The Winners of the 2016 Edgar Awards Are…


Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards!


Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)


The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)


The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins)


“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)


Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)


A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins Publishers – Katherine Tegen Books)


“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)


“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)


Walter Mosley


Margaret Kinsman
Sisters in Crime


Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International

* * * * * *

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER – MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARDLittle Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)

*The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.
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Officer, Please Button Your Shirt and Zip Up Your Pants!


Working the graveyard shift was always a thorn in my side, and the reason for the ill will boils down to the simple fact that I like to sleep when the rest of the humans I know are sleeping. Yes, I too, like to go to bed when the moon is in the sky, when birds are roosting, and when sweet, darling burglars are out and about plying their trade.

If, by design, man should earn a living at the time when bats are flitting, fluttering, and circling streetlights, well, we’d most certainly have leathery wings and would sit down to plates of steaming hot mosquitos for our evening meals. We’d have built-in night vision, and we’d enjoy long walks in cemeteries. So yeah, in spite of once being a hardcore night person who for many years played guitar in bands that performed in dive bars and clubs across the south, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open once the clock struck 4 a.m. That particular time, of course, was the precise moment when the sandman began to tug downward on the invisible strings attached to my eyelids. I prefer to sleep AT NIGHT. Thank you very much.

But, being a person who truly enjoyed receiving a regular paycheck, at 11 p.m. each night of the midnight shift rotation, I’d shower and shave and then begin the process of transforming from gardener, cook, dad, husband, neighbor, repairman, mechanic, and carpenter, into the police officer known to the citizens on my watch. By the way, this metamorphosis must be completed in near silence because your family is fast asleep and dreaming of unicorns and fairies and happy thoughts of not having to go to work or school in the middle of the night.

So, after a dab of Old Spice to cool the sensitive post-shave cheeks, came the installation of proper undergarments—boxers, briefs, or whatever bottom-huggers were your preference, if any. This step also includes putting on a pair of anaconda-strength, calf-crushing socks that’re designed to never slip downward. After all, there are not many things worse than having your socks inch toward your ankles while you’re sprinting through backyards and alleys trying to catch the guy who just robbed the clerk at Billy’s BBQ and Butt-Waxing Emporium.

Also included in the installation of the “unmentionables,” was donning a cooling t-shirt. These handy articles of clothing are designed to wick moisture, ward off humidity, and reduce the beneath-the-Kevlar temperature to a manageable 2,000 degrees instead of the typical “bake-a-loaf-of-bread-in-under-two-seconds” heat every officer endures on a daily basis, especially the men and women who work in areas of extreme humidity.

The type of trousers officers wear depends upon their assignment and/or department policy. For now, let’s put our feet, legs, and rear end into a pair of those fancy polyether pants, the ones with the sporty racing stripes that stretch from waist to ankle on the outside of each leg. That material is as slick and odd-feeling as eel snot when the eel is suffering from a bad summer cold.

Once the pants are on it’s best to leave them unfastened until tucking the front and rear tails of the vest carrier (the material that holds the Kevlar panels in place) into your trousers. I knew several officers who also tucked the tails of their undershirts into their underwear to prevent the loose material from riding up and going all wonky beneath the vest. A dress belt is slipped through each of the pant loops (more on this belt in a moment).

After the pants are in place it’s time for the shiny shoes, which, by the way, are fabricated from some sort of space-age stay-shiny-all-the-time material. The days of shoe-shining, thankfully, went out with the round red bubblegum lights perched on the tops of patrol cars. Although, I sort of missed shining my own shoes because the scent of shoe polish was sort of comforting, much like the cooking smells at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

I say now is the time to put on the shoes because it’s far easier to do so BEFORE putting on the Kevlar vest, a contraption that hinders bending over, taking deep breaths, and scratching those pesky itches that always occur the moment the vest is strapped in place.

