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:Murder, With Peacocks

Murder, With Peacocks: A Meg Langslow Mystery

Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews introduces a cast of quirky characters who will pull her heroine in different directions as she plans three successive summer weddings.

When Meg Langslow is roped into being a bridesmaid for the nuptials of her mother, her brother’s fiancee, and her own best friend, she is apprehensive. Getting the brides to chose their outfits and those of their bridesmaids (and not change their minds three days later), trying to capture the principals long enough to work out details, and even finding peacocks to strut around the garden during the ceremony—these are things Meg can handle. She can brush off the unfortunate oaf who is smitten with her, and take philosophically her disappointment when she learns that the only eligible man in her small Virginia town (and a delightful hunk he is) is of questionable sexual preference. But even Meg is taken aback when the unpleasant former sister-in-law of Meg’s…[more]

Book:Blanche on the Lam

Blanche on the Lam

Barbara Neely

It’s hard enough making ends meet on the pittance Blanche White earns doing day work for the genteel Southern families of North Carolina. But when her fourth bad check lands her a jail sentence, Blanche goes on the lam.

Inadvertently, she finds work at the summer home of a wealthy family, the members of which have plenty of their own secrets. And when a dead body is discovered, Blanche finds herself the prime suspect. Using her wit and intelligence—not to mention the remarkably efficient old-girl network among domestic workers—she gets to work uncovering the real killer before she lands in more hot water.

Book:One for the Money

One for the Money: A Stephanie Plum Novel

Janet Evanovich

Watch out, world. Here comes Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey. She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six. Now Stephanie’s all grown up and out on her own, living five miles from Mom and Dad’s, doing her best to sever the world’s longest umbilical cord. Her mother is a meddler, and her grandmother is a few cans short of a case.

Out of work and out of money, with her Miata repossessed and her refrigerator empty, Stephanie blackmails her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures…[more]

Book:Death in Little Tokyo

Death in Little Tokyo: A Ken Tanaka Mystery

Dale Furutani

When mystery buff Ken Tanaka masquerades as a private investigator at his local mystery club’s weekend event, a femme fatale right out of an old Bogart movie asks him for a favor. Ken takes the case as a joke—but there’s nothing to laugh about when his sleuthing leads him to a dead man in a Little Tokyo hotel room. Suddenly entangled in a real-life murder, Ken and his girlfriend, Mariko Kosaka, have to negotiate the unfamiliar streets and traditional customs of Los Angeles’s Japanese-American enclave.

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: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…

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