Mystery fans are faced with a wide range of styles in their reading. The crime solver could be a member of the police force or an amateur reluctantly drawn into investigating the fate of a victim, who might be missing or dead—or both. The styles run from hardboiled to cozy. The amount of grisly detail can vary widely from book to book. Readers of this genre need guidance to find the type of book they enjoy.
Since 1989 Malice Domestic, an annual fan convention, has honored authors of traditional mysteries with the Agatha Award, named after mystery writer Agatha Christie. Malice Domestic defines a traditional mystery as one with no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence.
The Agatha Award truly represents the voice of the fans. Each year those who have registered for the Malice Domestic convention are invited to submit nominations. Convention attendees vote on the submissions, and the awards are presented at a banquet.
This minibibliography lists books that have won Agatha Awards in the categories of best novel—both contemporary and historical—and best first novel in alphabetical order, first by author, then by title.
All titles in this minibibliography can be requested from your local cooperating library. Digital braille and talking book titles can be downloaded from the NLS BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) service. Contact your local cooperating library to register for BARD. Registered users may also download audio titles on iOS and Android devices using the BARD Mobile app. Braille titles may be downloaded using the app on a device linked by Bluetooth to a refreshable braille display. To find your local cooperating library, go to www.loc.gov/nls/braille-audio-reading-materials/find-a-local-library or call toll-free 888-NLS-READ (888-657-7323).
Murder with Peacocks by Donna AndrewsMeg is knocking herself out trying to be a bridesmaid for the weddings of her brother, mother, and best friend. As she tries to help her ditzy relatives prepare for their various outrageous festivities, one of the guests is murdered, old crimes are uncovered, and she falls in love. 1999.
Track of the Cat by Nevada BarrNational park ranger Anna Pigeon is patrolling the West Texas backcountry when she discovers the body of a colleague apparently killed by a mountain lion. A disbelieving Anna tracks a human killer as conflict erupts among park employees, hunters, ranchers, and conservationists. Some descriptions of sex and some strong language. 1993.
In Farleigh Field by Rhys BowenEngland, 1941. Although an airplane crash kept Ben Cresswell out of battle, he is working for MI5 searching for spies. When a failed parachute jump leaves a suspicious corpse in his neighbors’’ Farleigh Place field, Ben investigates. Meanwhile, Pamela Sutton from Farleigh is secretly a government codebreaker. Some strong language. 2017.
Murphy’s Law: A Molly Murphy Mystery by Rhys BowenIreland, 1901. Molly Murphy flees to New York City after killing a would-be rapist in her home village. She assumes an alias for passage aboard ship, but at Ellis Island she is once again accused of murder. Handsome NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan is willing to help her prove her innocence. 2001.
Queen of Hearts by Rhys BowenAccompanying her actress mother to Reno for her quickie divorce, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is caught up in the secret investigation run by her beau, Darcy, of a suspected jewel thief. Meanwhile her mother is cast by a Hollywood movie mogul—but he ends up dead. 2014.
Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. BoyerPrivate Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. Unrated. 2012.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia De Luce Mystery by C. Alan BradleyEngland, 1950. Eleven-year-old aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce overhears her father in a heated argument with a stranger, who turns up dead in the garden of the Luces’ decaying estate. When Flavia’s father is charged with murder, she seeks clues in their village and his past to exonerate him. 2009.
Grime and Punishment: A Jane Jeffry Mystery by Jill ChurchillJane Jeffry’s friend Shelley Nowack hires the Happy Helper Cleaning Service, who instead of sending the regular maid sends substitute Ramona Thurgood. When Ramona is found strangled with a vacuum-cleaner cord in Shelley’s house, Jane thinks the killer could be someone in the neighborhood. 1989.
The Long Call by Ann CleevesDetective Matthew Venn stands outside the North Devon church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too. But before he leaves again, he learns that a body has been found on the nearby beach. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2019.
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne FreemanThe police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances Wynn—the American-born Countess of Harleigh—in her husband’s death. Frances assures them of her innocence, but must hide the scandalous circumstances of his demise. Her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2018.
