Tag Archives: 2012 MWA Edgar nominations

Where All Light Tends to Go Next Up

lightThe next potential Edgar winner is David Joy for his gripping, moody and violent debut, Where All Light Tends to Go.  In fact, there is little light to be seen.  The book is dark, not the noir of city streets, but the noir of a poverty-stricken small town where violence is a given, escape is impossible, and lives play out pointlessly.

Joy’s protagonist faces almost insurmountable odds.  18-year-old Jacob McNeely dropped out of high school two years ago, accepting his place in their Appalachian town, where he’d been raised to be an accomplice to his father’s criminal activities.  Charlie McNeely has a stranglehold on the region’s meth traffic, running his profits through a local garage, and taking it as his duty to toughen Jacob up.  It’s a man’s world, where women are helpless afterthoughts – even Jacob’s mother.  She may love him, but she’s also a lifelong drug addict and incapable of caring for herself.  Her death in the book is shocking for Jacob and for the reader, and triggers a change in Jacob.

The only ray of light in Jacob’s young life is Maggie Jennings.  Childhood friends, Maggie was Jacob’s first love and he was hers.  He still loves her, and because of that love, he broke her heart.  Without him to drag her down, he believes Maggie can go to college, leave  their small town, and never look back.  But is “over” ever truly finished?

It looks like Jacob is caught fast in his father’s web.  When he and the Cabe brothers are assigned to “take care of” a man who’s threatening their business, Jacob follows through, and it’s a stomach-turning process.  They throw the man’s tortured body into a nearby ravine.  When it turns out that the man wasn’t dead, there’s more killing to come.  And more on top of that.  But then… a glimmer of hope.  A local lawman – the only man who has ever shown Jacob any kindness – wants Charlie McNeely dead.  If Jacob can double-cross his dad, he can steal his cash, and he and Maggie can leave town together and create a whole new life.   I won’t spoil the ending, so enough said.

Where All the Light Tends to Go has a lot of ugliness in it, a lot of violence, and a lot of sadness.  It also has a lot of heart.  I found it be almost cinematic, very easy to visualize every scene and every character.  It doubles down at every turn, and Jacob McNeely is truly a tragic hero.

How does Joy’s book stack up against Past Crimes?  Interestingly, both books feature criminal protagonists brought into a life of crime by a father or father-figure.  In Past Crimes, this is primarily backstory for the main character, as Van Shaw has made a complete escape and returns voluntarily.  In Light, it is all Jacob is and can ever be.

I find that Hamilton’s book reminds me of Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series, a well-done and enjoyable read.  Joy is more likely Lori Roy, offering an insightful look at the human condition.  So Where All Light Tends to Go takes the top spot.

mwa_logoLiterary Lunchbox Edgar Ranking: Best First Novel

  1. Where All the Light Tends to Go by David Joy
  2. Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton


Edgar Nominees Announced. Let the Readfest Begin.

The MWA Edgar nominees have been announced, and as usual, up for awards are Books. That. I. Never. Heard. Of.  Given how many hours I devote to reading, what a high percentage of that time is mystery-and-crime-novel-specific, and the wide range of books I plow through in a year,  this is amazing.  Of the ten books , I have only read two (Gone and Bent Road).  You can read my gushing review of Gone here.

I am eager to begin my reading, rating and ranking.  This year, I have it on good authority that my reading and writing buddy Addy is going to do so, also.  You can find her here.

Here are the books I’ll be reading:

For Best Novel:

  1. The Ranger by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  2. Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
  3. The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur Books)
  4. 1222 by Anne Holt (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)
  5. Field Gray by Philip Kerr (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Marion Wood Books)

And for Best First Novel by an American Author:

  1. Red on Red by Edward Conlon (Random House Publishing Group – Spiegel & Grau)
  2. Last to Fold by David Duffy (Thomas Dunne Books)
  3. All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen (The Permanent Press)
  4. Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA – Dutton)
  5. Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)

I am also giving serious thought to trying to dig up all the nominees for best short story.  I love short stories, love to read them, love to write them, am only mildly annoyed by the formulaic ones and am rarely struck speechless by the truly awesome.  You will note that half were published in either Hitchcock or Queen – I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I let my subscription lapse, but I got annoyed by the number of clever, tricky, historical, or otherwise uninspiring stories published.  Perhaps I’ll resubscribe.

  1. “Marley’s Revolution” – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by John C. Boland (Dell Magazines)
  2. “Tomorrow’s Dead” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Dean (Dell Magazines)
  3. “The Adakian Eagle” – Down These Strange Streets by Bradley Denton (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
  4. “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” – Down These Strange Streets by Diana Gabaldon (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
  5. “The Case of Death and Honey” – A Study in Sherlock by Neil Gaiman (Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Books)
  6. “The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)

This will be my third year blogging about the Edgars – you can see how I did in 2010 here and in 2011 here.  Superstitiously, I am determined to read them all in hard copy, not Kindle or iPad2 or iPhone or Nook… since I can only blame my Kindle for my performance in 2011.