Yes, the Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees in all categories for fiction and nonfiction Edgar (for Edgar Allan Poe) awards. In past years, I have read, reviewed and ranked two or three categories. This year, I’m not likely to be as ambitious thanks to a demanding work schedule.
But I have started with the debuts: Best First Novel by an American Author. It’s always exciting to read good new authors. And when an exciting new author publishes more books… that’s wonderful. I recall loving Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, which won the Edgar in 2014. He followed up with Palace of Treason (also fabulous!) and the latest is The Kremlin’s Candidate (which I bought but can’t read until the Edgar deep dive is complete). There’s also this.
Of this year’s nominees, the only one I had read previously is Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love. But I didn’t start there.
First up for me was Tornado Weather. The mystery: where is 5-year-old Daisy Gonzalez? A bigger mystery – how can there be any secrets in this town where everybody knows everybody’s business?
Daisy is a bright, well-liked girl, wheelchair-bound, who disappears after school one blustery day, when her bus driver is overwhelmed, her teacher father is still at school, and the high school girl who was supposed to get her home simply forgot to meet her. She’s the subject of speculation among the residents of Colliersville, Indiana. An economically depressed small town, Colliersville and its residents are not doing all that well. Each chapter features a different point of view, from a dead Iraq war vet to his grieving grandmother to Daisy’s father to trans teen Willa (born Wally) and the grocery store clerk who thinks he hears animals speak, and knows more than he says.
The book is entrancing, not so much for Daisy’s story, but for the characters, their hard lives, and the fact that they can still find joy and show so much love, despite their imperfections. It is these imperfections – especially the stupid, thoughtless acts that lead to tragedy, as is the case with Daisy’s unnecessary death – that gives life such pathos.
Tornado Weather is a deep, insightful novel and one which is a pleasure to read, although that pleasure is mixed with pain. As it is the first one up, it takes the top spot.
Literary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best First Novel
- Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy