Category Archives: Commentary

More new books from old friends

I’ve been reading and not blogging due to a wide variety of … reasons?  excuses?  At any rate, some of my long-time favorites have new books out.  Therefore, this set of three short reviews!

dontletgoThumbHarlen Coben’s up to 30 books, both series and standalone, and I’ve been reading him since his Myron Bolitar days.  (I like humor, and snark as well.)  Don’t Let Go features New Jersey detective Nap Dumas, whose personal life has been pretty much in a holding pattern since his senior year in high school.  That’s when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were killed on the train tracks outside of town, and Nap’s girlfriend, Maura, disappeared from his life.  Now, Maura’s fingerprints show up at a murder scene – is she back?  And the person murdered is a cop, a high school friend.  What the heck happened?  And does it connect back to that senior-year mystery?  No surprise, it does.  What happened, why, and who was involved all becomes clear, and the “who” is a special twist.  Coben is a reliably good read and this outing lives up to that reputation.

two nightsAlso back is Kathy Reichs with Two Nights.  She writes the popular Temperance Brennan books, but this one features Sunday Night, a kick-ass but haunted investigator.  Sunnie’s been hired to find the four people who set off a bomb outside a school, killing kids and adults.  There’s also the matter of Stella, a teenager who went missing at the bomb scene.  Sunnie has reasons of her own to want to rescue Stella, and her dogged pursuit of the home-grown terrorists pays off in a surprising twist.  Reichs keeps the suspense up with a parallel plot from another perspective, a young girl caught in a web of intrigue – will she free herself and her friend?  If you like a female protagonist with an edge, you’ll like Sunnie.

murderFinally, Anne Perry is back on the mystery scene with An Echo of Murder, of her William Monk/Hester Latterly series.  This is one of the most engaging historical series out there.  There is a compelling backstory for each of these two protagonists, great character development, and an intricate whodunnit to solve.  This time around, Perry demonstrates how the fear of outsiders – in this case, Hungarian emigres in Victorian London – can lead to suspicion an violence.  There are a series of murders, and solving them is extra twisty, since Monk is convinced that there is a copycat at work.  As is often the case, the solution comes down to motive.  A very engaging read, although if you’re like me, you will be disappointed in the dramatic, but easy “out” at the end.

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Three new books by old friends

The only thing more exciting than the discovery of a new author you love is the upcoming publication of new books by authors you already adore.  Some fall into the “pre-order this in hardback” category (Michael Connelly, Louise Penny, Ian Rankin, Sue Grafton, and more).

yBittersweet for me was reading Sue Grafton’s Y is for Yesterday, because Grafton has announced that she’ll be retiring upon publication of the Z book (Z is for Zero).  After 35 years and 25 Kinsey Millhone books, she’s ready to be done.  I’ve read every Kinsey book starting with A is for Alibiso slipping between the covers with her new one brought the same pleasures – familiar characters, a little spicy language and potential romance, and a  solid mystery to be solved by the PI with (now) plenty of experience.   The question – who’s blackmailing the ex-con scion of a wealthy family with a sex tape that shows him and several other teens raping a teenage girl?  Fritz McCabe is just out of jail, having done his time for killing one of his classmates, and his parents put Kinsey on the case.  As usual, the story is much more convoluted than it originally appears, and when it all unravels, the ending is a surprise, but not surprising.  Because time passes much more slowly in Kinsey’s world of Santa Teresa, California, the year is 1989.  No internet, no Google, no cell phones – but plenty of shoe leather and face-to-face interviews.  Classic.

glass housesA more thrilling read is Louise Penny’s new Chief Superintendent Gamache novel, Glass Houses.  I came to Penny midseries, but went back to begin Superintendant at the start, with Still Life.  I found it to be full of charm, heartwarming and clever, an original voice.  That has continued through the series.  With Glass Houses, as usual, Armand Gamache has a small band of ultra-loyalists to work with, including his now son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir and newly minted Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, the colorful denizens of the small village of Three Pines, and the trust of those at the highest level of the Canadian government.  There are two questions to be addressed in the book:  why is a costumed figure haunting the Three Pines village green?  And will Gamache be successful in bringing down a drug cartel that is gathering so much power, he expects it will take over the country if it is not stopped?  It is no surprise to faithful readers to learn that the answer to both questions are resolved successfully, but not without great personal cost.  As Penny has ratcheted up the stakes with each Gamache book, it has occurred to me that there can surely only be so many times that the bad guys underestimate our protagonist.  Gamache is always playing the long game against difficult odds.  That, and Penny’s willingness to harm and even kill main characters we have come to know and love, adds a nail-biting quality to the already considerable tension.

