BY NICO VREELAND
[Since 1954, the Mystery Writers of America have given Edgar Awards to the best work done each year in the mystery genre. I’ve spent the past two months reading 12 novels nominated for 2010 Edgars in two top categories.
In two posts today, I’ll recap each novel, and handicap the two categories before the awards are presented tonight. This post will focus on the Best First Novel by an American Author category; click here for Best Novel. ]
I’ve reached this conclusion: it all comes down to suspense.
To make a mystery novel good, it helps to have good characters, an original premise, a cool or unique idea, and richly detailed scenes and settings. But without suspense, that cake don’t rise.
Suspense keeps the pages turning, it keeps you up late, and it makes you miss your stop on the subway. That’s my one-step litmus test for good mystery (if you’ve got other ideas, by all means, please leave them in the comments).
This post will serve a few different purposes. First of all, it’ll provide quick summaries and capsule reviews of all six novels nominated for Best First Novel.
Secondly, this post reflects my own rankings of these six novels. The first one listed is my favorite, the one I would give the Edgar to, based on my suspense-is-king philosophy. From there it goes in order of preference down to Cristofano.
Thirdly, I’ll estimate the odds of each book actually winning. When the odds don’t match the rankings, that’s where I think me and the judges will differ. This should give you an idea of how closely matched the novels are, and it should also give you something to gamble on today. Those odds are also subjective and made up, so take that into account.
Without further ado, let’s get to it. Hit the jump to see my pick for Best First Novel by an American Author. Click the links to read the full reviews of these books. Continue reading