Tag Archives: The Poacher’s Son

Lunchbox offbase on Edgar picks this year

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the Edgar Award winners!  And unlike last year, where my taste totally reflected the taste of the judges… we are not in synch.  In fact, 180 degrees difference.

I picked Tana French’s Faithful Place for Best Novel.  MWA picked Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist.   I placed this one… dead last in the running.  Augh.  A revisit of my review reveals that I still agree with my comments.   Hamilton is a great author – I’ve loved his previous series – and The Lock Artist was very creative and a fun read, but I didn’t find it to be my preference.

Similarly, for Best First Novel, my pick was Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston.  MWA’s choice: Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva.  Again, this book was at the bottom of my list.  I looked back over my review.  Yep, still agree with it.  The book has sheer verve going for it, but it’s not as edgy as I prefer.

Bottom line:  If you haven’t read all the nominees, do so!  They’re all excellent and well worth your time.  You can’t go wrong with the established authors nominated for Best Novel, including Tana French, Harlen Coben, Tom Franklin, Timothy Hallinan and Laura Lippman.

For the debut novels, you may find that Rogue Island is your favorite, or perhaps the humor and quirky characterizations of David Gordon’s The Serialist will float your boat.  All five nominees are an opportunity to expand your “must read” list.

My final take on being so wrong?  No biggie.  It’s like the Oscars.  “Predict the Oscars” contests reward those critics who are best are predicting what nominees will be selected by the Oscar voters.  I am more like the critics who pen “who should win” columns.  But even with that perspective, this undertaking is all very subjective! Still, it’s terrifically fun, so 2012 will find me doing the same thing.  Maybe I’ll even go to the ceremony!


Snow Angels final nominee for Best First Novel Edgar

James Thompson’s Snow Angels is the final nominee for the MWA Edgar for Best First Novel to be reviewed and ranked… and just in time, because the Edgars Award Ceremony is tonight!  Will the winners be on the MWA website tonight or not till tomorrow?  Not sure.

I’m surprisingly nervous.   After my perfect score last year (getting both Best First Novel and Best Novel right), I’m hoping to recreate the feeling.  But if bat 0 instead of 1000:  devastation.

But on to Snow Angels.  James Thompson is an American married to a Finn… and his protagonist, Kari Vaara, is a Finn married to an American.  Kari’s a cop in the Arctic Circle who mostly solves domestic murders.  In fact, he says that frequently the murderder confesses right off the bat. An example of this is included in Snow Angels.  Alcohol, depression, close quarters and the long, endless night of winter all play a role in a typical Lapland killing.

But Snow Angels doesn’t feature a typical murder… it’s the grotesque and brutal murder of a Somali-born movie star.  Black, beautiful, and complicated, Sufia Elmi has moved far beyond her Muslim upbringing to end up butchered in the subzero snow of a reindeer farm.  Kari worries that he is not experienced enough to solve this murder, but the reader sees that his true fault is that he is so involved with each and every potential suspect that he lets his personal feelings get in the way of seeing the truth.  Kari’s ultimately successful in solving the crime, but not without a lot of additional blood being spilled along the way.

Pros for Snow Angels:  The setting is interesting and well-rendered, Kari’s character is well-fleshed-out and his perspective is true and strong, the plot is twisty and the end is surprising.  The tie-in to the Black Dahlia murder was also an interest reference and clue.  Cons:  I found the first-person, present tense a little difficult to get used to and as a reader, I was more detached from the emotional content of the plot than I would have liked.

Overall, Snow Angels was well worth reading (in fact, I’ve already read the second Kari Vaara mystery!), but not engaging enough to take the #1 spot.  So, going into tonight’s awards, here’s the Literary Lunchbox lineup:

  1. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
  2. The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron.
  3. Snow Angels by James Thompson
  4. The Serialist by David Gordon
  5. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Friday’s post:  the winners!  Best wishes to all the nominees – this is one award where being a nominee is definitely an honor.

The Poacher’s Son: A worthy opponent!

Wow.  Great new entry into the Literary Lunchbox reviewing/ranking for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel.

I spent quite a few hours with The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron, finding it to be an enjoyable mystery with a credible and engaging premise:  grown-up son of a hard-drinking rural scofflaw (the poacher in question) becomes a game warden as a rejection of all his father stands for.  Basically a wilderness cop, Mike Bowditch hasn’t heard from his father in years when he gets an unexpected phone call.  The next thing you know, Mike’s dad is a fugitive from a double murder charge, and Mike knows in his heart that it can’t be true.   The reader buys in completely to Mike’s perspective and watches with a heavy heart as Mike sacrifices his friendships, his lovelife, and even his career in order to help his dad.

That’s why it’s such a rush when everything clicks into place in the last few chapters of the book.  All is not what it seems, and as the danger ratchets up and the bodies pile up, it becomes apparent that Mike may just have sacrificed all – for nothing.

Pros for The Poacher’s Son:  believable characters, page-turning suspense, killer ending.  Cons:  A couple of the characters are a little thin.

The Poacher’s Son is pretty clearly superior to Rogue Island and The Serialist.  So the question comes down to Galveston or The Poacher’s Son for the top spot so far.  The books have similarities – both are character-driven.  Both turn on new understandings of long-time relationships.  Ultimately, The Poacher’s Son is narrower in scope than Galveston, so it doesn’t quite edge out the front-runner.  Here’s the line up so far:

  1. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
  2. The Poacher’s Sonby Paul Doiron.
  3. The Serialist by David Gordon
  4. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Still to come:  Only Snow Angels.  Stay tuned.