Mysteries and Thrillers Tips

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Nero Award

The Nero Award is an award for excellence in the mystery genre. It is given by The Wolfe Pack, an organization founded in 1978 and named in honor of the Nero Wolfe mystery stories written by Rex Stout. The award is presented annually at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. The award is presented for the best American mystery. Judging criteria include that the book must be written in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe stories, be first published in the year preceding the award year, and originally published in the United States. Candidates are submitted directly by the publisher.


Black Orchid Novella Award

The Black Orchid Novella Award is a partnership between The Wolfe Pack and "Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine." The award was first given in 2006. The judging criteria is that the novella must be an original unpublished work of fiction in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series, contains no overt sex or violence, emphasizes the deductive skills of the sleuth, but does not include characters from the original series. Entries must be novella length, from 15,000 to 20,000 words. First prize is $1000 and publication of the novella in "Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine."

What are some good books for adult readers?

Night Train to Memphis - Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters has written an engaging tale of mystery and suspense with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

Vicky Bliss, PhD, is a heroine with an attitude. She unwillingly accepts an assignment to act for international security on a cruise ship catering to multi-millionaires. Her discomfort at having to supposedly fill in for another archeologist as a lecturer in medieval Egyptian art (not her field of expertise) is increased when she discovers her former beau on the arm of his new wife. Her assignment is essentially to identify, for the authorities, anyone she recognizes on the cruise who might be a threat to Egyptian antiquities. Of all the people on the cruise, she recognizes only one...her former beau, whom she knows to be a master thief.

Things, however, are not always as they seem and Vicky begins to untangle a web of intrigue and suspense while trying to keep her boss, Herr Schmidt, from becoming an innocent participant in the situation. In the end, the question is, how can she foil a plot to steal Egyptian antiquities?

An excellent read, full of twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in for good measure.

Who were the Edgar Award winners for 2001?

A Website for Mystery Lovers

It happens sooner or later to all mystery lovers. The book looks interesting, you take it home, and settle in, only to find out that you've stumbled into a volume that's several books into a series. Sure, the book is still good, but what happened in the first book? How did the hero (or heroine) get to this point?

For readers with a passion for reading a series in order, there's a website tailor-made and ready to help. "Stop, You're Killing Me" lists over 2700 authors and over 30,000 titles in chronological order. The site's design is clean and simple, and pages are easily printed for readers that prefer a hardcopy.

The site is found at


The Chocolate Bear Burglary - Joanna Carl

In the second book in the Chocoholic Mystery series, Lee McKinney has left her bad-news husband and moved to Michigan, where she keeps the books for her aunt's luxury chocolate shop. A teddy bear promotion will have tourists flocking to town and send sales skyrocketing, and Aunt Nettie has borrowed a collection of chocolate molds from an antique dealer to decorate the shop. But there's a burglary at the shop, the antique dealer is found murdered, and the main suspect is Lee's teenage stepson. Lee sets out to clear his name, and awakens long-hidden family secrets in the process.


Last Suppers - Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy Bear is about to embark on the happiest day of her life. The amateur sleuth and owner of Goldilock's Catering is about to marry Tom Schulz, the homicide detective that shares her passion for both food and crime-solving. But moments before the ceremony should begin, she receives an urgent call from Tom - when he arrived to pick up the minister, he finds that the rector has been shot. By the time officers arrive on the scene, the rector is dead, and Tom is missing. Has he been kidnapped by the killer? Or has he gotten cold feet? Goldy once again finds herself trying to untie the knots and find an answer to the puzzle.


Silent Justice - William Bernhardt

"Silent Justice" is the ninth book in Bernhardt's series featuring Tulsa attorney Ben Kincaid. Against his better judgement, Bernhardt has agreed to represent a group of suburban families in a suit against the massive Blaylock Industrial Machinery Corporation. 11 children in the small community have died from leukemia, and they believe Blaylock is responsible for dumping toxic waste that ends up in the water supply. While Kincaid is trying to make his case, his friend Mike Morelli, Tulsa homicide detective, is trying to unravel a series of murders of former and current Blaylock employees. Are the murders related to the lawsuit, or is a bizarre coincidence?


Killer Pancake - Diane Mott Davidson

Davidson's intrepid caterer/amateur sleuth, Goldy Schulz, has taken on a new assignment, and Goldilocks Catering is catering the Mignon Cosmetics Low-Fat Luncheon. The job is not without its challenges - low-fat recipes, her assistant Julian's infatuation with one of Mignon's rising stars, and a mob of animal-rights activists protesting the company's testing policies outside of the luncheon. Things take a deadly turn with Julian's girlfriend ends up the victim of a hit-and-run accident before the luncheon begins, and as always, Goldy finds herself drawn into the puzzle. Who ran over the young saleswoman, and why?


