Annal: 2003 Agatha Award for Best First Novel

Results of the Agatha Award in the year 2003.

Book:Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear

What do Hercule Poirot and Charlotte Gray have in common? It may be the wonderful Maisie Dobbs. Lady Rowan Compton first met Maisie when, at thirteen, she went into service as a maid at her ladyship’s Belgravia mansion. A suffragette, Lady Rowan took the remarkably smart youngster under her wing and became her patron. She encouraged Maisie to study at Cambridge, and was aided in this by Maurice Blanche, a friend often retained as an investigator by the elite of Europe when discretion and results were required. It was he who first recognized Maisie’s intuitive gifts. The outbreak of war changed everything. Maisie left for France to train as a nurse, then served at the front, where she fell in love with a handsome young doctor. After the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie hangs out her shingle: M. Dobbs, Trade and Personal Investigations. Her very first case involves suspected infidelity but turns up something else, a tombstone with only a first name—Vincent. And then she finds another. The deceased…[more]

Book:Alpine for You

Alpine for You: A Passport to Peril Mystery

Maddy Hunter

Accompanying her grandmother on a seniors tour of Switzerland, Emily Andrew had envisioned a vacation straight out of a travel brochure: spectacular scenery, great food, and a classy European hotel, all worlds away from her rural Iowa hometown. But her dream trip quickly snowballs into mayhem when smooth-talking tour escort Andy Simon is found dead. To be sure, Andy was as randy as a mountain goat on Viagra, hitting on every miss—Swiss or otherwise—within striking distance. His constant advances were driving Emily cuckoo—but had someone orchestrated his untimely death?

For savvy, resourceful Emily, leading the tour in Andy’s place is only natural. But she can’t remain neutral when a fellow traveler takes a fatal plunge—she’s convinced a murderer lurks among them. With precision timing, sexy Etienne Miceli steps in to investigate, and Emily warms to the suave detective. Still, with the group roster suddenly sprouting more holes than the local cheese, Emily wonders: is there a safe haven anywhere in the shadow of the Alps?

Book:Dealing in Murder

Dealing in Murder: A Molly Doyle Mystery

Elaine Flinn

Elizabeth Porter was a top-of-the-lineManhattan antiques dealer until her ex-husband and his lover’s flagrantly criminal scam left her reputation in tatters. Now, using a new name, Molly Doyle, she’s starting over a continent away in a rundown antiques shop in cozy Carmel, California. Molly is determined to make the best of it. But the early antiques bird sometimes gets more than the worm, and one prompt arrival places her at a murder site with a corpse in her arms. After she turns up at a second seemingly unrelated death, the abrasive new police chief considers Molly the prime suspect. Now the only way to clear her name is for Molly to find her own path to a killer, which will leave her either exonerated … or dead.

Book:Haunted Ground

Haunted Ground

Erin Hart

When farmers cutting turf in a peat bog make a grisly discovery - the perfectly preserved severed head of a young woman with long red hair - Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin team up in a case that will open old wounds. Peat bogs prevent decay, so the decapitated young woman could have been buried for two decades, two centuries, or even much longer. Who is she? When was she killed? The extraordinary find leads to even more disturbing puzzles. The red-haired girl is clearly a case for the archaeologists, not the police. Still, her tale may have shocking ties to the present, and Cormac and Nora must use cutting-edge techniques to preserve ancient evidence.

And the red-haired girl is not the only enigma in this remote corner of Galway. Two years earlier, Mina Osborne, the local landowner’s Indian-born wife, went for a walk with her young son and never returned. Did Mina simply decide to disappear, or…[more]

Book:Murder Off Mike

Murder Off Mike: A Talk Radio Mystery

Joyce Krieg

Murder Off Mike introduces Shauna J. Bogart, a small and sassy radio talk show host/amateur sleuth. Shauna J. is used to dealing with the controversial, the contentious, the cranky, and the just plain crazed as the host of the afternoon gab fest on the top-rated station in California’s state capital. But nothing prepares her for the day a fellow shock jock turns up with a bullet in his head. The cops say it’s suicide, but Shauna J. isn’t buying it. She launches her own investigation, putting herself at peril.

Her investigation, aided and abetted by her loyal callers, leads her to a shattering secret that could derail the campaign of the leading candidate for governor. Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes shenanigans threaten the very existence of the radio station Shauna J. calls home. …[more]

Book:O' Artful Death

O' Artful Death: A Mystery

Sarah Stewart Taylor

Newcomer Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers a compelling and atmospheric cozy mystery that introduces Sweeney St. George, an art historian in Boston with a special interest in the art of death. Sweeney becomes interested in Byzantium, Vermont, an art colony that flourished in the late nineteenth century, when she comes upon a photograph of the striking gravestone of a girl who drowned, and may have been murdered, in 1890. The stone is in a tiny cemetery surrounded by other beautiful, if unremarkable, headstones, some dating back hundreds of years. But the unsigned sculpture that marks this young woman’s grave is of extremely high quality and the artist is unrecognizable.

Sweeney is soon hooked, not only on the mystery of who created the beautiful sculpture but also on the details of the events surrounding the girl’s death. When the friend who showed her the gravestone invites Sweeney to visit his relatives in Byzantium…[more]

Book:Take the Bait

Take the Bait

S.W. Hubbard

The mountains guard their secrets….

The remote village of Trout Run lies inside New York State’s vast Adirondack Park, a tiny community cloistered within deep forests and rugged mountains. You can drive for miles without seeing another soul—so when high school senior Janelle Harvey vanishes while walking home along a lonely forest road, only the trees are mute witnesses to her disappearance.

Police Chief Frank Bennett is new to Trout Run, and he’s determined not to make another mistake in judgment like the one that cost him his previous job. But no one—family, friends, or clergy—seems willing to tell all they know about Janelle. Yet as the search goes on, Frank determinedly peels back the layers of mystery…only to find that even in a town where everyone knows your name, there are some secrets no one wants shared.

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