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BY NICO VREELAND

[This concludes my coverage of the 2011 Edgar Awards; the awards are given tonight.]

It’s Edgar season: another year has come and gone and another passel of dull Best Novel nominees has been held to the light as if to blind us.

That’s not fair, this year’s crop was significantly worse than last year’s—last year I recommended 3 of 6; this year 0 of 6. None of these novels should be read.

It’s not that any one novel is particularly terrible; in fact several of them show flashes of real, actual talent. It’s just that, no single book comes close to a satisfying experience. In fact, I’m not sure you could make a good novel if you cobbled together the best parts of all six.

Faithful Place had the hype, Crooked Letter had the prose, Patpong had the action scenes. Too bad nobody wrote a plot.

The awards are tonight, so without further ado…


The Rankings

Last year, my rankings bowed to suspense. There wasn’t a lot of suspense this year, so these six are plainly ranked by how well I liked them. I’ve done away with odds of winning, because Faithful Place will win. It had the most hype and no other novel was good enough to knock it from its perch. In light of that, here we go.


1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Since none of these Edgar writers deigned to create suspense, Franklin gets top honors because of his complex characters and his excellent prose. He omits a decent plot (that will be a recurring theme here), but if you’re going to read only one Edgar nominee—and do not read more than one—make it Crooked Letter. [Full review]


2. The Queen of Patpong

Hallinan writes the best action sequences of any nominee, hands down. That and his rock-star ending are enough to pull this one into second. But Hallinan, just like the rest of this ragged crew, completely whiffed on plot. [Full review]


3. I’d Know You Anywhere

Laura Lippman has a ton of charm, and it’s not exactly clear to me why she writes crime novels that make her charm feel awkward and inappropriate. Like Franklin, prose and characters are her strong suit, and she offers at least one terrific moment. The plot is terrible, though. [Full review]


4. Faithful Place

Faithful Place wasn’t a bad book, I only give it so much grief because it garnered a dumpster-load of praise for no real reason. French’s characters are simply not any better than anybody else’s on this list (except Coben’s, they’re better than Coben’s). In fact, French doesn’t excel at anything. I just don’t understand why this one’s going to win. [Full review]


5. The Lock Artist

The Lock Artist had a moment halfway through when I thought Hamilton might be a genius. Turns out he’s not. He tries to be funny, probably too hard. He works in some good moments, and a cheesy storyline, but the story craters in the second half. [Full review]


6. Caught

Caught features perhaps the best plot of any of the Edgars, though that’s not much of a feat—obviously, since it’s dragging last. Coben’s characters are simply too cliched and hollow to be believable in the least. It’s a ridiculous book. [Full review]


The Predictions

In my 2011 kicking-off post, I made a few predictions for the hell of it. Time to grade those (on a steep curve).


Prediction: that I’d like Patpong best and Lock Artist least

This wasn’t entirely accurate, but it wasn’t too far off for a guess based solely on cover art. I learned that publishers are savvy hands at cover design, and that books that take place in foreign countries will probably not live up to my hopes for them.


Prediction: Caught and Lock Artist would have the worst prose

Caught certainly had bad prose, but its horrible characters were more noteworthy. The Lock Artist wasn’t as bad as I thought. It wasn’t good, of course.


Prediction: Crooked Letter and I’d Know You Anywhere would have the best prose

Pretty spot on. Patpong had better action scenes (and was probably 3rd in overall prose), but Crooked and Anywhere were best at both prose and characterization.


Prediction: the one Best First Novel nominee that I’ll definitely read is Rogue Island

Uhhhh, not so much. Since this year’s Best Novel nominees were quite bad, and last year’s Best First Novel nominees were possibly even worse, I decided to give this one a miss.


If I Gave This Award…

I’ve got one word for you: Misadventure. Characters, prose, and bona fide suspense: Misadventure has it all. Plus Kaufman’s writing is hilarious and riveting. The only problem with this book is that it’s too short. [Full review]

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