2010 Shamus Award Nominees
THE SILENT HOUR by Michael Koryta***
Whisper Ridge is a multimillion-dollar piece of architectural majesty that once housed a unique program for paroled murderers. The program never got off the ground, however, despite the passion of Alexandra Cantrell, daughter of a notorious Mafia don, and her husband, Joshua. Twelve years later, the uninhabited house is in ruins. It remains a strange monument to dangerous secrets…until Joshua’s bones are found buried deep in the forest.
Private investigator Lincoln Perry isn’t thrilled about having to unearth this enduring mystery—one that continues to capture the media’s attention. His new client is no picnic either: Parker Harrison served fifteen years for murder but claims Alexandra Cantrell’s intervention saved his life. Following a trail that leads straight to the heart of Cleveland’s organized crime scene, Perry finds himself immersed in a case that challenges his abilities as a detective and his commitment to that calling. Now he’s glancing over his shoulder at every turn—and pushing the bounds of safety even as he backs away…
WHERE THE DEAD LAY by David Levien
When Frank Behr’s friend and mentor is murdered without any apparent motive, he thirsts for answers and retaliation. But before he can make headway in the dead-end investigation, a private firm approaches him with a delicate proposition: two of its detectives have gone missing, and the firm wants Behr to find out what happened to them. The search for the missing detectives takes Behr into the recesses of Indianapolis’s underworld, a place rife with brutality and vice where Behr uncovers a shocking thread connecting the missing detectives to his friend’s brutal murder, and, in the process, an ominous, deadly new breed of crime family.
LOCKED IN by Marcia Muller
Shot in the head by an unknown assailant, San Francisco private eye Sharon McCone finds herself trapped by locked-in syndrome: almost total paralysis but an alert, conscious mind. Since the late-night attack occurred at her agency’s offices, the natural conclusion was that it was connected to one of the firm’s cases. As Sharon lies in her hospital bed, furiously trying to break out of her body’s prison and discover her attacker’s identity, all the members of her agency fan out to find the reason why she was assaulted. Meanwhile, Sharon becomes a locked-in detective, evaluating the clues from her staff’s separate investigations and discovering unsettling truths that could put her life in jeopardy again. As the case draws to a surprising and even shocking conclusion, Sharon’s husband, Hy, must decide whether or not to surrender to his own violent past and exact fatal vengeance when the person responsible is identified.
SCHEMERS by Bill Pronzini
A locked room mystery that goes from stolen books to stolen lives and the hunt for a phantom stalker with a penchant for pouring acid to make his point give Nameless and his partner Jake more than enough work to earn their fees—as long as neither turns his back at the wrong moment.
Nameless wasn’t supposed to come into the office on Mondays; he wasn’t supposed to answer the phone. On this Monday, he did both. The call was from Barney Rivera—once a friend, now despised—at Great Western Insurance. Against his better judgment, Nameless agreed to meet with him. The investigation was relatively simple: a multimillionaire rare books collector had reported the theft of eight volumes, worth a half million dollars. From a locked library. To which he has the only key. The books were all crime fiction and suspense–a locked room mystery about mysteries.
This ordinary Monday brought a second oddball case. The Henderson brothers were being stalked. Someone had dug up the ashes of their late father and poured acid over them, then destroyed the headstone the same way, and left a sign warning that this was just the beginning. Searching for peace of mind and the distraction of work, Jake Runyon is more than happy to bring an end to the brothers’ terror.
MY SOUL TO TAKE by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
In the mystical SnÆfellsnes region on Iceland’s west coast—at a New Age health resort in a renovated farmhouse—the body of a young woman is discovered, savagely beaten, with pins inserted into her feet. ThÓra GudmundsdÓttir, lawyer and single mother of two, has been retained to represent the resort’s owner and prime suspect. But a fresh corpse is not the only abomination ThÓra encounters here—for local legend says this place is haunted . . . and a bizarre series of inexplicable occurrences soon suggests it is so.
As ThÓra digs deeply into the farm’s past, she unearths a shocking history of evil and depravity—and her once-solid view of reality begins to waver. But a second murder, shockingly similar to the first, pulls ThÓra back to earth by making two inescapable truths abundantly clear: the killer she seeks is very real . . . and is not finished yet.
