I have a history of reading, reviewing and rating the Mystery Writers of America nominees for Best Novel (and sometimes other categories, depending on the time available). The Edgars and I don’t always agree, but I’m not doing a “guess who will win” blog, but a “here’s who should win” blog. More later on that!
This year there is a bumper crop of books I haven’t read yet. Out of the 16 books nominated in my favorite categories – Best Novel, Best First Novel by an American Author, and Best Paperback Original – I have only read two.
Here’s the line-up for Best Novel, in case you want to read along with me:
- The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen
- Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
- Five Decembers by James Kestrel
- How Lucky by Will Leitch
- No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield
I’ll be starting with How Lucky! In the meantime, I’ll give you some deets about the last couple of years.
In 2020 – year one of “the COVID times” – the winner was Elly Griffiths for The Stranger Diaries. She came in second in my ranking, after Michael Robotham. I liked Robotham’s new series, liking the flawed psychologist main character and appreciating the twisty plot. Griffiths had a compelling story told from three perspectives, which really worked.
Literary Lunchbox 2020 Best Novel Ranking
- Good Girl, Bad Girl (Michael Robotham)
- The Stranger Diaries (Elly Griffiths)
- Smoke and Ashes (Abir Mukherjee)
- The River (Peter Heller)
- Fake Like Me (Barbara Bourland)
Similar situation with Best First Novel by an American Author that year. I picked My Lovely Wife – loved this psychological thriller with super-unreliable narrators. The actual winner: Miracle Creek. That’s a multi-layered legal thriller.
Literary Lunchbox 2020 Best First Novel by an American Author
- My Lovely Wife, Samantha Dowling
- The Good Detective, John McMahon
- American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson
- Miracle Creek, Angie Kim
- The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott
- Three-Fifths, John Vercher
2021 was a particularly busy year for me, so I only did Best Novel. I ranked Ivy Pochoda’s These Women at the top – I found it to be a strong, psychologically taut, and complex novel, and a compulsive page-turner. The actual winner was Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – and it was neck and neck for me, because Djinn Patrol was deeply affecting book.
Literary Lunchbox 2021 Best Novel
- These Women, Ivy Pochoda
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara
- The Distant Dead, Heather Young
- The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
- Before She Was Helen, Caroline Cooney