brennan

Maximum Exposure by Allison Brennan is the prequel novella to the Maxine Revere series, which introduces the tough-as-nails investigative reporter.

Maxine Revere doesn’t approach the cases she writes about lightly. Still suffering from the unsolved disappearance and probable death of her college roommate, how could she? So when Adele Sheldon, the mother of missing college student Scott Sheldon, calls Max for help, Max agrees. Using her own money, Max flies out to Colorado Springs, Colorado (my hometown!), and jumps into the investigation—if it can even be called an investigation—of Scott’s disappearance. 

Six months earlier, Scott had gone camping with three friends. According to the three young men, Scott had gotten angry about something and wandered off. They were vague about the argument, and they didn’t report Scott missing until returning to their college a couple of days later. During that time, a large winter storm had blown in. When Max arrives, Scott has been missing six months. She suspects Scott is dead. Still, she very much wants to bring closure to Scott’s family.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Maximum Exposure...]

Jul 18 2017 11:00am

Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown by B. A. ParisThe Breakdown by B. A. Paris is the next chilling, propulsive book from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors (available July 18, 2017).

Take a visual tour of The Breakdown—one of the most anticipated thrillers of 2017! 

It all begins on a dark and stormy night—a good night to try and get home fast. Despite warnings from her husband to take the longer-but-safer route, Cass decides to take a shortcut. With the rain beating against her windshield, it’s hard to see the road in front of her. She barely sees the car stopped on the side of the road, but when she does, she pulls over briefly and waits to see if the driver will come over to her. When the driver remains in her car, Cass moves on. 

The next day, the news breaks: a woman has been murdered. A woman in a parked car on the side of the road. A woman Cass passed by. A woman Cass knows. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Breakdown...]

Jun 30 2017 3:00pm

Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine is a chilling thriller about what happens to the family of a serial killer and their struggles as the rest of the world continue to judge them as responsible for the killer's atrocities (available July 1, 2017).

On one normal day, Gina Royal is just picking her kids up from school and returning home. Simple. Straightforward. Nothing special. But her street is blocked off, swarmed by police officers. Someone, probably a drunk driver, has slammed his vehicle into her husband’s garage. There’s a gaping hole where the wall used to be, allowing everyone to see clearly what is inside: the body of a dead woman hanging from the ceiling. 

Gina, as unsuspecting as the rest of the world, finds herself charged as an accessory to her husband’s crimes. She suffers through a trial of her own. (She’s acquitted.) But the world is not as “innocent until proven guilty” as she would hope, and the internet is a dangerous place. With threats of physical violence hounding herself and her children, Gina goes into hiding. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Stillhouse Lake...]

Jun 8 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Himalayan Codex by Bill Schutt & J. R. Finch

The Himalayan Codex by Bill Schutt & J. R. Finch follows zoologist and adventurer Captain R. J. MacCready as he is sent to the frozen mountain valleys of Tibet to find a creature of legend that may hold the secret to humankind's evolutionary future—or the key to its extinction.

1946. The Himalayas. In one of the most inhospitable environments in the world, zoologist R. J. MacReady—Mac—and two companions set out to explore ancient evidence of an undetermined species. After crashing their helicopter, the small group of explorers find themselves stranded in the snowy heights of this dangerous mountain range. And they’re not alone. 

Rumors of the abominable snowmen—the Yeti—have survived for centuries in this part of the world. MacReady and his team are now face to face with the reality of these rumors. Huge, organized creatures capable of building snow cities, with fur like polar bears but seeming strangely human and capable of a whistling language perfectly suited to this harsh world. MacReady suspected these creatures existed, but he finds himself hardly prepared for their actuality—or what else is out there.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Himalayan Codex...]

May 10 2017 1:00pm

Review: A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is the 1st novel in the enticing new historical Sam Wyndham crime series set in colonial-era Calcutta, India, where a newly arrived Scotland Yard detective is confronted with the murder of a British official.

1919. Scotland Yard detective Sam Wyndham survived the trenches of the Great War but lost his wife Sarah to influenza. He sinks into a depression that he medicates with opium. So, when the opportunity to head to Calcutta, India, presents itself, Wyndham has nothing to lose. He accepts a position on the police force—and immediately lands in the middle of a politically charged murder investigation. 

Alexander MacCauley, an aid to the Lieutenant Governor of Calcutta, is discovered mutilated in a gutter just outside a brothel. And, as if that situation were not scandalous enough, there is a note found in his mouth: “No more warnings. English blood will run in the streets. Quit India!” Now, Wyndham has to find the murderer before outright rebellions breaks out. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of A Rising Man...]

Apr 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex by Alafair Burke follows a woman who agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but she begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Olivia Randall, a top New York defense attorney, and Jack Harris, bestselling fiction author, broke it off years ago—before either of them were at the top of their game. The fallout from that break-up has haunted each one of them for years, but they have kept their distance. 

Then, Jack is accused of a multiple-victim shooting. Gunshot residue is found on his shirt, video surveillance has him in the area at the time of the shooting, and one of the victims was involved in the death of Jack’s wife. So he has motive, opportunity, and a growing pile of evidence against him. He desperately needs help. The best. 

Re-enter Olivia Randall. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she knows Jack couldn’t have done such a horrible, violent act. She decides to represent him—partly because her gut tells her he’s innocent and partly to assuage the guilt that has gnawed at her for years after their break-up. But as the circumstances surrounding the shooting become clearer, Olivia’s faith in Jack becomes murkier. Is the man she once loved capable of murder after all?

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Ex...]

Apr 16 2017 12:00pm

Review: Three Envelopes by Nir Hezroni

Three Envelopes by Nir HezroniThree Envelopes by Nir Hezroni delves into the twisted mind of a rogue agent in the Israeli intelligence agency and his mysterious plot for revenge.

