The best in mystery fiction

May 10, 2016

Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of their 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015. Below are their three award-winning adult novels that, by what you’ll read here, might drive you to throw aside all responsibility and read non-stop.

You can get the full list of award-winners, including Best Fact Crime, Best Critical/Biographical, Best Short Story, Best Juvenile, Young Adult, TV Episode Teleplay and others on TheEdgars.com. The award nominees also are listed on the website, providing a wealth of good reading opportunities.

Let Me Die in His FootstepsBest Novel
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times praised Lori Roy’s novel, calling out, among many things, her exceptional use of language and her skill in balancing two narrative timelines – one in 1936 and the other in 1952. The book’s overview description begins: “On a dark Kentucky night in 1952, exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place, hoping to see her future in the water. Instead, she finds a body, and Annie’s future becomes inextricably tied with her family’s dark past.” The Washington Post writes: “Although the pacing of Let Me Die is drowsy and its steady infusions of folk wisdom (especially about ripening young females) grow somewhat stale, Roy excels in depicting the menace lurking in the natural world.” Let Me Die in His Footsteps is Roy’s second Edgar – she won the award in the category of Best First Novel by an American Author for Bent Road in 2012.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh NguyenBest First Novel by an American Author
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguygen

Pulitzer Prize winners were announced April 18, including The Sympathizer for fiction. Ten days later, on April 28, Mystery Writers of America announced Viet Thanh Nguygen’s The Sympathizer as the winner of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. Viet Thanh Nguygen is associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His story is narrated by a Vietnamese army captain of divided loyalties, a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent in America after the end of the Vietnam War. From The Guardian’s review of the book:The Sympathizer can be read as a spy novel, a war novel, an immigrant novel, a novel of ideas, a political novel, a campus novel, a novel about the movies, and a novel, yes, about other novels. This overreaching mixture leads to occasional missteps that matter little set against the greater result: a bold, artful and globally minded reimagining of the Vietnam war and its interwoven private and public legacies.” The Sympathizer made it onto many 2015 end-of-the-year “best” lists, highly praised by the critics. Thousands of readers give it a thumbs up on Goodreads.

The Long and Faraway GoneBest Paperback Original
The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

Both Kirkus Reviews and Publisher’s Weekly gave stars to Berney’s mystery novel in their forecasts. Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “Edgar Award–finalist Berney (Whiplash River) will raise a lump in the throats of many of his readers with this sorrowful account of two people’s efforts to come to terms with devastating trauma.”  Kirkus concluded its commentary of The Long and Faraway Gone with a compelling comment and also a rare command: “A mystery with a deep, wounded heart. Read it.” From the publisher’s summary: “In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved. Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives.” Marilyn Stasio in her New York Times review writes: “Berney tells both their stories with supreme sensitivity, exploring ‘the landscape of memory’ that keeps shifting beneath our feet, opening up the graves of all those ghosts we thought we’d buried.”

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