Friends, 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.
For 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.
And 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!
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 Valley. And 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.