The Edgars cover both fiction and nonfiction(including TV) but since I'm more of a novel reader, the quartet of nominated titles that I'll be focusing on here will be from the fiction categories. One of these books I've already read and happens to be up for Best Debut Novel, a category that is wickedly hard for me to resist:
Stephanie Wrobel's Darling Rose Gold is loosely based on a true story but this tale of a mother-daughter reunion is set in the fictional realm.We start with Patty Watts , who went to prison for the systematic poisoning of her young daughter Rose Gold, whose testimony against her in court sealed that deal .
Five years later, Patty is out on parole and manages to reconcile with Rose who offers her a place to live with herself and newborn son Adam. Patty is happy about this and already planning to regain her position of parental power but that may not be as simple as it seems.
For one thing, Rose has brought the childhood home of her mother for them to reside in which holds rather bad memories for Patty there. Also, everyone in the area knows all about Patty's menacing maternal instinct and is keeping a very close watch on her. Yet between Patty and Rose, a war of wills is going on that has no direct witnesses and whoever wins, the consequences will be dire for all involved.
This was one of the most chilling books that I read last year and it will be surprising if DRG is not made into a movie or miniseries sometime soon. Wrobel showcases a steady hand at building character driven suspense and her next novel will definitely be worth looking out for:
Another Best Debut Novel nominee, Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas seems to be a blend of old school Gothic with modern day academic terror and a dash of sci-fi. Set during the 1990s, Ines is drawn to attend the title educational institution after a disastrous senior year of high school that leaves her very few options for a better future.
Students at Catherine House are meant to spend three years of intensive focus on their studies with no connections to the outside world. If successful, this time apart promises to be the gateway for them to gain good connections to the upper echelons of society and beyond.
However, Ines begins to notice that something strange is going on as when those found breaking the rules are sent to the Tower for "restoration" and return changed, perhaps due to CH's secret experiments with something called plasm. Is this experiment intended to create something for the betterment of others or for the betterment of certain others only?
This does sound intriguing and it's good to see mystery stories do a bit of mix and match here. Being fresh and new in any well known genre is a challenge yet it appears to be one that innovative authors like Elizabeth Thomas are more than willing to take on:
Although Alyssa Cole's When No One is Watching is up for Best Paperback Original, this well established romance author's debut into the thriller section of the bookshelf does showcase her strengths as a writer in any genre she chooses to set forth in.
When Sydney returns to her grandmother's beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, she's not happy about the steady encroachment of gentrification all around her to the point of starting her own local tour group to share the true history of the area.
During this time, she crosses paths with Theo, a new neighbor looking to connect with his new surroundings as well as with someone way less toxic than his entitled girlfriend. Between the two of them, they start to notice some strange things that are making the departure of certain long term residents be more than just moving on to greener pastures.
Will Sydney and Theo be able to uncover what's going on or wind up being permanently evicted from existence? This sinister city story is very real in feel and offers more than one audience to share in the tense page turning experience indeed:
Heading back to the Best Debut Novel category, we have some historical fiction with Murder in Old Bombay by Nev Marsh.
Archie Agnihorti is an army captain in Bombay of 1892, recovering from a wound during his service. During his convalescence, he becomes interested in two things-a tragic double death featured in the local newspapers and the works of Sherlock Holmes.
Convinced that the untimely demises were not self inflicted, Archie reaches out to the family of these two recently departed to offer his services in tracking down the killer. While his help is eagerly accepted, Archie finds plenty of obstacles in his path towards justice.
Will the spirit of Holmes and Watson be enough to guide Archie to the true culprit or can his own innate resources be of greater use in this matter? As a fan of historical fare, this engaging novel could be the start of a wonderful new series that brings genre readers even closer together:
The Edgar Awards will be presented on April 29th(via Zoom) and best of luck to all of the nominated works. While we will have to wait a bit longer for the cozy mystery crowd to give out their top honors(known as The Agathas, set for July), it will still be great fun to see who wins here and to get an idea of what's to come within this genre.
Of course, whether it's cozy, suspense or thriller, playing armchair detective is grand entertainment but safest to engage in at home. No matter how clever you are, it takes a talented writer to save the (hopefully) imaginary day, not to mention find that pesky missing item that everyone is looking for!: