'Edgars' shortlist heralds Poe bicentenary

This article is more than 12 years old
Mon 19 Jan 2009 07.07 EST

As the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia, embarks on a 24-hour party celebrating the 200th year since the master of the macabre's birth, the Mystery Writers of America have announced the shortlists for the awards they established more than 60 years ago in honour of Poe, with Astrid Lindgren's great niece in the running for the best novel prize.

The Edgar Allan Poe awards – known as the Edgars – are awarded annually to the best mystery writing, with past winners of the best novel award including Elmore Leonard Raymond Chandler, Frederick Forsyth and John le Carré. They were set up to recognise the contribution to the mystery genre made by Poe, with classic tales including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Masque of the Red Death.

This year's shortlist sees Swedish crime writer Karin Alvtegen - whose great aunt is Astrid Lindgren, author of the Pippi Longstocking series - selected for her novel Missing. The book, about a homeless woman in the frame after a businessman she has charmed into paying for dinner and a room is found dead, has already won Sweden's most prestigious crime award the Glass Key.

Alvtegen is up against Scottish author Morag Joss's The Night Following, about a woman who starts to fall apart after killing someone in a hit-and-run accident. Joss is another award-winning writer, having already picked up the UK's CWA Silver Dagger award in 2003 for her fourth novel Half Broken Things.

The best novel shortlist is completed by CJ Box's thriller about a pair of children who go on the run after witnessing a murder, Blue Heaven; Robert Ferrigno's futuristic dystopia Sins of the Assassin; Declan Hughes's Irish racing thriller The Price of Blood; and Lisa Lutz's latest Spellman mystery, Curse of the Spellmans.

The Grand Master award - first awarded to Agatha Christie in 1955 - has been jointly given to Sue Grafton and James Lee Burke. Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone series, said she had been caught "totally off-guard" by the news. "I'm delighted to be tapped and pleased to share the honour with a writer I so admire," she said. "I look forward to the ceremony which will surely be a blow-out affair in that it celebrates Edgar Allan Poe as well as the mystery genre." Burke, who has previously won two Edgars, said the award was "one of the greatest tributes" his work could receive.

The winners of the Edgars, which also include awards for best factual crime book, best short story, best film and best play, will be announced on 20 April at a dinner in New York. Poe's bicentennary is also being marked by the Edgar Allan Poe museum's 24-hour opening, which is featuring poetry readings - "Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before" - dead-of-night tours and a candle-light vigil at Poe's shrine at dusk.