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)
Continue reading 2017 Edgar Award Winners
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 quite 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.
Before I Wake by CL Taylor was published in 2014 and is a suspense/thriller novel. There definitely was suspense and I read it quickly to find out what the big secret was. This novel opens with Susan’s daughter, Charlotte, in a coma after being hit by a bus. Everyone believes it was an accident but the bus driver describes how Charlotte made eye contact with him just before she stepped out in front of him. Susan also believes there is more to it and when she finds Charlotte’s diary she finds out that Charlotte was keeping a secret so big it was weighing heavily on her…heavily enough for her to step in front of a bus.
Here is the blurb from GoodReads:
This secret is killing me. It’s only one line from her fifteen-year-old daughter’s diary, but Susan knows it means everything. Charlotte is smart, popular, and beautiful. She is also in a coma following what looks like a desperate suicide attempt. What’s more, Susan has no idea what compelled her daughter to step out in front of a city bus. Did she really know her daughter at all? In her hunt for the truth, Susan begins to mistrust everyone close to Charlotte, and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past. The secrets hidden there may destroy them both.
The rest of the novel alternates between Susan’s diary entries from the past about her ordeals with a particular man who has haunted her life for years since and the real time descriptions of her efforts to find out from who ever she can what her daughter had been hiding. It was a well paced novel with good characters and a good amount of intrigue. I felt there was an underlying theme of mental illness of different kinds affecting people for different reasons which I found added greatly to the novel and suspense.
All in all it was a good quick read which I enjoyed.
Let me start by sharing the blurb of Dark Places with you:
Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put 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.
I finally got round to reading Nicholas Evans’ book The Divide. It came out a while ago and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages as he is one of my favourite authors. The books I most enjoyed of his were The Smoke Jumper and The Horse Whisperer. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy The Loop because it was great and I hadn’t read a story like that before so I would recommend all of his books. His great strength as a writer is being able to tell stories about the human heart in the face of difficult situations. He does so with such ease and completely without frills. His writing flows easily and is always right on the mark. He does dialogue like no other – I would say the most authentic dialogue I’ve ever read in books that take on these issues. He also seems to be able to take you to the heart of a relationship without overwriting it. He always gets me thinking about people and why they do what they do and shows me the truths of others’ lives different from my own. The Divide covers a number of different relationships although what struck me in this novel was how Ben and Sarah’s marriage broke down so suddenly…but don’t think this book is about marriage.
“On a Montana morning, two skiers find the body of a woman embedded in the ice of a mountain creek. She’s identified as Abbie Cooper, a brilliant college student who was on the run from charges of murder. But what was the chain of events that led this golden child astray? The answers are in the secrets of an American family fractured by lies and reunited in a tragedy.” (GoodReads)
I hate putting spoilers in my reviews because the reason I write these reviews is just to give a bit of info to those who may be interested in reading the book themselves. So no spoilers here. However, another relationship that really struck me was the relationship between Abbie Cooper and her ‘environmental terrorist’ boyfriend. The Divide is set in Montana mostly and this follows on from Evans’ other novels which are set in the same area of the US. It has that Evans Montana feel to it but is also different as it follows the lives of the family of a girl who made a decision that changed everybody’s future forever. It is part crime story, part love story. It deals with carrying on after your relationship fails and moving on after losing a loved one as well as exploring the different kinds of love in life against a backdrop of bad choices. It’s a great book to read to escape a bit. I recommend The Divide along with all his other books. Love them all! If you’ve read this or another of his books I’d love to hear what someone else thinks of them.
I was lucky enough to have been granted a copy of Parade from NetGalley. I picked this book because the description piqued my interest.
Four 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.
Luckily I only noticed that this novel, The Husband’s Secret, is described as ‘chick lit’ after I’d started reading it because otherwise I may never have picked it up – for some reason the term ‘chick lit’ doesn’t sit well with me.
“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.” (read more on GoodReads)
Although, after finishing it, I can definitely see why the story is geared towards women I’m not convinced this novel warrants the label ‘chick lit’ which doesn’t quite seem to encapsulate all that goes on in this lovely book or the women in it.
Naturally I was very intrigued as to what was in that letter but long before I got to finding that out I was enjoying being a part of Cecilia, Rachel, and Tess’s lives. The story isn’t only about that letter and the repercussions of its contents, it’s also about three modern women dealing with what I would guess many women all over the world are dealing with in some way. Staying absorbed was due to Moriarty’s wonderful skill with characters.
There was a lot I could relate to which I think probably only a woman would have brought up in a character’s internal dialogue. I thought she wrote those internal dialogues or thoughts in a very honest way without going off on a tangent. They were revealing and often funny. I enjoyed this book and as it was my first foray into Moriarty’s novels I may well pick up another of her books because of it. When I finished, it left me with thoughts about fate and karma and how life is quite interconnected mostly without us even knowing it. It was a light and engaging read.
