Celebrating Mystery’s Best | Edgar Award Nominees 2017

fulledhead1[1]The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) celebrated Edgar Allan Poe’s 208th birthday on January 19 by releasing the nominees for the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2016. Authors Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart were named Mystery Grand Masters, and the Ellery Queen Award will be presented to well-respected Putnam editor in chief Neil Nyren, whose star-studded author list includes Clive Cussler, C.J. Box, and Robert Crais.

What is particularly noteworthy about this year’s Best Novel nominees is that the works  represent mystery writers veering into new directions. Alafair Burke’s third stand-alone legal thriller, The Ex, was a best-selling breakout for the author of the “Ellie Hatcher” and “Samantha Kincaid” series. With his series debut, Where It Hurts, Reed Farrell Coleman moved from the gritty streets of 1980s New York, as depicted in his hard-boiled “Moe Praeger” mysteries, to the other side of the tracks on suburban Long Island. And the most dramatic shift of all was historical mystery author Lyndsay Faye (The Gods of Gotham), who transformed one of English literature’s most beloved heroines, Jane Eyre, into the fiercely vengeful serial killer/sleuth Jane Steele.

Small presses were not forgotten, as evidenced by the nominees for Best Trade Paperback Original. Dominating the list was Prometheus Book’s Seventh Street mystery imprint, which only launched in 2012 and which earned three nominations, and Thomas & Mercer, the crime fiction line that Amazon Publishing started in 2011; two of its titles garnered Edgar nods. And receiving its first Edgar Award ever is Polis Books, an indie publisher established in 2013, for Patricia Abbott’s Shot in Detroit.

It has become increasingly clear, as the publishing industry has evolved, that there is no ‘one size fits all’ for how and where terrific books are published,” explains Polis Book’s founder and publisher Jason Pinter. “As an independent publisher, I’m thrilled (to death, naturally) that Shot in Detroit  by Patricia Abbott is the very first Polis Books title to earn an Edgar Award nomination—and in only our second year of eligibility. Patricia wrote a riveting and relevant novel, and deserves every accolade. I’m humbled by the incredible roster of crime writers we’ve assembled in such a short time, and I have no doubt more of our authors will earn this honor.”

Presented below are LJ’s reviews (where available) for the adult fiction and nonfiction categories, as well as for the Mary Higgins Clark Award nominees. For a full list, including the Best Short Story, Best Juvenile, and Best Young Adult nominations, go to the MWA website.

The winners will be announced at the MWA’s 71st annual Gala Banquet, April 27, 2017, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan.

BEST NOVEL

91wzWaWSMVL[1]The Ex by Alafair Burke (Harper)
redstarTwenty years ago, Olivia Randall broke up with fiancé Jack Harris, hurting him beyond measure. Now that Randall is a top New York City defense attorney, she has a chance to atone—by saving him when he’s accused of murder. Most of the evidence against Jack seems circumstantial: he was, admittedly, in the area where the shootings occurred, with a fanciful alibi that he was to meet a woman he’d seen at a glance, then connected with online. But one of the victims, Malcolm Neely, is the father of a disturbed teenager, Todd Neely, who three years earlier killed 13 people, including Jack’s wife. Malcolm had repeatedly refused to get his son the help he needed. Then there was the gunshot residue on Jack’s shirt, plus the implied threat he made toward Malcolm. In her third stand-alone thriller (after Long Gone and If You Were Here), Burke details the pain of the Olivia-Jack breakup gradually, as the attorney loses trust slowly in her client. VERDICT Strong characters and a plot that’s handled deftly, despite its complexities, show Burke at the top of her game here. This is a compelling legal thriller with a strong emotional component grounded in a solid rational base, with a final twist to boot. [See profile of Burke, LJ 1/16.—Ed.]—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)
redstarIn the two years since his son suddenly died, Gus Murphy, an ex-Suffolk County, NY, police officer, has suffered depression and a collapsed marriage, and is now living in a low-class hotel and driving its van to and from the railroad station. When Tommy Delcamino, an ex-con whom Murphy arrested several times, asks for his help in finding the murderer of his lowlife, druggie son, TJ, because the police are doing nothing, Murphy thinks he’s playing the “dead son” card and tells him to shove it. However, he soon realizes the man has nowhere else to turn. When he goes to Delcamino’s home and finds him brutally murdered, Murphy has no choice but to solve both murders, theorizing they are connected. That he is warned off by both policemen and drug dealers only strengthens Murphy’s resolve. VERDICT The author of the “Moe Prager” series has created another engaging sleuth in the down-but-not-out Gus. His cynicism about God, the income divide on Long Island, and police corruption add dimension to his protagonist. The ancillary characters, both good and bad, are also a fascinating mix. Moe Prager fans will hail this new series, as will lovers of solid mysteries, especially those set on Long Island. (LJ 7/15)—Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY

