2017 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America have selected the best in the mystery fiction and non fiction genre with the announcement of the 2017 Edgar Award winners.

Best Novel – Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

“On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the tragedy and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the crash heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy: Was it merely dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations–all while the reader draws closer and closer to uncovering the truth.
The fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. “ (GoodReads)

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Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that by now there is not a bookworm in the blogosphere that hasn’t heard of Paula Hawkins’ debut novel The Girl on the Train.  Many have read and reviewed her book already and I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon here because for those interested in crime genre novels the blurb is The Girl on the Trainquite intriguing.  Have a quick look for yourself:

“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.  And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?” (GoodReads)

I, too, find myself watching people and wondering what their lives are like so I was already taken in.  Hawkins has written a great book and all her characters are well fleshed real people.  I noticed that some didn’t enjoy the book because they felt the characters were all ‘hot messes’.  I enjoyed it precisely because they are all hot messes and to be honest all people are in some way.  This is what makes The Girl on the Train a great read.  Hawkins writes the inner worlds of the women with such skill that you really do feel you know them, you connect with them (or at least understand them), and you feel their pain and insecurities.  Put all this together and it makes for a fabulous whodunnit because it really could be anyone.  They are all the unreliable narrator.  Switching between the perspectives of the three women the story unfolds and we piece together the events of the night of the disappearance of one of them.  I enjoyed reading it and I had no clue what had happened until the moment Hawkins wants you to know what happened.  It is well written and well structured.  It was definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year and I’ll be looking out for Hawkins’ next book without doubt.  This is not a procedure crime novel.  This is a crime novel where the people and their characters take centre stage.  It’ll make you wonder how well you really know the people closest to you and that is the best kind of psychological thriller.

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Let me start by sharing the blurb of Dark Places with you:

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence Dark Placesput her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.  Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?  She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.  Who did massacre the Day family? (GoodReads)

Last year about this time I finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I really enjoyed that novel just as I have enjoyed Dark Places and for more or less the same reason.  Flynn’s characters are wonderfully flawed.  I enjoy the honesty in them, the cynicism, even their darkness.  Because the truth is we all have a bit of darkness in us in varying degrees.  The thing is, the darkness in us is what we tend to try and hide from others, I think.  Flynn let’s us in on that by letting us into the heads of her characters and letting them think all those horrible thoughts that we may (or may not) chastise ourselves for and never really say out loud.  Nowadays, being politically correct is a big deal.  I’m not saying I’m all for being horrible and letting hurtful thoughts spill out of our mouths.  On the contrary.  But we have our moments and we aren’t always likeable.  Neither are Flynn’s characters and I like that.

I don’t necessarily identify with Flynn’s leading ladies sometimes but I do find them very interesting.  The major difference between Libby (Dark Places) and Amy (Gone Girl) is that Libby has evolution.  She still has some issues at the end but she’s evolved and opened up through her experiences.  Amy does a whole lot of horrible stuff and remains, in my opinion, a pretty awful person.  But I liked following them both.  I think this is down to the way Flynn writes her books.  She has a knack of revealing circumstances that help you understand why they are ‘bad’ and sometimes stay that way.  That’s a lot like real life for a lot of people, I think.

Gone Girl was such a clever book to me.  The way she revealed the story had me guessing until the end.  It was one of the better books I’ve read in the crime genre for that aspect.  Dark Places didn’t have that aspect – I had a pretty good idea how it went down about three quarters of the way through so I can’t say I found it as good as Gone Girl structurally but it was still a great story.  It was entertaining and I enjoyed it to the end.

Flynn is becoming a favourite of mine.  An author who you can count on for a good crime read, filled with great characters and good writing.  It is a good, entertaining read and I’ll be moving on to the next book of hers I have yet to read – Sharp Objects.

 

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

 

Review: Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

I was lucky enough to have been granted a copy of Parade from NetGalley.  I picked this book because the description piqued my interest.

ParadeFour twenty-somethings share an apartment in Tokyo. In Parade each tells their story: their lives, their hopes and fears, their loves, their secrets.  Kotomi waits by the phone for a boyfriend who never calls. Ryosuke wants someone that he can’t have. Mirai spends her days drawing and her nights hanging out in gay bars. Naoki works for a film company, and everyone treats him like an elder brother. Then Satoru turns up. He’s eighteen, homeless, and does night work of a very particular type.  In the next-door apartment something disturbing is going on. And outside, in the streets around their apartment block, there is violence in the air. From the writer of the cult classic Villain, Parade is a tense, disturbing, thrilling tale of life in the city. (GoodReads)

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed when I got to the end.  But first let me tell you what I liked about this book.  The structure of the book was interesting.  The story is told through the points of view of the 5 characters, one at a time, each one progressing the story and never going back over the same time as covered by a previous character.  I liked this structure.  It was interesting to view the story through changing eyes.  It was an enjoyable way to get to know the characters themselves but also to learn how they see each other since these 5 people live in a two bedroomed apartment together.

