The Hammett Prize 2013 Shortlist

The_Hammett_Prize

The awards keep rolling on.  Today we take a look at the nominees for the Hammett Prize.  Not familiar with the award?  Here’s how it’s described on their site:

IACW/NA awards THE HAMMETT PRIZE annually for literary excellence in the field of crime-writing, as reflected in a book published in the English language in the US and/or Canada. The winner receives a “Thin Man” trophy, designed by sculptor Peter Boiger.

Below we’ve got the deets on the five finalists and we’ve linked to our previously published reviews we’re applicable. The winner will be announced on September 30th.


Defending_JacobDefending Jacob
By William Landay

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.

Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son–shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.

It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would you go?  (from the hardcover edition)


Truth_Like_The_SunTruth Like The Sun
By Jim Lynch

A classic and hugely entertaining political novel, the cat-and-mouse story of urban intrigue in Seattle both in 1962, when Seattle hosted the World’s Fair, and in 2001, after its transformation in the Microsoft gold rush.

Larger than life, Roger Morgan was the mastermind behind the fair that made the city famous and is still a backstage power forty years later, when at the age of seventy he runs for mayor in hopes of restoring all of Seattle’s former glory. Helen Gulanos, a reporter every bit as eager to make her mark, sees her assignment to investigate the events of 1962 become front-page news with Morgan’s candidacy, and resolves to find out who he really is and where his power comes from: in 1962, a brash and excitable young promoter, greeting everyone from Elvis Presley to Lyndon Johnson, smooth-talking himself out of difficult situations, dipping in and out of secret card games; now, a beloved public figure with, it turns out, still-plentiful secrets. Wonderfully interwoven into this tale of the city of dreams are backroom deals, idealism and pragmatism, the best and worst ambitions, and all the aspirations that shape our communities and our lives.  (From the hardcover edition)


Oregon_HillOregon Hill
By Howard Owen

Willie Black is a reporter in Richmond, Va. Pugnacious and defiant, Black was once a star covering politics, and then he was captured by the bottle, messed up one too many times and found himself demoted to the nighttime police beat. He has three ex-wives, a daughter who tolerates him and bean-counter bosses cutting costs by laying off reporters. Then Willie happens to catch a late-night report about a body in a river, which is determined to be the decapitated corpse of a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Isabel Ducharme. Diabolically, Isabel’s head has been shipped to her home in Boston. A suspect is quickly corralled, a sometime-student, sometime-deadbeat named Martin Fell who has a fondness for college girls. There’s a rapid confession. Willie thinks the story’s over, but then he gets a call from his latest ex-wife, now a lawyer, who wants him to meet with Fell’s mother and hear an alibi the police refuse to consider. Nearly all that happens is centered around Oregon Hill, a Richmond neighborhood, “a tight little inbred box” full of factory workers and laborers, fighters and drinkers. Owen’s characters are superbly realistic: Willie himself, sired by a light-skinned African-American musician; his white mother, rejected by family, who turned to serial boyfriends and marijuana; David Junior Shiflett, a police lieutenant whose father was killed in a barroom brawl; Valentine Chadwick IV, the elder Shiflett’s murderer; and Awesome Dude, once a student, now a brain-addled possible witness to Isabelle’s murder. Owen knows his setting, his dialogue is spot-on, and his grasp of the down-and-dirty work of the police and news reporters lends authenticity to the narrative. This is Southern literature as expected, with a touch of noir and with a touch of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River.  (from the hardcover edition)


Patient_Number_7Patient Number 7
By Kurt Palka

Inspired by a true story and based on a wealth of family documents, this elegant and compelling novel chronicles the lives of two families from the 1930s through the coming of the Nazis and World War II, and the long, difficult post-War period to the present. A must-read for fans of Irene Nemirovsky, Hans Fallada, and Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader.

This vividly realized, masterfully executed novel is a window into a little-explored corner of history. Patient Number 7 is a story of love between an aristocratic young woman and the cavalry officer — later Panzer officer in the German army — she marries; between friends who help each other through the Nazi takeover of Austria, the war, and what was sometimes worse, the “liberation”; between a mother and her two very different daughters. But it is also the story of a nation’s darkest days, and its slow recovery during one of the most convulsive, violent periods of human history. Beautifully written, haunting, and ultimately redemptive, it is a work of great skill and great compassion. (from the hardcover edition)


Alif_The_UnseenAlif the Unseen
By G. Willow Wilson

A tour-de-force of a debut that blends classic fantasy — the fascinating, frightening, sometimes-invisible world of the djinn — that’s genies to some of us — with the 21st-century reality of a super-hacker in mortal danger in a repressive security state on the Arabian Gulf.

Alif (that’s his handle) is a brilliant young superhacker working out of his mother’s small apartment, and his computer has just been breached. While Alif scrambles to protect his clients — dissidents and outlaws alike, whoever needs to hide their digital traces, he and his friends realize that they’ve been found by ‘the Hand’ — maybe a person, maybe a program, but definitely able to find anyone, and that could lead to prison, or worse. Alif, with the help of his childhood friend Dina, an ancient book sent to him in secret by his lost love (who may be frighteningly connected to the Hand) and a terrifying protector who almost looks human, must go underground — or rather, find a way into the hidden world of the djinn. They wrote the mysterious book centuries ago, and have knowledge that might just allow Alif to infiltrate the most sophisticated information technology the world has ever seen, and perhaps save himself, his loved ones, and freedom itself. With shades of Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, William Gibson, and the timeless Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour-de-force debut with major potential — a masterful, addictive blend of the ancient and the more-than-modern, smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner. (from the hardcover edition)


Have you read any of the five finalists for the 2012 Hammett Prize for crime writing? Comment below and let us know which titles to read, and which to avoid.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.