On April 29, Edgar awards for best mysteries published in 2009 will be announced. I am delighted that the publicist sent me four books of the six nominated in the mystery novel category to look over.
Mystery writers quite frequently can beat travel books in providing the best atmospheric descriptions of a destination. “…one of the best ways to get a glimpse of another culture is through the lens of crime fiction, the literature of the streets and dark alleys and underclass,” says the blog International Noir.
I have read two of these completely and read parts of the others. I have presented my choices here (remembering that there are two more) Oh dear! And which will win the Edgars?? Another mystery.
#4The Odds by Kathleen George (Pittsburgh)
The Odds carries you into the minds of a group of pre-teens and teens thrown into a precarious situation. Kathleen George has a natural sense of drama, since she is a theater professor. This is an easy read, and in fact would be a good book for the young adult reader
#2 (tie)The Last Child by John Hart (North Carolina)
Hart’s previous book Down River won an Edgar Award for Best Novel. He lives in North Carolina, and sets his books there. I will be reviewing this on the Great American Road Trip (Announcing that is a spoiler of sorts).
#2 (tie)A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (South Africa)
A film maker turned mystery writer, she was born in Swaziland and lives in Australia. See Malla Nunn on YouTube talking about her book. Or see her home page at Simon & Schuster. She beautifully recreates both a time (post WWII and a place–apartheid South Africa.) An engrossing book with fascinating, complex characters.
My First Choice: Nemesis by Jø Nesbo
This police procedural novel teeters on the edge of literary fiction. It delves deeply into the human pysche and motivations. First published in Norway (2002) it took a while to be translated into English (2008) and finally made it’s way to America in 2009.
Now I must try to express my enthusiasm without resorting to spoilers. Regardless of the British translation with some slang unfamiliar to Americans, the skill of this writer just pulls you through the pages. The third in a series about Detective Harry Hole, ensures he will join other icons of mystery writing as an interesting character. (books one and two are not in English yet, but #5 was published first according to International Noir ) Harry occasionally slips back into alcoholism, but it does not stop him from juggling three unrelated cases with some common themes.
You learn a lot about the weather and the daily life of various Norwegians as Harry runs about the city. You can follow his movements on the handy map in the front, and then travel to Oslo and follow in his footsteps.
A Nesbø description:
The rain showers petered out later in the day. The sun peeped out in between all the leaden grey, and then the clouds parted like curtains opening on the final act. It would turn out to be the last hours of a blue sky before the city of Oslo pulled the grey winter duvet over its head.
Harry’s partner has the handy (for a police officer) “malady” known as fusiform gyrus. Although Harry at first thinks that means a Mac program, he learns it is the ability to remember faces. Nesbø scatters such humorous references to modern life and also to popular music through the book.
This book teaches you early on to pay attention–don’t miss anything because you may be either led down a blind alley if you are not attentive, or be given a helpful clue if you are reading carefully.
Harper published the English edition of the fourth Harry Hole book in January 2010 . You can darn betcha that I’m getting my hands on The Devil’s Star as soon as possible. And that’s not a spoiler.
Because I am talking about so many books here, I did not link them all to Amazon, but if you are going to buy, and want the convenience, I appreciate your clicking any Amazon link on the site and buying there. Thanks!
Do you have a favorite mystery writer who does a super job with describing a place? (Tomorrow the Great American Road Trip goes to D.C. and I talk about my favorite thriller guide to the capitol city.) Tell me your finds in mystery writers who love locale.