The book is quite short so it was easy to get through but a huge part of the book was  about these people going about their everyday routines and while some of what they did and who they were was at times bizarre (and therefore interesting) nothing really happened.  I did like that the theme was supported so well by the structure.  For me this novel is about never really knowing the people closest to you and to never judge a book by its cover.  You may live with people but that doesn’t imply that you know who they really are.  The girls in the story talk about being their ‘apartment selves’ and that the real them doesn’t exist in the apartment which struck me as I can’t really imagine myself managing to be so accepting of having to be anything but the real me where I live.

The three elements of the description that attracted me to this book were the arrival of Satoru, the disturbing ongoings of the neighbours, and the violence in the air around their block.  Satoru was an interesting addition to the cast and he served his part in the story – his presence was important for the theme in my opinion.  The reports of the violence around their apartment block played such a minor role in the novel that by the time I got to the end and all was revealed I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the ending.  There had been no breadcrumbs throughout the story to get me to the point where I could appreciate the crime element of the story.  No doubt the end was a shock – I hadn’t expected it but I felt like I had just read 90% of the book building up to something to get to the end and, wham, unexpected turn of events and no explanation.

I really think from a character perspective this is a good book.  However, I think the description of it is a bit misleading.  You think you’re reading a book to do with strange ongoings and violence in the streets but really this book is better described for the strong message it carries:  you never know who people really are.  I did enjoy the style, structure, and characters though so I’ll still be reading Yoshida’s popular novel Villain in the near future.

 

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

 

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was published in 2012 and won all kinds of awards and was very highly praised by many as well as by some big names in crime writing.  I had to read this book to see what all the hype was about especially since I’m a crime fiction fan.  I have just finished it and I feel dumbfounded.   For a number of reasons really but let me first fill you in on what this novel is about from GoodReads:Gone Girl

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?”

Gone Girl is written from the perspectives of both Amy, the wife, and Nick, the husband.  The story alternates between Nick’s perspective, told in the story’s present where Amy has vanished, and Amy’s perspective which is told through a series of diary entries beginning the day the couple first met.  The first reason for my dumbfoundedness (made up word) was the way Nick talked about their relationship and his wife.  There was so much hate oozing off the page and despite my shock at such a relationship it kept me reading.  I had to understand how the relationship got this way since the beginning has Amy’s diary entries talking about a wonderful, easy relationship when they met.  Naturally this sets you up to make some assumptions about who the guilty party is in this domestic disappearance.

There is indeed a big twist in this book once the diary entries catch up to the present and you now hear Amy’s perspective from the present.  No spoilers here, however, I will say this twist is reason 2 for dumbfoundedness.  The mess that ensues is dark and utterly terrifying if I’m honest.  I could see only one ending that would bring justice to all who deserved it but again I was left dumbfounded in the end by how it turned out and how these people made it so.  These characters are raw, dark, and no one I would ever want to know.  I think I’d be spoiling this book for you if I said anymore about it.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this book.  The writing was good without a doubt.  I think what makes this novel hard to like outright is that there really isn’t anyone you can like…but I don’t think this novel meant for that nor do I think that should be a necessary part of a novel.  That’s probably why even now I’m not sure it’s the novel I disliked because it’s really the people in the novel I disliked.  Essentially though that doesn’t mean the story isn’t good because that’s the other side of this coin, I had to know how the story ended and that is generally the sign of a good plot and good writing.  I really like the structure of the book and it was quite genius in the telling of this particular story.  Flynn is a great writer and even though her characters were not the best of people she did an excellent job of characterisation.  They were full bodied and well written beastly characters.

Ultimately, I think my mixed feelings are down to the fact that I cannot believe the psychotic, dark, and eerily conscious way of these characters together with the ending…as a married woman this book freaked me out a bit!  I’ve given this book a 3 star rating because I think it is well written and the structure is great.  I did think that maybe the 3 stars was too much based on how I felt when I closed the book but I really believe that has to do with my discomfort with these characters and how they ‘resolve’ their situation.  But I balk at the thought of rating a book lower based on my discomfort of evil or malicious people because they exist.  Not everything ends happily ever after…or neatly.

I haven’t read anything like this and for that reason I’d recommend this book.  It’s provocative and disturbing.  Flynn wrote it well.

