Selected from these lists of five finalists in each category, the winners were named at the annual National Book Awards ceremony on November 14, 2018. (Indicated in red.)Please click on the book titles to discover more about the books.
The Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award, now called The McIlvanney Prize, is given at Bloody Scotland, a premier conference for crime writers. Eligible authors must be born in Scotland, live there, or set their books there. The winner receives 1,000 pounds and the book is promoted for a year by a major bookstore chain in Great Britain. Links to books included. The winner is indicated in red.
Every once in a while, avid readers take a break from their favorite genre and venture into ‘summer reading,’ where the world is either a warm, happy, safe place, or the mishaps that occur are slapstick funny and somebody always has your back. No world crises, no exploding planets, just stories that bring a smile to your face.
A few of us indulge our curiosity about demons and witches – as long as the hero/heroines are owners of tea and herb shops, that is.
Then there are the ancient curses that awaken and wreak havoc upon those that get in the way.
If you are primarily a fan of fiction as I am, a foray into the realm of serious non-fiction most often occurs when a compelling true story crosses our paths.
Take a look at the suggestions below and try something a bit different this season.
Happily Ever After
“Sand Dollar Cove,” by Nancy Naigle, is the completely delightful story of a beach area recently hit by bad weather, with people working together to rebuild it. The town relies on tourism to stay afloat, so one of the business owners organizes a fundraising event.We must suspend our disbelief while the rapidly approaching deadline loomsto get the work done, but the lead characters are so endearing that we want them to be super human, have their wishes come true, and save the pier. Just in time for summer reading, “Sand Dollar Cove” includes a budding romance between a stranger and our heroine, and the almost magical sand dollars. This could easily fit into the Hallmark Channel lineup of happily ever after stories.
P.I. for Dummies
“Choke,” by Kaye George
Imogene Duckworthy wants to become a private eye, but has no training whatsoever. She gets a book – “P.I. for Dummies,” and has business cards made. Our hapless heroine feels that she is qualified to ‘detect’ because she found a neighbor’s missing puppy. How hard could it be?
This high school graduate, an unwed mother, works for her Uncle at his diner, and when he is found dead, she tries to solve the case. Duckworthy is too naïve to recognize the crooks right in front of her and swoons at the sight of long legs and a smile. Me, oh, my, this gal is in trouble. She is in and out of jail, escapes from cops who are not after her and sees disasters and threats where none exist.
“Choke” is a comedy read that takes nothing seriously in solving a mystery – except the lead character herself. What in the world could go wrong? (First book in the series by Agatha nominated, Kaye George) Set near the Oklahoma border, people familiar with the North Texas area will recognize a certain town with fake falls in ‘Wymee Falls.’
Witches, Demons, Wiccans, and ordinary folk
“Booke of the Hidden,” by award-winning author Jeri Westerson, came to Jeri in a dream. Known for her medieval mysteries, her dream was so compelling that she had to write it down, and a few paragraphs turned into this first book in a new series.
Kylie Strange has moved to a small Maine town to open a tea and herb shop, and during the shop renovation, she discovers a mysterious book that is older than anyone in town and is completely blank. The locals are more than they seem, there are secrets behind every door, deaths occur in her wake, and Kylie has more than one ‘Being’ interested in her. “Booke of the Hidden” is sexy and funny, with adult themes and situations, with the demons and witches, Wiccans, and assorted other supernatural sorts inhabiting the quaint village. Quick-witted, up-for-everything, crossbow wielding Kylie Strange, is a great new character in the genre.
“Aceldama,” by John Hazen
A coin from the time of Christ is passed through the centuries with dire consequences for its unwitting possessors. A present-day couple faces the wrath of its curse when the husband falls ill. The wife must uncover the reason for his illness before her husband dies – defying logic, the law, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
International connections and supportive friends make “Aceldama” an absorbing read as we discover the identity, power, and meaning of the coin. Several surprises along the way keep the pages turning.
“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” by David Grann.
