Tag Archives: Edgars

Congrats to Edgar recipients Jim Klise, Tom Bouman and Stephen King!

EdgarsSo, I’m feeling pretty smug – I may not have batted 1000 on my Edgar rankings this year, but it was pretty dang close.   I called it 100% one time, been completely wrong once, and otherwise tend to get one right and the other one wrong.  Since I’m not actually trying to predict the outcome, but to review and rank by my own standards (I’m not actually sure what standards the Edgars judges actually use!), it’s not surprising that I am not in perfect alignment.  Still, MWA and Literary Lunchbox agree way more often than random chance would dictate.

secretsFirst up, kudos to ADA pal and FB friend Jim Klise, whose young adult mystery The Art of Secrets took home an Edgar.  I read The Art of Secrets and enjoyed it very much!  Not in middle school?  Read it anyway!

bonesMy call for Best First Novel was Tom Bouman’s Dry Bones in the Valley.  An assured debut, it stood out for me among the other worthy nominees.  And indeed, it won the Edgar.  My good friend Addy Whitehouse reviewed this category as well – her call was The Life We Bury.  I enjoyed that book, but it wasn’t my favorite.

mercedeAnd you all know just how difficult the call was for Best Novel this year.  Of the six nominees, I truly felt that five of them were 5-star books.  Ultimately, I gave Mo Hayder’s Wolf the nod because it was a more complex narrative, in my estimation, than Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.  I ranked that #2, and dang it, Mr. King’s Mr. Mercedes took home the Edgar.  Still, if this were horseshoes, I’d be the big winner.

The Edgar excitement is all over for another year!   Colleagues in my workplace find it all super-geeky, but hey, geek is chic.

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Mo Hayder’s Wolf the final nominee for MWA Best Novel Edgar

wolfLunchbox regulars know that there are a few favorite authors that I buy in hardback, recommend wholeheartedly, and await with anticipation their next novel.  Back in the day it was Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and John Grisham.  Currently, it’s Ian Rankin, Laura Lippmann, Michael Connelly, Louise Penny, William Kent Krueger and Mo Hayder.   It was a wonderful day when I discovered Mo Hayder’s Gone – not to mention her entire back catalog – and I marveled at her ability to create suspense and surprise.  As an aspiring writer myself, reading Gone was like a master lesson in craft.  It deserved and won the Edgar for Best Novel in 2012.

No surprise to me –  Mo Hayder has penned another masterclass of a thrilling detective story with Wolf.  If anything the plot is even more knotty than Gone, and there’s no cheating.  Reading Wolf the third time through to review it for the MWA Edgar for Best Novel, I was able to note all the clues that I should have been picking up on were right there in front of me.

There are two plot threads. In the first, a wealthy family – the Anchor-Ferrars – are settling into their comfortable vacation home when they’re visited by two policemen, DI Honey and DS Molina.  Fifteen years previously, a teenage couple had been brutally murdered just a short distance away.  The killer disemboweled them both and strung their intestines, shaped into a heart, in the trees above them.  Now it appears that a second, similar murder has taken place, and the family is stricken to learn that their safety is at risk.  And it certainly is, for we soon realize that the policemen are not policemen at all, but have been hired to terrorize the family in order to suppress the publication of Oliver Anchor-Ferrars’ memoirs.  Although he’s now in his mid-60s and recovering from open-heart surgery, Oliver Anchor-Ferrars is a much harder and smarter man than he appears.  Over the four days of their captivity, Oliver deduces the truth and leaves a hidden message for the police detective he anticipates will be responsible for solving the crime.

The second thread is DI Jack Caffery’s lifelong search for the truth about the abduction and presumed sexual assault and murder of his 9-year-old brother, Ewan.  The Caffery family lived just steps away from a known pedophile, and Jack has spent decades trying to discover what happened to his brother and to find his body.  He’s similar, in that respect, to Hayder’s continuing character known as the walking man.  The walking man is a homeless itinerant, but highly intelligent and educated man, whose daughter was abducted.  He searches as he walks, seeking her body, and sometimes shares information with Jack.  And sometimes he doesn’t.

The threads come together through coincidence, or as the walking man would have it, fate.   For the only hope for rescue of the Anchor-Ferrars family rests in the speedy exit of their Border terrier, Bear.  A note reading “Help Us,” and including their address, was attached to Bear’s collar by Mrs. Anchor-Ferrars, who then threw the dog down the fireplace chimney.  Injured and with most of the note missing, Bear is discovered by a little blonde girl – Amy – in the nearby park who turns to none other than the walking man for help.  And the walking man turns to Jack, dangling the potential of information about Ewan from a new source as his incentive to track down Bear’s owners.

