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:Pushing Up Daisies

Pushing Up Daisies: A Dirty Business Mystery

Rosemary Harris

Meet Paula Holliday, a transplanted media exec who trades her stilettos for garden clogs when she makes the move from the big city to the suburbs to start a gardening business. Paula can handle deer, slugs, and the occasional human pest—but she’s not prepared for the mummified body she finds while restoring the gardens at Halcyon, a local landmark.

Casual snooping turns serious when a body is impaled on a garden tool and one of Paula’s friends is arrested for the crime. Aided by the still-hot aging rocker who owns the neighborhood greasy spoon, a wise-cracking former colleague, and a sexy Mexican laborer with a few secrets of his own, Paula digs for the truth and unearths more dirty business the town has kept buried for years…

Book:Consigned to Death

Consigned to Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery

Jane K. Cleland

Josie Prescott’s friends thought she was nuts when she left her high-paying New York auction house job and her boyfriend to live on the rugged and beautiful New Hampshire coast. Truth is, Josie wondered a little herself—never mind that her peripheral involvement in a well-publicized price-fixing scandal made the possibility of a new start incredibly enticing.

Things are looking better, though, now that she’s got her own auction business up and running and has made something of a success of her new life. That is, until she gets mixed up in murder, and the supremely eligible but emotionally distant local police chief seems to think she’s the prime suspect.

Josie has suddenly got a lot to lose and no desire to leave her new life—or the possibility of a little romance—behind. So she sets her mind on identifying the killer and making the best out of her unfortunate circumstances. After all, Josie is grateful for her second chance in life and knows a third is just too much to ask…especially with a vicious killer on the loose.

Book:Till the Cows Come Home

Till the Cows Come Home

Judy Clemens

Stella Crown works hard and loves her life. She runs her own dairy farm with the trusted help of longtime assistant Howie, rides her Harley on the weekends, and has enough friends to suit her just fine.

But on her twenty-ninth birthday, things start to change. A neighborhood child dies from a strange and threatening illness, a string of mysterious disasters place Stella and her farm in peril, not to mention her friend Abe showing up with a new woman on his arm, creating confusing emotions all around. Electrical outages, flooded barns, and cows running loose in the countryside are bad enough, but when her livestock begins turning up dead, Stella knows someone, or something, is out to get her. Though doctors quickly announce the discovery of the neighbor child’s cause of death, another child dies before they can declare victory over the illness, sending the community into a state of near panic. …[more]

Book:Haunted Ground

Haunted Ground

Erin Hart

When farmers cutting turf in a peat bog make a grisly discovery - the perfectly preserved severed head of a young woman with long red hair - Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin team up in a case that will open old wounds. Peat bogs prevent decay, so the decapitated young woman could have been buried for two decades, two centuries, or even much longer. Who is she? When was she killed? The extraordinary find leads to even more disturbing puzzles. The red-haired girl is clearly a case for the archaeologists, not the police. Still, her tale may have shocking ties to the present, and Cormac and Nora must use cutting-edge techniques to preserve ancient evidence.

And the red-haired girl is not the only enigma in this remote corner of Galway. Two years earlier, Mina Osborne, the local landowner’s Indian-born wife, went for a walk with her young son and never returned. Did Mina simply decide to disappear, or…[more]

Book:Not All Tarts are Apple

Not All Tarts are Apple

Pip Granger

A first novel serves up an inimitable slice of British life from Coronation Summer, 1953, in a city not much different than that familiar to Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist. Seven-year-old Rosie lives happily with Uncle Bert and pillow-plump Aunt Maggie above their cafe on Old Compton Street. The Soho neighborhood is rife with tough and sinewy London life including pimps and prostitutes, thieves and con men, the bent and the wicked. One day at school Rosie learns her real mum’s a tart. In fact, the Perfumed Lady is not only a tart, she’s addicted to gin—but what’s her real story? As Bert and Maggie bring in the clever nearby lawyer Sharkey Finn to draw up adoption papers, the motley group of grown-ups surrounding Rosie contribute in their own way to making the child safe from a truly surprising threat. Rosie is an entrancing narrator, sharing the cafe clientele’s matter-of-fact attitude towards crooks and crimes, not to mention the puzzling mystery of identity that unfolds so convincingly yet so innocently that time and place will blur as you turn the pages.

