Grateful is my word of the day because Split to Splinters (Eli Sharpe #2) is a finalist in the Best P.I. Paperback Original category for the 2016 Shamus Awards.
Bill Pronzini. Harlan Coben. Robert Crais. Dennis Lehane. Alison Gaylin. Paul D. Marks. M. Ruth Myers. These are just some of the many previous Shamus Award winners/finalists whose work I greatly admire, whose books have entertained, thrilled, challenged, and inspired me. My love of reading is the main reason I started writing, and today, I’m feeling particularly grateful to all the aforementioned novelists for providing the blueprint on how to craft a first-rate mystery. I’m also grateful to my publisher Camel Press for nominating my book.
I’m also grateful to The Private Eye Writers of America, not only for selecting my book as a finalist, but for staying committed to celebrating, recognizing, and elevating the sometimes maligned P.I. genre. Without PEWA, an organization that I use as a source for book recommendations, I might never have discovered many of my favorite sleuths such as Elvis Cole, Myron Bolitar, and Maggie Sullivan. For that, too, I thank you.
I’m so excited to be going to Bouchercon in New Orleans this fall that I went back and scoured all of the Shamus Award winners and finalists from 1982 through 2015. Rediscovering some of my absolute favorite P.I. novels made me create a top ten list that I’m dying to share with everyone. So, if you’ve read these, good work! If you haven’t, you’re welcome. . . and get on it.
My Top 10 Favorite Shamus Award-Winning-or-Finalist Books (in no particular order)
- Gone Baby Gone–Dennis Lehane. In Gone, Baby, Gone, the master of the new noir, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island), vividly captures the complex beauty and darkness of working-class Boston. A gripping, deeply evocative thriller about the devastating secrets surrounding a little girl lost, featuring the popular detective team of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Gone, Baby, Gone was the basis for the critically acclaimed motion picture directed by Ben Affleck and starring Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman.
- Don’t Dare a Dame—M. Ruth Myers. Tea with two spinsters thrusts 1930s private investigator Maggie Sullivan into an explosive mix of murder, political rivalries and family secrets. Pursuing their case means risking not only her life, but her detective license.
- Fade Away—Harlen Coben. In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating heroes in suspense fiction: the wisecracking, tenderhearted sports agent Myron Bolitar. In this gripping third novel in the acclaimed series, Myron must confront a past that is dead and buried—and more dangerous than ever before.
- And She Was—Alison Gaylin. A breathtaking novel of suspense, Gaylin’s And She Was introduces a remarkable new protagonist: Brenna Spector, a missing persons investigator afflicted with Hyperthymestic Syndrome, a rare disorder that enables her to remember every moment of every day of her life. A twisting mystery, both chilling and surprising, And She Was sets the haunted investigator on the trail of a missing child who vanished more than a decade earlier—a case with disturbing echoes in Brenna’s own scrupulously remembered past.
- White Heat—Paul D. Marks. Days before the verdict is read in the Rodney King Case in Los Angeles back in the 1992, a weasely little man walks into private detective Duke Rogers office and asks him to locate an old friend, Teddie Matson. The guy is white and Teddie is black, and Los Angeles is just about ready to explode due to racial tensions, but Duke isn’t thinking about that, just the $250 he’ll make on the easy case.
- Sunset Express—Robert Crais. Prominent restaurateur Teddy Martin is facing charges in his wife’s brutal murder. But he’s not going down without spending a bundle of cash on his defense. So his hotshot attorney hires P.I. Elvis Cole to find proof that Detective Angela Rossi tampered with the evidence. Rossi needs a way back to the fast track after falling hard during an internal investigation five years ago. But Cole needs to know if she’s desperate enough to falsify the case against Martin in order to secure her own position. As Cole and his partner Joe Pike work their way through a tangle of witnesses and an even greater tangle of media, they begin to suspect that it’s not the police who are behind the setup.
- Boobytrap—Bill Pronzini. Emotionally exhausted from the events surrounding his partner’s suicide, “Nameless” welcomes the chance for a quiet vacation that comes when San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Patrick Dixon proposes that the burnt-out detective drive Dixon’s wife and son to their summer cottage on a remote High Sierra lake. In exchange, “Nameless” will have a week’s free use of a neighboring cabin.
- Big City, Bad Blood—Sean Chercover. Disillusioned newspaper reporter-turned-private detective Ray Dudgeon doesn’t want to save the world; he just wants to do an honest job well. But when doing an honest job threatens society’s most powerful and corrupt, Ray’s odds of survival make for a sucker’s bet . . .
- Fatal Flaw–William Lasher. Ethically adventurous Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl usually does the right thing, but often for the wrong reasons. When old law school classmate Guy Forrest is accused of murdering his beautiful lover, Hailey Prouix, in their Main Line love nest, Carl agrees to represent him — while keeping silent about his own prior romantic involvement with the victim, and his present determination to see that his client is punished for the brutal crime. But once Carl sets the machinery of retribution in motion, it may be impossible to stop it, even after his certainty begins to crack. Now Victor Carl must race across the country to uncover shocking truths: Who, really, was Hailey Prouix? And why is a killer still waiting in her shadow?
- Dancing Bear—James Crumley. Detective Milo Dragovitch spends too much time boozing until he gets caught up in a case involving two-bit criminals and an old lady on the run.
His friends call him Milo. No one has ever called him Bud except his father, long dead, and now Sarah Weddington, stirring painful memoires and offering him his first case since he abandoned his private practice and took a job marking time on the night shift for Haliburton Security. The case seems almost too easy, hardly worth the large fee, just to satisfy this old woman’s curiosity. But things are soon exploding all over the place and Milo is turning up grenades, machine guns, a kilo of marijuana and a bag of coke . . . and suddenly Milo is on the run.