|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on May 17, 2020 at 9:50 AM|
That question has an easy answer: no. But what novel should have been chosen by the Edgar award voters to represent 1981 is a harder question.
In terms of actual great novels of 1981, there are two clear contenders, Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park. Both have been celebrated all over, and Red Dragon was 27th all-time on the Mystery Writer’s of America list, with Gorky Park ranked 35th. The challenge is, each of these fine novels, though clearly superior to Peregrine and anything else of 1981’s slate that I have read myself, is not the best novel in their respective series. For Hannibal Lecter novels, one would want to award Silence of the Lambs (though it is too early to gauge what Silence of the Lambs will be contending with in 1988). I will argue strenuously that Gorky Park is only the third best Arkady Renko novel – one wants Polar Star and Red Square, two of the greatest crime novels ever written, to win Edgars in their years (even further out than 1988). This is benefiting from hindsight, but this whole exercise is an exercise in benefiting from hindsight.
(Interesting coincidence that both of these remarkable characters introduced in 1981, Hannibal Lecter and Arkady Renko, waited 7 years or more for a second appearance. Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot each waited 3 years for his second novel, Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer each waited one year, the first three Maigrets all appeared in 1931, and Travis McGee’s first two adventures were published simultaneously. One suspects that Hannibal Lecter and Arkady Renko weren’t originally seen as recurring characters. I for one am grateful that their authors had a change of mind!)
Other crime novels from 1981 that I have read include Free Fall in Crimson, speaking of Travis McGee, and The Rebel Angels by “serious author” Robertson Davies, which many people love but didn’t do it for me. Speaking of serious authors, Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez published a mystery in 1981, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which I haven’t read but which is on my list now. Other celebrated books of 1981 that I haven’t gotten to yet are The Glitter Dome, by Joseph Wambaugh, Martha Grimes’ The Man with a Load of Mischief, which introduced the beloved Richard Jury, and Sarah Caudwell’s Thus was Adonis Murdered, which introduced Hilary Tamar, the academic detective who, among their other admirable traits, is meticulously described by the author so you can never tell in any novel if Hilary is a lad or a lassie.
Much worth reading there, but it leaves me back with the two with which I’ve started. When stumped, you might say, don’t ignore the obvious. Regardless of the future (seen from 1981), Gorky Park was the best mystery I read published in 1981 and great on its own merits, and I designate Gorky Park the book that should have won the Edgar in 1982.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (No Spoilers)