In just a few short hours, the Mystery Writers of America will be awarding the 2014 Best Novel award to one of the six nominated books this year. I've spend this past week looking at four of those novels (two were a part of a series and as you know, my book OCD simply won't allow me to read a book out of order). While I don't expect the MWA to follow my recommendation (although they should....I know what I'm talking about here), I won't let that stop me from revealing the novel I would bestow the 2014 Best Novel Edgar Award upon.....
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and in many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.Ordinary Grace caught me unaware. I was expecting a perhaps above average murder mystery. What I read transported me to a different time and place with characters who became my family, in a town that became my town. Frank Drum, our narrator, tells us the story of that tragic summer of his thirteenth year looking back forty years later. He does so with stark honesty and not a little nostalgia.
From the death of a young friend on the railroad tracks to the disappearance of his beloved older sister, Frank, his younger brother, his Methodist minister father, and strong-willed mother each - in their own way - come to understand how lives intertwine and the long-lasting repercussions of relationships.
Strongly reminscent of classic coming-of-age stories such as Stand by Me or To Kill a Mockingbird, Ordinary Grace retains strong mystery elements - necessary for an Edgar Award - with larger themes of family, betrayal, forgiveness, and most of all, grace. I didn't want this book to end. I'm thankful that the story still resonates with me all these months after I turned the last page. William Kent Krueger wrote not just a mystery, but a work of literature full of grief, anger, hope, and redemption. It is a winning novel in every sense of the word.
Are you listening, Mystery Writers of America?