Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Arthur Ellis Awards

Crime Writers of Canada is proud to announce...
The Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists

Best Crime Novel
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, St. Martin’s Press
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson, McClelland and Stewart
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley, Doubleday Canada
I'll See you in My Dreams by William Deverell, McClelland and Stewart
The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg, Simon&Schuster

Best First Novel
The Man Who Killed by Fraser Nixon, Douglas & McIntrye
The Survivor by Sean Slater, Simon&Schuster
The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton, House of Anansi Press Inc.
Tight Corner by Roger White, BPS Books
Watching Jeopardy by Norm Foster, XLibris

Best Crime Book in French
La chorale du diable by Martin Michaud, Les Editions Guélette
Pwazon by Diane Vincent, Editors Triptyque
Pour Ne Pas Mourir ce soir by Guillaume Lapierre-Desnoyers, Lévesque Éditeur

Best Juvenile or Young Adult Crime Book
Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones, Candlewick Press
Charlie's Key by Rob Mills, Orca Book Publishers
Empire of Ruins by Arthur Slade, HarperCollins Publishers
Held by Edeet Ravel, Annick Press
Missing by Becky Citra, Orca Book Publishers

Best Crime Nonfiction
A Season in Hell by  Robert Fowler, Harper Collins
Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art by Joshua Knelman, Douglas& McIntyre
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Steven Laffoley, Pottersfield
The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahader, Harper Collins
The Weasel: A Double Life in the Mob by Adrian Humphreys, Wiley

Best Crime Short Story
A New Pair of Pants by Jas. R. Petrin, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
Beer Money by Shane Nelson, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
The Girl with the Golden Hair by Scott Mackay, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
The Perfect Mark by Melodie Campbell, Flash Fiction Magazine
What Kelly Did by Catherine Astolfo, North Word Magazine

Best Unpublished First Novel - “Unhanged Arthur”
Gunning for Bear by Madeleine Harris-Callway
Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe
Snake in the Snow by William Bonnell
The Rhymester by Valerie A. Drego
Too Far to Fall by Shane Sawyer 

Note for those who aren't familiar with the Arthur Ellis awards: These apply to crime fiction and, in one category, nonfiction, by Canadian citizens. For award guidelines, click here. And for past recipients, click here. The nominees list becomes an intriguing reading challenge -- climb out of one's own backyard and into a new set of perceptions. Award results for 2012 will be announced on May 31, in Toronto; tickets are still available ($80 each -- pretty good, considering!).

Jassy Mackenzie: New Crime Fiction in South Africa

With Soho Crime's help, Americans are catching up on the South African crime novels of Jassy Mackenzie. Random Violence came out in 2008, My Brother's Keeper in 2009, Stolen Lives in 2010 -- and now, hurrah, we get THE FALLEN.

This time, private investigator Jade de Jong isn't working in the cramped urban tension of Johannesburg. Instead, she's booked a vacation trip to St. Lucia, where she hopes her boyfriend, David, a police superintendent, will relax with her and rebuild their relationship -- which has been rough, thanks to the presence in Jade's life of a former partner in crime who wants her to apply her security skills to his own work instead. But David on arrival is clearly holding Jade at arm's length, for reasons that she can't fight. And then, off balance as she is, she's suddenly caught up in the murder of the resort's scuba-diving instructor. And, typical of Jade, she's got to try to sort things out, no matter the danger.

But ... it's complicated. Well, sorting out a well-executed murder usually is complex, because there's motive, means, opportunity, and all of those may be hidden at first. The attractive instructor, Monique, doesn't seem like someone who'd get into trouble that kills her, and violently. And what about the man Jade's just had sex with, trying to escape her despair over David? Is he involved? There's blood all over his room, isn't there? And Craig's emotionally off balance, too, after the horrific death of his father in a terrible crash.

Also complicating the story is Jade's effort to pay homage at her own mother's grave in the nearby industrial town, the major port of Richards Bay. Her mother's stone isn't at the cemetery ... and the retired nurse from the hospital is reacting oddly to Jade's visit:
"I'm Elise de Jong's daughter. You looked after her at the hospital."

When Mrs. Koekemoer turned to stare at Jade, it as like a light had suddenly gone on behind her eyes.