This thing, “the vest,” a life-saving piece of gear for sure, is like strapping two chunks of dense clay to your chest and back. You slip the thing over your head, taking care to not whack yourself in the noggin, a blow that could induce instananeous unconsciousness. Heaven forbid you should wake the rest of the family when your body hits the floor, right? Anyway, a quick pull on the velcro straps while mashing the hooks and loops together, and then you’re ready to reach for the shirt.

The uniform shirt, a billboard of sorts that advertises an officer’s rank, length of  time in service, conduct status, how well they shoot, and even their name in case a safe-space-rock-tossing protester for the cause du jour wants to include it in the latest social media video, is the most complicated garment of them all. And that’s due to those various pins, medals, and badges that must be arranged and fastened in their respective places. It helps to do all of this in advance because it’s a bit tedious and time-consuming.

There’s a spot on the shirt that’s designed specifically for the badge. It’s easy to spot due to the two permanently sewn-in badge tabs which help prevent excessive wear and tear on the material caused by daily pinning and unpinning. The shirts also feature permanent sewn-in military creases, stiff collar stays, and a slick, stain-resistant finish for repelling blood, grime, and other “goop” that could find it’s way onto the material during a scuffle or bad burrito spill. Some uniform shirts are also fitted with zip-up fronts, in which case the zippers are covered by a thin strip of vertical material and row of buttons that serve no purpose other than to give the appearance that they’re used to button-up the shirt. Zippered shirts are great because bad guys cannot rip and pop the buttons during a friendly “encounter.”

Here’s an example of some do-dads worn by officers.

From top to bottom:

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (in our area, to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

– FTO pin issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia (many years ago).

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.

So, with all articles of the uniform in place, you are now in position to tuck the tails of the vest carrier into the pants, button up, zip up, close up, buckle the dress belt, and then add the final piece to the puzzle…the gun belt.

Gun belts wrap around the waist, hook in the front, and are attached to the dress belt to hold it in place. Belt keepers are are used to connect the gun belt to the dress belt. Their purpose is to prevent the gun belt from falling down around the ankles, an act that could cause a bit of embarrassment, and make drawing the weapon extremely difficult.

Two belt keepers, between the two handcuff cases, loop over both the gun belt and the dress belt. They’re held together by the two pairs of silver snaps pictured here. Some keepers have only one snap. Belt keepers are worn in various locations around the belt. Specific placement and the number of keepers used is up to the officer and depends upon where support is needed.

So, once the officer is properly attired and outfitted, it’s time to tiptoe out the front door, taking care to not wake anyone. However, the leather creaks, keys, jingle, shoes squeak, and the radio crackles. But you look fantastic, even with the trail of toilet tissue stuck to the bottom of one super-shiny shoe. It’s a shame, though, that all the clunky and heavy gear and care you put into looking sharp and dressing sharp prevents you from bending over to far enough to remove it.

So, you make your first split-second decision of the night. The toilet tissue stays and off you go.

Hopefully, somewhere between eight and twelve hours later the sweaty and exhausted officer, the one with the wrinkled and rumpled uniform, will return home where he/she will begin the process in reverse…and then try to sleep when the sun is high in the sky, the streetlights are off, and while the rest of the family is banging and clanging around the house, the TV is blaring, the neighbor is mowing his lawn, a mockingbird is singing its ass off in the tree next to their window, and the dog is licking their face.

Oh, and let’s not forget trying to drift off to sleep while thoughts of the auto crashes, shooting and stabbing victims, pursuits, fights, and battered kids and women all are flashing through their minds.

Yeah, sweet dreams…



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Castle: Dead Again – A Sad Cop/Bad Cop Review


Why the hell won’t you die?” ~ Crook of the week, Gwen, to intended victim du jour.

Important announcement!

The skies are a bit dark around here today. The halls in The Graveyard Shift are quiet. There’s only one coffee mug on the conference table, and one of the only two chairs in the boardroom is empty. We call out her name, but she doesn’t answer.

Yes, the Good Cop has left the building. When I arrived at work this morning I found this note thumbtacked to the door.  I blame the writers of season 9 for this tragedy.

Dear loyal fans and friends.