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye GarrettActress Dayna Anderson needs money: her short-lived stint in commercials is over, and her father’s illness may lead to her parents losing their house. When Dayna sees a reward poster for a hit-and-run accident, she realizes she saw the involved car that night, and begins investigating. Some strong language. 2017.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth GeorgeInspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers investigate the murder of a Yorkshire man. The main suspect is the victim’s daughter, who was found sitting by the headless corpse and confessed without apology. But she may have been driven to the crime by incestuous abuse. 1988.
Dead Man’s Island by Carolyn G. HartMedia magnate Chase Prescott invites his old flame, retired reporter Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins—Henrie O—to his private South Carolina island to ferret out his would-be murderer from among the family and associates assembled there. Henrie O questions fellow guests as a ferocious hurricane draws near. Some strong language. 1993.
Letter from Home by Carolyn G. HartGretchen Gilman receives a letter, prompting a flood of memories about the murder of a friend’s mother. During World War II Gretchen, a thirteen-year-old cub reporter for the town paper, sought the truth and lost her innocence. Now, fifty years later, the truth finds her. 2003.
Something Wicked by Carolyn G. HartAtlanta. Mystery bookstore owner Annie Laurance, her fiancé Max, and the rest of the summer stock players know their production of Arsenic and Old Lace needs to be a hit so they can get their new theater. Instead it is plagued by sabotage and murder. Some strong language. 1988.
Learning to Swim by Sara J. HenryFreelance writer Troy Chance is on a ferry crossing Lake Champlain when she sees a small boy fall off a passing boat. Troy rescues him, then—convinced he was thrown overboard—takes the traumatized French Canadian child home with her rather than turning him over to the police. Some violence. 2011.
Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. KingOn board a ship in 1924, Russell and Holmes encountered a blackmailing earl, his wife, and a young Japanese woman who tutored the foreigners about her country. Russell suspected that Miss Sato Haruki was not all that she seemed—and a year later, the intrigue surrounding her continues. 2015.
Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane KozakLos Angeles greeting-card artist Wollie Shelley, busy with a dating research project, dashes off to visit her institutionalized, schizophrenic brother. She finds a body on the road and fears that her sibling could be involved. As Wollie investigates, a colorful cast of characters gradually enters her life. 2004.
The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia G. KuhnEnglish professor Lila Maclean is thrilled about her new job at prestigious Stonedale University, until she finds one of her colleagues dead. She soon learns that everyone, from the chancellor to the detective working the case, believes Lila—or someone she is protecting—may be responsible for the horrific event, so she assigns herself the task of identifying the killer. 2016.
Death of a Cozy Writer: A St. Just Mystery by G.M. MallietBritish mystery writer Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk invites his grown children to his wedding. The four siblings are not happy about the bride and her possible threat to their inheritance. When Sir Adrian and his eldest son are both murdered, Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just investigates. Some strong language. 2008.
Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret MaronJanie Whitehead is found dead in an abandoned mill—her baby Gayle wet and hungry beside her. Eighteen years later, Gayle searches for the murderer’s motive. Family friend Deborah Knott, the daughter of a notorious former bootlegger, helps investigate, not realizing it may jeopardize her campaign for judge. Prequel to Southern Discomfort (DB37826). Edgar Award winner. Strong language and some violence. 1992.
Long upon the Land by Margaret MaronJudge Deborah Knott’s father, Kezzie, makes a shocking discovery on a remote corner of his farm: the body of a man bludgeoned to death. Investigating this crime, Deborah’s husband, sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant, soon uncovers a long-simmering hostility between Kezzie and the slain man over a land dispute. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.
Storm Track by Margaret MaronNorth Carolina judge Deborah Knott helps detective Dwight Bryant investigate the murder of a Colleton County attorney’s promiscuous wife, who was found strangled in a room of a local motel. Meanwhile, a second killer, Hurricane Fran, is threatening the coast. Some descriptions of sex and some violence. 2000.
Three-Day Town by Margaret MaronJudge Deborah Knott and deputy sheriff Dwight Bryant arrive at a friend’s New York City apartment for their honeymoon. When Deborah arranges to hand over a package she is delivering for a NYPD detective’s ill grandmother, the package disappears and the building’s superintendent is killed. Some strong language. 2011.
