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
Bouchercon is approaching which reminds me that I want to read the books nominated for awards. But first, I wanted to review Marcia Talley’s first book that won the Malice Domestic Grant in 1998. Almost two decades ago, I read this book for the first time. My mom recommended it which was always a thumbs up for me.
This book is the first Hannah Ives mystery. I remember that I wasn’t sure if I could relate to a cancer survivor. She’s had breast cancer and lived to tell the tale. Her thoughts echo the thoughts of all women about appearance, the possibility of reconstructive surgery, to the wig she buys to cover her sparse hair. She’s scarred by ordeal emotionally too which makes her very alive to the reader. Her sensitivity to the world around her and her estranged daughter make Hannah feel responsible when she finds the body of a girl in a well.
The setting is familiar to me because of friends I have who live near the Cheasapeake Bay, yet I had no trouble seeing the setting when I first read this book and was fairly new to Maryland. The sailing culture is a large part of the state which is natural when you consider how large the Bay is. Ms. Talley also uses sailing in the plot – no spoilers here! You’ll have to read the book to see how this fun and quick-moving plot works out. An enjoyable read!
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.
After reading so many new books (which I will catch up on my reviews in the future), I’ve been rereading some old favorites. One of these is the first Kurt Wallander book, Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell.
Wallander is well-known by PBS Mystery watchers. If you’ve only watched the video interpretations, you’re really missing out on some great books. Mankel weaves action, character, and a great feeling of the Swedish countryside together in a seamless satisfying whole. I can still imagine those cold winds from the book. The writing style is excellent too. When you’re reading a translation, you never really know if the style is the author or his translator. But I imagine that we must thank Steven Murray for giving us a true rendering of Mankel’s style in this case.
In this introduction to Kurt Wallander, an aging farm couple are murdered in a bloody way that is not typical of the rural, Swedish landscape. Wallander and his team work their way thru the possible solutions to the crime with meager clues in a very logical, exhaustive way. If you’ve seen the video version, try to forget it as you read the book! The puzzle is a satisfying one. This is definitely a must read!
Hank has another great read in her Agatha nominated What You See. Boston unemployed news reporter, Jane Ryland is trying to balance her personal and professional life while embroiled in the murder of a John Doe across from City Hall and the possible kidnap of her sister’s soon-to-be step daughter. The love of her life police detective Jake plays a major role in the book as he investigates the death of John Doe. There are plenty of twists that keep the reader turning the pages of this mystery with the fun pace of a thriller. This Sisters in Crime past president uses all of her many skills to surprise us in a very good way. The book is a definite must read. What You See will give all of the wonderful writers nominated this year a run for the coveted award.
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.