Annal: 1996 Agatha Award for Best Novel

Results of the Agatha Award in the year 1996.

Book:Up Jumps the Devil

Up Jumps the Devil: A Deborah Knott Mystery

Margaret Maron

Murder usually begins at home, and Colleton County, North Carolina, proves no exception. When truck driver and childhood neighbor Dallas Stancil is shot and killed in his own backyard, Judge Deborah Knott figures she owes his memory at least the respectful ritual of taking his widow one of her Aunt Zell’s best chicken casseroles. Mistake Number One. Dallas wasn’t rich, but with development eating up the farms and forests of North Carolina his land is suddenly worth a fortune. His trashy, chain-smoking third wife and grown stepchildren are all too aware of its value. Opportunistsincluding one Deborah’s own brothers—are coming out of the woodwork. And she knows big money makes people do bad things. Hardworking, redneck, and salt-of-the-earth, the Stancil men have lived side-by-side with Deborah’s family. When the Stancils suffer another tragedy, a long-hidden skeleton rattles its bones and jumps out of what she thought was her long-dead past. She can run the culprit back out of town or maybe get him charged…[more]

Book:The Grass Widow

The Grass Widow

Teri Holbrook

After a tragic exile in England, Gale Grayson returns with her daughter to her southern roots, only to find eccentric relatives—and a decades-old scandal alive and well. They’d been talking about Gale’s Aunt Linnie since 1925, when she was found hanging from a pecan tree. When Linnie’s grandson is killed by a shotgun blast, it falls to Gale to sort out the truth—and that means she will have to dig deep into the town’s darkest secrets—and her own painful past.

Book:Hearts and Bones

Hearts and Bones

Margaret Lawrence

Independent Hannah Trevor is a midwife in the small Maine town of Rufford several years after the end of the Revolutionary War. In the dead of a particularly brutal winter, an horrific act—the rape and murder of a young wife—draws Hannah into the constabulary’s investigation and threatens to destroy everything she holds dear. Now an honorable man has been accused of the crime—Hannah’s former lover, the father of her illegitimate daughter.

Book:Kansas Troubles

Kansas Troubles

Earlene Fowler

With her acclaimed mysteries Fool’s Puzzle and Irish Chain, Earlene Fowler introduced Benni Harper, the ex-cowgirl and quilter of San Celina, whose crime-solving talents are as colorful and complex as the patchwork patterns she loves.

After a whirlwind marriage to Gabe Ortiz (and ignoring predictions that the sassy blonde and the stone-faced cop may kill each other before their first anniversary), Benni visits his hometown near Wichita. At a rowdy backyard barbecue, she meets Tyler Brown, an aspiring country singer with a promising future—and a fascinating past. Once, Tyler lived a simple Amish life as Ruth Stoltzfus. After leaving behind a stoic husband and being shunned by an entire community, she’s determined to make it on her own, selling her exquisite handmade quilts to get by. But her gifts—and her life—are cut short when she’s murdered. Out of his jurisdiction, Gabe is frustrated to sit on the sidelines while his friends are investigated—and furious that it’s Benni doing…[more]

Book:Strong As Death

Strong As Death

Sharan Newman

A former novitiate in the Order of the Paraclete, Catherine LeVendeur has had more than her share of adventures. In fact, intrigue—and murder—seem to dog her path. When Catherine chose love over churchly devotion by falling in love with her Saxon nobleman, Edgar, her family as the earnest hope that married life would settle this most headstrong and unusual woman. But fate has a way of playing with mortals, and after suffering several miscarages and the birth of a stillborn child, Catherine is driven by a prophetic dream. She and Edgar will embark on a pilgrimage to the fabled monastery of Compostela, to petition St. James for a child, to take the holy waters, and to pray.

On the journey Catherine and Edgar will encounter mad monks, some less-than-penitent crusaders, and a motley collection of pilgrims whose past deeds bind them all in a bizarre game of chance. When several pilgrims are gruesomely murdered, the trail of evidence points to an old sin left unshriven and a hidden villain whose quest for revenge may end in Catherine’s death.

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