From a Raven's Shelf: February 2023
From a Raven's Shelf
February 2023 Edition
By Sarah Young
Note: Scroll to the bottom of this article for a full list of all titles that have been mentioned!
Welcome to February! Well, for various reasons, my reading projects have fallen behind especially on some new titles, but just as this is award season in Hollywood, it’s award season in the mystery world. The Edgar Award nominations from Mystery Writers of America, and the Agatha Awards nominations from Malice Domestic have been announced as well as the Leftys from Left Coast Crime Convention. Various award ceremonies will be in the spring, so I thought I might spend a little time with some of the nominees for the next couple of months and let you know what I think of them.
I’m really pleased that a book I told you all about in December has featured in the nominations. Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Amanda Flower is nominated for an Agatha Best Historical Novel and The Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award in the Edgar Awards. Flower is a cozy mystery dynamo with eight or nine series going, but this one is the first in her new historical series starting Willa Noble, maid to Emily Dickinson, who finds herself investigating the strange death of her brother with the help of her new employer, Miss Dickinson. This series is a slight departure for Flower from her other work, and I’m glad it is doing so well. If you are a fan of her Amish Matchmaker series, the new one is Honeymoons Can be Hazardous, and the second of the Dead-End Detective series called Frozen Detective was out in December.
Another nominee for the Mary Higgins Clark Award is The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill. If you are a subscriber to our mystery of the month program, this was one of our selections this year, and I just loved this one, too. It’s a clever mystery that begins with a scream reverberating through the Boston Public Library. Four strangers sit at a reading table speculating on the identity of the murderer, assuming that as they were all in one another’s company, none of them could be guilty—or could they? Gentill is also the author of the Rowland Sinclair WWII Mysteries that begin with A House Divided: A Historical Murder Mystery.
Catriona McPherson is also heavily featured across the awards this season. Scot in a Trap, the fifth in the series starring Lexy Campbell, a marriage counselor from Scotland, whose life collapses in California, is nominated for the Lefty Best Humorous Mystery Novel. This Last Ditch mystery series begins with Scot Free, and they will keep you chuckling.
McPherson is also nominated for an Agatha Best Historical Novel and the Bill Gottfried Memorial Best Historical Mystery Novel in the Lefty nominations for In Place of Fear. This one is still on my stack, but I really enjoy McPherson, and this book seems right up my alley. It’s a crime novel set in Edinburgh in the 1940s at the beginning of the National Health System, and the character is Medical Welfare Almoner Helen Crowther, who explores the darker world of the NHS and the blue-collar atmosphere of Edinburgh. I’ve only gotten started on this one, so I will report more on it later, but it seems very promising.
Of course, the perennial favorite Louise Penny is nominated for an Agatha Best Contemporary Novel and a Lefty Best Mystery Novel for the latest Three Pines mystery A World of Curiosities. I think I have written about my love of Penny’s novels in a previous newsletter, but if you have not been introduced to the wonderful, quirky, fundamentally human people of Three Pines and Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, you must begin the series with Still Life, and you will never be sorry. Penny’s first novel was adapted around 2013 to a film with Nathaniel Parker (he of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries fame) as Gamache. The most recent filmic adaptation is an Amazon Prime series with Alfred Molina as the grumbly, loveable Inspector. The series was highly anticipated by Penny fans and is both loved and reviled as film adaptations usually are. Reading the books first is always my recommendation.
A novel that has had very steady success at the Raven this year is a nominee for an Edgar Best Novel. The Maid by Nita Prose has already won a 2022 Ned Kelly Award for Best International Crime Novel, has been on the New York Times’ best seller list, and optioned by Universal Studios. This is a basic locked-room mystery with a heroine in Molly Gray whose social awkwardness is matched by her obsessive compulsiveness and keen observation skills. As a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, her job of cleaning, arranging, and straightening thrills her to her very bones. She likes nothing more than putting a guest’s room to rights again. Her compulsion is not to be satisfied in the room of Charles Black, whom she finds while on her daily rounds very decidedly not alive. Described as “heart-warming,” “charming,” and “eccentric,” The Maid was quite a joy to read, and Molly reminded me of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce in Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
The last of the nominees I want to talk about today is Rob Osler’s Devil’s Chew Toy. It is creating a lot of mystery buzz as a Lefty Best Debut Mystery Novel and an Agatha Best First Novel. I met Osler at Bouchercon in October and found him to be utterly charming and clever, just as his characters are in this debut novel that he calls a “Quozy” or a “Queer Cozy.” This LGBTQ+ mystery introduces us to the somewhat hapless but big-hearted Hayden McCall, who is perennially unlucky in love. When his current crush Camilo Rodriguez, a go-go boy dancer, turns up missing, Hayden sets out to find out what has happened to him, accompanied by a colorful cast of characters and Camilo’s bull terrier, Commander. It’s a funny, stylish take on the cozy genre.
There are lots of cozy and “cozy-adjacent” books this month. Seems like the dark days of winter need a little lightness. I’ll continue this look into the awards nominees for the next couple of months. There are several good titles there that I haven’t read yet. Keep an eye out for the announcements of winners later in the spring.
Happy Reading, Everyone!
Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder in this first book in an all-new series from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Amanda Flower.
Set in the fan favorite Amish village of Harvest, Ohio, the latest novel in USA Today bestselling author Amanda Flower's Amish Matchmaker series brings back the unlikely sleuthing duo of an Amish widow and her zany, thrice divorced best friend.
Murder on the ski slopes.
The weapon? A bow and arrow.
USA TODAY BESTSELLER * MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD NOMINEE * 2022 BOOKPAGE BEST MYSTERIES AND SUSPENSE * LIBRARY READS TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2022 * CRIME READS BEST NEW CRIME FICTION
A fascinating historical mystery by Sulari Gentill, author of #1 LibraryReads pick The Woman in the Library
Can a house divided against itself hope to stand?
This book cannot be returned. Make sure what you're ordering is exactly what you want.
In this darkly funny mystery Lexy Campbell's first love turns up dead at the Last Ditch Motel on Thanksgiving . . . and she becomes the prime suspect
A gripping new crime novel set in 1940s Edinburgh at the birth of the NHS, IN PLACE OF FEAR is perfect for fans of Dear Mrs Bird and The Ninth Child. We follow newly appointed Medical Welfare Almoner Helen Crowther who, when a young woman mysteriously disappears, stumbles across something dark in the heart of Edinburgh's medical community.
INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns in the eighteenth book in #1 New York Times bestseller Louise Penny's beloved series.
It’s spring and Three Pines is reemerging after the harsh winter. But not everything buried should come alive again. Not everything lying dormant should reemerge.
Read the series that inspired Three Pines on Prime Video.
In Still Life, bestselling author Louise Penny introduces Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec.
Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • “A heartwarming mystery with a lovable oddball at its center” (Real Simple), this cozy whodunit introduces a one-of-a-kind heroine who will steal your heart.
WINNER OF THE AGATHA • ARTHUR ELLIS • DILYS • DEBUT DAGGER AWARDS
“Wonderfully entertaining . . . sure to be one of the most loved mysteries of the year . . . [Flavia is] a delightful, intrepid, acid-tongued new heroine.”—Chicago Sun-Times
A POPSUGAR BEST MYSTERY OF 2022
A BOOKRIOT BEST MYSTERY OF 2022
A CRIMEREADS BEST MYSTERY OF 2022