Friday, May 7, 2010

'Oh Canada' at the 2010 Agathas

While I was away on vacation down in Nelson the past few days, the winners of the 2010 Agatha Awards were announced the Malice Domestic Convention in Arlington, Virginia. Malice Domestic® is an annual "fun fan" convention, saluting the traditional mystery - books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie, fitting within a category loosely defined as "mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence".

But while such mysteries may also be termed 'traditional' or even 'old fashioned' by some, the (sub)genre is well and truly still alive, and flourishing - as evidenced by the fantastic authors at the Malice Domestic Convention, and the high calibre of nominees for each year's prestigious Agatha Awards.

And this year, it was 'Oh Canada' at the awards announcement, with Quebec-based author Louise Penny making it a very historic three in a row by receiving the 2010 Agatha Award for Best Novel for her latest Inspector Gamache tale, THE BRUTAL TELLING.

I've been waiting for my copy of THE BRUTAL TELLING to arrive from the publisher for quite a while now (admin errors meant it got delayed), so can't yet comment on it personally, but I have heard very good things about the book, and Penny's writing in general.

The New Zealand publisher's blurb for THE BRUTAL TELLING says, "An ingenious and riveting mystery of murder, revenge and a cold-blooded killer, this is the internationally bestselling author's finest yet. In the heart of the forest, two men sit at midnight, haunted by fear of discovery. In a few hours' time, one of them will be dead, his secrets following him to the grave...

When C. I. Gamache is called to investigate a murder in a picturesque Three Pines, he finds a village in chaos. A man has been found, bludgeoned to death, and there is no sign of a weapon, a motive or even the dead man's name. Gamache and his colleagues, Inspector Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste, start to dig under the skin of this peaceful haven for clues. They slowly uncover a trail of stolen treasure, mysterious codes and a shameful history that begins to shed light on the victim's identity - and point to a terrifying killer..."

I am very much looking forward to reading it.

In further good news for Canadian crime writing, 'newbie' Alan Bradley, a former director of television engineering at the University of Saskatchewan who became a debut mystery novelist at 70, won the best first mystery novel Agatha Award for THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, a novel about an 11-year-old chemistry prodigy in 1950s Britain who investigates a poisoning. This novel previously won the Debut Dagger, and Bradley has gone on to create a series around the heroine Flavia de Luce.

I have recently received the second novel in the Flavia de Luce series, THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN'S BAG, and am very much looking forward to reading it (it is released this month in New Zealand). You can read a feature article by New Zealand author and Herald on Sunday books editor Nicky Pellegrino on Bradley and his debut novel (from February 2009), here.

Congratulations to both Louise Penny and Alan Bradley. It's great to see that while the crime and thriller fiction genre is expanding, there is still a real strength and vitality amongst the 'traditional' mystery as well.

Have you read Louise Penny? Alan Bradley? Do you like traditional mysteries? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Craig - I actually like both Louise Penny and Alan Bradley very much, so I am happy that they won Agathas : ).

  2. Interestingly, I've just realised that both Louise Penny and Alan Bradley first came to publisher attention because of the CWA Debut Dagger competition, where budding authors submit 3000wd extracts of a prospective mystery story. Penny was highly commended a few years ago, and Bradley won recently (as noted above), in 2007 - and both have certainly gone on to great things.

    Just goes to show what a little encouragement, and publicity, can do.