Tag Archives: Edgar AWards

Abbott and Yocum: Both new to me

The first two books I’m reading, reviewing and ranking for the Literary Lunchbox Best Paperback Original Edgar are Patricia Abbott’s Shot in Detroit and A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum.

Yocum’s got great credentials:  he’s a former crime and investigative reporter, winner of more than 30 awards for journalism, and the author of several previous novels, one of which was USA Today’s 2011 book of the year for mystery/suspense.  On the other hand, Abbott has published 65 short stories, has won the Deringer award, and is the mother of Edgar award winner Megan Abbott.  I expected a pretty tight race between the two.

I’ll go ahead and cut the suspense:  Yocum crushed it.

shot-in-detroitShot in Detroit has a great concept:  Late-30s, single white female photographer is living on the edge and looking for her artistic edge when her African-American boyfriend calls to ask her to photograph one of his corpses.  (It’s okay because his a mortician and the family is requesting it.)   Voila!  An artistic hook.  Plus, she really gets into portraying the dark variety of death.  But there’s no central crime, no mystery to be solved, and when photographer Violet Hart photographs her own boyfriend’s crushed corpse, it’s jump the shark time.  This is a book that could have been so much more.  Best part:  a real understanding of Detroit and its neighborhoods.

brilliantMeanwhile, Robin Yocum’s A Brilliant Death is reminiscent of John Hart’s Down River (although not as dark).  Mitch Malone, the narrator, promises to relate a story that he has kept a secret until the death of his best friend’s father… the story of how he and that friend, Travis Baron, investigated the disappearance (and as becomes evident, the murder) of Travis’ mother.  How their graduation night took a tragic turn.  And how ultimately, justice prevailed.  The book is suspenseful, well-plotted, characters compelling and believable (both heroes and villains), and the writing first-rate.

A Brilliant Death takes the top spot.

Literary Lunchbox Rankings: Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award, Best Original Paperback

  1. A Brilliant Death – Robin Yocum
  2. Shot in Detroit – Patricia Abbott

mwa_logo

Edgar starts NOW!

edgarEvery year, I read, review, and rank the MWA Edgar finalists in 2-3 categories, and overall, about half the time the Literary Lunchbox pick for the Edgar and the actual winner line up.  Some years, I miss them all.  One year, I batted .1000.  But given that there are 5-6 entries in each category, I do okay.  It helps that I’m not trying to forecast the winner, I’m just telling you who would win if LL was in charge of the award program.  So I can always think that MWA got it wrong!

This year, I’m going to start with the Best Paperback Original category, because that’s where I found my favorite Edgar book from last year, Lou Berney’s Long and Faraway Gone.  It won.  (Also the Macavity, Anthony and Barry awards!)

shot

Here’s this year’s line up!

  • Shot in Detroit – Patricia Abbott
  • Come Twilight – Tyler Dilts
  • The 7th Canon – Robert Dugoni
  • Rain Dogs – Adrian McKinty
  • A Brilliant Death – Robin Yocum
  • Heart of Stone – James W. Siskin

Only Robert Dugoni and Adrian McKinty are familiar to me, and frankly, McKinty’s book is the one to beat from my perspective.  He’s a seasoned author, Rain Dogs is an entry in a popular series featuring Irish detective Sean Duffy, and as it happens, I already read it and loved it.  But I try to wipe that all from my mind and read for more than sheer enjoyment during Edgar time.

Once Best Original Paperback is done, I expect to go through Best First Novel by an American Author and finish up with Best Novel.  This year’s banquet is on April 27, so that gives me three months to get through them all.  Generally I manage to squeak by, time-wise.