late showThird up is Michael Connelly’s The Late Show.  Unlike Grafton and Penny, Connelly is not delivering another book in an already loved series (Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller), but taking a flyer with a new lead character, LAPD detective Renee Ballard.  Brave man to take on a female protagonist, and he does an good job portraying the challenges and the characteristics of this young female.  Connelly’s given her the quirk of homelessness – she surfs and spends many nights with her dog in a tent on the beach – which I found unnecessary.  (I imagine he’ll dispense with this or use it as a pivotal plot point in a future book.)  Ballard’s working mostly on her own on the night shift (nicknamed “the late show”) as punishment for filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.  Still, she’s does her best for the many victim she meets, and works hard to shine while doing so.  It’s tough, because she’s supposed to hand off the cases she catches to the detectives who work days.  Kind of like a doctor who always does the intake, and never gets to cure anybody.  Still, she’s determined to get to the bottom of the ruthless beating of a transgender prostitute – a victim type that is often marginalized by the police – and also to figure out what really happened in a nightclub shooting.  Needless to say, she does, and it’s a pretty wild ride.  My take – definitely a hit and a series I will be sure to read.   

Edgar winner winner chicken dinner

raindogsFriends, I am heartily sorry for spending the last five months away from my book blog, but I resolve to turn over a new leaf!  Where I left you last was waiting for the outcome of the Edgar Awards banquet in New York City, after having read, reviewed and ranked finalists in three categories.  I’ll cut to the chase:  I’m batting .333 here – Edgar judges only agreed with me on the Best Original Paperback.  We both selected Adrian McKinty’s Rain Dogs.  His series featuring Irish police detective Sean Duffy is set in the 1980s and feels fresh and funny, but has a noir edge.

harrow.jpgFor Best First Novel, I picked Heather Young’s The Lost Girls, which is a character-driven suspense novel with two story lines (1935 and present day).  I was a fan the first time I read it, and an even bigger fan on rereading for the Edgars.  Alas, the Edgar went to Flynn Berry  for Under the Harrow, which was fifth on my ranking.  To be fair, Berry;s thriller is a great read in the Girl on the Train “genre” – unreliable female protagonist is driven around the bend but prevails.  I expect a movie any month now.

fallAnd for Best Novel, I gave the Literary Lunchbox Edgar to Lyndsey Faye’s Jane Steele.  I am not usually a fan of historical, but this one is genre-bending tribute to Jane Eyre, very well-written with plenty of action.  The actual award went to Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall.  I did enjoy Hawley’s book a great deal, which takes a pretty ordinary guy, puts him into extraordinary circumstances, and then ramps up a mystery with a big dose of conspiracy.  It’s got some plot holes that are apparent on re-reading, and my friend and writing buddy Addy Whitehouse really hated it, but I was more forgiving.  It was third on my list.

In a non-reviewed category, Best Critical/Biographical, the winner was Ruth Franklin’s biography of Shirley Jackson, which I read and enjoyed despite its doorstopper length.  It was also good to see Charles Todd (Charles and Caroline Todd) win the Mary Higgins Clark award for The Shattered Tree.

This is my eighth year reviewing Edgar nominees, and what I’ve found is that some years the Edgar judges agree with me (100% in 2010!) and some years they don’t (0% in 2011).  Here’s a round-up!  If you’re looking for some great reads, generally you can’t go wrong with my picks OR Mystery Writers of America’s choices, and all are now available in paperback.   Happy reading!

2010:  MWA and I agreed on John Hart’s The Last Child for Best Novel and Stefanie Pintoff’s In the Shadow of Gotham for Best First Novel.

2011:  I still think MWA was crazy, giving Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist the Best Novel award over Tana French’s Faithful Place, and Rogue Island (Bruce De Silva) instead of Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston for Best First Novel.  (Not that I don’t like Steve Hamilton.)