Agatha Award

The Agatha Award is named for mystery author Agatha Christie, and is given each year by Malice Domestic. The award is to honor the traditional mystery as typified by the works of Agatha Christie. They define the traditional mystery as one that contains no explicit sex, contains no gore or gratuitous violence, usually features an amateur detective, and takes place in a confined setting and contain characters who know one another. Novels and stories featuring police officers or private investigators can qualify for the award, but "hard-boiled" detective novels do not.


Nero Wolfe Mysteries

Nero Wolfe is the detective created by mystery writer Rex Stout. Debuted in 1934, Wolfe's stories are recorded by his confidential assistant, Archie Goodwin, and most are set in New York City. Stout chronicled his detective genius' exploits in some 33 novels and 39 short stories from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Like all great fictional detectives, Wolfe has own story and quirks. Although he is reluctant to discuss his past, he admits to being born in Montenegro, and says only he arrived in the States "not penniless." Wolfe has expensive tastes and apparently the income to indulge them, and lives in a luxurious three-floor New York brownstone on West 35th Street. He's renowned as an amateur orchid grower, with 10,000 plants in the brownstone's greenhouse. Goodwin frequently describes Wolfe as weighing "a seventh of a ton." (In 1934, when the first book was written, this 286 pounds would have been very unusual size.) Perhaps his most interesting quirk is Wolfe's policy of never leaving his house for business reasons; in fact, he seldom leaves the house at all.

Stout also followed a quirk of his own in the series. Although the stores are all set contemporaneously, the principal characters do not age. Although Wolfe's age is not mentioned in the stories, Stout gave his age as 56.


The Chocolate Cat Caper - Joanna Carl

Meet Lee McKinney, a Texas divorcee who moves to Michigan to work with her aunt in the family business, a gourmet chocolatier. When one of the summertime visitors, a high-profile celebrity lawyer, dies from cyanide poisoning after eating one of TenHuis Chocolade's delectable goodies, Lee is determined to find out who tampered with the treats.

The Chocaholic Mysteries:

The Chocolate Cat Caper (2002)

The Chocolate Bear Burglary (2002)

The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up (2003)

The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle (2004)

The Chocolate Mouse Trap (2005)

The Chocolate Bridal Bash (2006)

The Chocolate Jewel Case (2007)

The Chocolate Snowman Murders (2008)


The Appeal - John Grisham

Grisham continues his string of legal thrillers with a novel that begins where the story usually ends - at the verdict. A Mississippi jury hits a chemical company with a staggering $41 million verdict after the company is accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town's water supply. The verdict, of course, will be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but the billionaire Wall Street owner of the compay, Carl Trudeau, doesn't believe the Court will be friendly enough to his position. Trudeau is presented with a scheme to take advantage of Mississippi's system of electing judges, and launches a group of political operatives to find and promote a "perfect candidate." Perfect for Trudeau, anyway.


Biggie and the Poisoned Politician - Nancy Bell

The first installment in this mystery series introduces readers to Biggee Weatherford, the eccentric grande dame of tiny Job's Crossing in East Texas. The story is narrated by Biggie's grandson, J.R., who dutifully follows her lead in her efforts to track down the culprit after the mayor drops dead in his angel food cake. Biggie even finds time along the way to fight efforts to relocate the town dump, organize the annual Pioneer Days Festival, and to rescue J.R. and his "friend girl" Monica from kidnappers. "Biggie and the Poisoned Politician" was a 1996 finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

The "Biggie" Series:

Biggie and the Poisoned Politician (1996)

Biggie and the Mangled Mortician (1997)

Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man (1998)

Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman (1999)

Biggie and the Devil Diet (2002)

Biggie and the Quincy Ghost (2005)


Cold Flat Junction - Martha Grimes

The second novel featuring 12 year old Emma Graham finds her again setting out to solve a small-town mystery. The insatiably curious Emma lives with her mother at the Hotel Paradise in Spirit Lake, a formerly popular resort town slowly fading into obscurity. Emma's kept busy helping her mother, the cook at the hotel, but finds time to explore the town and visit with its sometimes colorful citizens.

The drowning death of 12 year old Mary-Evelyn Devereau over 40 years earlier was officially deemed just another tragedy in the Devereau family, along with with the stabbing of Rose Devereau - a murder that landed her husband, Ben Queen, in jail. Ben's release from prison is quickly followed by the murder of his daughter, Fern, but Emma is convinced of his innocence in both crimes. She's also convinced that Mary-Evelyn's death is not an accident, and is related to the murders. Emma's curiosity leads her to try to unravel the truth behind these family secrets and prove Ben's innocence.


The Archie Goodwin Award

The Archie Goodwin Award was created in 2005, and is a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by The Wolfe Pack to mystery writers. Authors are nominated by Wolfe Pack members, with each member being invited to submit up to 3 names to the nominating committee. The top nominees are then voted on by the Wolfe Pack, and each member may vote for any or all of the nominees. Nominees must receive votes from at least 60% of the responding members to be awarded the prize. The first author so honored, of course, was Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe mystery series. Also honored in 2005 were Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Jerry Mayo