This award-winning, non-fiction account feels like a novel of suspense. Grann recounts the tragedies that unfolded as members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were displaced, swindled, and murdered in a pattern of corruption and greed at the highest levels of government at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the source of it all? Oil fields that lay under lands given to the Osage Nation. Grann researched the court cases and news of the 1890s and early 1900s, includes photos of the stakeholders, and weaves all of the information into a compelling read. While not the only reason for the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Osage cases made an additional convincing argument for the establishment of a national investigative agency.
Stretch your reading horizons and try something new this summer. 🙂
Mystery Readers International, Mystery Readers Journal, and the Macavity Awards, were created by Anthony Award winner, Janet Rudolph.
Links to three of the short fiction nominees are included.
Best Mystery Novel
“The Marsh King's Daughter,” by Karen Dionne “Magpie Murders,” by Anthony Horowitz
“Bluebird, Bluebird,” by Attica Locke
“Glass Houses,” by Louise Penny
“The Old Man,” by Thomas Perry
“The Force,” by Don Winslow
Best First Mystery Novel
“Hollywood Homicide,” by Kellye Garrett
“The Dry,” by Jane Harper
“She Rides Shotgun,” by Jordan Harper “The Lost Ones,” by Sheena Kamal
“The Last Place You Look,” by Kristen Lepionka
“Lost Luggage,” by Wendall Thomas
Best Mystery Short Story
“As Ye Sow,” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017
“The #2 Pencil,” by Matt Coyle, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea
Sue Feder Memorial Award: Best Historical Mystery
“Dangerous to Know,” by Renee Patrick
“The Devouring,” by James R. Benn “In Farleigh Field,” by Rhys Bowen
“Cast the First Stone,” by James W. Ziskin
“Racing the Devil,” by Charles Todd
“A Rising Man,” by Abir Mukherjee
Congratulations to the Macavity Awards-2018 nominees and winners (indicated in red) 🙂
Sherry Harris, the author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, was a proud Air Force wife, picking up everything and relocating every three or four years – each time orders for an assignment to a new base came down. While we can joke about the horror of having to find new hairdressers and decent grocery stores with every change, the toughest part of being part of a military family was moving her daughter from school to school, and giving up her own face-to-face friendships at each re-posting.
From our perspective as Sherry Harris readers, there is a definite upside to all that moving. It’s difficult to start or maintain a career with frequent transfers, so Harris turned her love of tag sales (called garage or yard sales in some parts of the country) into a writing career. She answered an ad in a local newspaper for a short story contest, kept writing until it turned into a novel length piece, and later, was encouraged to look for an agent.
The quality of her writing ability was proven when “Tagged for Death,” the first in the series, was nominated for an Agatha Award in the Best First Novel category.
Sherry Harris’ favorite writing spot is in her office. Her desk faces the window and when she looks out at the trees, she can pretend she lives in the middle of nowhere. When asked whether her writing process is closer to plotter or pantser, she admitted to being more of a pantser, working toward becoming a plotter. Either way, the results are great!
Harris has revealed in her book bios that she is a “born bargain hunter,” and has created a fully fleshed out character in the series based on her own expertise and love for the activity. Sarah Winston makes her living organizing tag sales for her customers and Harris includes tips for successful tag sales in the books. I personally have used them in my own garage sales.
Harris has followed the writing advice of a favorite thriller writer/instructor (James W. Hall) who feels that people want to learn something and if they do, the books just might keep selling. She attributes the success of cozies in general, to the fact that whether about knitting or cooking or tag sales, cozies contain a mystery along with a lot of information about a specific topic. Fans of that topic will come back for more in book after book.
Sherry Harris’ Sarah Winston character is successful in part because Winston is completely relatable. Her emotional struggles to make her own way as a newly single woman are realistic, and her scenes detailing military life ring true. Harris’ storylines peel back the layers of Winston’s battle with feelings about her ex in each book, while delivering great mysteries. The ensemble supporting characters develop as Winston’s association with them grows naturally. I particularly like the nuanced relationships between Sarah and the men in her life, which ebb and flow as Sarah sorts through the consequences of living as an independent woman.