Up Jumps the Devil by Margaret MaronWhen a former neighbor is shot in broad daylight in his backyard, Judge Deborah Knott pays a condolence call on his widow. She hears the family version of the murder, but quickly finds out that the sheriff suspects others who have stronger motives. 1996.
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata MasseyBombay, 1921. Perveen Mistry joins her father’s law firm as one of India’s first female lawyers. While executing the will of a wealthy Muslim mill owner who left three widows behind, Perveen is alarmed that all three have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2018.
If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him: An Elizabeth MacPherson Novel by Sharyn McCrumbForensic anthropologist Elizabeth MacPherson helps her attorney brother, Bill, in a bigamy-murder case that echoes a long-ago arsenic poisoning in the defendant’s family. Meanwhile Bill’s partner, A.P., defends a woman who killed her arrogant ex-husband and his new wife. 1995.
She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumbIn the Tennessee hills, elderly escaped convict Harm Sorley, who cannot remember the last forty years, tries to find his wife and baby. Like his uncle before him, Harm becomes a folk hero, but newly appointed deputy Martha Ayers feels duty-bound to track him. Meanwhile, retracing the long-ago route a pioneer girl took to escape from Indians, a graduate student encounters the girl’s ghost. Strong language. 1994.
Dandy Gilver: Books 4–6 by Catriona McPhersonThree mysteries, written between 2008 and 2010, in which socialite Dandy Gilver continues her amateur sleuthing in 1920s Scotland. Includes The Winter Ground, Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, and the Agatha Award-winning Dandy Gilver and An Unsuitable Day for a Murder, in which a department-store heiress goes missing. Some strong language. 2010.
Dandy Gilver: Books 7–9 by Catriona McPhersonScotland, late 1920s to early 1930s. Three mysteries, written between 2012 and 2014, for Dandy Gilver—now a partner in the detective agency Gilver and Osborne—to solve. Includes Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, Dandy Gilver and a Deadly Measure of Brimstone, and the Agatha Award-winning Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings. 2014.
The Body in the Belfry by Katherine Hall PageGourmet caterer Faith Fairchild’s life is turned topsy-turvy by her marriage to the minister of a quaint New England village church. While she adores her husband and new baby, Faith finds the change from her busy life in New York to the quiet of the country hard to tolerate. But her discovery of a dead body and the ensuing investigation—and danger—make her yearn for the quiet life to return. 1990.
The Body in the Snowdrift by Katherine Hall PageCaterer Faith Fairchild and her extended family gather at a ski resort in Vermont to celebrate her father-in-law’s seventieth birthday. But after Faith finds the body of a local lawyer, the chef disappears, another corpse turns up on the slopes, and the clan starts bickering. Includes recipes. 2005.
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise PennyChief Inspector Armand Gamache and his protege Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel to the remote monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, where twenty-three cloistered monks mourn the recent murder of the twenty-fourth, choirmaster Brother Mathieu. Mathieu had recruited the best singers to join the monastery for its main focus—singing Gregorian chants. Some strong language. 2012.
The Brutal Telling by Louise PennyQuébec. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigates the murder of an old man found bludgeoned in a bistro. At a remote cabin purportedly owned by the deceased, Gamache and his team find a cache of rare books, priceless antiquities—and blood. Some strong language. 2009.
Bury Your Dead by Louise PennyChief Inspector Gamache, on leave in Quebec City, helps investigate the murder of an archaeologist who was searching for the remains of Samuel de Champlain. Meanwhile Gamache sends his colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir to Three Pines to revisit the case described in The Brutal Telling (BR20563/DB70226). Some strong language. 2010.
The Cruelest Month: A Three Pines Mystery by Louise PennyPopular Three Pines resident Madeleine Favreau dies of fright while attending a séance at the old Hadley house. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache learns that a dose of diet pills played a part in the death—but Madeleine wasn’t dieting. Meanwhile Armand deals with trouble in his ranks. Some strong language. 2007.
