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:Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim: A Novel

Sara J. Henry

“If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn’t, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water.”

When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore with a tiny passenger on her back.

Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He’ll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he’s resolutely mute.

Troy assumes that Paul’s frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out…[more]

Book:Lowcountry Boil

Lowcountry Boil: A Liz Talbot Mystery

Susan M. Boyer

Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer.

She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

Book:Who Do, Voodoo?

Who Do, Voodoo?: A Mind for Murder Mystery

Rochelle Staab

Who Do, Voodoo?, the first novel in Rochelle’s thrilling new Mind for Murder Mystery, series features no-nonsense Liz Cooper, a Los Angeles psychologist forced to embrace the occult to clear her best friend of murder…

When Liz Cooper’s friend Robin Bloom finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, Liz writes it off as a prank. Robin refuses to ignore the omen—her late husband drew the same card, the three of swords, in a reading the night before he was killed in a car accident. As more cards and darker threats appear, Liz realizes someone very dangerous is upping the ante.

Liz turns to her brother’s ex-college roommate, occult expert Nick Garfield. As Nick leads her into the voodoo community to locate the origin of the deck, she can’t ignore their attraction to each other. Then a woman is found murdered and Robin becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her friend, Liz joins forces with Nick to unravel otherworldly secrets and seek help from beyond—or risk being outwitted by a cunning killer…

Book:Full Mortality

Full Mortality: A Nikki Latrelle Racing Mystery

Sasscer Hill

Jockey Nikki Latrelle gets the chance of a lifetime—to ride the favorite in a stakes race—only to have her dream destroyed when a mysterious intruder kills her mount the night before the race. Evil people are working at Maryland’s Laurel Park race track, and when Nikki stumbles over the body of a gunshot victim, she quickly becomes the prime suspect in a murder case. Framed and facing a possible murder rap, Nikki is ruled-off the track.

Even deprived of job and income, she cannot abandon a mistreated, ill-tempered racehorse doomed to the slaughter house. Nikki and the filly wind up at a seedy stable with a motley group of felons, drunks, and drug-addicts. With unexpected help from a fashion-conscious wholesale meat-seller, a recovering addict, and an ancient groom, Nicky follows a crooked trail of insurance scam and betting fraud. But with the odds against her, can she clear her name—and put the real criminals behind bars?

Book:The Long Quiche Goodbye

The Long Quiche Goodbye: A Cheese Shop Mystery

Avery Aames

Welcome to the grand opening of Fromagerie Bessette. Or as it’s more commonly known by the residents of small-town Providence, Ohio-the Cheese Shop. Proprietor Charlotte Bessette has prepared a delightful sampling of bold Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, delicious tortes of Stilton and Mascarpone, and a taste of Sauvignon Blanc-but someone else has decided to make a little crime of passion the piece de resistance. Right outside the shop Charlotte finds a body, the victim stabbed to death with one of her prized olive-wood handled knives.

Book:Faithful Unto Death: A Sugar Land Mystery

Faithful Unto Death: A Sugar Land Mystery

Stephanie Jaye Evans

Everything looks perfect in Sugar Land, Texas. But it’s not.

No one knows that better than Walker “Bear” Wells, a former college football player now serving as a minister in this upscale Texas town, where famous athletes mix with ranchers and the local parish priest wants to arm wrestle. It’s a beautiful master-planned community, but people can’t be held to neighborhood restrictions, and Bear deals daily with emotional and spiritual problems, in both his flock and his own family.

But never murder. Not until a man is found dead on the nearby golf course, his skull crushed.

Bear has no interest in playing detective. His job is praying for the dead, not searching for their killers. But every time he turns around, another facet of the investigation tangles with his own life…like the fact that the murdered man’s son—and a main suspect—is currently dating his own rebellious teenage daughter.

He made a promise to do the right thing. But keep­ing promises may be what led to murder…

Book:Iced Chiffon

Iced Chiffon: A Consignment Shop Mystery

Duffy Brown

There’s always something to gossip about in Savannah, Georgia, and Reagan Summerside always seems to be in the middle of it. She’s busy enough running her consignment shop, The Prissy Fox, with her vivacious Auntie KiKi, but now the gossip—and the sales—are about to pick up after a gruesome discovery…

Reagan’s messy divorce has left her with nothing but a run-down Victorian and a bunch of designer clothes. Strapped for cash, Reagan makes use of the two things she has left, turning the first floor of her home into a consignment shop and filling it with the remnants of her rich-wife wardrobe. Thanks to his cunning lawyer Walker Boone, her ex got everything else, including the Lexus—not to mention a young blond cupcake. When Reagan finds the cupcake dead in the Lexus, she’s determined to beat Boone to finding the murderer. As it turns out, the gossip fiends flooding Reagan’s shop will give her a lot more than just their unwanted clothes—they have information more precious than a vintage Louis Vuitton…

Book:A Killer Read

A Killer Read: An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery

Erika Chase

For the first meeting of the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society, six friends gather in Molly Matthews’s old Southern mansion-including Lizzie Turner, a reading specialist with a penchant for mysteries. But the mystery book club meeting becomes the scene of an actual murder when a stranger is shot-and nobody knows who the victim is, or how Molly’ antique gun came to be used as the murder weapon.

Then Lizzie begins finding mysterious manuscript chapters in her mailbox. As she and the book club members try to read between the lines, Molly surfaces as the next name on the killer’s list…

Book:A Scrapbook of Secrets

A Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery

Mollie Cox Bryan

Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mom in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…

Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets—and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm façade—like a killer with unfinished business…

Book:Choke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery

Choke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery

George Foy

Twenty-two-year-old Imogene Duckworthy is waiting tables at Huey’s Hash to support her toddler daughter in tiny Saltlike, Texas, and just itching to become a private eye like the ones she admires on TV. When Huey is found murdered, she gets her chance to solve a real case…but when Immy’s mother is hauled in for the crime, the spunky waitress finds herself on the lam from the law.

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