Mystery Books 1990-1999
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Postmortem was the first book published by author Patricia Cornwell, and it was an immediate hit and the first in the Kay Scarpetta mystery series. Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, is called in on a series of brutal unsolved murders in the city of Richmond. The killer leaves behind few clues, and as the case becomes sabotaged from within, it’s clear someone wants Scarpetta dead. The novel won numerous awards, including the Edgar Award and Anthony Award.
The first edition of Postmortem was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, and MacDonald, London in 1990. First editions include a full number line on the copyright page and an $16.95 price on the front flap of the original dust jacket.
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley's very well-received first book, introduces detective Easy Rawlins and centers around his transformation from day-laborer to detective. Set in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Rawlins takes on a side job to pay his mortgage after losing his job at a defense plant. His first mystery is trying to find a woman named Daphne Monet, a missing white woman who was known to frequent black jazz clubs. Devil in a Blue Dress was adapted into a film of the same title starring Denzel Washington.
The first edition of Devil in a Blue Dress was published by W.W. Norton in 1990. The first state dust jacket has an $18.95 price stamp on the front flap, and the first edition has 'First Edition' and a full number line on the copyright page. First editions list around $300.
The Firm by John Grisham
The Firm is author John Grisham's second novel and his first bestseller. Mitch McDeere, a young ambitious lawyer, marries his high school sweetheart, graduates from Harvard Law School, and gets his dream job with a top firm in Memphis. Everything seems perfect until the FBI begins to investigate the firm and lawyers start turning up dead. Soon Mitch realizes that he’s signed on to a job where no one ever leaves alive. The Firm was adapted into a movie in 1993 starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.
First published by Doubleday, New York in 1991, the first editions of The Firm have a full number line and First Edition stated on the copyright page.
Booked to Die by John Dunning
Booked to Die is a bibliomystery introducing Denver bookseller and ex-policeman Cliff Janeway. When a local book scout is murdered, Janeway investigates, sure his seedy nemesis Jackie Newton is guilty of the crime. This book is not only a well-crafted "whodunit" but also a revealing glimpse into the rare book trade. Author John Dunning is the owner of Old Algonquin Books in Arvada, Colorado. Booked to Die won the Nero Award and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Novel.
The first edition of Booked to Die was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1992. First printings have a full number line on the copyright page.
Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely
Blanche on the Lam is the first novel by author Barbara Neely. The novel introduces the character of Blanche White, a middle-aged black woman who works as a domestic helper and a part-time detective. Blanche uses the cultural invisibility of her race and station as a powerful tool to solve mysteries. Neely is credited with being the first black mystery author to write a black woman heroine. Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. The Mystery Writers of America named author Barbara Neely their Grand Master in 2020, which is sadly also the year that she passed.
The first edition of Blanche on the Lam was published by St. Martin’s Press, NY in 1992. Signed first editions list for around $300.
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Along Came a Spider, written by the popular author James Patterson, is the first of the Alex Cross mystery series, which has ranked #1 in best-selling mystery series for 25 years. Cross is a homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology who becomes caught up in the case of Gary Soneji. Soneji, a teacher at an elite private school, is also a brilliant serial killer and has been able to outsmart the cops and the FBI on his quest to commit the crime of the century.
The first edition of Along Came a Spider was published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, in 1993. First printings have 'First Edition' stated on the copyright page and a $21.95 price stamp on the front flap of the original dust jacket.
The Black Book by Pamuk Orhan
The Black Book is Nobel Prize winner Pamuk Orhan's story of Istanbul lawyer Galip, who one day finds that his wife Rüya has mysteriously left him with very little explanation. As he wanders around the city looking for clues to her whereabouts, he journeys through Istanbul's fabled past and a troubling present. The Black Book is described as an unconventional murder mystery and a provocative meditation on identity.
The Black Book was first published in Turkish in 1990 and then translated by Güneli Gün for the English publication. The first American edition was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 1994. The first UK edition was published by Faber & Faber in 1995 is also highly collectible, listing for around $500-$600.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
One for the Money is the first book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum is a former lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter whose first job is to bring in her ex-boyfriend Joe Morelli, a police detective wanted for murder. The movie rights for One for the Money sold for $1 million just prior to the book's release, although the film, starring Katherine Heigl and Debbie Reynolds, did not debut until 2012.
One for the Money was first published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1994. First editions have a full number line, and the original dust jacket has a $21.95 price stamp on the front flap.
Death in Bloodhound Red by Virginia Lanier
Death in Bloodhound Red is author Virginia Lanier's debut novel and the first of six books in the Bloodhound Series. Set in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, Jo Beth Sidden is a bloodhound trainer who uses her skills to assist police with search and rescues. She's also an outspoken feminist and regularly comes against obstacles in her life, but none more challenging than having to prove her own innocence. Death in Bloodhound Red won the 1996 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Agatha Award in the same category.
The first edition of Death in Bloodhound Red was published by Pineapple Press in Sarasota Florida in 1995. The first state dust jacket has "Athony" instead of "Anthony" on the front panel.
My Dark Places by James Ellroy
James Ellroy, the author of Black Dahlia, LA Confidential, and American Tabloid, began reading crime novels after his mother’s unsolved murder in 1958. He was only ten years old at the time of her murder, and for most of his life, he ran from her ghost, chasing his own demons that involved minor crimes, drinking, drugs, and writing crime fiction. He finally moved back to Los Angeles to face his own dark emotions and to try and solve the mystery of his mother's death, chronicling his work investigative memoir My Dark Places.
The first edition of My Dark Places was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1996. The original dust jacket design is by Chip Kidd. Ellroy famous signed all 65,000 first printings of this memoir.
Killing Floor by Lee Child
Killing Floor is the debut novel of author Lee Child and the first featuring the character Jack Reacher. When ex-military policeman turned drifter Jack Reacher stops at a diner in the small town of Margrave, Georgia he doesn’t anticipate getting arrested for murder. Reacher is a tough-guy, a man with no ties that can usually fight his way out of any ordeal until he is faced with being falsely accused of a crime. Author Lee Child had a successful career in television before he was fired at the age of 40 during a corporate restructuring. He used his unemployment time to write his first novel, Killing Floor, which won both the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.
Killing Floor was first published by Putnam, NY, and Bantam, London in 1997. First printings have a full number line on the copyright page and a $23.95 price stamp on the front flap of the original dust jacket.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first book in a series of mysteries of the same name, featured Mma Precious Ramotswe, who opens a detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana. The author, Alexander McCall Smith, was born in the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia, which is present-day Zimbabwe.
First published by David Philip Publishers in South Africa in 1998, the first US edition of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was published by Anchor Books, NY in 2002.
Bones by Jan Burke
Bones is an Irene Kelly Mystery by author Jan Burke. Four years after Julia Sayre, a young mother of two disappears, investigator Irene Kelly is searching for her body. Serial killer Nick Parrish has agreed to find the body - in exchange for a life sentence instead of the death penalty. As the cruel killer leads Kelly on her search it becomes clear his sight is set on murder. Bones was awarded an Edgar in 2000.
The first edition of Bones was published by Simon & Schuster, NY in 1999.
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Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.