Beltie Mystery Prize
The Beltie Mystery Prize is our annual award given to the best mystery book of the year. Pete Mock, McIntyre's lead buyer and resident Mystery Guru, is the sole judge and jury. Pete's list and his recommendations for the 2021 prize are below! You'll also find a deal on our bundle of all the nominees together.
This is great Southern Noir set in Virginia and Sean is an author we will be hearing more from in the future. Fast paced with a plot that doesn’t quit this is a book that sucks you in and won’t let go. But what really won me over was the empathy he had for Beauregard “Bug” Montage, his main character, a former getaway driver trying to leave the life to raise his family (also beautifully rendered) but who keeps getting sucked back in.
Think about this; a 700 page novel you don’t want to end even though it doesn’t contain a single redeemable character (well, maybe one, but you’d have to have a pretty big heart to stretch out that argument). Set in Madrid this is one of those Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation deals where everyone is connected somehow, starting with an artist and his first commission in 13 years and ending with a scandal of epic proportions. What drives the novel, though, is the luminous prose and the depth of character which will have you turning 700 pages and wishing for more.
I love a good psychological thriller now and then and this one certainly fits the bill. It is a serious head scratcher that had me guessing all the way through about a crime that may, or may not, have happened. I mean we know something happened but what? And why did it have to almost ruin more than one life? This is the perfect example of "is a crime really a crime if there is no evidence?" Also, it has a nice ending which is such a rarity that I almost didn’t believe it. I even re-read the last chapter over again to make sure I didn’t miss a body or two.
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This was a pleasant surprise. Not the usual cup of tea for this hardboiled cynic but I needed something to read and my sales rep had just sent me a copy. I took it home and got completely sucked into the plot featuring 4 very disparate retiree’s and the club they had formed solving cold cases their original member, a homicide detective, had squirreled away. Then an honest to god real life murder takes place involving their community and now it’s up to them to piece together the threads and point the police in the right direction, while digging up even more dirt than intended. Fun, fast, and utterly charming, I’ll be looking for more from Mr. Osman in the future.
I almost didn’t read this one because of the crummy jacket (I admit it, I’m a snob) but I’m glad I did because this is a really solid police procedural that takes place in both Ireland and Long Island. Set over the course of 20 years it is the story of two cousins, best friends growing up but drifting apart in their teens until one (Erin) goes missing in Dublin. Maggie goes over to assist the Gardia in any way she can but leaves dejected. 20 years later, now a homicide cop, she gets a call saying some evidence has been found… And that’s all I’m going to tell you. Suffice it to say, this was one that kept me guessing all the way to the end.
Originally I was going to nominate the 1st in the series, Flowers Over the Inferno, featuring Teresa Battaglia, a 60 year old chief inspector in the Italian police force, coping with early onset Alzheimers and doing the best to hide it. This was an excellent debut, great characters, smart plot, beautiful setting and deserved to be nominated but then I read The Sleeping Nymph and everything changed. This was one hell of a doozey! It built upon everything good about the first and only added to its future allure with a plot that you just can’t forget, starting with a portrait painted on April 22, 1945 in the very blood of its subject, an ethereal beauty long missing from her isolated mountain village and considered a casualty of the war. Yowza! And to think it only gets better from there.
In this thrilling series debut set in the Italian Alps, an instinct-driven detective won't let her aging body and mind prevent her from tracking a brutal killer.
I love a good story that can inform as well as it can entertain. By that I mean opening our eyes to social, historical, or other issues that illuminate a people or place. Dickens was the king of the social novel and, while I’m not putting this up there with Dickens, this is of that ilk. Set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this is the story of Virgil Wounded Horse. He’s the local enforcer, the muscle the elders turn to when justice hasn’t been found through the courts though the guilt is strong. Now heroin is invading the Reservation and things are beginning to get personal when his nephew becomes hooked. This is a story that is almost universal in this day and age but Virgil gives it a face that says “enough!” A novel of corruption and grit; this is not Zane Gray’s West anymore. This is the new Americana. Harsh yet with hope.