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: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:Revenge of the Gypsy Queen

Revenge of the Gypsy Queen

Kris Neri

Families: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em…

The beleaguered daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, mystery writer Tracy Eaton is no stranger to wacky people, especially within her family. So when her sister-in-law’s wedding becomes a three-ring circus, Tracy is nonplussed, even when the bride is kidnapped.

Her snoot, bickering in-laws refuse to call the police and insist on paying the ransom, but Tracy knows that if justice is gong to prevail, it will definitely need her help. Because…the groom is riding around in a bulletproof limo; sweet, lovable Uncle Philly—a con artist if ever there was—has disappeared; and there are strange happenings at the engaged couple’s upscale restaurant: the Gypsy Princess. It will take all of Tracy’s innate nosiness and nerve to get to the shocking truth—and the Eaton family secret.

Book:Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil: A Madeline Bean Mystery

Jerrilyn Farmer

Madeline Bean, caterer to the stars, is in the middle of the biggest job of her career. She and her partner Wesley have pulled off Hollywood’s most outrageous A-list Halloween party for notorious producer Bruno Huntley, complete with an eerie fortuneteller who is astonishingly accurate, and exotic food that’s to die for. Before long, Bruno is thrashing and writhing out on the dance floor. Just one problem: he’s not standing up, And soon, he’s not even breathing.

The newly late Mr. Huntley was poisoned, that’s certain. But the number of suspects with a yen to send Bruno to the devil could fill an audition for extras in the next Quentin Tarantino flick. When Wesley is arrested for the murder because of a long-standing dispute with the maniacal mogul, Madeline knows he couldn’t be guilty. But to prove it, she has to wade through the muck of a mudslinging family, outrun a pair of crazed canines, dodge a pair of well-aimed bullets, and expose a slew of secrets that could put a soap opera to shame. Somebody’s cooked up a murder, and it’s up to Madeline to find out who—before she faces a fadeout of her own.

Book:Death in Bloodhound Red

Death in Bloodhound Red

Virginia Lanier

Jo Beth Siddon is a bloodhound trainer with a special talent for harrowing search-and-rescue missions, and a bad habit for mouthing off to deputies who refuse to take orders from a woman.She has seen her share of trouble: moonshiners poking guns at her head, crooked cops, and an abusive ex-husband with a terrible temper. Then she’s suspected of murder and finds herself treading a quagmire as thick and treacherous as the Okefenokee Swamp. If she can’t prove her innocence, she might lose not only the thriving business she loves, but the freedom and independence she’s fought for all her life.

Book:Death Comes as Epiphany

Death Comes as Epiphany: A Catherine LeVendeur Mystery

Sharan Newman

Catherine LeVendeur is a young scholar come to conquer her sin of pride at the Convent of the Paraclete, famous for learning, prayer, and its abbess, the fabled Heloise. When a manuscript the convent produced for the great Abbe Suger disappears, rumors surface saying the book contains sacrilegious passages and will be used to condemn Heloise’s famous lover, Peter Abelard.

To save her Order, and protect all she holds dear, Catherine must find the manuscript and discover who altered the text. She will risk disgrace, the wrath of her family and the Church, and confront an evil older than Time itself—and, if she isn’t careful, lose her immortal soul.

With Death Comes As Epiphany, the first in the Catherine LeVendeur mystery series, medievalist Sharan Newman has woven dark mystery and sparkling romance into a fascinating and richly detailed tapestry of everyday life in twelfth-century France, and one of the most moving love stories of all time: Abelard and Heloise.

Book:Circles of Confusion

Circles of Confusion: A Claire Montrose Mystery

April Henry

Why did dear departed Aunt Cady have an exquisite old painting buried beneath World War II paraphernalia? And how can a painting so dramatically shift Claire’s perspective on everything from her uninspired love life to her ho-hum job in the Oregon state custom license plate division?

MSTBF8
(must be fate)

A sophisticated art expert tells Claire the painting isn’t valuable. Why, then, is she being followed, her hotel room getting ransacked, and her life being thrown in a state of havoc that reaches back to her quiet home in Portland? The closer Claire comes to the truth about her inherited masterpiece, the more questions—and trouble—she uncovers. Though offers of help are arriving in very intriguing packages, Claire is caught in the middle of a dangerous tug-of-war that can leave her either richer in body, soul, and bank book—or broken, battered, and pushing up daisies.

Book:Tiger's Palette

Tiger's Palette: A Caroline Canfield Mystery

Jacqueline Fiedler

With a habit of looking everywhere except where she’s going, thirty-one-year-old wildlife artist Caroline Canfield knows one thing for sure: accidents have a way of finding her. So after her free-spirited mentor, Anthony Chirico, plunges to his suspicious death from a scaffold, Caroline initially turns down the chance to finish his jungle mural at the Fox Valley Zoo. Aware of Tony’s penchant for leaving hidden messages in his work, Caroline starts to wonder if his fall was no accident—and when she finds Tony’s assistant with a knife in his throat, she gets the point that someone desperately wants to keep the zoo’s new exhibit from opening.

Spurred by her desire to know the truth and uncover the secrets of the mural, Caroline reluctantly accepts the Fox Valley Zoo commission. But working at the zoo isn’t a walk in the park—animals are being threatened and “accidents” start happening with alarming frequency. If Caroline doesn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together soon, she may never get out of this jungle alive.

Book:Murder In Scorpio

Murder In Scorpio: An Elizabeth Chase Mystery

Martha C. Lawrence

She’s a California P.I. with something extra-an instinct for trouble and a special sense of danger.

Elizabeth Chase is used to funny looks and disbelief when she tells people she uses the paranormal and astrology to help her investigations. But when Sergeant Tom McGowan of the Escondido Police Department needs help in exploring the not-so-accidental death of an old friend, he turns to her.

Instantly, Elizabeth is absorbed by the case, and searches the stars and her sensitive psyche for answers. Janic Freeman, the dead woman, had a lot of friends, but as Elizabeth scans the artifacts of Janice’s life and meets the people she know, she begins to pick up a few unpleasant auras that have the unmistakable color of evil. Trying to pin down Janice’s last fateful day of life, Elizabeth charts her final moves-and follows the celestial signs to cold-blooded murder.

Book:Murder on a Girls' Night Out

Murder on a Girls' Night Out: A Southern Sisters Mystery

Anne George

Patricia Anne—”Mouse”—is respectful, respectable, and demure, a perfect example of genteel Southern womanhood. Mary Alice—”Sister”—is big, brassy, flamboyant, and bold. Together they have a knack for finding themselves in the center of some of Birmingham’s most unfortunate unpleasantness.

Country Western is red hot these days, so overimpulsive Mary Alice thinks it makes perfect sense to buy the Skoot ‘n’ Boot bar—since that’s where the many-times-divorced “Sister” and her boyfriend du jour like to hang out anyway. Sensible retired schoolteacher Patricia…

Book:The Body in the Transept

The Body in the Transept: A Dorothy Martin Mystery

Jeanne M. Dams

In the finest tradition of the classic British mystery, The Body in the Transept introduces a charming amateur sleuth and lover of outrageous hats, all the secrets and eccentricities of a small town, and a cast of characters whose company will be the pleasure of mystery readers everywhere. For Dorothy Martin, widowed American removed to the England she so loves, the Christmas service is painful enough. It is her first holiday without Frank. And stumbling over the body of Canon Billings does nothing to improve her mood. Of course, she does get to meet Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt, and a good mystery on a chilly English night does have some appeal…

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