2012:  It was 50/50 – MWA and I both gave Mo Hayder’s Gone the Best Novel Edgar (I loooooove Mo Hayder), but Lori Roy’s Bent Road took home the actual Edgar while the Literary Lunchbox award went to Leonard Rosen’s All Cry Chaos.  (Rosen sent me a very nice note by email commenting on my review.  Swoon.)

2013:  Another 0% year.  Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night won Best Novel, while Gillian Flynn’s hugely popular Gone Girl was my pick.  Interestingly, both were made into movies featuring Ben Affleck.  Gone Girl was clearly superior, both book and film.  Meanwhile, Chris Pavoni took Best First Novel home for The Expats, while I would have given the award to Matthew Quirk’s The 500.

2014:  I was crazy this year.  Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow won the Edgar for Best First Novel, while my pick was Becky Masterman’s Rage Against Dying.  Seriously?  What was I thinking?  William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace took home Best Novel, and I loved it, so that redeems me somewhat.  50-50.

2015:  Another 50% agreement with MWA;  Best First Novel went to Tom Bouton’s Dry Bones in the ValleyAnd it was the year that Stephen King won Best Novel for Mr. Mercedes.  It was fantastic.  But I gave the edge to Mo Hayder for Wolf.  Both fabulous writers.

2016:  As with this year, last year MWA and I were aligned 33% of the time.  We totally agreed that Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone deserved Best Paperback Original.  (I loved it so much I gave it as a gift at least three times!)  For Best Novel, Lori Roy was again an Edgar winner for Let Me Die in His Footsteps while I gave he nod to Duane Swierzynski’s Canary (both good but super-different).  And I gave the Best First Novel Edgar to Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive over the actual Edgar recipient, The Sympathizer by Viet Nanh Nguyen (my #2 pick).

So there you have it, a real round-up to make up for a lengthy absence.  Looking back, I see that I often run out of time or energy as the Edgar awards draw near and I go into hibernation mode immediately following.  I diagnose blogging burn-out!  In 2018, I’ll cut back to a single category (two at the most) and see if that helps.

Final finalist Before the Fall

fallWe’re getting down to the wire – the MWA Edgar Awards banquet is just four days away in NYC and I am posting my final review in the read, review, and ranking for the Best Novel category.  I previously completed the Best Paperback Original and Best First Novel by an American Author categories.  The nominee:  Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall.  This is his first Edgar nom.

You might know Hawley as a novelist, or you might know him as a screenwriter and producer (Fargo, Legion, others).  He’s won Emmys, Golden Globes and Peabody awards. I read one of his previous books – A Conspiracy of Tall Men – and found it entertaining.  It is similar to Before the Fall in that it takes a pretty ordinary guy, puts him into extraordinary circumstances, and then ramps up a mystery with a big dose of conspiracy.  The books (at least the two I’ve read) are very cinematic.

In Before the Fall, nice guy and artist Scott Burroughs accepts an offer of a lift on a private plane from Maggie Bateman, a casual friend, the young wife of the head of a television news network, David Bateman.  Also on the plane are Rachel and JJ, the couple’s young daughter and son; their security chief, Gil Baruch; Ben and Sarah Kipling, a Wall Street hedge fund manager about to be indicted for money laundering and his wife.  There is also the three-person crew: beautiful flight attendant Emma Lightner, pilot James Melody who is having some medical issues, and hard-partying co-pilot Charlie Busch.  Just 18 minutes into the flight from Martha’s Vineyard to NYC, the plane crashes into the ocean.   Scott comes up into a hellish view, as the plane fuel is on fire, and he soon encounters the only other survivor –  four year old JJ.   Scott swims ten miles with an injured arm, carrying the child.

The book alternates between what happens to Scott and JJ, as time moves forward, and the individual backstories of the plane’s passengers and crew.   As the authorities search for the wreckage, theories as to the cause of the crash abound.  Newsman Bill Cunningham (my mind’s eye pictured Bill O’Reilly) had been about to be fired from Bateman’s network, but instead he makes ratings soar with speculation about the cause of the crash, anchoring a lot of his wild ramblings to Scott Burroughs.  The depths of his amoral self-interest… well, let’s just say the depths or so deep we’re not sure there’s a bottom.  Scott and the boy have forged a bond that is unquestionable, but of course it is questioned, and JJ’s loving Aunt Eleanor is married to a man best described as “loser scumbag” (expect attraction to hero Scott and you will be right on).

