On January 19, the Mystery Writers of America announced the 2016 nominees for the Edgar Awards. I can't let that pass without listing them. I will give title, author and brief description for the nominees for Best Novel and Best First Novel by an American Author. Luckily, the library has all available or on order.
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter. A mix of adventure and historical mystery. While tracking down a missing writer who has exposed the true nature of Calcutta society in 1837 India, a young soldier with few prospects, a secret political agent and a master of disguise are drawn into the mysterious Thuggee cult and its even more ominous suppression.
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr. I love this author's Bernie Gunther series and this is one of them. Bernie is a WWII and after German PI. Think Raymond Chandler type PI. In this work, Gunther is forced to do favors for Joseph Goebbels. Set in Croatia, Bernie finds himself in a world of mindless brutality where everyone has an agenda.
Life or Death by Michael Robotham. Robotham writes fast paced, psychological suspense stories and this is no different. Brutalized in prison for a decade for his alleged knowledge about where a fortune in stolen money is hidden. Audie mysteriously escapes the day before his scheduled release in a determined effort to save someone's life.
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy. Roy has won the Edgar before so we will see. In this story, a 15 year old girl from a small Kentucky town sneaks onto a rival family's property and discovers a dead body. She is forced to confront dangerous past events in order to protect the future. There is a kind of Appalachian atmosphere in this one or maybe Southern Gothic.
Canary by Duane Swierczynski. Sarie Holland is a typical honors student, yet her life becomes anything but when she gives a cute guy a ride and it turns out to be a drug buy. Before she knows it, he's on the run, and she's been arrested. In order to avoid possible jail time, Sarie agrees to become a confidential informant for well-meaning undercover narcotics officer Ben Wildey, Now she is in real trouble.
Night Life by David C. Taylor. Although Taylor has written for television and film, this is his debut novel so receiving this nomination might be more than enough glory this first time out. This work may be the start of a strong series. It's main character, Michael Cassidy, is a NYC cop. In 1954 New York City, cop Michael Cassidy, whose father is a successful Broadway producer and his godfather is a Mafia boss, investigates the brutal murders of young men that garners the attention of the FBI, CIA and the Mafia, while spending his nights with a beautiful new neighbor--who may actually be his enemy.
OK - Best First Novel
Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton. This may also be the start of a series featuring Van Shaw. When his estranged grandfather is shot and left for dead, Shaw. am Army Ranger, must try to find the murderer before he is arrested for the crime.
Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy. I am a sucker for a strong sense of place and this one has that. The beauty of the Appalachian mountains contrasted against the dark depths of realistic life in those same mountains. Jacob McNeely, the 18-year-old son of a meth-addicted mother and a sociopathic father who operates a drug ring, has always believed he can’t transcend his roots. But when his childhood sweetheart, Maggie Jennings, graduates from high school, she asks him to leave the mountains with her, and he begins to envision a life free of his family legacy. Threats to his father’s business provoke violence, however, ensnaring Jacob in murder and betrayal even as he plans his escape.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. This one has gotten quite a few negative reviews so I am surprised to see it on this list. Grooming herself for an ideal life involving a successful career and a happy marriage, a rising young journalist confronts a violent episode from her past that threatens to unravel everything she has worked to achieve. It is said to be dark and brooding.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I am not exactly sure I would define this as a mystery but I guess the mystery writers did so who am I to judge. Viet Thanh Nguyen escaped to this country with his family after the Vietnam war when he was 4 or 5. This work is obviously based on his cultural experiences. It begins with its nameless protagonist, a highly placed young aide to a general in the South Vietnamese army, recalling how he finalized the details of escape before the fall of Saigon. But our hero is a double agent, a communist sympathizer who will continue to feed information to the North even after he makes the harrowing escape with his loyalist friend Bon and the general's family on the last plane out, and becomes part of the Vietnamese refugee community in Southern California.
Lastly, Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. After a heist she planned lands two men she loves in prison, a woman flees Paris and assumes a new identity, furtively checking news from her hometown as her web of deception unravels.
Let's guess who wins the two prizes.