Best First P.I. Novel
LOSER’S TOWN by Daniel Depp
Private investigator David Spandau, an ex-stuntman familiar with the ins and outs of Hollywood—a smart, tough, and wickedly funny observer of la vie L.A.—finds his patience almost sapped when he’s hired to protect actor Bobby Dye from a blackmailing scheme gone wrong. Dye—young, brash, and on the verge of becoming a major star—has been set up by gangster Richie Stella, a nightclub owner and drug dealer with dreams of becoming a Hollywood producer.
And he has a movie perfect for Dye. Problem is, it’s the worst script anyone’s ever read. But Richie is not easy to say no to, and when he retaliates, the game becomes deadly for more than a few of its players. Charged with the elements of all great L.A. noir—crackling dialogue, fast-paced plot, and seedy, jaded characters—Loser’s Town is a deftly written thriller and a gruesomely hilarious depiction of what goes on beneath those white letters on the mountainside.
THE LAST GIG by Norman Green
A teenage runaway from the Brownsville projects, Alessandra Martillo lived with an indifferent aunt who had taken her in when her mother killed herself, and later, after more than a year on the streets, a caring uncle found her, took her in, and showed her she had a chance. That was many years ago, and now Alessandra’s all grown up, working for a sleazy P.I., repossessing cars, and trolling for waitstaff on the take. The cases aren’t glamorous, or interesting, but the work pays the bills. And she’s good at it—if there’s one thing she’s learned since leaving the streets, it’s how to take care of herself around life’s shadier elements.
When an Irish mobster named Daniel “Mickey” Caughlan thinks someone on the inside of his shipping operation is trying to set him up for a fall, it’s Al he wants on the job. She’s to find the traitor and report back. But just a little digging shows it’s more complicated than a simple turncoat inside the family; Al’s barely started on the case when she runs into a few tough guys trying to warn her away. Fools. As if a little confrontation wouldn’t make her even more determined.
THE GOOD SON by Russel D. McLean
There is something rotten behind the apparent sucide of Daniel Robertson and it’s about to come bursting into the life of J. McNee, a Scottish private investigator with a near-crushing level of personal baggage. James Robertson, a local farmer, finds his estranged brother’s corpse hanging from a tree. The police claim suicide. But McNee is about to uncover the disturbing truth behind the death. With a pair of vicious London thugs on the move in the Scottish countryside, it’s only a matter of time before people start dying. As the body count rises, McNee finds himself on a collision course with his own demons and an increasing array of brutal killers in a violent, bloody showdown that threatens to leave none involved alive. Plumbing the depths of love, loss, betrayal, and one broken man’s attempt to come to terms with his past, The Good Son successfully blends the classic style of the gumshoe era with the outer edges of modern noir.
FACES OF THE GONE by Brad Parks***
Four bodies, each with a single bullet wound in the back of the head, stacked like cordwood in a weed-choked vacant lot: That’s the front-page news facing Carter Ross, investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner. Immediately dispatched to the scene, Carter learns that the four victims—an exotic dancer, a drug dealer, a hustler, and a mama’s boy—came from different parts of the city and didn’t seem to know one another.
The police, eager to calm jittery residents, leak a theory that the murders are revenge for a bar stickup, and Carter’s paper, hungry for a scoop, hastily prints it. Carter doesn’t come from the streets, but he understands a thing or two about Newark’s neighborhoods. And he knows there are no quick answers when dealing with a crime like this.
Determined to uncover the true story, he enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper’s smoking-hot city editor, to run interference at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper’s gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the streets; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark’s underside. It turns out that the four victims have one connection after all, and this knowledge will put Carter on the path of one very ambitious killer.
CHINATOWN ANGEL by A.E. Roman
Chico Santana is broke and brokenhearted after his wife, Ramona, leaves him. On New Year’s Eve, he comes out of his self-imposed seclusion and runs into an old friend from St. Mary’s Home for Boys, a member of “The Dirty Dozen.” Albert Garcia is now a waiter and a wannabe filmmaker, tangled up with rising film star Kirk Atlas and his wealthy, eccentric family. On learning Chico’s a PI, Atlas hires him to track down his cousin Tiffany, a beautiful Chinese-Cuban-American girl who has packed up and left her family, sending letters saying she doesn’t want to be found. It seems like easy dough, which Chico could use.