janesteele.jpg12915Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam)
redstar
Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much. Faye’s protagonist is abused by her cousin, shunned by her aunt, and then is sent to a boarding school where she finds companionship amid tyrannical oppression. She even meets and falls in love with her own “Mr. Rochester,” Mr. Charles Thornfield of Highgate House. Unlike Jane Eyre, however, Jane Steele reacts to her persecutors with violence and leaves bloody bodies in her wake. She harbors other secrets as well—Highgate House is Jane’s childhood home, and she starts her employ as governess with the secret intention of proving that she is the rightful heir. Mr. Thornfield and the house’s other inhabitants have secrets and dark pasts as well, but if Jane confesses her wickedness and deceit to Mr. Thornfield, will he be able to forgive her? And can Jane use her “talents” to save the Highgate inhabitants from outside conspirators? VERDICT In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye (Dust and Shadow; The Gods of Gotham) has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction. Her novel will draw in readers of gothic and historical crime fiction, and nonfiction such as Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Fans of Victorian detectives like Sherlock Holmes and C. Auguste Dupin will also find Jane a worthy sleuth. (LJ 1/16)—Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)
Is Kelly Michelle Lund a serial killer or a convenient scapegoat? As a teenager, she was convicted of killing a famous movie director, presumably for his role in the suicide of her aspiring actress sister. Three decades later, after serving her sentence, Kelly lives with her husband, Shane, who is also the scion of a famous, dysfunctional Hollywood clan. When Shane’s father, a close friend of the director Kelly was convicted of killing, is found dead, she is thrust back into the spotlight. VERDICT The narrative of Gaylin’s (Stay with Me) latest thriller moves between the present and Kelly’s teenage years, which requires some attention and patience from the reader. The plot is also a little slow moving as major details only begin to emerge about a quarter of the way into the book. Nevertheless, Gaylin has created a compelling protagonist: Is Kelly detached because of guilt and lost time, or is she protecting someone else? Fans of Gaylin’s previous works as well as readers of suspense authors such as Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter will demand this one. (Xpress Reviews, 3/18/16)—Nicole A. Cooke, GSLIS, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

beforethefall041516Before the Fall by Noah Hawley  (Grand Central)
redstarOn August 26, 2015, a private jet owned by conservative media mogul David Bateman takes off from Martha’s Vineyard for a short evening flight back to New York. Eighteen minutes in, however, the plane disappears from the radar and crashes into the ocean. Miraculously, two of the 11 passengers survive: Scott Burroughs, a struggling middle-aged artist and accomplished swimmer, and four-year-old J.J Bateman. Scott hears J.J.’s cries in the dark night, manages to find him clinging to a seat cushion among the fiery wreckage, secures the boy to himself, and, although injured, swims ten perilous miles to shore. The missing and presumed dead include J.J.’s parents and his nine-year-old sister, an Israeli bodyguard, a wealthy Wall Street banker and his wife, and the plane’s three crew members. The novel drifts forward and backward through time to reveal each passenger’s story and the relationships linking them in fateful alignment to the doomed plane. The ensuing crash investigation ultimately involves not only the Federal Transportation Safety Board but also agents from the SEC and the FBI.
Verdict Rich with a compelling narrative, suspenseful plot twists, and engaging characters, this fourth novel (after The Good Father) by an Emmy Award–winning producer and creator of FX’s Fargo promises to be the must-read thriller of the summer. (Xpress Reviews, 4/14/16.)—Sheila M. Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC

BEST FIRST NOVEl by an american author

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin)
Nora leaves London one Friday afternoon to visit her sister Rachel for a relaxing weekend in the country. She expects to find Rachel in the kitchen making dinner. Instead, she discovers her sister’s body lying in a pool of blood with her dead dog nearby. As Nora plans the funeral and deals with final details, she realizes she’s unable to move on with her own life. She’s particularly distraught by a case of an unsolved assault suffered by Rachel at age 17. Investigating on her own, Nora finds out that she knows less about her sibling than she once thought. Though not all readers will be able to stomach the initial gruesome scenes involving Rachel’s dog, those who stick around will be rewarded with a riveting, complex suspense novel thick with atmosphere and long-held secrets. VERDICT Berry’s fiction debut is a dark, twisty, and deeply disturbing thriller that makes for an absorbing summer read. Readers will look forward to the next novel by this promising new author. (LJ 5/15/16)—Liz Kirchhoff, Barrington Area Lib., IL

dodgersDodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown)
redstarWith characterizations recalling the best of George Pelecanos, this debut novel by Beverly (American literature, Trinity Univ.; On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America) follows the coming-of-age story of East, a young Los Angeles gang lookout who is sent on a road trip with three others to kill a witness in Wisconsin. This is not the usual road trip narrative; each of the four young men could easily carry their own book, but East, a smart and sympathetic narrator, propels the story with his internal assessments of his cohorts and their situation. An unexpected turn in the latter third of the novel brings the focus more squarely on East, who has never been out of L.A. and begins to examine the possibilities that are available to him beyond his urban life as well as the reality of being a young black man in a predominantly white Midwest America. VERDICT Fans of HBO’s The Wire and Richard Price novels will be engaged by the book’s themes of race, identity, and the U.S. class system. (LJ 4/15/16)—Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend

IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland: Little, Brown)
Isaiah Quintabe, known as IQ, is a preternaturally smart misanthrope who has made a name for himself solving mysteries. Raised in East Long Beach, one of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, he’s no stranger to tragedy and has a violent history that he is desperately trying to make right. When Dodson, a figure from his past he’d rather forget, shows up at his apartment offering a new case, Isaiah is dubious. It’s a high-paying assignment involving a notorious rap star who just barely escaped an assassination attempt by a monstrous dog. Desperate for money and intrigued by the method of the attack, Isaiah agrees to track down the would-be killer with Dodson acting as partner. Deftly weaving back and forth between past and present, the novel slowly reveals the complex relationship between the two men as well as the inner machinations of a hired madman and his killer dog. VERDICT With a definite nod to Sherlock Holmes and the wonders of inductive reasoning, Ide’s freshman novel introduces an intriguing new detective with staying power who will be a certain hit with fans of urban-set crime fiction. (LJ 9/1/16)—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

51ls0fvu6LL[1]The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)
Peter Ash is a 31-year-old marine vet whose PTSD “white static” prevents him from being indoors. Feeling guilty about a fellow vet’s suicide, he goes to Milwaukee to help the widow out, and he finds $400,000 in cash plus explosives and a giant dog under her porch. As Ash investigates his friend’s death and possible involvement in some dirty dealings, his probe leads him to a gangster, a plot to blow up a bank in a financial scam, and a hedge fund manager who may have murdered his wife. VERDICT Despite a finale that strains credulity, Petrie’s impressive debut thriller is fine tuned, the action gripping, and through Ash offers a well-drawn portrait of a vet who can’t escape his combat experience. Like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Ash’s philosophy of detection is to poke a stick into something and see what happens. His discoveries will keep the reader on edge and whet the appetite for more from this author. (LJ 1/16)—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright (Marian Wood: Putnam)
When a meth-addicted grave robber digs up the death mask of Montezuma, who will claim it? The drug lord for whom he works? A shadowy American expat collector? A two-faced antiquities curator? Or maybe troubled Anna Ramsey, who wants the mask to redeem her father’s reputation. Journalist Wright’s first novel (after the memoir Learning To Float) is getting considerable library promotion. [Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]

The Lost Girls by Heather Young (Morrow)
Lucy still lives at the lakeside Minnesota vacation home where little sister Emily disappeared six decades earlier. Now she’s written an account of that event and willed it and the house to grandniece Justine, who’s happy for a place to hide with her daughters from her abusive boyfriend. But Justine doesn’t know how dark the coming winter will be. With a 50,000-copy first printing. [Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