 

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

2013 CWA Dagger Winners

The 2013 CWA Daggers were awarded last night and here are the winners:

The CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger went to Mick Herron for Dead Lions

Dead LionsThe Judges described his book as “…a well written, wickedly clever send-up of the classic British spy novel featuring a shadowy department in M15, home to various spooks who have in some way failed or messed up in their work for the security services. This collection of misfits and eccentrics is unexpectedly faced with a major and two-fold challenge: the re-emergence of a whole history of Cold War secrets entangled with a very modern enemy and the possibility of a major terrorist attack on London.”  (read more on the CWA site)

Dead Lions is the 2nd novel in the Slough House series, here’s more about the novel:

“London’s Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another.  Now the slow horses have a chance at redemption. An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. The despicable, irascible Jackson Lamb is convinced Dickie Bow was murdered. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade’s circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient Cold War secrets that seem to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, who is either a Soviet bogeyman or the most dangerous man in the world. How many more people will have to die to keep those secrets buried? (read more on GoodReads)

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger went to Roger Hobbs for Ghostman

GhostmanThe Judges described his book as “…an assured and engaging novel which maintains suspense throughout and grips the reader to the very end.”  (read more on the CWA site)

Here’s more about the novel:

“When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry, the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from someone who’s occasionally called Jack. While it’s doubtful that anyone knows his actual name or anything at all about his true identity, or even if he’s still alive, he’s in his mid-thirties and lives completely off the grid, a criminal’s criminal who does entirely as he pleases and is almost impossible to get in touch with. But within hours a private jet is flying this exceptionally experienced fixer and cleaner-upper from Seattle to New Jersey and right into a spectacular mess: one heister dead in the parking lot, another winged but on the run, the shooter a complete mystery, the $1.2 million in freshly printed bills god knows where and the FBI already waiting for Jack at the airport, to be joined shortly by other extremely interested and elusive parties. He has only forty-eight hours until the twice-stolen cash literally explodes, taking with it the wider, byzantine ambitions behind the theft. To contend with all this will require every gram of his skill, ingenuity and self-protective instincts, especially when offense and defense soon become meaningless terms. And as he maneuvers these exceedingly slippery slopes, he relives the botched bank robbery in Kuala Lumpur five years earlier that has now landed him this unwanted new assignment.” (read more on GoodReads)

 

The 2013 CWA John Creasey Dagger went Derek B Miller for Norwegian by Night

Norwegian by NightThe judges praised the book, saying “Tension, humour and tragedy are combined in this beautifully-written contribution to Nordic noir with a twist from an English-speaking author. With a central character who is original, wonderfully humane and convincing, this debut novel cleverly avoids many the genre’s clichés and pitfalls and emerges triumphant as a fully-dimensional gem.”  (read more on the CWA site)

Here’s more about the novel:

“Sheldon Horowitz-widowed, impatient, impertinent-has grudgingly agreed to leave New York and move in with his granddaughter, Rhea, and her new husband, Lars, in Norway: a country of blue and ice with one thousand Jews, not one of them a former Marine sniper in the Korean War turned watch repairman, who failed his only son by sending him to Vietnam to die. Not until now, anyway.  Home alone one morning, Sheldon witnesses a dispute between the woman who lives upstairs and an aggressive stranger. When events turn dire, Sheldon seizes and shields the neighbor’s young son from the violence, and they flee the scene. But old age and circumstances are altering Sheldon’s experience of time and memory. He is haunted by dreams of his son Saul’s life and by guilt over his death. As Sheldon and the boy look for a haven in an alien world, reality and fantasy, past and present, weave together, forcing them ever forward to a wrenching moment of truth.” (read more on GoodReads)

 

The 2013 CWA Diamond Dagger went to Lee Child

lee childThe Diamond Dagger was awarded in July and goes to an author to celebrate an outstanding body of work.

Alison Joseph, CWA Chair, said:
“Lee Child’s stories are large-scale, heart-stopping thrillers, roaming across wide-open global spaces in the cause of thwarting evil. In Jack Reacher, Lee has created a hero like no other, beloved of millions of readers around the world. And his creator is just as well-loved. He is a delight to work with; loyal, straightforward, generous to readers and to new writers. He combines a successful philosophy about what it is to write best sellers with a huge amount of talent. We are delighted to award him the 2013 CWA Diamond Dagger.”  (read more on the CWA site)

 

For more info on this year’s Dagger award winners in other categories besides crime fiction follow this link…

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2010 CWA Dagger Awards

The Crime Writers’ Association has awarded the 2010 Daggers.

CWA Chairman Tom Harper said: “In a year of intense competition, these three books represent the very best of the genre. It’s particularly satisfying to see Belinda Bauer, runner-up for the CWA Debut Dagger award for unpublished authors two years ago, now scooping the biggest prize in crime fiction.  We’re thrilled with the way Cactus TV and ITV3, and their sponsors Specsavers, have embraced the Daggers to bring them to the widest possible audience. Together with the retail promotion, more people than ever are now getting the chance to discover the best crime writing in the UK.”

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer has won the CWA Gold Dagger

A Loyal Spy by Simon Conway has won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn has won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger

http://www.thecwa.co.uk/

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