I liked Before the Fall when I read it the first time, carried along on the tide of the plot, the sneak peeks into the characters’ backstories, and the insights Hawley provides along the way before revealing the reason for the crash.  Rereading more critically for the Edgar ranking, I still see the good.  Some of the backstories, in particular, are like short stories in themselves (pilot James Melody and his mom, for example).

But I see the book’s flaws more clearly this time around.  The good guys are uber-good.  The bad guys are uber-bad.  Coincidence abounds:  Scott almost misses the plane, but doesn’t.  His big new idea for his paintings is a series of hyper-realistic depictions of tragedies, including a plane crash.  He is capable of the huge, heroic swim because as a child he had seen and been inspired by a feat of swimming derring-do by the famous Jack LaLanne, so he devoted himself to the sport.  The pilot leaves the cockpit because he has a bloody nose, something he’d been delaying seeing a doctor for, leaving the way clear for a homocidal/suicidal act that dooms them all.  And the climax – where Scott is live on-camera with Bill Cunningham when the newsman plays a tape that reveals he had been bugging victim’s phones to dig up dirt and Scott is able to reveal exactly what the FBI found out – is completely over the top.

And yet, I still like the book.  My friend and writing colleague Addy Whitehouse is also rating these nominees, and she gave Before the Fall a 1.  And that’s not #1, it’s the best, it’s 1 on a 10-point scale, with 10 as high.  You can read her review hereshe really hated the head-hopping and varying POVs.  She noted the cinematic approach, and not in admiration.  On the there hand, we were in total agreement on Reed Farrel Coleman’s Where it Hurts.  All of which proves why there are so many books published each year – opinions differ!

Where does Before the Fall go on the ranking?  Definitely not above mid-packWhere it Hurts and Jane Steele are clearly superior.  And I can’t get around The Ex’s OMG twister of an ending (seriously?).  So that leaves Noah Hawley at #3.  If the MWA judges agree with me, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele will take home the Edgar.

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Novel

  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  2. Where it Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman
  3. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
  4. The Ex by Alafair Burke
  5. What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

What Remains of Me? Not sure.

remainsWhat Remains of Me, Alison Gaylin’s novel of psychological suspense that has been nominated for a Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for Best Novel, is the latest in a number of books I’ve read where my first thought on finishing is “Why this title?”  It’s not written in the first person, so who is me?  The main character is Kelly Lund, and while she has a tough life and scary stuff happens to her, she is uniquely and wholly herself all the way through the entire book.  No remains.  Perhaps I am not deep enough. (I often think this.)

A better title for the book would have been, “Who Are You, Really?”   The characters’ motivations drive the plot, which is thoroughly twisty, sometimes scary, and occasionally sad.  And these motivations, which are revealed at various intervals throughout the book, often rely on ignorance of the real relationships between the characters, their well-kept secrets, and a certain degree of willful blindness.

But perhaps I’m confusing you.  Here’s the scoop:  In 1980, Kelly Lund was arrested as a teenager for murdering her friend Vince’s father, famous director John McFadden.  She admitted it, she shot him, she did the time, although she never said why.  Now it’s 2010, Kelly’s an adult in her late 40s, and married for the past 15 years to Shane Marshall, the younger brother of her former best friend, Bellamy, and the son of film director Sterling Marshall, McFadden’s best friend. They don’t have sex, though, and Shane doesn’t really know why and we’re not sure about Kelly.  Maybe it’s because she’s fooling around with a hot neighbor who makes giant sculptures out of wood, who reminds her strongly of the boy she loved back in the day?  Or maybe it’s even him?

But then Sterling Marshall dies.  Just like John McFadden did – two in the head and one in the heart.  Suspicion falls on Kelly, and it seems like she probably did it, because she came home from a middle-of-the-night drive and put bloody clothes into the washing machine.