51IG7098DeL[1]Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott (Polis)
At 40, Violet Hart is a down-on-her-luck photographer still waiting for her big break. Living in Detroit, with its plethora of crumbling and abandoned buildings, she is drawn to “ruin porn,” but her focus changes when her lover Ben, a mortician catering to the black community, asks her to take a final photo of a family’s loved one. In this moment she finds inspiration to capture the images of at least a dozen young black men in their final state of repose and to exhibit these pictures in her own one-woman show. By immersing herself in the world of the dead and constantly searching for “unusual” scenes to shoot, Violet inadvertently places herself, and those around her, in harm’s way. Derringer Award–winning author Abbott (Concrete Angel) has delivered a fresh look at the disintegration of Detroit as seen through the lens of a camera. Less a suspense novel than the plot summary may imply, it is instead a detailed account of one woman battling her inner demons against the backdrop of a city that is doing the same. VERDICT This title is bound to have strong regional appeal, and fans of Megan Abbott may be curious, as the author is Abbott’s mother. (LJ 6/15/16)—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts (Thomas & Mercer: Amazon)
The 7th Canon
by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer: Amazon)

51srWd2oJAL[1]Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Seventh St.: Prometheus)
It’s 1987 in Northern Ireland in the midst of the Troubles, and Sean Duffy, a 13-year veteran of the Ulster police but still a detective inspector, is confronted with a locked-room mystery. Lily Bigelow, a vibrant English journalist, has died in a fall from the heights of Carrickfergus castle; her death is ruled a suicide because the doors were locked and no one could have left. Bigelow had been accompanying a Finnish delegation looking at investment sites, but Duffy discovers that she secretly had been pursuing a tip about a pedophile ring. There are few clues, but more murders, and Duffy also has to deal with obstruction from higher levels.Verdict The violence of the Troubles is more in the background here than in McKinty’s four award-winning previous series titles, and there are more details of Duffy’s personal life. Still, it is a pleasure to be in the company of a master storyteller and stylist. McKinty uses some historical events as a basis for a strong moral point of view while still delivering a fine tale that should appeal to many levels of mystery fans. (Xpress Reviews, 3/15/16)—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum (Seventh St.: Prometheus)
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin (Seventh St.: Prometheus)

BEST FACT CRIME

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio & Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s)
This collection of narratives describes various high-profile and historically significant cases on which pathologist Di Maio has consulted during his esteemed career, including the trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin and the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald. He illuminates the world of forensic pathology while showing its contribution to the evolution of evidence-based judgments in criminal trials. Di Maio emphasizes the centrality of impartiality to the profession: how his job is to determine the cause and manner of death, regardless of any effects his conclusions may have. The examples well satisfy humanity’s obsession with murder and justice. They are written (with journalist Franscell) skillfully enough that even when a suspect’s guilt is painfully obvious, the methodical and deliberate presentation of proof helps the reader better appreciate and understand the challenges of the justice system. As with William R. Maples’s Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Di Maio’s work asserts the value of his medical specialty while lamenting the steadily decreasing number of its competent practitioners. VERDICT Readers interested in forensic pathology, medical investigation, justice, courtroom dramas, and criminal law will find this book simply to die for. (LJ 4/1/16)—Ricardo Laskaris, York Univ. Lib., Toronto

51rFmN0SOiL[1]The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (Morrow)
In 1981, members of the Ku Klux Klan murdered African American Michael Donald in Mobile, AL. Their prosecution and a subsequent civil lawsuit dealt a fatal blow to the largest U.S. Klan organization and effectively ended the protected status of the group and its members in Alabama. Leamer (The Price of Justice; The Kennedy Women) explores the tragic murder, drawing sad and telling details from interviews and court records. The middle section of the book looks back at the lives and careers of the men who would become adversaries in the courtroom: Morris Dees, the country lawyer from Montgomery who would emerge as an unlikely crusader for civil rights and who founded the influential Southern Poverty Law Center; and Robert Shelton, the leader of the United Klans of America. Leamer also traces the career of Alabama Gov. George Wallace, whose policies enabled the Klan to operate freely in the state for decades. The book closes with a dramatic account of the court case that would officially bankrupt the Klan. VERDICT Leamer skillfully weaves the facts of a single case with the story of the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan. Recommended for all readers interested in American history. (LJ 4/15/16)—Nicholas Graham, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus Crime)
Victorian scholar Murphy (Shooting Victoria) tells the story of Jane Maria Clouson, a working-class servant girl, who was discovered barely alive by a constable on patrol in a remote part of London in April 1871. She was rushed to the hospital and a two-pronged investigation was launched: Who was she and who had tried to kill her? The police quickly turned their suspicions to the son of her former master Edmund Pook. In fact, investigators were so certain of Pook’s guilt that they arrested him before having thoroughly dissected the homicide. Pook was eventually acquitted with the help of his attorney Henry Pook (no relation). The public rebelled and broke out with rough music protests. The court cases continued with Henry Pook filing charges against the police for misconduct and libel suits against the writer and publisher (and seller) of a pamphlet describing Edmund Pook as the killer. With the hindsight of history, Murphy lays out a compelling theory as to why he thinks Pook did indeed murder Clouson. Murphy also details two other trials taking place at the same time—hopefully these will inspire his next book. VERDICT This fascinating account of a Victorian murder, complemented by the added strength of a rich description of the period’s society and judicial system, should be a solid addition to academic and true crime collections. (LJ 3/1/16)—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Scarborough H.S. Lib., ME