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A Fatal Grace by Louise PennyQuébec. Much-disliked businesswoman and writer CC de Poitiers is electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake during a curling tournament in the village of Three Pines. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, from Still Life (DB 66731), arrives from Montreal and discovers links to another unsolved crime. Some strong language. 2006.
Glass Houses by Louise PennyWhen a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are curious but wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead. After the figure vanishes overnight, a body is discovered. Strong language and some violence. Bestseller. 2017.
A Great Reckoning by Louise PennyWhen an old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it seems no more than a curiosity at first. After being given to Armand Gamache the first day of his new job, however, the map eventually leads him to unearth shattering secrets. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2016.
Naked Once More by Elizabeth PetersThe author of Naked in the Ice disappeared seven years ago and has been declared legally dead. Librarian-turned-writer Jacqueline Kirby wins a competition and is hired to write a sequel. But in Pine Grove, the original author’s home town, Jacqueline begins having accidents similar to those that befell the author before her disappearance. Some strong language. 1989.
Bum Steer by Nancy PickardJenny Cain, the director of a civic foundation in Massachusetts, learns that “Cat” Benet intends to leave the foundation his four-million-dollar Kansas ranch. Benet wants to meet Jenny before he dies, so she flies to Kansas City—only to find that Benet has been smothered in his hospital bed. Jenny’s investigations take her to the ranch, to Dallas, and to Santa Fe. Some strong language. 1990.
The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy PickardSmall Plains, Kansas. Mitch Newquist—banished from his hometown for witnessing the cover-up of a young girl’s murder—returns when his mother dies. Together with his former girlfriend, Mitch searches for the killer and uncovers disturbing secrets of the town’s most prominent men. Strong language and some violence. 2006.
Prime Time by Hank Phillippi RyanSeasoned Boston television journalist Charlotte McNally puts her job, heart, and life on the line to investigate a very intriguing email lead. Soon she runs into Josh Gelston, so handsome, so helpful. Can she trust him? The author is an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s NBC affiliate. 2007.
Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi RyanBoston reporter Jane Ryland is covering the removal of an evicted family’s belongings when the police find a dead body in the closet. Meanwhile, one bank employee is secretly stopping foreclosures, while another is exploiting them. Detective Jake Brogan and Jane juggle these investigations with a cold-case confession. Strong language. 2014.
The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi RyanReporter Jane Ryland’s former coworker Tuck asks Jane to investigate an adoption agency that Tuck claims reunited her with the wrong birth mother. Jane also covers the story of a mother of two young children who was killed in her kitchen. Detective Jake Brogan conducts parallel investigations. Strong language. 2013.
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-FlemingClare Fergusson, an ex-military pilot and the newly appointed Episcopal priest at St. Alban’s Church in an upstate New York village, discovers an abandoned infant on the church steps. After the baby’s mother is found murdered, Clare joins police chief Russ Van Alstyne in investigating the case. Strong language.2002.
Death on a Silver Tray by Rosemary StevensLondon, 1805. George “Beau” Brummell is beseeched by his friend the Duchess of York to clear a ladies’ companion, whom she had recommended, of murder charges. The dreadful old Lady Wrayburn has been poisoned, and the duchess wants to avoid a scandal. 2000.
A Question of Honor by Charles ToddIndia, 1908. Lieutenant Wade, one of the men serving under Bess Crawford’s father, is suspected of murdering his parents. He escapes but soon after is reported dead. A decade later, when Bess learns from a dying soldier that Wade is very much alive, she investigates. 2013.
Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline WinspearLondon, 1930s. Wealthy Joseph Waite hires private investigator Maisie Dobbs, a former battlefield nurse, to locate his missing thirty-two-year-old daughter Charlotte. Maisie finds chilling links to Scotland Yard inspector Stratton’s latest murder case—and the Great War’s terrible legacy. 2004.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearThirteen-year-old Maisie is lucky to be a maid in the home of a wealthy London suffragette who sees to her education. Maisie becomes a private investigator in 1929 after serving as a nurse during the Great War. Her first case involves a shelter for wounded veterans. 2003.