The book shifts back and forth between 1980 and 2010.  In 1980, Kelly has a controlling and hardworking mother, a dead twin sister, and a stuntman father she doesn’t see much.  (The dad is heartbreaking, he’s such a good but ruined man.)  She also has new, privileged Hollywood friends who introduce her to alcohol, drugs, sex, and general making a mess of her life.

In 2010, Kelly is under suspicion for Sterling’s death, Bellamy hates her and always has, despite having made it as an artist by exploiting Kelly, Shane still loves her but is confused, and her mother-in-law should be awful, but is actually kind of nice when she isn’t high.

By the end of the unfolding of the intertwined tales, the reader knows

— SPOILER ALERT STOP HERE DANGER 

that Kelly and Shane are half-siblings, that Kelly didn’t kill Sterling but she did kill McFadden, that Bellamy might adore her father, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t kill him to keep him from leaving any part of his estate to his other daughter, Kelly, that Kelly’s mom has been living in a commune for decades with Kelly’s cowardly friend Vince, that the guy she is in love with and imagined was Vince is actually the boy who sat behind her in homeroom and threw spitballs her way to torment her.

Does it all hang together?  Absolutely.   Does Gaylin keep those pages turning?  No doubt. Is it all a glorious soap opera?  Yes, and if it were a movie, half the people in the theater would be asking the friend next to them to explain it to them.   My problem is that the ludicrous plot would come undone if almost anyone would ask a question or tell the truth.    

What Remains of Me is like Pringle’s.  Not really potato chips, but you keep munching away anyway, feeling slightly sick but unable to stop yourself.  Gaylin is a best-selling author and her debut novel, Hide Your Eyes, got an Edgar nom in 2006.  Her Stay With Me was nominated for Best Paperback Original in 2015.  So I am just going to chalk this up to differing tastes, while putting the book firmly at the bottom of the ranking.

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Novel

  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  2. Where it Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman
  3. The Ex by Alafair Burke
  4. What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

I’m in trouble with Jane Steele

steeleLyndsay Faye’s novel Jane Steele is a genre-bending page-turner that’s winning accolades from critics and on Amazon.  This is Faye’s second turn at bat for the Best Novel award (her first being The Gods of Gotham, also a historical mystery).   Still, she lost out that year to Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night, another historical.

Thus the question  – could an homage to classic novel Jane Eyre win a Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for Best Novel?  – seems to be answered in a strong affirmative.

Cosmo’s blurb on the cover says the novel is a mash-up of Jane Eyre and tortured serial killer Dexter.  This is certainly true from Jane’s perspective.  She sees a parallel between herself and Bronte’s heroine – both had difficult upbringings, were orphaned, and became governesses.  But Jane Steele is made of sterner stuff than Bronte’s Jane, taking things into her own hands when she faces injustice.  With her first murder – a strong push that results in the death of her cousin, who had been tormenting her – she sees herself as morally corrupt and irredeemable, unworthy of the happiness she seeks.  Although she has always been told that Highgate House will be hers one day, she agrees to be cast off after her mother’s death, attending a sadist-run school, where she manages to make friends.  Her second murder occurs here, and she and her young friend are soon on the run, making ends meet as best they can, and encountering the occasion for murders #3 and #4.  (Rest assured the deceased deserved their fates.)

Separating from her friend, she finds the opportunity to return to her childhood home under a false name (Jane Stone) as the governess for Sahjara, a young girl of Caucasian-Indian heritage.  It is here that Jane falls in love, as did the other Jane, with the lord of the manor (Mr. Thornfield).  Only instead of a secret wife in the attic, Thornfield is a physician with a secret morgue in the basement.  Sahjara is the orphaned daughter of the love of Thornfield’s life who happens to be his best friend’s sister, by a ne’er-do-well Englishman.  Thornfield is paying a deep, self-imposed penance for his misplaced guilt in failing to keep Sahjara’s mother safe.

There are mysteries aplenty at Highgate House, where they are assailed by villains at every turn seeking Sahjara’s mother’s jewels (thus murder #5)..  As far as Thornfield and his friend Sardar Singh know, those jewels are long gone, so their options for a peaceful life are limited.  Add in the tortured love story – Jane and Charles are in love, but will never be together due to his penitent vow – and Jane is left with naught to do but get to the bottom of the mystery, find the jewels, and vanquish the bad guys.  Which she does, in a thorough manner, with some unlikely allies.   And I did not for a moment see the underlying betrayal until it was revealed by the author.  Good going, Lyndsay Faye.

