Wednesday, 5 March 2014

2014 Edgar Awards Nominees

Here are this year's shortlisted nominees for the Edgar Award, the best mystery/crime novel of the year. Congratulations to the authors for making the list - no small feat.

Sandrine's Case by Thomas H. Cook

Opening Argument:
The Prosecution

Lost hope conceals a rapier in its gown, Sandrine wrote in the margins of her copy of Julius Caesar.

At first glance this feels like what a first sentence should be: big, lofty, all embracing,  - just plain old epic. It reveals character and hints at conflict; yet, there is a hint of pretentious. The rest of the paragraph is in the same annoying didactic lofty voice.

Verdict: Pass (barely) (2.5 stars)

The Humans by Matt Haig


I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist.

This preface is meant to establish the fact that this is partly sci-fi. Obviously, if the narrator is talking about humans as if they are aliens to aliens, that then means...yes, the narrator must be an alien to humans! The satire, I mean preface, continues for another page and reminds me of The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, though not as funny.

Part 1

So, what is this?

Followed by more meaningless questions whose function is to establish tone.

Verdict: Fail (2 stars)

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota.

Another prologie (disposable characters in prologues) bites the dust and in the standard ghastly manner. Yet there is the foreshadowing of bigger problems and more death to come and I don't know about you, but my curiosity is swelling.

But the beginning of chapter 1 takes a step backwards and I start to lose interest.

Verdict: Pass - barely (2.5 stars)

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

Audrey Villeneuve knew what she imagined could not possibly be happening.

This reminds me of an elementary school exercise I did in foreshadowing - the most obvious kind. Basically, this opening tells us that there is something happening, as there should be in all novels, yet refuses to tell us, so as to make us keep reading.

Verdict: Fail (2 stars)

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

He’d made sure he wasn't standing too near the open grave.

A pronoun and some setting. No sign of any conflict here, unless Mr. Pronoun is going to be put into the grave. But the next sentence and paragraph answer that possibility:

Closed ranks of the other mourners between him and it.

Employs a number of cliches in the beginning: Weather opening and phone call opening.

Verdict: Fail (2 stars)

Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy

A Couple of Days Before

Malina Herze stares down on her dining-room table, her lovely dining-room table, and clutches a red-handled hammer to her chest.

This opening line is full of anticipation, which pulls the reader through the opening narrative, creating suspense. These types of sentences are hard to write because they depend on the rest of the scene just as much as the rest of the scene depends on them.

Verdict: Pass (3 stars)


As far as opening lines are concerned, most of the above lack an effective hook from the get-go, with authors preferring to ease the reader into the conflict with exposition and preliminary remarks. Rather disappointing. Nevertheless, despite the lackluster openings, I'm sure the novels are fine, or they wouldn't have been shortlisted.

So if we do the math, the best opening goes to:

Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy

Theodore Moracht

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