Book:Six Strokes Under

Six Strokes Under: A Golf Lover's Mystery

Roberta Isleib

Cassandra Burdette used to carry clubs on the PGA tour-now she’s swinging them at the Qualifying School for the LPGA Tour. The competition is fierce, but the standout so far is Kaitlin Rupert, whose talent and beauty are eclipsed only by her attitude. Though Kaitlin has a deeply troubled past and a very messy, very public family scandal, any sympathy from other players has been used up by her hostile personality.

But it’s still a shock when Kaitlin’s psychiatrist is found brutally murdered-and even more of a shock when the police look at Cassie as a prime suspect. Now, Cassie must avoid all the hazards as she tries to uncover who delivered the fatal stroke-if the killer doesn’t tee her up first.

Book:Three Dirty Women and the Garden of Death

Three Dirty Women and the Garden of Death: A Silver Dagger Mystery

Julie Wray Herman

Professional landscaping company, Three Dirty Women, unearths more than than they bargain for when Amilou Whittier finds her philandering husband buried under a client’s azaleas. Her friend and partner, Korine McFaile, follows a twisting path to discover who really killed Greg Whittier. Was it Susannah Graham, whose past relationship with Greg Whittier may have been heating up again? Or was it Sally Tucker, who ran away with Greg and broke up Amilou’s marriage, only to come back to town without him? Things get really complicated when a second victim turns up. When the evidence points squarely at Amilou, Korine finds that supporting a friend can be easier in thought than in deed.

Book:Prime Time

Prime Time

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Deadlines. Desire. Deception. And whatever you do: Don’t Delete.
The story of the century may be hiding in her junk mail folder.

Think that annoying Spam clogging your computer is just so much cyber junk mail? Top notch TV reporter Charlotte McNally suspects it may be much more than that—in fact, she thinks some of it may be carrying secret big money messages to the group of insiders with the key to decode it. Problem is, the last outsider who deciphered the truth now resides in the local morgue.

Is this the biggest story of Charlie’s life? Or the one that will end it?

Charlie’s also facing another dilemma: what happens when a top-notch TV reporter is married to her job—but begins to worry that the camera doesn’t love her anymore?

Book:The Heat of the Moon

The Heat of the Moon

Sandra Parshall

Young veterinarian Rachel Goddard’s world begins to crumble when a client rushes into the animal hospital with a basset hound struck by a car during a thunderstorm. The dog owner’s terrified tot, drenched with rain, loses sight of her mother in the flurry of activity and screams, “Mommy! I want Mommy!” Instantly Rachel is hurled back in time to a day in her own childhood when her baby sister Michelle uttered the same cry while thunder crashed and rain poured down on them. The unearthed memory feels like a fragment from a nightmare, and Rachel doesn’t understand its meaning or the anguish it stirs up in her.

When she seeks answers she learns nothing from Michelle or from Judith, their loving but manipulative mother. Judith is a psychologist who is only too happy to have her adult daughters still living in her elegant Tudor house outside Washington, DC. But their apparently serene home is a house of secrets where Judith’s unspoken rules forbid questions about the family history…[more]

Book:Better Off Wed

Better Off Wed: An Annabelle Archer Mystery

Laura Durham

The murder of a particularly difficult mother-of-the-bride has cast a pall on wedding planner Annabelle Archer’s latest triumph—and suspicion falls heavily on her sometime-business partner and friend Richard Gerard. Annabelle knows that even her trusted wedding emergency kit won’t be able to salvage their careers if she and Richard can’t find the real culprit.

It’s no easy task since the slain matron was perhaps the most hated socialite in D.C., but Annabelle navigates through the city’s colorful wedding industry and powerful social scene on the deadly trail of a killer. Always the bridal consultant and never the bride, she’s seen her fair share of bouquet tosses. But there’s no telling what surprises a ruthless killer will throw her way if she gets too close.

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