The book has it all – suspense, intrigue, romance, a compellingly likable heroine, and a twist of snark.  Jane Steele is just the kind of book that I might not read, but that would have been a mistake.  I’m in real trouble here – it’s tough to compare Jane Steele to Reed Farrell Coleman’s Where It Hurts, which I loved, because they are so different in type.  However, I’ve got to say that Lyndsey Faye set herself a tougher job, and accomplished it quite thoroughly.  Her book is a singular experience.  As a result, Jane Steele is taking the top spot in the LL Edgar ranking for Best Novel.

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Novel

  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  2. Where it Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman
  3. The Ex by Alafair Burke

 

Coleman’s Where It Hurts the One to Beat

hurtsIn Where it Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman’s John Augustus Murphy is a former cop, brought low and hurting after the unexpected death of his teenage son, John Jr..  And where you might expect a cliche – troubled cop’s son ODs or good cop’s son killed by bad guys, for example – what you get is sheer bad luck.  Gus’ son died on an outdoor basketball court, playing with his friends, thanks to a previously undetected heart defect.  And in many ways, that’s the theme of Murphy’s life – you do everything you can to get some answers.  And sometimes there just aren’t any.

Gus couldn’t handle his son’s death.  Neither could his wife, Annie, or his daughter, Kassie.  So now they’re divorced and Kassie’s dropped out of college.  Gus drives the courtesy shuttle at an airport hotel, serves as hotel security and sometime bouncer for the hotel bar.  That’s what he’s doing when a face from his past drops in.  A low-level criminal that Gus had arrested more than once, Tommy Delacamino, shows up at the hotel with a sad story and $3000 in a paper bag.  Tommy’s son TJ was beaten, tortured, killed and dumped, his body in a plastic bag… and the cops aren’t doing anything about it.  They’re not even following up on the leads that Tommy gave them, thanks to his own amateur sleuthing.  He wants Gus to help.  Why Gus?  “Because you were the rightest cop I ever met,” says Tommy.  But Gus thinks Tommy’s trying to take advantage of the fact they both have dead sons, and he turns a cold shoulder.

Pretty quick, Gus is sorry.  But when he goes to tell Tommy he’ll help him, it’s too late.  Tommy’s dead – shot in the head – and his place has been thoroughly ransacked.  Before he knows is, Gus is neck-deep in Tommy’s friends and business associates, then TJ’s, and when he starts to nose around, he gets told in no uncertain terms by his former cop colleagues to forget about it.  Stick to driving the shuttle.  But Gus taken the bit, and there’s no stopping him.  He thinks if he can somehow get to the bottom of this mystery, it will make up, in some karmic way, for the random loss of his own son.

There are strong noir elements in this book, violence, despair, even fatalism.  But Where it Hurts also has hope.   Some of his old cop colleagues are dirty, but some help him.  He has lost his old social ties, but he has made new ones, and they are faithful and true.  He and his wife have both suffered and have torn each other apart… but they still have affection, and are moving on, waking up, learning to love others if not each other.   And at the end of the day, Gus has solved the mystery and there has been justice of sorts, if not the justice he originally envisioned.   Well-done.  #2 in the Gus Murphy series is out – What You Break – and I’ll be there.

It’s almost not worth comparing Where it Hurts to The Ex.  Readers who have been following the reviews and rankings will know that I while I found some things to like about The Ex, I also found it to be shallow and manipulative, with a “surprise” ending that wasn’t much of a surprise.  Where it Hurts introduces complex and believable characters and makes you care about them while delivering a twisty and compelling plot.  My only complaint?  Perhaps a few too may near misses.  (Gus lives and a retired dentist dies because Gus drops his car keys?  Just saying.)

This is Coleman’s fourth Edgar nomination – he was up for Best Novel once before, Best Paperback Original, and Best Short Story.  Could be the fourth time is the charm.  Where It Hurts is certainly the one to beat!

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Novel

  1. Where it Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman
  2. The Ex by Alafair Burke