Completely Different Thoughts on Mysteries


A friend alerted me to the fact that the Edgar Award nominees were recently announced.  The Edgars are presented by the Mystery Writers of America for the best mystery books of the year.  They have Golden-Globe-level numbers of categories, but the most pertinent to us is the Young Adult, where there are five nominees:

  • Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak
  • The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
  • Crusher by Niall Leonard
  • Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Now, I’ve only read the last two of these books, but what strikes me is that despite the murder element in Amelia Anne, I wouldn’t have thought of either of these books as a “mystery”, especially Code Name Verity, which doesn’t seem to fit any definition of mystery I’ve ever heard, except that it contains some vaguely mysterious stuff in it.

This isn’t the first time the Edgars have flummoxed me.  I thought John Green’s Paper Towns was a strange pick back in 2009, and I notice looking at their database that they nominated both Speak and Monster in 2000–which solidifies my contention that those were the two best YA books of that year, and possibly ever, but still confuses me since they aren’t really mysteries.

I’m all in favor of expanding the definition of mystery – by all means, they don’t have to all be cozies and police procedurals.  But it seems like if you stretch it enough, pretty much any book you can think of has mysterious elements to it–or else why would we keep reading it.  And I can’t find a definition or criteria for the award on the site to show how they limit it.

I’m not trying to pick on the Edgars (too much), but I wonder what you make of all this–what exactly is a mystery book?

– Mark



Filed under Books

4 responses to “Completely Different Thoughts on Mysteries

  1. Allow me. 🙂 For Edgar purposes, “mystery” actually means “mystery, thrillers, and suspense.”

    • Mark Flowers

      Hey hey – an answer from a real live Edgar Award winner! Thanks Nancy!

      I had a hunch that thrillers and suspense were hiding in there (although I still don’t see that on the website – and over on the MWA website it refers over and over again to “crime fiction” which seems very different). And really no matter what definition you’re using, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak?

  2. SPEAK Is about a rape, Mark. Crime.

  3. I’ve read all five of the YA nominees (you can find my reviews on my blog – ) and the only one that I would truly class as a mystery is “Crusher”. “Amelia Anne…”, “Emily’s Dress…” and “The Edge of Nowhere” have mystery elements, but that’s not their focus. I’m really disappointed with the selection, since there were some really great YA mysteries released in 2012.

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