The Mystery Writers of America have released their Edgar nominations! This is always a great time of year for me, because even though I’m a big reader, there are always many books that are receiving acclaim that I have overlooked. Right now, I am reading my way through the best novel nominees:
- The Missing by Tim Gautreaux (Random House – Alfred A. Knopf)
- The Odds by Kathleen George (Minotaur Books)
- The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)
- Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Random House – Ballantine Books)
- Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)
- A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)
So far, I’ve crossed The Last Child and The Missing off my list. Coincidentally, both deal with missing children. I enjoyed them both… but I’d have to give The Last Child the edge. First, because of the wonderful depth to all the characters – nary a cardboard cut-out among them. Second, because of the father-and-child theme that runs throughout the book, including an extremely surprising twist. And third, because of the well-written POV of the young teens. The Last Child could have been a standard police procedural… but it’s so much more.
Tim Gautreaux’s The Missing is lush, compelling, and readable. The book features a World War I veteran-turned-floorwalker (think early 1900’s version of department store security). A child is kidnapped on his watch and he goes to amazing lengths to solve the mystery. The plot is complex, involving life on a riverboat, itinerant musicians, inbred backwoods crime families, a facedown with the remnants of the gang which massacred the protagonist’s whole family (the sole survivor saved because he was hidden in the cold stove), tragic death, and multiple bonks on the head for various characters. But Gautreaux keeps you involved and wanting more every step of the way.
Today: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. I’m only up to page 59… but I’m hooked. Nesbo lives in Oslo, the book features a Norwegian police detective, and it starts with a bank robbery where the bad guy gets the cash but deliberately kills a young teller anyway. I’m intrigued by one of the characters – a young police woman who has a very rare personal skill. Some people have a photographic memory for words on a page, and can recount exactly what they read, what page it’s on, etc. Beate Lonn remembers every face she sees. A recent police academy graduate, Beate has solved three bank robberies already, just by analyzing the video. One last note: I try not to read the book flaps, don’t want to have the plot and characters explained to me in advance, but the cover of the book includes the line “How do you catch a killer when you’re the number one suspect?” Ooh.