When not working on the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, Sherry Harris blogs with the Wicked Cozies, a New England focused writing group, all talented, published authors. Read their posts at www.wickedcozyauthors.com. Harris is also the current Vice President of the international writing organization, Sisters in Crime, a group that fosters the development of women writers.
Sherry Harris Fun fact: Her favorite foods are pizza and popcorn. 🙂
After reading “A Good Day to Buy,” I counted the months until “I Know What You Bid Last Summer” (book #5) was published and was not disappointed. It’s a terrific entry in the series and is not to be missed. Look for the lasagna subplot, a fun counterbalance to the serious action.
Edith Maxwell writes award-winning short stories, has several series of full-length mysteries out and has been nominated for Agatha Awards in both the Short Story and Historical Fiction categories for this year’s Malice Domestic mystery conference. At this writing, she has eleven published novels since 2012 under the names Tace Baker, Maddie Day, and Edith Maxwell, with #12 due out next month. She is working on three more to be published in the near future. She is the one of the most prolific traditionally published authors I know and she is loving all of it!
I first met Edith at a Writers Police Academy conference in the Fall of 2012. At the time, she had just published her first Lauren Rousseau title, “Speaking of Murder,” as Tace Baker. I was hooked by the intelligent, worldly, complex female lead character. She attended WPA in order to research police procedure, and also gathered tons of information about firefighters and EMS personnel that she might use in future novels.
While following her career the last few years, it’s become apparent that solid research underpins all her books. Happily, combined with her own personal experiences, the result is richly developed backgrounds and storylines.
For the Country Store series, Maxwell took a trip to Indiana in order to investigate the setting, special southern Indiana phrasing (“I can’t eat another bite ’cause I’m as full as a tick”), and foods specific to the region. As it happens, she was also returning to the area of her grad school days and the site of a university packed with her own Maxwell family history. Friends of hers in the grad program had restored an old country store and turned it into a restaurant and bed & breakfast, the basis for Robbie Jordan’s ‘Pans ‘N Pancakes’ establishment in the series. In addition, Maxwell loves to cook and there are virtual cooking lessons woven throughout the stories as well as yummy recipes to be found.
Fun fact: my mom had an amazing collection of antique cookware, so when Robbie chats about the vintage pieces in her store, I can see the tools in my mind’s eye. Maxwell/Day’s details? Wonderful!
The Local Foods series features an organic farmer as the lead character, and guess what? Edith ran her own small certified organic farm for a few years and that expertise infuses the series with effortless realism. Readers can pick up tips about what it takes to grow produce organically, both the pitfalls and the plusses, while enjoying the cleverly crafted mysteries.
The Quaker Midwife series is a project close to Edith’s heart. She is a Quaker herself and some of the history and the daily practices of the Society of Friends have found their way into this series. Maxwell now lives in Amesbury, Massachusetts where the books are set, and the local history influenced her short story writing. One of the short stories became the impetus for a 19th c. midwife character. Rose Carroll, the Quaker midwife, is perfectly placed to be a sleuth, since she gets to go where men (and the police) can’t in 1888, and hears all kinds of secrets that help solve the crimes. Beautifully written, “Delivering the Truth” is well-deserving of the Agatha historical mystery nomination this year.
Click on the link to check out Maxwell’s YouTube video of a walking tour of Amesbury, Massachusetts. Maxwell is wearing an authentic self-made 1888 dress and bonnet while she conducts the tour and chats about the sites mentioned in “Delivering the Truth.” What a fun and terrific way to launch a series!
Plus, as Maddie Day, Edith has a new cozy foodie mystery series, Cozy Capers Book Group, set on Cape Cod. “Murder on Cape Cod” will be the first title launched in 2018. The lead character runs a bicycle repair and rental shop and hosts a weekly cozy mystery book group. My dad’s family came from the Cape, and I’m looking forward to reading Maxwell/Day’s take on the region.
