The best novels, short stories, and nonfiction books have been nominated for the Agatha Awards. There are a lot of keepers such as Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan and of course Louise Penny has a book nominated too. I’m going to have a particularly hard time voting for only one Best Short Story and one Best Historical Novel. Take a look. The novels are worth picking up, and you can read the short stories at malicedomestic.org/agathas.html
Best Historical Novel
- Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
- The Gold Pawn by LA Chandlar
- The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
- Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell
- Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson
Best Short Story
- “All God’s Sparrows” by Leslie Budewitz
- “A Postcard for the Dead” by Susanna Calkins
- “Bug Appetit” by Barb Goffman
- “The Case of the Vanishing Professor” by Tara Laskowski
- “English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor
It is a problem, is it not mon ami? Agatha Christie introduces us to Captain Hastings, our master sleuth Hercule Poirot, and our friend Inspector Japp all in one fell swoop.
For some of us the country house is a wonderful setting, giving us a hint of how the war had changed life in England. It is easy to picture the rolling grounds, the ancient house, and the nearby village. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s influence is also evident in the creation of the somewhat dense Captain Hastings acting as Hercule Poirot’s Watson. But Christie’s story and characters are uniquely hers.
If you’ve never read her first Poirot novel, this is a must read. Not only does it set the stage for all of his future exploits, the book is a masterful puzzle starting with a locked room, plenty of clues and red herrings, and suspects with motives and opportunities.
In this Agatha-nominated historical mystery, Lucy Campion who was previously a maid is now a printer’s apprentice. In 1667, women were starting to be accepted in other occupations after the Great London Fire and the Plague. Her self-confidence make her the perfect amateur sleuth. In this her third novel, Calkins weaves a mystery with just the right amount of complexity against a lush historic background.
It’s not surprising that she is a serious student of history. While it takes a while to accumulate all the information at the beginning of the book, Calkins creates a completely believable world which becomes transparent as Lucy comes closer to solving the mystery. This is a definite must read.
Ever since I met the mother and son duo, Charles Todd, at Malice Domestic this year, I’ve been reading their Inspector Rutledge books. Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard Inspector who was an officer in the bloody first World War. He’s returned with his own version of post-traumatic stress syndrome as well as Hamish’ voice in his head, a soldier he had shot because he didn’t follow orders. I was very curious how this accomplished author duo would handle Hamish since I have a similar situation in my first Sissy Holmes mystery. Without doubt, they do it seamlessly without interrupting the flow of the stories. Hamish plays a very important role in establishing Rutledge’s mental condition. If you do choose to read this book where Rutledge has managed to get Hamish under some control, I recommend that you read the earlier books in the series too. You won’t be disappointed.
The many historical details ring true and take the reader into different parts of the English countryside with ease. Their is a certain charm to their books which reminds me of other writers who’ve been this comfortable in their writing togs. If you have the opportunity to meet them in person, don’t pass it up. They are that charming.
As for Hunting Shadows, you won’t be disappointed as you read about how the Inspector puts his wartime experiences to use when he hunts a sniper in the Fens of England. I won’t tell you more since it’s fun to watch his logic unfold as you read. He is their Poirot in that way, except you get to hear his thought process as the book progresses instead of waiting for the explanations at the end of the book.