"You are so like your mother, my dear. I'd forgotten how she looked, but seeing you brings it all back."

Jade took a deep breath. She realised her hands were clenched so hard her nails were just about piercing her palms. "You remember her well?" she asked. ... "I don't even know where she's buried."

The old woman's eyes widened. "That's a secret, my dear. I'm not allowed to tell."
The deeper Jade dives into one investigation, the more the other one also threatens to drown her.

This is a great series, and I enjoyed the change of venue, the insight into another part of South Africa, where the gulfs of rich and poor, white and black, criminal and victim, find new ways of haunting this nation's people. I'd walk a long, long ways to get the next Jade de Jong book from Jassy Mackenzie.

Thanks, Soho Crime, for bringing it to the bookstores nearby.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

James Lilliefors, VIRAL: Espionage, Enemies, Excellent

Trust Soho Crime to bring us another thriller with global reach, as US author James Lilliefors -- an award-winning journalist for the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Baltimore Sun -- provides a hot new CIA adventure that focuses on medicine and murder in and around Uganda. The two poles of wealth exert a powerful magnetism here: the enormous profits available to pharmaceutical firms and bioweapons developers, and the tragic poverty and endemic diseases of regions of Black Africa.

How much of a stretch is it, to think that manipulative politicians might propose a form of racist eugenics in Third World regions, eliminating the undernourished and overpopulated, in favor of reshaping the world? Unfortunately, American history tells us it's happened before, on a smaller scale. The eugenics movements of the 1920s and 1930s took root in both the United States and Germany. We're still fighting, over and over in the courts, for how much autonomy should be available to people whose mental and emotional states differ from the mainstream -- and in America we've seen mandatory vaccination (now under challenge), sterilization, and involuntary commitment used as weapons instead of gifts.

In Jon Mallory, Lilliefors creates someone whose commitment to doing the right thing puts his life into jeopardy in ways that ring true and terrifying. When Jon goes undercover in Uganda, he's trying to ensure the safety of his brother Charles, who in turn is trapped in CIA connections but struggling to catch up with Jon's whereabouts and find a way to help him survive their mutual investigation and journalistic urge. Here's a sample of how it ramps up:
Her eyes shifted. Jon felt his heart racing, and he thought about logistics -- how would they get back to the airport, out of this country? Don't try too hard. "Is that what he told you? Is that who gave you the warning?"

... The calm steeliness in her eyes was arresting. "We don't know," she said. "We know that Paul had gotten inside. ... He made arrangements for me to come here some time ago. He wanted me to be a witness, in case the worst happened. A back-up."

"A human memory stick."

"Yes. ... He wanted to do something about it. But I'm afraid he didn't make it."
I bit my nails, stayed up too late, and swore I'd wait at least six months before re-reading this compelling thriller. But I may have to give in and tackle it again sooner.

Sara J. Henry's LEARNING TO SWIM Takes Wings

Vermont author alert! But much more ... southern Vermont resident Sara J. Henry, whose debut crime fiction LEARNING TO SWIM earned enthusiastic blurbs from such seasoned crime fiction authors as Lisa Unger, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Michael Robotham, is looking for your support.

Her thriller has won a slew of award nominations, including for an Agatha Award for best first novel; the Barry Award for best first novel; and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Fantastic!

But the rules around voting for the Agatha at Malice Domestic mean that every one of your votes -- if you are attending that fabulous conference (I wish I could this year!) -- is essential if the book's going to have a chance. That means: Please make time to read this one, quick-in-a-hurry, if you haven't already. It's an extraordinary debut, tightly written, tautly plotted, and in the long run, a book that reaches the heart.

Left, Sara J. Henry; right, yours truly (talking of course).
Sara can't exactly ask you (I ran into her yesterday at David Wilson's "Mystery on Main Street" bookshop in Brattleboro, VT), so I offered to speak up on behalf of this well-written book. (1) Please read it ASAP. (2) If you're attending Malice Domestic, please consider giving it your vote.

