Honor roll: Agatha Award for Best First Novel

Each of these books has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Somebody Else's Child

Somebody Else's Child

Terris McMahan Grimes

Theresa is a career woman, a mother and a wife. When her mother calls to say there’s trouble at her elderly neighbor’s house and she’s going over to investigate, Theresa has no choice but to get involved. Before the night is over, Theresa finds herself caught up in the harsh brutality of the streets, with a drive-by shooting, a mysterious kidnapping, and more.

Book:Zero at the Bone

Zero at the Bone

Mary Willis Walker

Katherine Driscoll is just three weeks away from disaster: foreclosure on her home and business, even the sale of her beloved dog. She has no hope of raising the $91,000 she so desperately needs—until the father she hasn’t seen for thirty years writes to her, offering her enough money to solve her problems…if she will do one thing in return.

But Katherine may never learn what that is. When she arrives in Austin, she is hours too late: her father has died in a bizarre accident. As she sifts through the cryptic notes he left behind, she finds herself caught up in terrible family secrets—and a deadly illicit trade. The more she learns, the more determined she becomes to prove her father’s death was no accident. In doing so, Katherine will make a bitter enemy—one desperate enough to kill…and perhaps, kill again.

Book:In the Shadow of Gotham

In the Shadow of Gotham: A Novel

Stefanie Pintoff

Dobson, New York, 1905.

Detective Simon Ziele lost his fiancée in the General Slocum ferry disaster—a thousand perished on that summer day in 1904 when an onboard fire burned the boat down in the waters of the East River. Still reeling from the tragedy, Ziele transferred to a police department north of New York, to escape the city and all the memories it conjured.

But only a few months into his new life in a quiet country town, he’s faced with the most shocking homicide of his career to date: Young Sarah Wingate has been brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of an otherwise calm and quiet winter afternoon. After just one day of investigation, Simon’s contacted by Columbia University’s noted criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who offers a startling claim about one of his patients, Michael Fromley—that the facts of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance…[more]

Book:Death of a Cozy Writer

Death of a Cozy Writer: A St. Just Mystery

G.M. Malliet

From deep in the heart of his eighteenth century English manor, millionaire Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk writes mystery novels and torments his four spoiled children with threats of disinheritance. Tiring of this device, the portly patriarch decides to weave a malicious twist into his well-worn plot. Gathering them all together for a family dinner, he announces his latest blow—a secret elopement with the beautiful Violet…who was once suspected of murdering her husband.

Within hours, eldest son and appointed heir Ruthven is found cleaved to death by a medieval mace. Since Ruthven is generally hated, no one seems too surprised or upset—least of all his cold-blooded wife Lillian. When Detective Chief Inspector St. Just is brought in to investigate, he meets with a deadly calm that goes beyond the usual English reserve. And soon Sir Adrian himself is found slumped over his writing desk—an ornate knife thrust into his heart. Trapped amid leering gargoyles and stone walls, every member of the family is a likely suspect. Using a little Cornish brusqueness and brawn, can St. Just find the killer before the next-in-line to the family fortune ends up dead?

Book:The Doctor Digs a Grave

The Doctor Digs a Grave

Robin Hathaway

Available for house calls— and homicide…

When cardiologist Dr. Andrew Fenimore isn’t mending weak hearts, he’s solving crimes in Philadelphia’s wealthy Society Hill. But murder is the last thing the good doctor expects when he befriends a teenage boy trying to bury his dead cat. As the two dig a grave for the cat’s final resting place in a vacant lot— which happens to be an ancient burial ground— they discover a fresh corpse, buried feet flexed, facing east, according to Lenape Indian tradition.

Fenimore’s P.I. pastime starts to become a distinct health hazard as he and his young sidekick follow the trail of the deceased young woman straight to the son of a colleague, one of Philadelphia’s most prominent surgeons. Surely the scion of a fine old Philadelphia family and his Indian fiancee ignited some powerful passions. But are they enough to risk trying for the perfect murder in a place where civility rules with an iron fist in a velvet glove?

Book:Dead Body Language

Dead Body Language

Penny Warner

Thirty-seven year old journalist, Connor Westphal, has relocated from San Francisco to Flat Skunk, a mining-turned-tourist town in the foothills of the Sierras, to start up her own weekly paper. Suddenly, dead bodies begin turning up in the most unusual places, setting Connor on a hunt for a killer. You might say Connor has a sixth sense when it comes to investigating…but she only has four of the usual five senses. Connor Westphal is deaf. But being hearing impaired doesn’t stop Connor from pursuing the murderer. Without sound to distract her, she attends to subtleties that others overlook and ultimately unravels the mystery.

Book:The Salaryman's Wife

The Salaryman's Wife

Sujata Massey

Japanese-American Rei Shimura is a 27-year-old English teacher living in one of Tokyo’s seediest neighborhoods. She doesn’t make much money, but she wouldn’t go back home to California even if she had a free ticket (which, thanks to her parents, she does.) Her independence is threatened however, when a getaway to an ancient castle town is marred by murder.

Rei is the first to find the beautiful wife of a high-powered businessman, dead in the snow. Taking charge, as usual, Rei searches for clues by crashing a funeral, posing as a bar-girl, and somehow ending up pursued by police and paparazzi alike. In the meantime, she manages to piece together a strange, ever-changing puzzle—one that is built on lies and held together by years of sex and deception.

Book:Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others: A Jordan Poteet Mystery

Jeff Abbott

Jordan Poteet has left the big city to work as a librarian in his hometown of Mirabeau, Texas. But his dream of the quiet life is shattered when he locks horns with Miss Beta Harcher, the town’s prize religious fanatic, in a battle over censorship. When Jordan finds her murdered body in the library, he becomes the prime suspect. And when the police find a cryptic list stashed next to her fanatical heart, it seems as if Beta Harcher has the whole town in a death grip…

Book:Track of the Cat

Track of the Cat

Nevada Barr

A stunning mystery set against the high-country trails of the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas, where the age-old battle of man against nature is fought with a frightening twist.

Anna Pigeon has fled New York and her memories to find work as a ranger in the country’s national parks. In the remote backcountry of West Texas, however, she discovers murder and violence. Fellow park ranger Sheila Drury is mysteriously killed, presumably by a mountain lion. But the deep claw marks Anna finds across Drury’s throat and the paw prints surrounding the body are too perfect to be real. Suspicious from the start and eager to prevent the needless slaughter of her beloved cougars, Anna can’t let the matter rest. The disappearance of another ranger and the frightening reality of a hiking “accident” of her own convince Anna that something is very wrong. Following a trail with few leads, Anna must confront the dark side of the desert. As she…[more]

Book:Grime and Punishment

Grime and Punishment: A Jane Jeffry Mystery

Jill Churchill

It’s So hard to Kill Good Help These Days…

With three kids to raise on her own, Jane Jeffry sometimes needs a hand with the housework. But many of her complaining neighbors believe that the “Happy Helper” cleaning lady they all share wouldn’t know a dustball if she was choking on it. That hardly seems reason enough, however, to do the disreputable domestic in.

So when the charwoman in question is discovered strangled to death with a vacuum cleaner cord, Jane decides to dig up the real dirt—if the tenacious single mom can find any time to spare between her PTA meetings and car-pooling duties. But despite her busy schedule, Jane is determined to tidy up the whole murderous mess—even if it means provoking a killer who may live as close as next door.

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