But on the night he gets the job, Atlas’s Brazilian maid falls from the rooftop of her apartment in Queens. Albert and everyone else insists it was a suicide, but Chico has a bad feeling. His search for Tiffany is soon thwarted by other family members, and more disturbing and sinister details come to light. Although Chico’s being paid good money to look the other way, he’s driven to uncover the truth.
Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel:
DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE by Raymond Benson
Musicians in progressive rock bands in Chicago are being murdered—one by one. The local police have no clues, but several of the musicians who fear they’re next on the hit list claim that the killer is a ghost from the past—a woman who was reported missing and presumed dead for over thirty years! The Rockin’ Security team is called into action. Spike and his partner, Suzanne, travel to Chicago to investigate the case, only to find that no one wants to talk. As Spikedigs deeper, he begins to unearth a lode of deadly secrets involving sex, psychedelic drugs, and, of course, rock ‘n’ roll. And it isn’t long before the private detective becomes a pawn in a very dangerous game.
SINNER’S BALL by Ira Berkowitz
Private investigator Jackson Steeg has a new client—his mobster brother, Dave, who’s in deep trouble after a suspicious fire in one of his warehouses leaves half a dozen charred corpses in its wake.
Steeg might not approve of his brother’s ways, but blood is blood, so he doggedly chases the truth, even when the trail leads him to a diabolical serial killer haunting the grimy streets of Hell’s Kitchen—and to the realization that the answers to all of his ugliest questions lie far too close to home.
RED BLOODED MURDER by Laura Caldwell
Chicago is the Windy City, and these days the winds of change are whipping Izzy McNeil’s life all over the map. A high-profile job on Trial TV lands her in the hot seat. After a shocking end to her engagement, she finds herself juggling not only her ex-fiancé, but a guy she never expected. And a moonlighting undercover gig has her digging deep into worlds she barely knew existed.
But all of this takes a backseat when Izzy’s friend winds up brutally murdered. Suddenly, Izzy must balance the demands of a voracious media and the knowledge that she didn’t know her friend as well as she thought.
VENGEANCE ROAD by Rick Mofina
The murder of a brokenhearted woman…The body of Bernice Hogan, a troubled young former nursing student with a tragic past, is found in a shallow grave near a forest creek…and the chilling disappearance of her friend…
Jolene Peller, a single mom struggling to build a new life with her little boy, vanishes the night she tries to find Bernice…raise questions about their ties to a respected detective…
Hero cop Karl Styebeck is beloved by his community, but privately police are uneasy with the answers he gives to protect the life and the lie he’s lived….and lead to one journalist’s obsession to find the truth…
The case haunts Jack Gannon, a gritty, blue-collar reporter whose own sister ran away from their family years ago. Gannon risks more than his job to pursue the story behind Styebeck’s dark secret, his link to the women, and the mysterious big rig roaming America’s loneliest highways on its descent into eternal darkness.
BODY BLOWS by Marc Strange
Ex-boxer Joe Grundy is embroiled in the intrigues of his own boss, millionaire Leo Alexander, the owner of Vancouver’s Lord Douglas Hotel. Somebody has murdered Leo’s live-in servant and not-so-secret lover, and Grundy has to get to the bottom of the incident in order to clear the man he’s forged a bond with since first coming to work for him as security for the hotel. But Leo’s past serves up more surprises than Grundy bargained for
It seems Leo has had a life full of death, jilted mistresses, spurned spouses, sharp business deals, and explosive relationships with estranged children. Another corpse pops up, Leo is arrested and jailed, and Grundy takes more hits to his body and psyche than perhaps even he can handle.
Thoughts of real and imagined death are stalking the corridors of the Lord Douglas, and Joe Grundy has to keep swinging to stay alive and remain sane.
CONGRATS TO ALL THE NOMINEES!
*** On my TBR list, since I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book.