519N79L+50L[1]While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders (Viking)
redstar
Sanders (associate editor, The Stranger) won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the rapes and murder that took place in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle in 2009. This book covers not just the horrendous summer night and subsequent trial but the entire lives of both victims and perpetrator with depth and clarity. Sanders follows the failure of multiple systems that left Isaiah Kalebu and his family without the help they needed and asked for, describing the terrible consequences of the loss of social safety nets. The stories of the victims, Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper, illuminate this specific tragedy, making Hopper’s grace and forgiveness during the trial even more astonishing. VERDICT This book is valuable, often difficult reading. Pair with Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside for powerful, if upsetting, analysis of the failures of our criminal justice system. For readers interested in social justice, mental health care, and well-written narrative nonfiction. (LJ 12/15; an LJ Top Ten Best Book 2016)—Kate Sheehan, C.H. Booth Lib., Newtown, CT

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin)
Summerscale’s (The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher) book about Victorian child murderers Robert and Nattie Coombes starts out as a standard true crime read and ends with what was clearly a surprise to the author. That Robert killed his mother at age 13 was never a question—he admitted it freely in a confession—but the subsequent trial of a defendant so young and his sentencing to Broadmoor asylum rather than a prison (or a hanging) was sensational to Victorian newspaper readers. What happened next, however, was shocking. Coombes’s incarceration seems to have actually benefited him, contrary to the common notion of the affects of 19th-century asylum life. His service in World War I at Gallipoli was notable, and most important, his postwar life in Australia was quiet and uneventful, save for his rescue of a neighbor boy from an abusive home, a situation with which Coombes was all too familiar. Summerscale’s research reveals that early tragedy for Coombes need not be his end, like it would have been for many, but that it would later provide him with a way to help another young boy in need. VERDICT For true crime readers, history buffs, and fans of the grittier side of Victorian life. (LJ 6/1/16)—Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

51s90chQkTL[1]Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese: Doubleday)
Whitbread Book Award for Biography recipient Ackroyd’s (Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life) succinct study of one of the most famous filmmakers of the 20th century takes a chronological approach to Hitchcock’s life and films (e.g., Psycho; Rear Window). Starting with “Hitch’s” birth and moving forward to directing, Ackroyd goes through Hitchcock’s productions individually. Some films are covered in a paragraph, but the more noteworthy ones are discussed in much longer and detailed prose. Ackroyd is not a film critic, but he does a fine job of discussing the positives and negatives, as well as behind-the-scenes stories, and even technological innovations for each film. Hitchcock began by directing silent movies and was one of the first adapters to include sound and real dialog. He immediately began to construct storyboards to help the cameramen and production crew visualize what the finished product would look like. VERDICT Not only are film buffs obvious candidates as potential readers, but also 20th-century historians, early British and American film enthusiasts, suspense and mystery aficionados, and photographers. Part biography and part film criticism, this is a worthy addition to all libraries. (LJ 8/16)—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967 by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Liveright: Norton)
redstar
Despite battles with anxiety, oppressive societal expectations, and a fraught relationship with husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Shirley Jackson (1916–65) wrote six novels, a collection of short fiction, and a handful of nonfiction and children’s books. Even though her promise as a writer of supernatural suspense reached fruition with The Haunting of Hill House, the author’s most infamous work was the short story “The Lottery.” The story—Jackson claimed to have written it in a single day—generated unprecedented buzz, confusion, antipathy, and even hate mail. Yet as Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses) points out in her engaging portrait, Jackson is far from a one-hit wonder. Franklin writes that “[her] brand of literary suspense is part of a vibrant and distinguished tradition that can be traced back to the American Gothic work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James.” Drawing on a trove of research—including previously unpublished letters and interviews—and her own astute analysis of Jackson’s fiction, Franklin gives her subject her much-deserved due and sets the standard for future literary biographers wrestling with the legacy and the unwarranted inattention of a major figure in 20th-century American literature. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers of Jackson’s fiction as well as those interested in the connection between the inner lives of authors and their work. (LJ 8/16)—Patrick A. Smith, Bainbridge State Coll., GA

