I have read all of the books nominated for an Edgar Award by Mystery Writers’ of America in the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories. You can read all of my reviews of the ten books in previous posts on this blog. Some of the books were questionable choices, others were enjoyable but not particularly “great” and one I just could not force myself to finish. But All Cry Chaos, the final book in the five Best Firsts, knocked me out. Leonard Rosen is a writer, through and through. From the opening chapter, I gave myself over to his story. And in the unfathomable way some writers can grip a reader and promise to keep the unspoken contract between storyteller and listener, Rosen never disappoints.

Henri Poincare is a 30-year veteran of Interpol, sent to Amsterdam to investigate an explosion at a hotel where the WTO is meeting. The explosion has killed one man, James Fenster, a mathematician set to speak on “The Mathematical Inevitability of a One-World Economy.” Poincare is left with a corpse so burnt it is unrecognizable and an explosion ignited by an unusual propellant, rocket fuel. Several suspects are quickly identified and interviewed but manage to disappear.

Poincare begins to investigate the dead man’s research to pinpoint who would want to kill him, and finds Fenster’s background produces a series of questions leading to more mysteries. The more Poincare investigates, the worse his heart condition becomes until his boss threatens to take him off the case. Then a Bosnian madman, imprisoned by Poincare for killing hundreds of Muslim men and boys, makes good on his threat to kill Poincare’s family. His wife, son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren are all attacked and seriously hurt. He goes home to France to take care of them, questions his own work and worth, and is away from the case for several months.

But in an odd turn Dana Chambi, one of the suspects from Fenster’s murder, appears at the hospital where Poincare’s six-year-old grand-daughter, Chloe, is in ICU. Chambi does the unthinkable to the little girl and Poincare is propelled back into the investigation to avenge his innocent grand-daughter’s murder. The story becomes a thriller within a mystery at this point and provides some twists which will keep the reader turning those pages. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot except to say that Rosen delivers a complex and satisfying story.

Poincare is a fully developed character–melancholic, polite, acerbic and of course, intelligent. He interacts with many characters in the story, all of whom are distinct and believable. Poincare travels all over Europe and the U. S. in his investigation and Rosen handles this with deftness and the right amount of description. Most of all, Rosen’s writing skills shine when he manages to describe complex mathematical theory, chaos theory, and chemical components in explosives without losing the reader to tedium. I highly recommend this book and on a scale of 1 to 10, give it a perfect 10.

My writing pal, Karen Burgess, has also been reading and reviewing the Edgar nominations in the two categories mentioned above. Here are my predictions for the winners: Best Novel: Gone by Mo Hayder. Best First Novel: All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen. The Mystery Writers’ of America will present their annual Edgar Awards tomorrow.

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