Annal: 2011 Hammett Prize for Crime-Writing

Results of the Hammett Prize in the year 2011.

Book:The Killer is Dying

The Killer is Dying: A Novel

James Sallis

A hired killer on his final job, a burned-out detective whose wife is dying slowly and in agony, a young boy abandoned by his parents and living alone by his wits. Three people, solitary and sundered from society.

In what is at one and the same time a coming-of-age novel, a realistic crime novel and a novel of the contemporary Southwest, The Killer Is Dying is above all the story of three men of vastly different age and background, and of the shape their lives take against the unforgiving sunlight and sprawl of America’s fifth largest city, Phoenix.

The detective, Sayles, is looking for the killer, Christian, though he doesn’t know that. Christian is trying to find the man who stepped in and took down his target before he had the chance. And the boy, Jimmie, is having the killer’s dreams. While they never meet, through the course of the novel, all find community.

Book:The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table: A Novel

Michael Ondaatje

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. …[more]

Book:Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead: A Mystery

Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection—the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette. 

The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies—foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery. 

Littered with memories of Claire’s years as a girl detective in 1980s Brooklyn, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

Book:Feast Day of Fools

Feast Day of Fools: A Novel

James Lee Burke

Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwest Texas border town with a deep and abiding respect for the citizens in his care. Still mourning the loss of his cherished wife and locked in a perilous almost-romance with his deputy, Pam Tibbs, a woman many decades his junior, Hackberry feeds off the deeds of evil men to keep his own demons at bay.

When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert and reports it, Hack’s investigation leads to the home of Anton Ling, a regal, mysterious Chinese woman whom the locals refer to as La Magdalena and who is known for sheltering illegals. Ling denies having seen the victim or the perpetrators, but there is something in her steely demeanor and aristocratic beauty that compels Hackberry to return to her home again and again as the investigation unfolds. Could it be that the sheriff is so taken in by this creature who reminds him of his deceased wife that he would ignore the possibility that she…[more]

Book:The Informant (Thomas Perry)

The Informant: A Butcher's Boy Novel

Thomas Perry

In Thomas Perry’s Edgar-winning debut The Butcher’s Boy, a professional killer betrayed by the Mafia leaves countless mobsters dead and then disappears. Justice Department official Elizabeth Waring is the only one who believes he ever existed. Many years later, the Butcher’s Boy finds his peaceful life threatened when a Mafia hit team finally catches up with him. He knows they won’t stop coming and decides to take the fight to their door. 

Soon Waring, now high up in the Organized Crime Division of the Justice Department, receives a surprise latenight visit from the Butcher’s Boy. Knowing she keeps track of the Mafia, he asks her whom his attackers worked for, offering information that will help her crack an unsolved murder in return. So begins a new assault on organized crime and an uneasy alliance between opposite sides of the law. As the Butcher’s Boy works his way ever closer to his quarry in an effort to protect his new way of life, Waring is in a race against time, either to convince him to become a protected informant—or to take him out of commission for good.

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