somethingintheblood-jpgthumbSomething in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal (Liveright: Norton)
Despite the melodramatic title, this work is a scholarly study of Bram Stoker’s (1847–1912) life and times. Historian Skal (Hollywood Gothic) addresses sexual identity and anxiety amid 19th-century upheavals in science, religion, and personhood. He depicts the dark underside of Victorian culture, including preoccupation with the occult, excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, and the prevalence of syphilis. Skal examines homosexuality, just emerging as a societal issue, with a focus on figures such as Stoker’s friend Oscar Wilde and literary hero Walt Whitman. Stoker is depicted as resembling a child who never grew up, dominated by his mother and ambivalent toward women despite being married. Fascinated by the theater, he became the manager for actor Henry Irving whom he idolized and with whom he experienced a hostage-like relationship. Stoker’s preoccupation with the macabre is traced to accounts of the horrors of the Irish Potato Famine, Irish mysticism, and fairy tales he read as a child. Skal explores Stoker’s most famous work, Dracula, in detail, with its focus on the magic of blood, the “oldest and deepest and most paradoxical human symbol.” VERDICT For serious students of horror literature and Victorian culture. (LJ 12/16)—Denise J. Stankovics, Vernon, CT

Mary Higgins Clark Award

The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks Landmark)

Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
redstar
Jemimah, better known as Jude, has fled London, returning to a small Scottish town where she had discovered Lowland Glen Books during a summer vacation with her husband. Having been abandoned by her spouse for another woman, Jude desperately seeks isolation to repair her broken heart. Lowell Glen, the owner of the bookstore and many other properties in Wigtown, offers Jude a job cataloging and organizing the shop, as well as a house, the tiny grave digger’s cottage near the old-town cemetery. Jude is easily drawn into village life, although residents ask few questions. When Lowell’s purported daughter turns up pregnant, things begin to unravel, causing Jude’s secrets and the shopkeeper’s past to collide. VERDICT McPherson is a master of slightly creepy narratives that are complex and character driven (Agatha Award–nominated The Child Garden). Her latest stand-alone is atmospheric and suspenseful and will intrigue Erin Hart readers. (LJ 4/1/16)—Viccy Kemp, Flower Mound P.L., TX

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)
saynomore101416starred review starWhen Boston investigative TV reporter Jane Ryland witnesses a hit-and-run accident and sees the driver’s face, she has no idea how complicated her life will get. Immersing herself with her new producer in a documentary about college sexual assaults, Jane makes a personal connection with a reclusive young victim. As the documentary proceeds, Jane finds herself tangled in messy legal proceedings involving the accident. She then receives several anonymous threats warning her to be silent, but Jane is unsure if they are connected to the hit-and-run or to her film. In the meantime, her fiancé, homicide detective Jake Brogan, is investigating the suspicious drowning death of a local visiting professor. Will Jane and Jake find that their work lives are once again intertwined despite their attempts to draw substantial boundaries between work and home? Verdict Ryan does it again in her fifth Jane Ryland thriller (after What You See), delivering a fast-paced, edgy mystery that seems ripped from the headlines. [With a five-city tour.] (Xpress Reviews, 10/13/16)—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub (Morrow)

The Shattered Tree: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd (Morrow)
In her eighth outing (after A Pattern of Lies), World War I nurse Bess Crawford spots on the streets of Paris a former French Army patient now wearing an American uniform. She had previously witnessed this wounded soldier speaking German. Driven to investigate, Bess sets out, putting her life in danger. (LJ 8/16)—Viccy Kemp, Flower Mound P.L., TX


Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Share
Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.

Comments

  1. aabartley says:

    “The plot is also a little slow moving as major details only begin to emerge about a quarter of the way into the book”
    I disagree:
    http://www.messynessychic.com/2014/04/15/victorian-prudes-beachside-bathing-machines/

    Aiko

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*