Tag Archives: In the Shadow of Gotham

Lunchbox scores on Edgars calls

The Mystery Writers of America Edgars Awards news is out!  And I totally called it for Best Novel and Best First Novel by an American Author.

John Hart took the prize for Best Novel, and he was #1 in my ranking.  The Last Child is a great police procedural, and so much more, thanks to interesting characters and the inclusion of a compelling child’s POV.  Click here for my review.  It’s everywhere in paperback, so if you haven’t read it, hie thee to the local Borders.

Stefanie Pintoff’s In the Shadow of Gotham took Best First Novel by an American Author, and deservedly so.   It was tops in my ranking, too!   It was a great debut.  While I am not a fan of historical mysteries in general, this one was so compelling and well-written that I was glued to the pages.  (Metaphorically.)  Read my review here.

Other Edgar recipients were announced as well, including Marc Strange’s Body Blows for Best Paperback Original and Dave Cullen’s Columbine for Best Fact Crime.  For the full listing of Edgar awards, visit the MWA site!

Best First Novel by American Author…

Just finished the final nominee for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for Best First Novel by an American Author, David Cristofano’s The Girl She Used to Be.  Someone once said that any book can be described using a “what if?” sentence.  In the case of this suspenseful story, the sentence would be “What if a girl in the Witness Protection Program fell in love with the son of the man who killed her parents?”

Melody Grace McCartney was only six when her desire for a special breakfast changed their lives forever, when the family witnessed a mob murder. Persuaded to give evidence by the promise of protection, the McCartneys entered into a nomadic existence that ended for the parents in a hail of bullets.  Since then, Melody’s been on her own, moving on when restlessness and vague anxiety spur her to do so.

Imagine her surprise when she finds out, from the man deputized to find and kill her, that he’s been following her movements for years… knows her intimately… and has a plan to save her.  Add in his abs of steel, intelligence, and numerous scars to show he’s been hurt, too, and who wouldn’t fall in love?

More romantic suspense than mystery, The Girl She Used to Be packs plenty of action and nail-biting tension into its pages, with a resolution that has a strong Gift of the Magi-like quality.  Overall, I liked it.  Melody has a certain sass and determination.  Jonathan – or Little Johnny as the family call him – has an air of quiet desperation and determination.  As I was reading it, it occurred to me that it would make a great date movie.  It’s just the right scope, the characters are just the right age, it has lots of tension, romance and action, and you’re filled with hope even as you are certain the lovers are doomed.  And sure enough, on David Cristofano’s web site is the news that the movie rights have been sold to the same folks who made The Notebook (book by Nicholas Sparks) and My Sister’s Keeper (author Jodi Picoult).

Still, the book doesn’t quite come up to the standard I set for a mystery.  As a result, The Girl She Used to Be lands smack in the midlist of the Literary Lunchbox Edgar Awards.  Congrats to winner Stefanie Pintoff for In the Shadow of Gotham… if the Edgar judges follow my lead, she’ll be picking up her award on April 29th!  Here’s the final line-up:

  1. In the Shadow of Gotham – Stefanie Pintoff
  2. Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley
  3. The Girl She Used to Be – David Cristofano
  4. A Bad Day for Sorry – Sophie Littlefield
  5. Blackwater Rising – Attica Locke
  6. The Weight of Silence – Heather Gudenkauf

In the Shadow of Gotham takes the lead!

In the race to the finish, In the Shadow of Gotham takes the lead for the MWA Edgar award for Best First Novel by an American Author!   It’s not terrifically surprising – Stefanie Pintoff’s debut was the winner of the Minotaur First Crime Novel Award Winner for 2010, and whether she takes the Edgar or not, this book will be honored at the Edgars awards ceremony in NYC on April 29.

Set in 1905, this mystery takes place in New York and features a well-educated and sensitive police detective, Simon Ziele, chasing a serial killer.  Backstory:  his fiance was killed in the General Slocum ferry disaster the previous year; as a policeman, Ziele was on hand to help with the rescue but was not able to save her.   Now he’s been called to partner with an old-style police detective north of the city to solve a brutal murder.  Victim Sarah Wingate is well-born, lovely, and an exceptionally insightful graduate student in mathematics at Columbia University, and she’s been slaughtered in her family home.   Complicating the situation: one of the family servants has disappeared.   Another victim?  A witness? An accomplice?

Even more interesting is Ziele’s opportunity to collaborate with the rich and brilliant criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who has been conducting an in-depth personal study of a serial killer in the making – Michael Fromley – whom he believes he caught before he crossed the line from fascination to murder.  He believes that Fromley killed Sarah Wingate, and he’s successful in convincing Ziele to look at the psychopathology in addition to investigating in his usual way.

The characterization is strong, the writing is smooth and self-assured, and the book has just the right amount of twists and turns.  I was about to take off points for obvious tipping to the actual bad guy… but then, surprise!  I was right, but not completely right.   The hint of Ziele’s romantic interest in Sinclair’s daughter-in-law Isabella (widow of Sinclair’s son, who was murdered in a robbery in Greece – something the reader may think has a bearing on the case… but nope) gives a little sweetness to the story.

As a brief sample of Stefanie Pintoff’s style, here’s Simon Ziele’s description of the day his fiancee died:

Hannah had worn red that day – a new dress that warmed her skin and lit up her auburn hair.  I had barely been able to breathe through thick, smoke-laden air as our boat came closer and closer, pulling up more survivors on the way.  I helped them all, barely noticing, for I as vainly searching the waters for Hannah.  Closer, closer, I had urged the helmsman, directing him toward the front bow of the ship where a young woman in red stood pressed against the ship’s rail.  I couldn’t make out her face … couldn’t tell whether or not it was indeed her… and as we came close, all went black in a wall of fire.

So, with five of the six books read, here’s the line-up!  Only David Cristofano’s The Girl She Used to Be left to go.

  1. In the Shadow of Gotham – Stefanie Pintoff
  2. Starvation Lake – Bryan Gruley
  3. A Bad Day for Sorry – Sophie Littlefield
  4. Blackwater Rising – Attica Locke
  5. The Weight of Silence – Heather Gudenkauf