Final Edgar entry: Rage Against The Dying

rageLast up for the Edgar!  Becky Masterman‘s first novel, Rage Against The Dying, has a unique protagonist:  Brigid Quinn, an aging former FBI agent, who spent her career hunting sexual predators.   She’s strong, flawed, and merciless, pushed out of the agency after shooting an unarmed suspect – a female Clint Eastwood.   But that’s all in the past.  Brigid’s now one of those sinewy, self-possessed women who enjoys life with her new husband, a philosophy professor and former Catholic priest, Carlo.  She keeps her former self in a box, pushed down tight, certain that if Carlo knew the real her – the cunning woman, the violent woman, the woman who can be filled with rage – he’d leave her.

Of course, this uneasy peace can’t last.  And it doesn’t.  An old case comes back to life, bringing with it Brigid’s biggest failure and her biggest regret – she blames herself for the disappearance and certain death of a young FBI agent, her protégée.  Jessica’s body has been discovered, and a man has confessed to the serial killings.  He knows things only the killer should know.  It should be good news, but Brigid always looks for the dark side.

The plot escalates.  Multiple movie-worthy action sequences.  There are good guys in desperate peril, a last-minute saving of the day, and the absolute necessity of lying about the whole thing.  Because sometimes a greater truth demands an untruth.

But the jig is up, marriage-wise.  There’s no keeping Carlo in the dark after these events.  Fortunately, Carlo is an even better man than Brigid imagined him to be.

All in all, Rage Against The Dying is a thoroughly engaging thriller.  It’s up there with the best of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay.   But how does it rank when it comes to the other four finalists?   Let’s stack it up.  The Resurrectionist and Reconstructing Amelia – no question, still at the bottom.  Ghostman is a great read, but Rage has it beat in terms of sheer pulse-pounding engagement.  Red Sparrow had the top spot, and it is a highly literate, classic spy novel.

But Rage Against The Dying turns the classic flawed-cop thriller on its ear with its female protagonist.  Put together character, plot, action, and voice, and Rage is the winner.

mwa_logoLunchbox Rankings:  Best First Novel

  1. Rage Against The Dying by Becky Masterman
  2. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
  3. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
  4. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  5. The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn
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