For the first time since Castle first aired on March 9, 2009, I did not watch the show live. I recorded it on my DVR but cannot stomach watching it yet, so I cannot critique it this morning. I’ll wait until the season ends, then possibly binge watch from this episode to the end — except for the finale. If I find out Kate dies, I will never watch that. I simply can’t do it.

The show began with the premise of a writer and his muse solving crimes: Rick Castle and Kate Beckett started out as adversaries but soon became friends, then fell in love. The show’s creators, Andrew Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller, have said many times that they set out to write “a great love story”, and they did a fabulous job of it. Rick and Kate fell in love and got married. Such a beautiful, heartfelt tale. A tale that captured the hearts of fans.

Castle fans want a happy ending. For Rick and Kate to remain happy, despite the many obstacles in their way, and have a family and then sail off into the sunset together. Always.

We now know this will never happen, and fans are heartbroken. Shame on ABC and whoever else may be responsible (some people claim Nathan Fillion is to blame, but who knows?) The show is broken beyond repair now that the powers-that-be have refused to renew Stana Katic’s contract and made clear their plan to move Rick, Alexis, Hayley, and Rick’s P.I. business to L.A. six months after Kate’s demise for season nine — complete with a new love interest for Rick. Really? No. Freaking. Way. He wouldn’t get over Kate that quickly, if ever.

I’d rather shove bamboo shoots under my fingernails than to watch this travesty. The show I have loved for eight seasons is gone, and I can’t watch it limp along to the end. I’d much rather ABC just cancel Castle and end the misery. Rebooting with a story so far from the premise is a slap in the face to fans. So I will not blog about this show anymore, although I might send Lee a note to include in weeks to come. We shall see.

Thank you so much for reading our blog all these years! We hope to find another show to critique soon, so stay tuned.

Melanie, the Good but Sad Cop

Now, this is between us. I’ve heard a rumor circulating around the “inner circle” that a group of Castle bad guys ambushed and kidnapped Melanie after overpowering her and taking away her gun. You know, like what happens to Beckett every five or six episodes. So we’re sending out a team of highly-skilled pros to try to find her and bring her back. We hope there’s been no foul play. In the meantime…

Have You Seen This Person?


Melanie Atkins

Okay, we’re all professionals here, so the show must go on. starting with…Lanie.

As usual we see her checking out the dead body of the week (or so she thinks). Nothing unusual since the writers use her as an info dump to set the stage for the case. This week, instead of her typical “based on lividity” crapola, she said, “All signs point to poison—dilated pupils, bluish discoloration around the lips—that’s a giveaway. But I’ll know for sure after the autopsy.”

Well, that sounded pretty cool, right? Not so fast, Lanie.

Pupils fixed and dilated and bluish discoloration around the lips are also possible signs that someone is in serious need of medical attention, because they are in the process of dying, or they’re suffering from a serious medical issue, such as paralysis of the sphincter papillae muscle in the eye, a reaction to certain drugs, a severe blow to the head, or even a medical condition. The blueness around the lips is a sign of lack of oxygen in the blood that could be caused by pneumonia, a blood clot in the lungs, etc.

In other words, these symptoms are NOT exclusive to poisoning. 

Okay, yes TTX (Tetrodotoxin) is a poison that’s found in some fish, and it is deadly, with an onset of symptoms that occur quite rapidly. But not instantly as we saw in last night’s episode. The stuff had barely touched “Safety Man’s” lips when he began tossing his cookies and falling into a brief stage of unconsciousness.

TTX symptoms typically begin within a few minutes, ten or so, after ingesting the toxin (it’s found in the liver and sex organs of some fish, such as puffer fish, toadfish, and some octopus and shellfish). However, the onset could begin 3-6 hours after consuming the poison.

The first stage of TTX poisoning is a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue, followed by facial and extremity numbness, headache, sensations of lightness or floating, profuse sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, difficulty moving, weakness, and speech difficulties.

And then comes the dilated pupils, coma, difficulty breathing, seizures, and death (death can occur anywhere from 20 minutes to 8 hours after consumption of the toxin).

