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Joe Hartlaub


Joe Hartlaub

Senior Writer Emeritus
[email protected]

Joe Hartlaub recently retired as's senior writer/reviewer after 24 years with the site (1997-2021). An entertainment attorney specializing in music and publishing, Joe is a Fox News Channel contributor on matters pertaining to publishing law and has been featured on panels concerning the entertainment industry. He has been a vociferous reader since he was four years old, starting with the "Dick Tracy" and "Little Orphan Annie" comic strips before he graduated to the Hardy Boys mystery series (the original one) and later corrupted his mind and soul a few years later with the works of Mickey Spillane and Richard Prather.

In addition to reviewing for, Joe has had a number of short stories published in the crime and horror fields and is an actor, having had a supporting role in the critically acclaimed feature film LA-308, as well as a co-starring role in the short feature Seducing the Shrink. He is also a bi-weekly contributor to The Kill Zone blog. Joe describes himself as “a boring guy who lives a very interesting life.” He lives in Westerville, Ohio, with his family members, who give him the space to do a number of things that he probably shouldn't.

Joe Hartlaub

Reviews by Joe Hartlaub

by Paul Levine - Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

When his godson suffers a catastrophic injury in a high school football game, lawyer Jake Lassiter sues to abolish the sport and becomes Public Enemy Number One. The former NFL linebacker also battles CTE, the fatal brain disease. With his personal life in tatters, he's in couple's therapy with fiancée Dr. Melissa Gold and vows to live long enough to fix his relationship and achieve justice for his godson. EARLY GRAVE is the final novel of the series that began with the international bestseller TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD in 1990.

by Cormac McCarthy - Fiction

1972, Black River Falls, Wisconsin: Alicia Western, 20 years old and with $40,000 in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy. And she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, who is not quite dead, not quite hers.

by Cormac McCarthy - Fiction

1980, Pass Christian, Mississippi: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wet suit and plunges from the Coast Guard tender into darkness. His dive light illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box and the 10th passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit --- by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.

by Stephen Graham Jones - Fiction, Horror, Supernatural Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

by J.D. Rhoades - Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Civil War veteran L.D. Cade arrives in 1870s San Francisco, seeking his fortune and a place to end his restless wandering. A job as bodyguard to a flashy real estate speculator seems like just the opportunity he’s been looking for. But beneath the glitter and glamour of Gilded Age San Francisco lie festering greed, corruption and intolerance. It’s a dangerous place for an honest man, even one who’s as good with a gun as Cade. As he makes his way between the decadent chaos of the notorious Barbary Coast, the luxurious mansions of Russian Hill, and the secretive societies of Chinatown, Cade will face vicious and sadistic enemies, find allies in unexpected places, and encounter a pair of enigmatic women who will change his life forever.

by William Kent Krueger - Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Mystery

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to 12-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family and himself. Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff, and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own.

by Ben Coes - Fiction, Political Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Iran has been planning a revenge attack on America for years, which involves assassinating U.S. President J. P. Dellenbaugh and neutralizing their most successful agent, Dewey Andreas. The first pre-emptive attack against Dewey fails, but it worries the head of the CIA enough that he sends him out of town and off the grid. Muhammed el-Shakib, head of Iran's military and intelligence agency, launches a bold strike. When the President arrives in New York to address the U.N., embedded terrorist assets blow up the bridges and tunnels that connect Manhattan to the mainland. Taking control of the island with its hidden forces, they race to the U.N. in search of Dellenbaugh and to launch an even deadlier attack that will wreak unimaginable destruction on the country itself.

by Arnaldur Indridason - Fiction, Mystery

A frozen body is discovered in the icy depths of Langjökull glacier, apparently that of a businessman who disappeared 30 years before. At the time, an extensive search and police investigation yielded no results --- one of the missing man’s business associates was briefly held in custody, but there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. Now the associate is arrested again, and Konrad, the retired policeman who originally investigated the disappearance, is called back to reopen the case that has weighed on his mind for decades. When a woman approaches him with new information that she obtained from her deceased brother, progress can finally be made in solving this long-cold case.

by James Lee Burke - Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The American West in the early 1960s appears to be a pastoral paradise: golden wheat fields, mist-filled canyons, frolicking animals. Aspiring novelist Aaron Holland Broussard finds work on a farm in Denver and meets Joanne McDuffy, a fierce college student and gifted painter. Their soul connection is immediate, but their romance is complicated by Joanne’s involvement with a shady professor who is mixed up with a drug-addled cult. When a sinister businessman and his son who wield their influence through vicious cruelty set their sights on Aaron, drawing him into an investigation of grotesque murders, it is clear that this idyllic landscape harbors tremendous power --- and evil.

by Glen Erik Hamilton - Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Van Shaw is hired to evaluate the safeguards for the art collection of eccentric business magnate Sebastien Rohner. Then Rohner reveals to Van the real reason he’s been recruited: to prevent another professional burglar from stealing the art. While questioning the bizarre nature of the job, Van accepts the lucrative offer and arrives at the island estate during an international summit that Rohner is hosting. Shortly after beginning his surveillance of Rohner’s highly secure gallery wing, he stumbles across the murdered body of one of the honored guests. Van knows that the homicide detectives on the case think he’s the prime suspect. To clear his name, he will have to uncover the hidden motive of corporate espionage at a global level, even with a band of killers on his tail.