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:Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear

What do Hercule Poirot and Charlotte Gray have in common? It may be the wonderful Maisie Dobbs. Lady Rowan Compton first met Maisie when, at thirteen, she went into service as a maid at her ladyship’s Belgravia mansion. A suffragette, Lady Rowan took the remarkably smart youngster under her wing and became her patron. She encouraged Maisie to study at Cambridge, and was aided in this by Maurice Blanche, a friend often retained as an investigator by the elite of Europe when discretion and results were required. It was he who first recognized Maisie’s intuitive gifts. The outbreak of war changed everything. Maisie left for France to train as a nurse, then served at the front, where she fell in love with a handsome young doctor. After the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie hangs out her shingle: M. Dobbs, Trade and Personal Investigations. Her very first case involves suspected infidelity but turns up something else, a tombstone with only a first name—Vincent. And then she finds another. The deceased…[more]

Book:The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

Alan Bradley

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison.

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Book:In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter: A Reverend Clare Ferguson Mystery

Julia Spencer-Fleming

It’s a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn’t know what to make of her, or how to address “a lady priest” for that matter.

The last thing she needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds. When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married police chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against…[more]
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:Death Dances to a Reggae Beat

Death Dances to a Reggae Beat

Kate Grilley

Kelly Ryan has just moved to the Caribbean island of St. Chris to run a top-rated radio station. She knew that her new life would be full of adventure—but she never expected murder…

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:Dealing in Murder

Dealing in Murder: A Molly Doyle Mystery

Elaine Flinn

Elizabeth Porter was a top-of-the-lineManhattan antiques dealer until her ex-husband and his lover’s flagrantly criminal scam left her reputation in tatters. Now, using a new name, Molly Doyle, she’s starting over a continent away in a rundown antiques shop in cozy Carmel, California. Molly is determined to make the best of it. But the early antiques bird sometimes gets more than the worm, and one prompt arrival places her at a murder site with a corpse in her arms. After she turns up at a second seemingly unrelated death, the abrasive new police chief considers Molly the prime suspect. Now the only way to clear her name is for Molly to find her own path to a killer, which will leave her either exonerated … or dead.

Book:A Witness Above

A Witness Above: A Frank Pavlicek Mystery

Andy Straka

Thirteen years ago, Frank Pavlicek left the NYPD under less than ideal circumstances. Now, the divorced father of a teenage daughter, he works as a private investigator in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he indulges his passion for falconry – and tries to live outside the shadow of his past.

Frank is hunting with his red-tailed hawk, Armistead, when he finds it. A teenage boy’s body – barely concealed behind a pile of brush in a part of the forest Frank recently visited with his daughter, Nicole. It’s a truly gruesome crime scene – one of the many things Frank doesn’t miss about working homicide in the big city.

But what Frank finds in the dead boy’s wallet is even more disturbing: Nicole’s phone number, scribbled in ink on the edge of a bill. He pockets the evidence and flees. Days later, his daughter is in jail. His past is coming back to haunt him. And his reputation – and life – are on the line…

Book:Bubbles Unbound

Bubbles Unbound

Sarah Strohmeyer

Meet Bubbles, the irrepressible heroine of this irresistibly entertaining new mystery series-a tall, blond, and gorgeous, local bleach-blonde with a wacky family, a hot potential lover, and a bad case of murder.

Convinced there’s more to life than giving blue dye jobs at Sandy’s House of Beauty, Bubbles Yablonsky has done what few in Lehigh, PA, would dare: she’s gone back to school. And if her day gig, journalism classes, and on-the-job training at a local paper aren’t enough, there’s always her family to liven things up-from her bottom-feeding, social-climbing ex-husband to her precocious teenage daughter to her gun-toting mother, who just escaped from the Polish Old Folks Apartments.

But when Bubbles stumbles on a crime scene on the way home from an assignment, she is suddenly up to her roots in a nasty murder investigation . . . with suspects ranging from a greedy steel tycoon to a sexy photographer named Stiletto. It could be…[more]

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