Caught, crooked, faithful…

January 20, 2011

I’ve not paid much attention to the Edgar® Awards in the past, but this year is different: I’m curious, thanks to my newfound reading adventures in this literary genre.

Nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010 were announced this week. These awards are sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious in the genre.

The full list of nominees in the 10 categories can be read on the Edgar website. Here I investigate the six nominees in their Best Novel category.

Caught by Harlan Coben
Described by The Independent as a “an excellent thriller” and by the New York Times as “crazily hyperactive,” bestselling Coben’s newest stand-alone involves a teenager suddenly gone missing and a news reporter who makes a name for herself chasing sexual predators. In this case, though, she starts questioning her instincts. The prologue is available for reading on Coben’s website.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
The story of two boyhood friends, torn apart by circumstance, who are brought together again by a terrible crime in a small Mississippi town. Washington Post book critic Ron Charles wrote this: “If you’re looking for a smart, thoughtful novel that sinks deep into a Southern hamlet of the American psyche, ‘Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter’ is your next book.” 

Faithful Place by Tana French
NYT book critic Janet Maslin listed this as one of her 10 favorites of 2010. Faithful Place is a story about an Irish family with a mystery to go along –  one of the family members returns to his hometown, Dublin, Ireland, to investigate the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart.

The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan
This mystery takes place in Bangkok, Thailand, with Halliman’s returning travel-writer protagonist facing evils from his wife’s past that threaten the family. Lots of blogging about this book, but no reviews from major sources that I could find. This is the fourth mystery in a series.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
This story’s 18-year-old protagonist doesn’t speak, ever since he experienced tragedy as an eight-year-old. But he’s got a gift for picking locks, no matter how impossible it may seem, and this gift leads to crime. This is a new character for Hamilton, who’s known for his Edgar Award-winning Alex McKnight series. From The New York Times review: “As coming-of-age novels go, this one is too good for words.”

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
The story of a young woman who dangerously engages with a man on Death Row who kidnapped her when she was a teenager. From a review in the Washington Post: “Some people would segregate Lippman as a crime or thriller writer. That’s a shame. She’s one of the best novelists around, period.”

The monster in my home

November 29, 2010

It’s time again to weed the stack on the reading table. Take a reality check of what I will likely read in upcoming weeks. Enough with the “I want to read these books soon” stack and the “flat stack” that grew like a snake across my dining room table so I could work my way from one end to the other.

That snake, however, proved to be delightfully satisfying as I watched it shrink. Antonya Nelson’s Bound and Patricia Engel’s Vida got picked up rather quickly followed by A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr and then Stephen Vizinczey’s In Praise of Older Women. But then I started adding more books, and I didn’t like the ongoing look of the snake, more boa than garden variety. I’ve been here before. I nurture a monster then have to face it. 

I won’t detail the long list of weeding, rather share the highlights that I, Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita,  Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson got moved off because it’s not a time for them. (That was painful.) But, as it goes, remove a Man Booker candidate and then add one. Rose Tremain’s Trespass, long-listed for the 2010 Man Booker, as was Skippy Dies, now appears on the RT. Considering it’s a 14-day library book, it won’t be sitting there for long.

You might ask, why not read Skippy Dies instead of Trespass?  I wish I could answer that in a way that would offer a template for successful reading table management.  I don’t have it in me.

Speaking of library books (there’s another one on the RT, too), if I end up reading a library book, I’ll then scout for a copy for my bookshelves at used book stores and/or shows. The annual Dayton, Ohio, Bookfair held in November is a great place for such finds. 

Here are five other novels — in addition to Trespass — that survived the weeding. They are among 12 books listed on My Reading Table, a TLC page reflecting the high points neatly stacked on my dining room table. Some survivors have been long-standing titles on the table, such as Elie Wiesel’s Night and Brad Gooch’s biography of Flannery O’Connor

Only 12 books on TLC’s My Reading Table, you may ask? Again, they are merely the highlights and/or immediate next reads. Not reflected are books stacked on two other tables outside the dining room table. You likely have your own monsters to deal with. You don’t need mine.

♦  Faithful Place by Tana French
NYT book critic Janet Maslin listed this as one of her 10 favorites of 2010. Then I saw it at the library and checked it out. Faithful Place is a story about an Irish family with a mystery to go along —  one of the family members returns to his hometown, Dublin, Ireland, to investigate the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart.

♦  Stoner by John Williams
A classic published by The New York Review of Books, this is the story of a man who encounters a succession of disappointments. From an essay in the NYT: “John Williams’s ‘Stoner’ is something rarer than a great novel — it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away.”

♦  The Visiting Suit by Xiaoda Xiao
A memoir-in-stories by an author whose first novel, The Cave Man, awakened me to human rights atrocities going on in modern China. Published by Two Dollar Radio whose branding is “books too loud to ignore,” which aptly fits the work of Xiaoda Xiao. Also on the RT from Two Dollar Radio, The Correspondence Artist by Barbara Browning, which looks “too good to ignore.” Scheduled for February 2011 release.

♦  Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, edited by Bill Morgan and David Stanford
This terrific book has been on and off the RT, and it’s now back on again. The stop-and-go reading has nothing to do with my interest in the book, rather being called to pick up other books and to let it go for a while. These letters are fascinating, and they read like a great story about the Beat Generation.

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