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Man, You Should Have Seen Them Kicking Edgar Allan Poe

It’s that time again, the Mystery Writers of America will bestow Edgar Awards on worthy crime fiction writers this very night, Thursday, April 27.  Here is a rundown of the nominees:


Best Mystery Novel


Burke, Alafair, The Ex, Harper.  Jack Harris thought his world had ended when his wife was murdered three years ago.  Little did he know what fate had in store--he is drawn into a tangled web and finds himself accused of a triple murder!  His ex-girlfriend, Olivia Randall, is one of New  York’s best criminal defense attorneys and agrees to help him. But as her doubts about his innocence mount she is forced to confront her own dark secret that she has kept for twenty years.  


Coleman, Reed Farrel, Where It Hurts, Putnam. Gus Murphy is down and out. The divorced ex-cop is barely hanging on when he gets a call from ex-con Tommy Delcamino who is turning to the only cop he ever trusted to get to the bottom of the murder of a relative.  The problem: Everyone involved has something to hide, the girlfriend, the best friend, the gang enforcer, the mobsters, even the cops themselves.  Can Gus find the killer, rejoin the living, and survive at the same time?  


Faye, Lindsay, Jane Steele, G.P. Putnam.  Jane Steele has been orphaned as a young girl and is mistreated by her misanthropic aunt and evil cousin. She escapes to a school where she must fight for her very life.  Leaving her tormentors behind, she is delighted to find that her aunt has died and that Thornfield, the new master of the house,  is seeking a governess.  Jane takes the position and seeks to learn whether she is the rightful heir, only to fall in love with Thornfield and desperately try to hide her murderous past.


Gaylin, Alison, What Remains of Me, William Morrow.  In 1980, Kelly Michelle Lund shot and killed a famous Oscar-nominated director during a party at his home. The seventeen year old refuses to reveal her motivation, showing only a sinister, enigmatic smile.  She’s convicted and spends a quarter century behind bars.  Now it’s deja vu--film legend Sterling Marshall is dead by gunshot---and it’s Kelly Michelle’s father-in-law!  Is she a killer, or will she pay for another’s crime?


Hawley, Noah, Before the Fall, Grand Central. On a small plane headed for New York are eleven passengers, ten from the privileged class and one down on his luck painter.But the plane crashes, and the only survivors? The painter, Scott Burroughs, and a four year old, who is now the last remaining member of a family of media moguls. The facts begin to point to a conspiracy--or was it a coincidence that so many powerful people perished?

Best First Mystery Novel by an American author


Berry, Flynn, Under the Harrow, Penguin. Nora takes the train from London to the English countryside, expecting a pleasant holiday with her sister.  But when she arrives she finds that Rachel has been the victim of a brutal murder!  Completely lost, she can’t return to her old life, but neither does she want to involve the police after an unsolved assault soured her trust.  As her obsession with the murder grows, she finds herself as unrecognizable as the sister she thought she knew so well. Paperback Original.


Beverly, Bill, Dodgers, Crown. Drug runner East is sent to Wisconsin to kill a witness in a court case. Traveling with his hotheaded younger brother and sent by his uncle, this family affair wrenches East out of his comfort zone, where he is exposed to a greater range of experience and danger than he ever thought possible.  


Ide, Joe, IQ, Mulholland. In the mean streets of East LA, the cops don’t exactly knock themselves out to solve crimes, so the dropout loner they call IQ takes it upon himself to help close the cases the LAPD can not or will not touch. When a rap impresario is endangered, Isaiah must choose from a menu of suspects--a toxic ex, various gangs, a hit man deemed dangerous even by other hit men, and a lunatic attack dog.  Just another day in the ‘hood!  


Petrie, Nick, The Drifter, Putnam.  Peter Ash has spent the year since returning from military service in the Middle East with shell shock that prevents him from being indoors. Guilty over the suicide of a comrade, he travels to Wisconsin to assist the widow, and stumbles across four hundred grand in cash, explosives, and a really big dog.


Wright, Lili, Dancing with the Tiger, Marian Wood/Putnam. In rural Mexico, a meth-addicted grave robber inadvertently unearths the death mask of Montezuma. Among the cast of characters who will stop at nothing to possess it are a Mexican cartel boss, an American art collector, a respected curator and his long-suffering housekeeper, and Anna Ramsey, who seeks the artifact as a way to redeem her father’s reputation and remake her family into a whole unit again.


Young, Heather, The Lost Girls, Morrow.  Sixty years ago, little Emily disappeared from the family’s lakeside vacation home in Minnesota. Lucy still lives there and has written an account of that family trauma and willed the home to grandniece Justine. Justine will use the place to hide herself and her daughters from an abusive husband...

Best Paperback Original


Dilts, Tyler, Come Twilight, Thomas & Mercer. Everything is copacetic for homicide detective Danny Beckett.  He’s working well with his fellow detectives, he’s getting along with his romantic partner, and he’s solving some cases.  Until he catches a suicide that turns out to be murder, a bomb destroys his car, and then he finds he must choose between department protocol and saving a life.


