I read and reviewed William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace almost a year ago, noting at that time that I hoped the book would receive the recognition it deserves. And here it is now, nominated for the Best Novel Edgar. Hooray! For those who have read Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series, this standalone will be a revelation.
The book begins with a framing device, as Frank Drum recalls the summer of 1961, when he was 13 years old. Just one page long, this prologue sets the tone for the story that follows, a tragic story filled with loss and anguish. And then the story begins, first person, as it happens.
Frank’s father, a Methodist minister, is a rock upon whom many lean. His mother dreams of a better, more fulfilling life for Frank’s sister Ariel, who is a talented pianist, accepted to Juilliard in the fall. And his younger brother, Jake, is the tag-along kid with a stutter under pressure. What unfolds is shocking: Ariel disappears. When her body is found in the river, suspicion lights on first one, then another of the town’s inhabitants, and Frank learns that many people are not as they seem, including Ariel herself. What Frank learns about betrayal, his family and his own capacity for understanding and forgiveness is astonishingly moving. Read the book for the mystery – it’s a good one. But you’ll remember it for the insights it offers and the emotions it evokes.
Let’s compare to the other nominees!
Finally, Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave. You know I love me some Rebus. The book is tightly plotted and also big on complex characters. But Ordinary Grace has staying power. Of the two, it’s the one you’ll remember long after you read it.
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
- Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
- Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook
- The Humans by Matt Haig
Only two more books to go! Don’t think I haven’t noticed that so far, each one I review moves to the top of the ranking. Coincidence? Fate? We’ll see.