When I finished reading this novel I didn’t know how to feel about it. From this I can tell that it had an impact on me. The description below from GoodReads doesn’t really cover all the elements going on in this short book.
“Set in Southern Rhodesia under white rule, Doris Lessing’s first novel is at once a riveting chronicle of human disintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman’s struggle against a ruthless fate. Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer. Little by little the ennui of years on the farm works its slow poison. Mary’s despair progresses until the fateful arrival of Moses, an enigmatic, virile black servant. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses—master and slave—are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion, until their psychic tension explodes with devastating consequences.” (read more on GoodReads)
I was propelled through it, tumbling along with Mary until the end where she falls apart, and then is killed. I thought Lessing took a very real situation and told the story of it honestly. Brutally honestly. I was shocked and appalled by Mary but also there were moments when I could totally understand her feeling the way she felt concerning loneliness and her inability to change her lot with Dick…I hated her and I sympathised with her. It was tough. I related to the cultural elements of the story very well as I am accustomed to it; the harsh land, the heat, the small towns, the remote farms, the veldskoene, and even the sjambok.
It really was a hard book to read in that it made me feel so much. But I had to finish it. It is a good book no doubt. It made me feel glad that those days are gone though. Lessing also let’s you take from it what you want in way too. I don’t want to give anything away but when you see what Mary does to Moses and then later when Moses asks Mary if Jesus condones people killing other people and she answers that Jesus is on the side of the good, I saw the ending from his perspective whereas the beginning had been completely from the Turners’ perspective. That was probably the best part of this book for me – that it began and ended with the same scene but you see it in a different way. This book is going to stay with for a while but in a darker sense than other good books I’ve read that struck me.
I have wanted to read The Round House since it won the National Book Award last year (2012) and all in all the story was good but I think I expected more.
“One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.” (read more on GoodReads)
The good: I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the novel being told from the perspective of a 13 year old boy (Joe) but I did. Joe is a good character and the writing is very good so he is easily followed throughout the story and he comes across mature for his age. I really enjoyed the setting of this novel – an Indian Reservation. I enjoyed the daily life on the reservation, the snippets of history and culture, the characters and their interrelations. I like to be taken away to somewhere new where the people are different. Parts that stood out for me were the powwow event and the story Mooshum told in his sleep. (I won’t elaborate so there won’t be any spoilers here) I was also intrigued by the land issue which featured prominently in the book – the issue of jurisdiction, whether state or Indian, in certain areas and the implications as well as complications of it. There were definitely some thought provoking moments.
The not-so-good: Despite all the lovely character and culture embellishments, in my mind this novel is about a crime and I continued reading to get to solving the crime and this is where I felt a bit let down. It took its time to get from one lead to the next, to get from one piece of information to the next. It needed to have gone a bit faster for me to have really enjoyed this book. There was one moment about 80 pages in where I wondered if I should stop reading the book.
Press on though unless you are really not enjoying the book as it does have a good ending. In the end I was happy to have read it. It was an easy read. I reckon I was expecting a lot more though based on what others had said about it. If it piques your interest I’d say read it, if it not…don’t feel obliged.
The White Tiger was Aravind Adiga‘s first novel for which he won the Man Booker prize in 2008. The story is told through a letter from the novel’s narrator Balram written over 7 nights to the Chinese President who is about to visit Bangalore. It is the story of how Balram came to be a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore but the story is far from straight forward and takes us on a journey through an India laid bare packing some serious punches along the way.
Set in a raw and unromanticized India, The White Tiger—the first-person confession of a murderer—is as compelling for its subject matter as it is for the voice of its narrator: amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing. (GoodReads)
I really enjoyed this novel primarily because the narrator, Balram, really is a likable character who you become close to through his confession style autobiography despite finding out early on that he is a murderer. The India that he lives in has some shocking realities that shape who he becomes and how he sees the world. This white tiger of a man goes on to defy the norm and escape the chicken coop that is the impoverished class but how he does it and what he encounters along the way is both interesting and at times startling. Balram tells his story with both humour and cynicism and it is bound to leave you thinking for some time. I was fully immersed in his world and taken by the intimate details of the people, their realities, and events in the book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a very good character driven novel. You won’t be disappointed by Balram.
The Edgars, named after the famous Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers’ of America. Some of our most beloved mystery writers have won this award; Raymond Chandler, John le Carré, Dick Francis, and Frederick Forsyth. Here are the 2010 Edgar Award Nominees:
2010 Best Novel Nominees:
The Missing by Tim Gautreaux
The Odds by Kathleen George
The Last Child by John Hart
Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
2010 Best First Novel (by an American Author) Nominees:
The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing)
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (MIRA Books)
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (HarperCollins)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)