This Year’s Edgar Award Nominees – Some Thoughts

January 22, 2022 at 9:08 pm (Awards, Mystery fiction)

  The redoubtable Mystery Writers of America has announced its picks for this year’s awards. It’s a long list, so rather than reproducing it here in its entirety, I’ll give you the link.

Whenever this list comes out, I like to see how many of  these titles I’ve already read. Well, this year, the result of  this exercise was rather laughable. I had to scroll down to ‘Best Fact Crime’ before I could even come up with one! That one is Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan. To get there, I had to pass by the nominees for Best Novel, Best First Novel by an American Author, and Best Paperback Original.  And yet mysteries and true crime constitute such a large portion of my reading material – in any give year. Go figure.

Continuing to scroll down, I found one title in the Best Critical/Biographical category. This was The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science by John Tresch. Then, down to the Mary Higgins Clark  Award. One of the nominees for that particular encomium is Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara. This is a novel that I absolutely loved – the best mystery I’ve read in a long while. (This category reminds me that Marge T, my fellow mystery lover, once acquired two cats at the same time and named them Simon and Schuster, respectively.)

Finally, there’s the G.B. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award nominee, Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey. Oh, Sue, how we do miss you. The Letter Z will ever remain mysterious…

This year’s selection for Grand Master is Laurie R. King, which, I think, is an entirely appropriate choice.

So, then: What are my own selections for Best Mysteries of 2021?

Both of the above titles are historical fiction, one of my favorite subgenres. Graham Brack’s Master Mercurius series is outstanding but hard to find, although if you have Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, you can obtain it for free. I believe this is true for every title in the series. Do yourself favor and star with Book One: Death in Delft.

 

 

Two of my favorite authors, writing at the top of their game. The novels are set in Australia and Venice, Italy, respectively.

 

Andrew Mayne is an author previously unknown to me. Black Coral was recommended in one of the specialty magazines to which I subscribe – Deadly Pleasures or Mystery Scene. The protagonist, Sloan McPherson, is a deep sea diver who works for Florida’s Underwater Investigation Unit. Well written and very suspenseful.

Paul Doiron’s Mike Bowditch novels are among my favorites. Mike is a game warden in the state of Maine. His adventures  are recounted with verve and energy. His personal life figures in as well.

 

The year 1979 was a pivotal one in Val McDermid’s writing career. This novel exuberantly revisiting that time. (It’s amazing to think how recently it was that people were not in constant touch with one another via social media and cell phones.) As for A Line To Kill, I don’t think it was Horowitz’s best, but it was still great fun.

Peter Lovesey is one of my favorite authors. His novels are both witty and precise, also beautifully structured. I especially love the banter between Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond and members of his team. In this novel, Diamond finds himself forced to work alongside a private investigator (hence, the ‘Eye’ in the book’s title). To say that he is resistant to this arrangement in putting it mildly. Nonetheless, the static between them makes for some memorable dialog.

I wonder if so-called international intrigue or novels of espionage are considered by MWE members. Maybe they need their own category? After all, we are now sadly bereft of the great John Le Carre, and we need to encourage other great writers to explore the themes that were so vital to his works. Fortunately, we have some up-and-coming writers rising through the ranks who are doing just that. I highly recommend Flynn Berry, whose Northern Spy is set in Northern Ireland, and Charles Cumming, whose latest, Box 88, currently has me completely mesmerized.

 

Another fine writer in this vein, most worthy of your consideration, is Paul Vidich.

Finally, I wish the MWE would create a category for newly reissued classics. I particularly recommend The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. It’s included in the anthology Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1940s. (There is also a volume  for the 1950s. Both are edited by Sarah Weinman.)   Also, I just finished A.S.F. by John Rhode, which was written in 1924. It concerns the out-of-control spread of cocaine use in London and various other locales. The novel is cunningly plotted, and  fascinating for any one of a number of reasons. It also has a young hero whose fate hangs in the balance, and a love story that achieves a graceful fruition at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Angie Boyter said,

    Gosh, Roberta! I did not realize you were a time traveler! WordPress said you posted at 9:08 PM, but I got your message at 4:08 PM.
    I share your pain. I, too, had not read any of the nominees. I am still exploring both the Debut Novel category and your own recommendations (with which I concur highly), but wrt the Best Novels, I had not read any of them. I like to use Goodreads to see what ordinary readers think, and in most cases they were moderately lukewarm, i.e., average ratings below 4. Where is originality? These sounded like such cliches. I feel sorry for authors, who tell me the publishers only want what is “in”. We have the manuscript or other documents found today,which leads to a mystery that gives us two plot threads in two different eras. We have obligatory PC themes of race and sexual orientation. And we have WWII. Each of these is perfectly fine, but we are being flooded by them. However, I may try How Lucky and Razorblade Tears…from the library, though.
    Thanks for the post. I will comment on the others separately.

  2. Angie Boyter said,

    The debut novels show a bit more originality, and I have requested several from the library, specifically Suburban Dicks and Deer Season, INCLUDING REQUESTS TO PURCHASE THE BOOK, which they do not own.

  3. Angie Boyter said,

    You should be doing the nominations for the Edgars! Your list of your favorites for the year was much better than the formal nominations. I love the Master Mercuius series and also really look forward to every Barker and Llewelyn. I loved them both. I was underwhelmed by the first book in the Underwater Investigations series because there were just too many implausibilities in the plot, but since this one is free in Kindle Unlimited and you and several other friends like it, I will give it a try. Everyone likes the Mike Bowditch series, and it is on my list. Anthony Horowitz is always worth reading! So is Peter Lovesey, although this is NOT his best. However, you and I must agree to disagree on 1979. I really enjoyed getting to know Danny and Allie and was fully expecting to like the book a lot, but I read on and on and it still had not “taken off”. I felt like I was still in the introductory phase. I lasted halfway through and decided to move on to something else.However, I did read the last three pages, and I am glad I had not persisted, because the ending was a terrible disappointment. The espionage novels did not appeal to me. TOO MANY BOOKS! I MUST GO READ ONE!

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