So please, writers, do NOT use Lanie’s “poisonous information” in your next book!

*By the way, if you’d like to read more about TTX or other poisons, you might want to pick up a copy of Book of Poisons, A Guide for Writers. It, along with my book on police procedure and Doug Lyle’s Forensics book, are in the Writer’s Digest Howdunit series.

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Next, Lividity Lanie has a conversation with the ER doctor who’s quick to point out Lanie’s Voodooish mistakes when pronouncing a man dead who was, in fact, very much alive. The doctor asked if lividity and/or rigor were present. Lanie responded with, “No rigor or lividity because he’d been dead less than an hour.” Well, wasn’t it Lanie who, for eight long years and time after time after time (incorrectly) used lividity as the sole determining factor for time of death? Yet, she she finds none this one time? This time she was right, but…GRRR….

Let’s move on to Beckett, a police captain who used to be as tough as thirty-year-old shoe leather and as clever as a combination of Holmes and Einstein. However, she’s now a bumbling idiot who can barely function as a police officer. Actually, she barely comes across as a wife, lover, and friend to her husband. The writers have stripped this character of all of her, well, character. Anyway, a thuggish attorney threatens Beckett’s life, in her office at the police precinct, and she let’s him walk out. Yeah, right. In real life he’d have been in handcuffs faster than Castle could say something stupid, which in this episode occurred with nearly every breath he took.

And then there was the request to search a private business. The judge denied that request based on the fact that probable cause did not exist, which was a first for this show. Yet they searched the place anyway by having the “Groundhog Day” dead guy pretend to be there in his official capacity as safety inspector. Wrong, wrong, and doubly wrong. That might’ve been an illegal search, one that I doubt the city would be pleased to learn that was led by one of their inspectors. At the very least, I certainly wouldn’t want to be in their shoes (Beckett and the other members of the search team) if the case went before the judge who denied the warrant.

Finally…the Loksat BS was back stinking up the place.

What an absolute mess the writers and ABC have created. Even Fillion’s scenes this week were waaaaay over the top silly. What are trying to prove? That they know how to ruin what was once a fabulous show enjoyed by fans worldwide? That they can write horrible storylines and dialog? That they do not care one speck about the fans? That they do not respect the viewers?

I know I’ll be glad when this mess is over and done for good.

And, they turned Melanie from Good Cop to Sad Cop, and that’s downright unforgivable.


Lee Lofland

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Shoot to Kill or to Wound? Here’s the Answer


Police officers are not trained to shoot to kill, nor do they shoot to wound. That, my friends, is the answer to the question.

Confused? I thought you might be so let’s dive right in and clarify those seemingly, but not, conflicting answers to “the question.” While we’re at it, we’ll also address the questions and statements we all see time and time again during the aftermath of police-involved shootings—“Why didn’t he shoot the gun from the bad guy’s hand?” Or, “Shoot ’em in the knee. That’ll drop the guy like a lead balloon.” And the ever popular, “I wish I’d have been there ’cause I’da shot the murderer in his gun hand. Then the crook couldn’t have shot anybody else and he’d still be alive to complete his dream of becoming a minister AND director of puppy petting at the local Ima Good Boy Charity and Feed the Homeless Sea Urchin Center.

Police officers are taught/trained to stop a threat to human life. U.S. police officers are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants. Contrary to the belief of some people, U.S. streets are not battlefields where cops shoot first and ask questions later. It cannot and does not work that way.

In a perfect world there would be no crime and we’d all be safe, all the time. But our world is FAR from perfect; therefore, cops are tasked with arresting those who break the law. Unfortunately, some bad guys choose to not be arrested and will do whatever it takes to remain free, including trying to kill police officers. They may also choose to seriously harm or kill others during the commission of their crime(s). These two scenarios force officers to resort to deadly force to stop the threat to the lives of others, and to themselves.