And thus does Jack Caffery begin his search, even as Honey and Molina are inflicting mental torture and physical abuse on the family.  It’s a long and complicated process, and Jack prevails in bringing all the perpetrators to justice, although the day is not entirely saved.  (I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers.)

Mo Hayder has written a perfect Rubik’s cube of a puzzle, where all the pieces slot perfectly into place but there’s a lot of looking at things in new ways to make them do so.  At the same time, the characters are simply the most well-drawn and compelling characters – good guys, bad guys, and minor walk-ons alike – that I have seen in … well, forever, really.  The book itself is painful at many points and the resolution of the mystery of Jack’s brother Ewan is surprising, ironic, and completely in keeping with the synchronicity of life’s events.

So, there’s the review – but what about the ranking?  The #1 ranked novel, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, is an excellent book and I look forward to more from Bill Hodges.  But Mo Hayder’s Wolf is a deeper experience all together – it takes the top spot.   I forecast Wolf as the big winner at the Edgar Awards ceremony this week.

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

  1. Wolf by Mo Hayder
  2. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  3. Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
  4. The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
  5. Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin
  6. This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

The Mystery Writers of America Edgars Banquet is Wednesday, April 29.  That night, the winners of the Best Novel and Best First Novel awards will be announced, among others.  My former colleague Jim Klise is up for an Edgar for his YA novel, The Art of Secrets.  (Good luck, Jim!)  We’ll see if he prevails, and if my calls of Mo Hayder’s Wolf and Tim Bouman’s Dry Bones in the Valley are on the money.

Matthew Quirk Roars to the Lead in the Edgar Race

500Ay, carumba.  When I read Black Fridays, the Edgar nominee for Best First Novel (reviewed here), I had high hopes that this would be the worthy successor to John Grisham’s white-collar, bruised-knuckle thriller.  Alas, it was not to be.  But Matthew Quirk’s The 500 more than ably fulfills that hope.

Here’s the set-up:  Mike Ford is street-smart and book-smart, a Harvard grad who grew up with a small-time con for a father, a brother who turned to breaking and entering, and his own uncanny skill in lock-picking.  He’s been recruited into a DC political consulting firm where junior associates do hundreds of hours of research to present a one-page memo (a process they call “boiling the sea”).  And when your one-page memo isn’t enough to get the result that’s needed, you’re out the door.  No do-overs.   So when Mike is canny enough to keep working even after his memo is written, following the target and uncovering his stash of bribe money, and is able to keep his deal from going south, he thinks its a big win.  It’s not.  Although his brash behavior meets with approval (good), Mike is pulled over to the dark side of the Davies Group (bad and scary).  Will Mike be able to triumph when all the odds are stacked against him, with nothing but his girlfriend, his father, and a family friend to help him do so?  It is no spoiler to say “you bet he will.”

Excellent things about this book:

  • Great plotting with minimal contrivances – All the twists are well set up.
  • Believable characters – Even those who could have been over the top (Henry Davies as the Machiavellian leader of the Davies Group and warlord Radomir Dragovic) are nuanced.
  • Fabulous suspense – The prologue sets up the climax and keeps you hanging, while Chapter 1 loops back around to Mike’s first encounter with Davies at Harvard, leaving you, as the reader, to bite your nails with each succeeding chapter as the final showdown comes inexorably closer.

Not 100% sold on:

  • I’m not sure that every character is needed; the girlfriend’s father, for example.
  • The tie between Mike’s father’s crime and Henry Davies (although a small tie) stretches credulity.

Still, good work by Matthew Quirk in this thoroughly enjoyable debut novel.  He takes the lead in the ranking so far.  Just two more to go!

MWA Edgar (Best First Novel) ranking so far:

  1. The 500 by Matthew Quirk
  2. Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
  3. Black Fridays by Michael Sears
  4. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Edgar nominees announced!

mwa_logoLet the reading begin.  The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the prestigious Edgar awards for works published in 2012.  In recent years, I have reviewed and ranked the nominees for Best Novel and for Best First Novel by an American Author.   Shockingly, I had only read two of the 13 books nominated in these categories this year (Gone Girl and Live by Night).  The Edgar Awards banquet will be held May 2, 2013 in New York City at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Here’s the list of books nominated for Best Novel:

  • The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (Penguin Group USA – Amy Einhorn Books/G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn (Crown Publishers)
  • Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  • Sunset by Al Lamanda (Gale Cengage Learning – Five Star)
  • Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
  • All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley (Penguin Group USA – Riverhead Books)
      

And here are the nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author:

     

My philosophy:  I started out with a “predict the Oscars” mindset, assuming that my perspective on mystery/crime novels would reflect the perspectives of the decision-makers.  And my first year reviewing and ranking certainly reinforced that perspective:  I called it in both categories.  The next year, zippo. This was met with shock and deep mourning.  Last year, I got one right and one wrong (but not by much).  So, batting .500 overall.  You can read more about the 2010, 2011 and 2012 review process here, here and here.

