Every year at the Boucheron convention, attendees vote for the best of the best in the world of mystery, the Anthony Awards. Two of the biggest winners for 2022 are here at The Field Library in Peekskill, and excellent books they both are.
The Anthony Award winner for Best Novel is Razorblade Tears, by S. A. Cosby, which happens to be a book we read together in the Field of Mystery Book Group (which some of us considered to be one of the best books we read this past year). This is the second year in a row that S.A. Cosby won the Best Novel award; in 2021 he won for his excellent book, Blacktop Wasteland. I haven’t read all the books nominated for the Anthony Awards this year, but I can say definitely that Razorblade Tears was a powerful book and well deserving of the award. Two fathers, one white, one black, both of whom disapproved of their gay sons even before the sons married each other, find themselves working together to avenge the murders of their sons. Both the fathers have criminal backgrounds, neither one of them is a conventional hero, and both of them have to come to grips with the lives of their sons and their own reactions to their sons’ choices. The plot is fast moving and often violent (if you read Blacktop Wasteland, you’ll expect that of this author), but ultimately it’s the characters who are most important and most memorable.
The winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel is quite different from Razorblade Tears. Mia Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo is more of a cozy mystery than anything else. The main character, Lila Macapagal, starts off feeling as if she’s in a rom com: she moves back into her mother’s home, she’s helping her aunt keep the family business going in the face of a nasty landlord who wants to shut the restaurant down so he can sell the building, and she’s recovering from a nasty breakup as her well-meaning aunts attempt to set her up with a new man. Then her ex, who’s earned a reputation as a really mean restaurant critic, eats dinner at Lila’s aunt’s restaurant and promptly drops dead, leaving Lila very much in the crosshairs of the police investigation. Now she has to investigate on her own to find out who might have killed her ex (there are all kinds of people who have motives, though the fact that he died in her aunt’s restaurant does seem to limit the number of people with the opportunity to kill him) before she or her aunt ends up in jail. Because it’s a cozy mystery, you know (a) there’s not going to be a lot of bloodshed or gore,(b) there are going to be a lot of interesting and quirky characters and (c ) things are going to work out in the end. That the main characters are Filipina and the author brings a sense of authenticity to the culture is just icing on the cake that is this book. This is the first book in a series involving these characters, so if you enjoy this one (and why wouldn’t you?), you should definitely also read Homicide and Halo Halo and the most recent one, Blackmail and Bibingka.
Whether your taste in mysteries runs toward the dark and gritty or the lighter and funnier (with good food descriptions), you’ll find what you’re looking for here at The Field Library.