Annal: 2004 Agatha Award for Best First Novel

Results of the Agatha Award in the year 2004.

Book:Dating Dead Men

Dating Dead Men

Harley Jane Kozak

Los Angeles greeting-card artist and card-and-gift shop manager Wollie Shelley is dating forty men in sixty days as research for radio talk-show host and bestselling author Dr. Cookie Lahven’s upcoming book, How to Avoid Getting Dumped All the Time. Wollie is meeting plenty of eligible bachelors but not falling in love, not until she stumbles over a dead body en route to Rio Pescado–a state-run mental hospital–and is momentarily taken hostage by a charismatic “doctor” who is on the run from the Mob. Wollie fears that her beloved brother, a paranoid schizophrenic living at Rio Pescado, is involved in the murder, so rather than go to the authorities, she decides to solve the crime on her own. As she meets up with an array of small-time crooks and swaggering mobsters (many of whom are a lot more affable and only slightly more sinister than the men she’s been dating), Wollie realizes that “getting dumped” is the least of her problems. Finding true love, she discovers, sometimes means learning how…[more]

Book:Arson and Old Lace

Arson and Old Lace: A Far Wychwood Mystery

Patricia Harwin

“You’re a librarian, not a detective,” Catherine Penny’s daughter reminds her. But Catherine, suddenly single in her sixties, finds it easy to slip into sleuthing mode when she leaves behind New York City and a failed marriage for a lovely 17th century cottage in the idyllic English village of Far Wychwood.

But behind the town’s quaint stone walls and lace-curtained windows lurk dark secrets and whispers of witchcraft. And when her crusty neighbor George Crocker dies in a tragic fire, Catherine alone suspects arson. Lacking hard evidence, the police pay little attention, and the villagers swear she must be mistaken. Catherine, however, is one feisty expatriate American who leaves no stone unturned when circumstances point to murder. She may not be Miss Marple—yet—but her ingenious knack for uncovering the truth is about to take Far Wychwood by storm!

Book:The Clovis Incident

The Clovis Incident: A Mystery

Pari Noskin Taichert

Sasha Solomon is having a bad day. Fired from her job as PR director at an Albuquerque HMO, she is dealing with an ailing mother and trying to figure out the origins of hallucinations that include conversations with her cat.

Sasha heads for Clovis, a small town in southeastern New Mexico, where she’ll bid on a project for the Chamber of Commerce. While there, she will check in with her widowed friend Mae King. Mae, a local dairy farmer, is clearly out of sorts and shows Sasha the reason. There’s a body in one of her stock tanks—a Singaporean aviator stationed at Cannon Air Force Base. Who killed him and why? What was he doing on Mae’s land? Why won’t she go to the police?

Sasha must clear her friend’s name, find the murderer, and land the PR job with the Chamber of Commerce within a week. But there are other forces at work who will stop at nothing to keep her from the truth. Sasha soon discovers that there’s a lot more to Clovis than a dot on a map.

Book:I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason

I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason: A Cece Caruso Mystery

Susan Kandel

All that writer Cece Caruso—a thirty-nine-year-old former beauty queen from New Jersey—really wants to do is finish her biography of Erle Stanley Gardner so that she can finally stop obsessing about Perry Mason. Well, that and find a 1970 silk chiffon Ossie Clark to add to her collection of vintage clothing. And fix the broken front doorknob on her West Hollywood bungalow. But first she has to help save her daughter’s foundering marriage, which is more than Cece could manage for her own.

Everybody’s got problems. In a last-ditch effort to kick a bad case of writer’s block, Cece pays a visit to a prison inmate who had once corresponded with Gardner, pleading his innocence. Her impetuousness lands her smack in the middle of a case worthy of Perry Mason himself—a double-edged mystery linking a forty-year-old murder to one where the body is still warm. Propelled by tenacity, curiosity, a sense of humor, and an understanding of human nature’s dark side, Cece will channel the inner sleuth…[more]

Book:Till the Cows Come Home

Till the Cows Come Home

Judy Clemens

Stella Crown works hard and loves her life. She runs her own dairy farm with the trusted help of longtime assistant Howie, rides her Harley on the weekends, and has enough friends to suit her just fine.

But on her twenty-ninth birthday, things start to change. A neighborhood child dies from a strange and threatening illness, a string of mysterious disasters place Stella and her farm in peril, not to mention her friend Abe showing up with a new woman on his arm, creating confusing emotions all around. Electrical outages, flooded barns, and cows running loose in the countryside are bad enough, but when her livestock begins turning up dead, Stella knows someone, or something, is out to get her. Though doctors quickly announce the discovery of the neighbor child’s cause of death, another child dies before they can declare victory over the illness, sending the community into a state of near panic. …[more]

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