My good friend and writing buddy Addy Whitehouse will also be reviewing this year – you can find her here.  She uses a different system – a 1-10 rating – so theoretically she could end up with a tie!  Occasionally I love something she hates, and vice versa.  Thus proving there is something out there for everyone…

Edgar list is out!

mwa_logoEvery year, the Mystery Writers of America bestow Edgar awards in various categories, including Best Novel, Best First Novel by an American Author, Best Short Story, and so on. The nominees come out in January and the Edgars are given at a star-studded banquet (think Oscars, but with a lower glamour quotient).  This year’s ceremony is April 28; as always, it’s in New York City.  Oh, I wish I could go!  As an MWA member I get an invite and it. would. be. a. thrill.

This will be my sixth year of reading, reviewing, and ranking the nominees for Best Novel and Best First Novel.  My track record, in terms of agreeing with the MWA, has been mixed.  But since I’m not trying to predict who WILL win, but instead, letting you know who SHOULD win, that’s not a big deal.  Although when we agree perfectly (which has actually happened), I feel a certain smug satisfaction.

And the list of finalists is out!  I’m pretty excited to get started reading.  I see some familiar names, including Michael Robotham, Philip Kerr and Lori Roy.  On the newbie side, I’ve only read Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive.

Best Novel

  • The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (Penguin Random House – A Marian Wood Book)
  • Life or Death by Michael Robotham (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
  • Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)
  • Canary by Duane Swierczynski (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
  • Night Life by David C. Taylor (Forge Books)

Best First Novel

  • Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
  • Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
  • Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (Penguin Random House – Viking

I may even attempt to get to the Best Paperback Novel, but don’t hold me to it.  Here are those nominees.

  • The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
  • The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
  • What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
  • Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
  • Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
  • The Daughter by Jane Shemilt (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

To the nominees:  I know the tension is killing you… who will receive the Literary Lunchbox Edgars?  Watch this space over the next three months to see how you fare against your brethren.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

To the readers:  Ditto.  And  for this who are not up for the tension of reading without knowing who won…  Here’s a list of last year’s nominees AND the winners for your enjoyment.

Churchill’s Secretary interesting entry in Edgar race

secretaryThe third debut novel up for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe award for Best First Novel is Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.  This historical spy thriller reimagines London, 1940, as Britain is on the edge of entering WWII, the IRA is working hand-in-glove with the Nazis, and social mores are changing, especially for women… but not fast enough.

Protagonist Maggie Hope is a British citizen raised in the United States by her aunt, about to head off for graduate studies in mathematics when the death of an elderly relative back in England compels her to London to settle the estate.   Her group of friends include two who work at #10 Downing Street, and when the prime minister’s typist is stabbed to death in an apparent robbery attempt, Maggie is encouraged to apply for and accept the offer to take her place.

Little does she know that there are wheels within wheels.  Her father, a brilliant mathemetician who died in the same auto accident that killed Maggie’s mother, is referenced in a mysterious way.  What really happened to the PM’s typist?  And it appears that one of her supposed friends may be an IRA terrorist.  Maggie uses both her brains – to break a code in a newspaper advertisement in order to foil a plot to assassinate Winston Churchill – and her moxy to make the transition from #10 Downing Street to MI-5.

Here’s what worked well for me:  MacNeal does a great job of evoking 1940s London, the plot keeps you turning the pages, and the slowly emerging romance between Maggie and her colleague, John, is handled deftly.

Not so good:  Too many coincidences (the Virginia debutante as an Irish terrorist?), not enough insight into the characters (except for Maggie, David and John, everybody else is cardboard), and a ridiculous amount of violence that doesn’t particularly advance the plot.

Ranking the three debut novels:   Easy-peasey.  Mr. Churchill’s engaging secretary goes right to the bottom of the list.  Despite its flaws, Black Fridays is still the superior read.  Historical fiction has it tough… not only does it have to be accurate (catching the author out is a favorite game of many readers), but it has to have a compelling plot, characters we care about, and a real mystery to be unravelled.  I’m afraid that Mr. Churchill’s Secretary comes up short.

MWA Edgar (Best First Novel) ranking so far:

  1. Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
  2. Black Fridays by Michael Sears
  3. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
from Pinteret

from Pinterest