When it comes to looking for new reading material, I’m both lazy and impatient, so one of my favorite hacks is culling titles from award lists. I mean, if something was nominated for an award, it’s probably good, and I didn’t have to go to all the effort of looking at a whole bunch of books and making a decision. Those poor suckers on the award committees had to do all that work. My favorite awards list is the Edgar Awards, named for Edgar Allen Poe and presented yearly by the Mystery Writers of America. The Edgar Awards recognize mystery and crime fiction/non-fiction writing and they know how to pick ‘em. I’m always finding great books on the Edgar lists. Feel free to check them out yourself, or if you are even lazier than I am, pick from my list of Edgar Award authors below. Stop complaining–there are only two. Jeez.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
I have a recurring dream about elevators. I’m in a giant, casino-hotel-sized building and I get on the elevator to go to a high floor. After I press the button, the elevator starts to move, but instead of going up, it goes sideways or diagonally or backward. The elevator walls are glass, so I can look out and view the odd angles the elevator is traveling, but I don’t have any way to change direction or arrest momentum because the elevator buttons don’t work. That slippery feeling of witnessing your own powerlessness is perfectly captured in Megan Abbott’s new book, You Will Know Me. Set in the suburban world of competitive gymnastics, the book introduces the Knox family: father Eric, mother Katie, 10-year-old son Drew, and the otherworldly-gifted gymnastics dynamo, 14-year-old daughter Devon. Like a weird dream that takes place in an ordinary setting, Abbott’s writing builds tension in banal places, driving this murder mystery story from perceptions and points of view. You Will Know Me is ultimately Katie’s story, showcasing the choices the mother of an extraordinarily talented child will make in extraordinary circumstances. When your family’s status quo includes a future Olympics on the horizon, how does that distort the prism through which a mother views her world? I loved this book—once I opened it, I could not put it down. I am definitely going to be giving the gymnasts in Rio serious side-eye because I never knew gymnastics could be this murdery.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
I grabbed The Last Policeman after gleaning “New Hampshire rookie detective” from the summary I skimmed. Imagine my surprise when I found I’d purchased science fiction. Science fiction is my third-rail genre, y’all. The Last Policeman’s premise is not so much apocalyptic as pre-apocalyptic. An asteroid is on a direct flight to collide with and destroy Earth in six months – how, then, does one spend the time on the countdown clock? Personally, I’d have some sort of epic French-onion-dip consumption plan, but main character Detective Hank Palace is a better person than I am. Trying to live out his lifelong dream of being a professional policeman in an increasingly chaotic world, Palace is nobly fighting an uphill battle. Winters poses intriguing (and uncomfortable) questions about how much our humanity is tied to infrastructure and technology. Does Hank Palace’s loyalty to an old-fashioned sense of personal honor have a place in a society no longer constrained by any fear of accountability? I loved that push and pull in this book. The Last Policeman is the first book in a trilogy, and I’ve read the second one, Countdown City, and I’ve got the third one, World Of Trouble, on deck, so yes-I am reading science fiction now, apparently. (I assume the series stopped at three because that asteroid finally lands). Final score: Science Fiction 3, Bookreasons 1.
The 2016 Edgar Awards were presented in April. Check out that list, along with prior year winners and nominees, at http://www.theedgars.com/index.html