The Big Mystery/Thriller/Suspense Book Awards

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An award is no guarantee that you will like a book. With more than 700,000 mystery books listed on, paying attention to which books have won which awards can save you time selecting your next read.

Most awards have multiple categories — mysteries, suspense, thrillers, etc. Some awards are given based on what writers think; others on what readers think. Some are given to books with specific Characteristics. For example, the Agatha Award is only given to tradition mysteries like those that Agatha Christie wrote, and the Hillerman Award only goes to debut novels set in the American Southwest. Other awards are more general.

Here are descriptions of some of the most significant awards given to mysteries, thrillers or suspense fiction.

Agatha Awards given annually sine 1988 by Malice Domestic, Ltd., honor traditional mystery books in the vein of those written by Agatha Christie.

Anthony Awards, presented at the Boucheron World Mystery Convention, honors Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White), a writer, New York Times critic and a founder of the Mystery Writers of America. Award winners are selected by those attending the conference. They have been given since 1986.

Arthur Ellis Awards, given since 1984, share the professional name of Canada’s official hangman. This award program recognizes excellence in Canadian crime writing.

Barry Awards, named for Barry Gardner, have been given since 1997 by Deadly Pleasures. Winners are voted on by readers of Deadly Pleasures and Mystery News. The awards are given at the Boucheron World Mystery Convention.

Dagger Awards have been given by the Crime Writers Association since 1955. Currently, 10 dagger awards are given each year for categories such as debut novels, short stories, historical novels and international books.

Dilys Award was been given annually from 1993 to 2014 by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association to the mystery title of the year that members have most enjoyed selling. It is named for Dilys Winn, the first mystery-specialty bookseller in the United States.

Edgar Awards has been given by the Mystery Writers of America since 1946 to the best in mystery fiction and nonfiction.

Hammett Prize has been given since 1991 by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers for literary excellence in crime writing.

Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards have been given annually by registered members of the Left Coast Crime convention. Awards are given in four categories: best humorous mystery, best historical mystery, best mystery novel and best debut mystery novel.

Macavity Awards, given since 1987, is named for the “mystery cat” of T. S. Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Winners (in several categories) are selected each year by a vote of the members of Mystery Readers International.

Ned Kelly Awards, named for bushranger Ned Kelly, have honored the best in Australian crime writing since 1996.

Nero Awards are given annually by the Nero Wolfe Society for the best American mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series within the past year in the United States.

Shamus Awards have been given since 1982 by the Private Eye Writers of America to the best detective novels and short stories of the year.

Thriller Awards are given annually at Thrillerfest by the International Thriller Writers to recognize the best thrillers of the past year.


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