The secret to Three Envelopes by Nir Hezroni is: do not trust anyone.

When Avner—a supervising agent for a group known only as the Organization—receives an envelope containing a notebook kept by one of his most notorious field agents, Agent 10483, he knows trouble is not far behind. 10483 was highly unstable. It was almost a blessing when he died ten years ago. Now—with the arrival of this notebook—Avner realizes the psychopathic 10483 might be alive and hunting down members of the Organization.

Three Envelopes is a new, exciting novel from Israeli writer Nir Hezroni. With its international settings, multiple viewpoints, and detailed timeline, this story rewards readers who pay attention to details. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Three Envelopes...]

Apr 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie is an explosive thriller debut that introduces Peter Ash, a veteran who finds that the demons of war aren’t easily left behind. It's nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

When Peter Ash returns home from war, he just wants everything to be normal. But it isn’t. Every time he tries to enter an enclosed space—a house, an office—he hears “white static.” If he remains indoors too long, his shoulders begin to cramp and breathing becomes difficult; it feels like he’s catching the flu. So instead of trying to fit into an urban society, Peter strikes out into the wilderness. He sleeps under the stars, hunts his own food, and lets the world go on turning.

Until a park ranger finds him to tell him that best friend and fellow Marine James Johnson is dead. Peter packs up his things and heads back into civilization to help Jimmy’s widow, Dinah. His first task is to repair the sagging front porch. Amid the rotting cardboard boxes and detritus, Peter finds his first surprise: a huge, stinking, ugly dog who wants to eat him. 

After that, he finds the suitcase. In the suitcase is cash. And explosives. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Drifter...]

Apr 4 2017 1:00pm

Review: A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum

A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum is part coming-of-age story, part cold-case murder mystery set in a small town in Ohio. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

When Travis Baron was just five months old, his mother disappeared. She was last seen jumping from a pleasure boat into the Ohio River just before a barge rammed into the boat, destroying whatever traces of her that investigators may have found later. Amanda Baron’s death leaves a gaping hole in Travis’s life. He’s raised by an angry, bitter single father who erases every trace of Amanda from their lives. 

Fast-forward to high school. Travis is an A+ student, a cross-country running star, and an incredibly lonely young man. Determined to find out about his past, he recruits his best friend, Mitch Malone, into “Project Amanda”—their codename for Travis’s attempt to find out anything about his mother. But what starts out as an attempt to know his mother quickly turns into an amateur cold-case investigation when they discover a news article declaring that Amanda’s disappearance was looked into as a homicide. As the boys dig deeper, they find a lot of secrets tangled up in the lives of the men and women in Brilliant, Ohio.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of A Brilliant Death...]

Mar 23 2017 12:00pm

Review: The New York Times Book of Crime, Edited by Kevin Flynn

The New York Times Book of Crime, edited by Kevin Flynn, is a thorough collection of history's greatest crimes covered by one of the top news sources of all time.

The title says 166 Years of Covering the Beat, and nothing makes that clearer than the opening chapter: “Assassination.” This compilation of articles is kicked off by an 1865 article on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening. The breakdown of the crime and its aftermath serves as the starting point for a very thorough and interesting exploration of The New York Times’ journalism on some of the most fascinating crimes in history. 

Editor Kevin Flynn has gathered the stories with the largest impact of the past century and a half. Each chapter depicts a different kind of crime: assassination, heists, kidnappings, mass murder, the mob, murder, prison, serial killers, sex crimes, vice, and white collar criminal activity all get their moment on the page. And every page is covered by some of the best journalists who have ever lived. You want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the biggest news stories in the last 166 years as presented at the time they happened? Then this book is for you. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The New York Times Book of Crime...]

Mar 16 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Return by Joseph Helmreich

The Return: A Novel by Joseph HelmreichThe Return by Joseph Helmreich will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered ... what’s out there?

What begins as an astrological fluff piece for a local news station—a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice—becomes an international sensation when renowned physicist Andrew Leland is pulled into the sky by a strange green light. It’s the first proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life and the first alien kidnapping to be televised. 

Fast-forward a few years later: the world gets an influx of alien invasion films, students change majors to focus on science, and then Andrew Leland reappears in a New Mexico desert—emaciated, bearded, and apparently with no memory of what happened to him. He disappears soon afterward. 

Except Shawn Ferris, brilliant physics student at Brown University, believes that Leland does remember his experiences and needs to share his story with the world. Via online chat groups, Shawn finds the answer he’s looking for: the address where Leland supposedly lives. But when Shawn arrives to speak to his idol, he finds more than he bargained for. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of The Return...]

Feb 1 2017 3:00pm

4 Reasons You Should Read J.D. Robb ... According to My Mom

As you may have noticed, we—the reviewers here at Criminal Element—are happily gorging ourselves on J.D. Robb’s In Death series in preparation for the upcoming release of Echoes in Death. But there’s an important voice you need to hear if we’re going to talk seriously about J.D. Robb: my mom’s.   

When you walk into my mom’s house, you go straight into the living room (it’d probably be called a “formal living room” if my mom was a “formal living room” kinda gal … which she isn’t), and the first thing you see is a large entertainment center. You see the normal entertainment center kinda things: television, the entire series of NCIS, and other movies/shows that don’t star Mark Harmon or Michael Weatherly. 

But one thing you will notice very quickly is, along the top shelf of the entertainment center, the entire series of J.D. Robb’s In Death novels on full display—from number one to number whatever-number-J.D. Robb-is-up-to-by-the-time-of-this-writing. (That’s 44 in February once Echoes in Death comes out.)

[Mom knows best...]