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L.A. Times book prizes: mystery/thriller nominees

March 18, 2009 |  1:31 pm


L.A. Times Book Prize mystery/thriller nominee "Envy the Night" is Michael Koryta's fourth book, and he's still a few years short of 30. "Koryta really stretches his writing muscles with this standalone set in rural Wisconsin, where retribution and revenge loom large," Dark Passages columnist Sarah Weinman writes. "After 'Envy the Night,' I wonder if pure genre exercises can satisfy Koryta's writing equations, and if not, that's the best possible thing." In August, he told the website Moments in Crime what he was listening to as he worked on his next book: the Drive-By Truckers, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are on his playlist.

Nominee "Child 44" by Tom Rob Smith made a surprise appearance on last year's Booker Prize long list -- surprise because the Booker hasn't typically smiled upon thrillers. It's Smith's first novel; in this clip he reads a bit and explains why he set the book in Stalinist Russia. While the living conditions he describes in his book are horrible, they're offset somewhat by his truly fantastic flat.

Writing in the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, mystery/thriller judge Oline Cogdill had nothing but praise for "The Finder": "Colin Harrison combines a strong eye for social details and the intricacies of New York City for a novel that is equally literary fiction and mystery.... A scheme in which office cleaners steal a new pharmaceutical company’s paperwork leads to cohesive plot about greed, power and revenge. 'The Finder's' ensemble features characters from every stratum of New York society as well as sharp dialogue and fresh plot twists."

Nina Revoyr, nominated for "The Age of Dreaming," talked to Denise Hamilton in an interview at The Elegant Variation about her own writing. "I consider myself a writer who absolutely believes in strong, complex characters and compelling plots," she says. "For me, that’s sometimes meant building a book around a mystery structure, and sometimes not. But the concern with story and character is always there.... I strive to achieve that kind of narrative urgency in all of my novels. You want to create that sense of 'What happens next?' and that is definitely one of the appeals of a mystery structure."

Simon Lewis' "Bad Traffic: An Inspector Jian Novel" is his first mystery. Now a travel writer who lives in China, the Welsh-born Lewis was brought up in Scotland; in his book, Inspector Jian was raised in China but must travel to Scotland to try to find his missing daughter. Sarah Weinman writes that the book "is a rabbit-hole that a reader is willingly sucked into, its fast pace and staccato style a preliminary enticement to deeper insights into the changing nature of Chinese mores."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jonathan Lidbeck via Flickr