Every year, the Mystery Writers of America nominate the best books in a number of categories for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, known popularly as the Edgar, and the nominees for the 2017 Edgar Awards have just been announced. If you’re interested in the state of mystery writing and want to read some of the best mysteries published last year, come down to the Field Library to check out the nominees we have on our shelves.
Let’s start with Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman. Gus Murphy, the protagonist, is a retired Suffolk County Police Officer who had a good life and everything he could have wanted (a nice home, a family, a good marriage) until a sudden tragedy took everything away, blew his familiar life into chaos and left him questioning everything he thought he knew. Now divorced and working as a courtesy van driver for a hotel where he works, he’s numb when an ex-con comes to him for help. It seems the man’s son had been killed four months before and nobody seemed interested in investigating the murder. Gus reluctantly agrees to look into the matter and soon discovers that the man was evidently telling him the truth: everyone involved with the son has something to hide and is willing to go to great lengths to keep those secrets hidden. Gus soon finds he’s gotten involved in something very dangerous, just when he’s finally starting to come back to life.
Interested in the best of the domestic thrillers of 2016? Then turn to The Ex by Alafair Burke. Our protagonist is Olivia Randall, a top criminal defense lawyer. Twenty years ago, she was engaged to marry Jack Harris, but things fell apart. Now she finds out he’s being charged with a triple homicide, and that one of the victims was connected to the murder of his wife. Of course he has to be innocent, she believes; the man she knew was incapable of doing something so horrible. She takes on his defense, hoping to make it up to him for what she did to him twenty years before. She’s sure someone’s framing him, but why would anyone go to such lengths to ruin him? As she prepares her defense, however, and begins to confront the evidence against him, she begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her former fiancee. Twists and turns aplenty in this novel of psychological suspense.
For a different kind of mystery, Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall involves the crash of a private plane leaving from Martha’s Vineyard and the deaths of eight out of ten of the people aboard the plane. The two survivors are a down-on-his-luck painter and a four year old boy, the last remaining member of a wealthy family. The book alternates chapters between the immediate aftermath of the crash in the sea and the backstories of the different people who were in the plane, and the mystery of what actually caused the accident deepens. Was it just a coincidence that all these powerful people were on that plane and it happened to crash or was something more sinister going on? When I mention that the book is written by the screenwriter of the movie Fargo, that gives you a hint that there’s complicated machinations going on and that you’re in the hands of a master.
And finally in the best novel category is a book I personally consider one of my favorites that I read this past year, Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye. I wrote it up last year here https://fieldlibraryadults.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/jane-steele-a-rollicking-read-for-those-who-love-victorian-novels/, and although I’m not one of the people voting on the Edgars this year, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want this one to be the winner, if only because it was so much fun to read. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to pick it up now and enjoy it before the awards come out.
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Here at the Field Library we have a few of the nominees in this category as well, a few of which have already been previewed in this blog. For those who are doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, I just want to mention that all of these qualify as debut novels to fulfill that category.
One is I Q, by Joe Ide, written up here https://fieldlibraryadults.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/a-new-and-different-sherlock-holmes-iq/, which takes the idea of Sherlock Holmes with his brilliance and his quirks and translates them to a young black man living in modern day Los Angeles.
Another is Dodgers by Bill Beverly, combines the crime story with a coming of age novel. Our protagonist, East, is a young man involved with a Los Angeles drug gang. Sent by his uncle with some other teenagers, including his dangerous and hotheaded younger brother, out east to Wisconsin to kill a witness, East finds himself in an America he knows nothing about and hasn’t even imagined, and the road trip changes him and his perspective on the world.
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie introduces us to Peter Ash, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who’s come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and all he wants to do at first is get away from humanity, living in the wild. But when he learns that one of his Marine companions committed suicide, Peter wants to help the widow with some work around the house. In the course of that help, Peter discovers first a large, mean and ugly dog, and then a suitcase filled with explosives and money. Naturally he starts looking into those discoveries, and he finds himself in the middle of a gigantic plot, and is in danger of being dragged back into the world he thought he’d escaped.