Named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted upon annually by the members of the Mystery Readers International, a fan/reader organization open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers, and writers of mystery fiction.
November Road by Lou Berney
Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out. A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.
Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.
For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk. It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.
Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.
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Best First Novel
Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver
In a small Virginia town still reeling from World War II, a photograph of a beautiful murdered woman propels three young people into the middle of a far-reaching mystery. A lurid crime scene photo of a beautiful woman arrives on mystery writer Bunny Prescott’s doorstep with no return address and it’s not the first time she’s seen it. The reemergence of the photo, taken fifty-five years earlier, sets her on a journey to reconstruct the vicious summer that changed her life. In the summer of 1945, Ceola Bliss is a lonely twelve-year-old tomboy, mourning the loss of her brother, Robbie, who was declared missing in the Pacific. She tries to piece together his life by rereading his favorite pulp detective story A Date with Death and spending time with his best friend, Jay Greenwood, in Royal Oak, VA. One unforgettable August day, Jay leads Ceola and Bunny to a stretch of woods where he found a dead woman, but when they arrive, the body is gone. They soon discover a local woman named Lily Vellum is missing and begin to piece together the threads of her murder, starting with the photograph Jay took of her abandoned body. As Ceola gets swept up playing girl detective, Bunny becomes increasingly skeptical of Jay, and begins her own investigation into the connection between Jay and Lily. She discovers a series of clues that place doubt on Jays story about the photograph. She journeys to Washington, D.C., where she is forced to confront the brutal truth about her dear friend a discovery that triggers a series of events that will bring tragedy to Jay and decades of estrangement between her and Ceola.
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The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.
Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.
Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.
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Best Short Story:
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Jul/Aug 2018
Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.
Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.
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