I can hardly wait to see the results of your work! Oh yes, looking for the list of all the nominees? Here you are:
Best Novel:
The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)
Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Best First Novel:
Dire Threads by Janet Bolin (Berkley)
Choke by Kaye George (Mainly Murder Press)
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)
Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab (Berkley)
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend (Berkley)
Best Non-fiction:
Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks by John Curran (Harper)
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys (McFarland)
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris (Ace)
Best Short Story:
"Disarming" (PDF) by Dana Cameron, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - June 2011
"Dead Eye Gravy" by Krista Davis, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Palace by the Lake" by Daryl Wood Gerber, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
"Truth and Consequences" by Barb Goffman, Mystery Times Ten (Buddhapuss Ink)
"The Itinerary" by Roberta Isleib, MWA Presents the Rich and the Dead (Grand Central Publishing)
Best Children's/Young Adult:
Shelter by Harlan Coben (Putnam)
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (EgmontUSA)
The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner (EgmontUSA)
Best Historical Novel:
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (Signet)
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Superhero Writers on Mystery Bus Tour -- Stopped at Brattleboro Today!

Consider this a photo tale of an amazing visit. ATRIA sent this bus out on the road -- you can see on the back the schedule of visits:

For an small-town stop between Massachusetts and Albany, NY, Atria chose to send the four authors in the bus to Mystery on Main Street, where owner David Wilson welcomed them to a packed house of appreciative readers, surrounded by stacks of books by these and other mystery professionals. Here are the Superhero Writers (you can almost see their capes, right?) - starting at left with host David Wilson, then John Connolly, Liza Marklund, M. J. Rose, and William Kent Krueger.

We'll have more to say about their books in the days ahead. Meanwhile ... after a day on the road ... we're happily exhausted, and came home with stacks more to read (happy, happy).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Timothy Hallinan's First Book: Free Today as an E-Book

Timothy Hallinan
I stayed up WAY late last night reading an advance review copy of the new Poke Rafferty crime novel (Bangkok, yay!) from Tim Hallinan -- a great read, and I'll give more details as we get closer to the late-summer publication date -- so I was thrilled to find this "free" offer today, in Kindle format, of Hallinan's first book, THE FOUR LAST THINGS. It's 488 pages, and I don't see any catch to the offer, other than needing to download the free Kindle application onto the computer if you don't have a Kindle (I don't; I'm a dedicated Mac user). Get the Hallinan book HERE.  Oh boy, there goes the weekend!

Hallinan's first book is not in the Poke Rafferty series. It launches his earlier series featuring Simeon Grist, set on the West Coast. Here's a bit from his Wikipedia page (which could use some loving attention):
In the 1990s he wrote six mysteries featuring the erudite private eye Simeon Grist, beginning with "The Four Last Things," which made several Ten Best lists, including that of The Drood Review. The other books in the series were widely and well reviewed, and several of them were optioned for motion pictures. The series is now regarded as a cult favorite.
In 2007, the first of his Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, "A Nail Through the Heart", was published to unanimously enthusiastic reviews. "Hallinan scores big-time," said Kirkus Reviews, which went on to call the book "dark, often funny, and ultimately enthralling." "Nail" was a Booksense Pick of the Month and was named one of the top mysteries of the year by The Japan Times and several major online review sites.
Hallinan won a 2011 Edgar nomination and also a Macavity for the Poke Rafferty thriller The Queen of Patpong. The 2012 book The Fear Artist is coming to us from Soho Crime, where editor Juliet Grames must spend a lot of air miles (and reading time) connecting with great international crime fiction.

A good middle section of my day, for sure.

Quick postscript for proud Vermonters: In the acknowledgments for The Fear Artist, where Hallinan credits the musicians whose work enriched his writing during this one, he mentions Neko Case. We're psyched -- Case, who lives in Vermont's culture-rich Northeast Kingdom, is one of our local treasures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vermont Quintessential: F. D. Reeve, NATHANIEL PURPLE

Ready for a charming Vermont novella, with just enough darkness and suspense to keep you reading? It's not crime fiction -- but F. D. Reeve's new book NATHANIEL PURPLE is a good read nonetheless, and likely to get multiple readings, too, because it's so satisfying.

If you're in northern Vermont, catch the chance to meet this Bennington-area novelist and prodigious poet and award winner at the St. Johnsbury (VT) Athenaeum at 7 pm on Wednesday April 11. It will be a great way to celebrate National Library Week.

What's that? Where are the mystery reviews? I promise, there are half a dozen on the way. Watch this space tomorrow morning.