Dugoni, Robert, The 7th Canon, Thomas & Mercer.  A teenaged hustler has been murdered at a San Francisco shelter for boys and their priest/mentor stands accused. Father Thomas Martin proclaims his innocence and his attorney Peter Donley stands with him. But a cutthroat DA seeks headlines, and a cop obsessed with vengeance have their own agendas, none favorable to Martin or Donley.


McKinty, Adrian, Rain Dogs, Seventh St./Prometheus.  Ulster cop Sean Duffy is confronted with a locked-room mystery right in the midst of The Troubles. Journalist Lily Bigelow died after a fall from a castle, but the room from which she leapt is locked and no one could have shoved her out the window.  Could they?


Abbot, Patricia, Shot In Detroit, Polis.  Middle-aged photographer Violet Hart is down on her luck just now, Living in Detroit she’d specialized in shots of burned out buildings and the like, but her luck changes, kinda, when she’s asked to photograph a deceased young man at the service. She shoots at least a dozen more in this vein, inadvertently putting herself in harm’s way.


Yocum, Robin, A Brilliant Death, Seventh Street. Teenager Travis Baron longs to learn more about his mother, who died in an accident when he was an infant. But there is doubt, as her body was never found, and Travis’ father, in his grief, purged the house and his mind of any memories or evidence of her existence. Travis and his best friend begin piecing together the facts in the case with the help of a disgraced detective who had served time for falsifying evidence.


Ziskin, James W., Heart Of Stone, Seventh Street. Ellie Stone is relaxing at the Adirondack lakes when two poor souls plunge to their deaths. But the cops learn that the two victims didn’t know one another, so how did they come to meet their ends together?  Ellie investigates, and in the upstate NY of the 1960s, must navigate cold war passions, old grudges, betrayal, lost ideals, and somehow stay alive in the bargain.

Best Fact Crime (aka True Crime)

DiMaio, Vincent & Franscell, Ron, Morgue: A Life in Death, St. Martin’s.  A collection of the noteworthy cases, or corpses, that Dr. DiMaio worked on during his career. Included are the inside stories of murder victim Trayvon Martin and the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald.  Author DeMaio emphasizes the importance of impartiality and traces the evolution of the science to its position today in confirming or refuting evidence.


Leamer, Laurence, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, Morrow. March 1981, Mobile, Alabama. Two hapless Klansmen are on the prowl for a black man to murder in retaliation for a jury’s failure to come to a verdict in the case of a black man accused of murdering a white man.  They find a teenager walking home alone, cut his throat and leave him hanging from a tree. The aftermath puts race relations in Alabama front and center, and the Klan subsequently got sued into the Stone Age.


Murphy, Paul Thomas, Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane, Pegasus Crime.  In 1871, a bobby patrolling a desolate London district happened upon a horrendously battered woman, who slipped into a coma and died days later. It was quickly discovered that she was a sixteen-year-old servant of the noteworthy Pooks family, and the family’s son was arrested for the murder.  A real life legal drama pitting a hard-luck servant versus a rich white kid.  The more things change…..


Sanders, Eli, While the City Slept, Viking. Isaiah Kalebu had a history of mental illness and violence witnessed by  family members, police, mental health workers, lawyers, and judges.  But no one was willing or able to step in and prevent the terrible murder committed by Kalebu. Author Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper reporting of the crime and hopes society will heed the call for better treatment of mental illness.


Summerscale, Kate, The Wicked Boy, Penguin.  In the summer of 1895, the Coombes brothers, Robert and Nattie, ages 13 and 12 respectively, were seen gadding about London spending money like a couple of drunken sailors.  They claimed they’d been left alone by their mother and were taking advantage of their newfound freedom.  Their aunt was suspicious, however, and forced her way into the house, where she found the decomposing body of the boys’ mother. Robert quickly confessed to the murder while in police custody, but his lawyers claimed insanity.  A surprise ending worthy of the best thriller will enthrall readers!

Best Critical/Biographical Work


Ackroyd, Peter, Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life, Nan Talese.  Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) didn’t have a brief life, but it was certainly eventful!  From his decidedly peculiar childhood to his start in UK silent film to his Hollywood classics, we see a concise portrait of a guardedly jolly man who loved practical jokes and made darn good pictures!


Brunsdale, Mitzi M., Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967, McFarland.  Far from a dry listing of Scandinavian crime authors, author Brunsdale delves into the cultural context of each country’s crime fiction writers, including the pioneers Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, along with Steig Larsson, who popularized the genre in the North. Also included are adaptations for film and television, stories by other authors set in the countries mentioned, awards bestowed in each country, and more.

Franklin, Ruth, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Liveright.  Author Jackson (1916-1965) has been unfairly overlooked by the arbiters of American literature.  Renowned for her short story ‘The Lottery’ and the novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ there is much more to her body of work, such as pioneering the ‘domestic horror’ story, as this in-depth biography makes clear. Biographer Franklin reveals the darker underpinnings beneath the prose. $35.00.  (Non-Fiction)

Skal, David, Something in the Blood, Liveright.  Since its first publication in 1897, Dracula has spawned an entire industry revolving around the vampire milieu.  But author Bram Stoker remains a largely unknown and mysterious figure.  Until now.  With newly discovered documents at his disposal and years of research behind him, author Skal has created the definitive biography of the creator of a timeless icon. $35.00.




Written by Ian Kern — April 27, 2017

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