So, how does she keep up this writing pace and still maintain the quality in her books? First, she is doing what she loves. She has a writing schedule for each day – mornings are the best for her – but when a deadline looms, she sometimes goes away for a few days on retreat. She turns off the internet so that there are no distractions at all and she can write from dawn ‘til midnight if she needs to. When slipping away to a retreat, Maxwell likes to take along comfy clothes, walking shoes, a laptop, a favorite pen, and an actual paper notebook. Oh, and of course, wine and dark chocolate. 🙂
Maxwell writes traditional mysteries with absorbing puzzles to solve, and appealing characters that engage us on every page. With strong female leads, fascinating details, and multi-layered plots, this is an author we want to follow, wherever (or whenever) she leads us.
Read the review of “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die,” (Local Foods series) here.
Read the review of “Grilled for Murder,” (Country Store series) here (written as Maddie Day)
Read review of “Delivering the Truth” (Quaker Midwife series) here. 🙂
"Delivering the Truth" has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery. And “The Mayor and the Midwife” has been nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story. Read the short story here.
“Fogged Inn” is the fourth book in Barbara Ross’ excellent Maine Clambake Mysteries series and has been nominated for an Agatha Award in this year’s “Best Contemporary Novel” category. Not surprising, given the opening. And everything after that. 🙂
At 5 AM, Gus yells up the stairs, “There’s a dead guy in the walk-in!” and disrupts Julia Snowden’s work-exhausted sleep. The yelling continues until she joins Gus in the restaurant, ready to disprove this absurd idea so she can go back to bed. She enters the walk-in and sees…a dead guy. Julia is now fully awake. I prefer radio alarms, but that’s just me.
The dead guy sat at the restaurant bar the night before, but none of the other diners seemed to notice him. So, who is he? How did he get into the walk-in? The restaurant had been closed and locked at 1 AM after cleanup. Chris (Julia’s boyfriend and partner in the restaurant) would have noticed the leftover customer, so the body dump happened after then. The man has no ID, no bullet holes, and there is no blood on the floor. Aside from the why, how and where did the guy die?
During “Fogged Inn,” Ross presents us with a thoroughly entertaining variation on the locked room puzzle, complete with a cast of Agatha Christie type retirees who reveal their connections to each other over the course of the clever, multi-layered tale. To add to the intrigue, they had received gift certificates for the same night the dead guy appeared, but Julia has no record of who purchased the certificates. And, more baffling, none of those guests acknowledged knowing each other during the long evening.
As the story evolves and decades old secrets are exposed, the past overshadows the present. Dysfunctional relationships are uncovered, with unintended consequences and tragic events as the fallout. The more Julia discovers, the more items linked to the past start disappearing, and the greater the danger that surrounds her.
The wonderful ensemble characters return to enthrall us with changes in Gus’ life and in the naturally developing relationship between Julia and Chris. Julia’s childhood friend, the Police Officer Jamie Dawes, is involved in the investigation, Binder & Flynn return as the irritating State cops, and Chris’ talents are revealed in delicious ways. Family members drop in, lending support, and Julia’s acceptance into small-town living seems almost certain when she’s invited to join Sit’n’Knit.
Because the story takes place in the winter, there is no clambake in “Fogged Inn.” Happily, there is still a lot of cooking going on and wonderful recipes to be found at the end of the book. We get a look at what winter in a tourist town is like when all the tourists are gone, where the locals scramble to earn a living and gather at the local watering hole (Gus’s place) to trade stories. Julia and Chris share restaurant space with Gus, the lovable grump that owns and runs Gus’s at breakfast and lunch. Julia and Chris take over only for the dinner crowd, just for the off-season, as Gus’s Too.
As with the rest of the series, Ross blends hardy New England life and the mystery together beautifully, so that readers enjoy learning about coastal Maine, wonderful food, and our favorite people while the bodies pop up.
Congratulations to Barbara Ross for this well-deserved Agatha nomination for “Fogged Inn.” Malice Domestic attendees will vote at our convention at the end of April, 2017.
Read about Barbara Ross’ writing process (and more) here. 🙂