One thing new this year:  in an effort to support my local independent bookstore (Hi, Book Table people!), I purchased 12 of the 13 books right there.  (I already owned the Dennis Lehane.)  They were super-helpful in ordering for me and I got them all at a discount.  Previously, I had been just as likely – or perhaps more likely – to purchase from Amazon, borrow from the library, or buy the e-book, as I was to buy locally.  But as they say, “if you shop here, we will be here,” and  I want my local bookstore, even if I do wish they were just a wee bit bigger.

Resolution:  Finish early.  I typically am posting my final review and ranking the same week as the banquet.   The associated anxiety takes away some of the fun.

Edgars announced

Bed time but must post quickly!  The Edgars are out.

I called it on Best Novel:  Gone by Mo Hayder.  Awesome.  Congrats.

I went back and forth on Best First Novel, and ultimately selected All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen.  The actual winner was my #2 ranked book, Bent Road by Lori Roy.   Congrats to her, as well!  She totally deserves it and I get why the Edgar judges made the call.

I am pleased with this year’s alignment, especially compared to last year, which was awesomely off-track.

Pondering the international flavor of this year’s Edgar nominees

Of the authors who have books nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Novel, only one’s American:  Ace Atkins.  Mo Hayder is British, Keigo Higashino is Japanese, Anne Holt is Norwegian, and Philip Kerr is British.  Hmm.  It got me thinking – is this an unusual year, or is there usually such an international flavor?

Let’s check it out.  I visited the MWA Edgar website, which has an awesome, searchable database.  Seriously, check it out here.  Want to know if your favorite author ever won an Edgar?  Want to know who won every year for the last ten years so you can make a library run?  Whatever you want to know, it’s there.

From 2003 to 2011, there were 48 books and 44 authors nominated for a Best Novel Edgar.  Michael Connelly, Ken Bruen, Laura Lippman and John Hart were all nominated twice – and John Hart won in both years!  Connelly, Bruen, and Lippman did not receive the award either time they were nominated in the last ten years.

Of the 44 nominees, 29 (or 2/3) are American.   The other 1/3 are not.  Of these: 4 are British.  4 are Irish.  3 are Scottish.  1 is Japanese. 1 is Norwegian.  1 is Swedish. 1 is South African.

So – yay!  I’m not nuts.  This year’s MWA nominees for Best Novel are definitely skewed towards the international.

But how does a book get nominated, anyway?  The work must be submitted for consideration, and to be considered, it must have been published in the United States for the first time during the year previous (so 2012 submissions must have been published in 2011).  Publishers must have met the MWA criteria.  For Best Novel, publication must have been in hard copy. Publishers are expected to submit the works, but authors or agents may do so.

And from here, it’s a big blur.  The MWA website is weak in this regard, it appears that either how the works are judged is considered common knowledge or it is considered proprietary.  I do know that many people read the submissions and there is an ongoing process to winnow it down to the top six and then the ultimate winner.  There’s no nomination committee and then voting – it’s all done by the same people.

Here’s a blog post from last year from Bruce Hollingdrake at The Bookshop Blog.  It’s pretty helpful.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for Literary Lunchbox.  (I need some helper monkeys at work.)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,400 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I must admit, I have been amazed at the number of visits my blog has generated, and also taken a bit aback by how many visits Harry Potter is responsible for.   It is nice to see, however, that there are other pages that are also popular.   Most disappointing is the fact that I don’t get many comments – in fact, with 181 blog posts, I have only 148 comments.  I wrote about the lonely life of a blogger here back in 2010.  A lot of bloggers do giveaways to get comments… not ready to go there, seems a little desperate.

I know that book lovers account for lot of Literary Lunchbox drop-ins, especially mystery fans.  Edgar frenzy continues to account for many, many visits in the weeks between the nominee announcements in January and the Edgar ceremony in April – and I must admit, it’s a fun time for me.  2010 was a time of triumph, 2011 abject humiliation – who knows what 2012 will hold?

Facebook, Linked In, She Writes all account for a goodly number of visits – friends, colleagues, other writers follow the link to my blog when I have a new post.  I have several subscribers (Thank you!  Love you!).  But Google is the biggest source, which tells me that when people are out there looking for book reviews, they find me.  Or if they want to read about writing, they find me.  That’s cool.