Tag Archive for: More Than Malice

Celebrating the Agathas for Best First Novel

by Paula Gail Benson

For the past two years, the
community that gathers for Malice Domestic has missed its annual reunion. From
Wednesday through Saturday, the Malice board organized and presented a series
of online panels and interviews that helped those of us missing the in-person
event to feel as if we reconnected virtually.

More Than Malice ended on
Saturday with the announcement of the Agatha awards. The teapots for the past
two years will be awarded when we’re all together again, but in the meantime,
today and tomorrow on Writers Who Kill, I wanted to recognize the Agatha nominees
for Best First Novel and Best Short Story. They are a wonderful group of
writers. If you haven’t discovered them yet, please consider reading their

Here are the Agatha nominees
for Best First Novel (award noted by **):

Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel

Connie Berry

A Dream of
Connie Berry (Crooked Lane Books)

Night Gone
by Tara Laskowski (Graydon House)

Murder Once

by S. C. Perkins (Minotaur Books)

When It’s Time
for Leaving

by Ang Pompano (Thimble Island Press, 2nd edition)

Staging for

by Grace Topping (Henery Press)

Tara Laskowski

Berry is one of my blogging partners at Writers Who Kill. Her first Kate
Hamilton novel was nominated for an Agatha.
Dream of Death
also was a finalist for the Silver Falchion and won the IPPY
Gold Medal for Mystery. Since then, two additional books in the series have
been released,
A Legacy of Murder
(October 2019) and
The Art of Betrayal
(June 2021).
The Shadow of Memory is
the next Kate Hamilton adventure.

Laskowski’s first novel
One Night Gone,
not only won the Agatha, but also the Macavity and Anthony awards and was a
finalist for the Lefty, the Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark, the Strand
Critics, and the Library of VA Literary awards. Her second novel,
The Mother Next Door, will be published
in October 2021. She, her husband Art Taylor, and son Dash will be guests of
honor at Murder in the Magic City in February 2022.

S.C. Perkins

Perkins is a fifth generation Texan, who grew up listening to stories about her
ancestry and eating Tex Mex, experiences that contribute to her Ancestry
Detective series. Her first book,
Once Removed
, won the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Novel competition
prior to being nominated for an Agatha.
Most Lethal
will be released July 21, 2021, and Fatal Family Ties is next book.

Ang Pompano

Pompano proves how perseverance leads to publication. In his blog post in Writers Who Kill, he describes how he kept moving the location of his novel in
order to sell it. 
When It’s Time for
takes place just outside Savannah, an evocative place that becomes
a character in the story. His next novel,
of Death
, is about a reluctant food columnist.

Grace Topping

Topping, another of my blogging partners at Writers Who Kill, became an author
after a career in technical writing and as an IT project manage. H
er Laura Bishop home staging mystery series has made her an Agatha finalist and bestselling author. Staging for Murder has
been followed by
Staging Wars and Upstaged by Murder.

Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel

A Spell for Trouble by
Esme Addison (Crooked Lane Books)

Esme Addison

Winter Witness by Tina
deBellegarde (Level Best Books)

Derailed by Mary
Keliikoa (Epicenter Press, Inc.)

**Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Kensington)

Murder Most Sweet by
Laura Jensen Walker (Crooked Lane Books)

Tina deBellegarde

Addison, originally from Raleigh, NC, but having traveled a great deal as a
military spouse, based her Enchanted Bay Mystery series on the Polish myth of
the Mermaid of Warsaw, which she learned from marrying into a first generation
Polish family. Her second book is
A Hex
for Danger

deBellegarde has written short stories and flash fiction. Her first novel,
Winter Witness, begins the
Batavia-on-Hudson series. She lives with her husband and cat Shelby in the
Catskills where she tends bees and harvests shiitakes and vegetables.

Mary Keliikoa

Derailed, the first in her
PI Kelly Pruett books, has been nominated for the Lefty as well as the Agatha.
Denied is the second book in the series.
She also writes the Mystery Pines mysteries, the first book,
Hidden Pieces, will be coming out in
September 2022. Her experience as a legal secretary led her to write mysteries.

Erica Ruth Neubauer

Erica Ruth Neubauer’s 
Murder at the Mena House, the first of the Jane
Wunderly mysteries, received the Agatha for best first novel. The second in the
Murder at Wedgefield Manor,
was released in March 2021. Erica lives with her husband in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, and has worked in the military, law enforcement, as a
teacher, and as a reviewer.

Laura Jensen Walker

Jensen Walker knew she wanted to be a writer since reading 103 books in
first grade.
Murder Most Sweet is the first of her
Bookish Baker mysteries. The second, Deadly
, was released in June. Hope,
Faith, and a Corpse
, a new cozy series about a pastor in a small California
town, came out in January.