Back to the earlier statements—police officers are not taught to kill anyone, nor are they taught to “wound” anyone. Officers do not aim for hands, feet, knees, firearms, knives, etc. Instead, during a deadly force confrontation—when lives are at stake—officers are taught to shoot center mass, meaning the center of their intended target. If all they see is the suspect’s head, then that is their target. If they see the entire body they then aim for its center (center mass).

Why aim for center mass? Common sense answer – because it is the largest available target, which makes it the easiest area to hit when under extreme duress during an incident that sometimes happens within a fraction of a second.

The reason behind not shooting to wound is pretty simple, actually, and here’s why. Most police officers are not skilled award-winning sharpshooters. Not even close. To expect them, or anyone, to hit a fast-moving target, such as an arm or leg, while under duress, is unrealistic. Hands and arms can move across the body as quickly as 12/100th of a second. From hip to shoulder in 18/100th of a second. The time it takes a police officer to pull the trigger on one of the faster reacting trigger pulls, that of the Glock, is a slow 1/4 of a second. And that’s if the officer has already drawn his/her sidearm and has it pointed at the suspect.

New Picture (4)

Glock 17

It’s nothing short of impossible for an officer to see the threat, react appropriately, unsnap the holster, perform the required series of motions to free her weapon from the security holster (I’ll bet many of you didn’t know there was a combination/series of actions required to remove an officer’s pistol from a security-type holster), think about what she’s doing, decide whether or not the threat is real and, if so, pull the trigger. Oh yeah, she’d also have to take time to aim for the arm, hand, or leg. Impossible. No way. No how. Can’t and won’t happen, not even on her/his best day.

Another point to remember regarding how quickly shooting situations unfold. In many, many instances, there is not a single portion of a second to spare, including enough time to shout, “Drop your weapon!” Or even to yell, “Stop!” 

To give you an idea as to how quickly a shooting can occur…



Then there’s this. Suppose the officer somehow manages to hit the suspect’s arm, or hand, or foot? Well, that leaves the suspect’s free hand to continue his attempt to kill the officer or other potential target, such as a wife, husband, a bank teller, a child, and, well, you get the idea. Wounding someone, hoping that’ll stop them from killing is stuff you see on TV. It’s just not that way in real life situations.

I’ve seen bad guys continue shooting after being struck by several rounds. Actually, I was in a shooting situation where the bad guy continued to shoot after being shot in the head once and in the center of his chest four times, and he still got up and ran several yards. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I was the detective who shot him. I was also the detective who ran him down and tackled him. So being wounded, even severely wounded, does not necessarily stop a threat to human life.

Now, back to shooting to kill. I’m not aware of any police agency in the U.S. that teaches/trains officers to kill. Not one. Besides, how many sane people would sign on with an agency if they were told they must kill people as part of their daily duties—write speeding ticket, respond to kids playing in traffic, kill the guy standing in front of the Piggly Wiggly, go on lunch break.

During a shooting situation, officers typically do not have time to aim. Instead, they revert to their training—draw, point, and shoot for the center of the target.

Shootings involving police officers most often happen in a matter of seconds or less, and usually at very short distances—a mere few feet. In fact, these close-range situations occur so often that officers train quite a bit at shooting from short distances, without taking aim. They’re taught to draw and point their weapon at the center of the target, or as close as they can get to the center.


Again, even at greater distances, there’s still no time to stop, take a proper stance, draw a weapon, take careful aim, ask the offender to stand still so the officer won’t miss and hit an innocent bystander, and then fire. So officers shoot for center mass, the largest portion of the body they see. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Keep this in mind. Rounds that strike center mass could certainly cause the death of the suspect, but death is not the intended outcome. The goal is to stop the threat. If a bad guy surrenders the moment he sees that the officer has drawn her weapon and fully intends to use it, the threat is then over and the officer must take the suspect into custody.

Stop the threat. That’s the intended outcome of the use of deadly force.

*As always, I’d love to hear your comments and questions, but please do not turn this into a debate on gun control, politics, race, or cop-bashing. Instead, let’s stick to the factual information in the article. Thanks!

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