The long awards season for motion pictures ends tonight with the distribution of the prestigious Academy Awards. Today I’ve been wondering this: If Oscars were handed out to mystery books and characters, who would take home a golden statue? Here are my picks from both classic and modern mysteries (Yes, I know some of my selections have already been portrayed on big and small screens. Just play along with me).
Best Supporting Actress: Serena “Renie” Jones (Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mysteries)
Renie, cousin of series’ star Judith McMonigle Flynn, is an offbeat, often grumpy graphic designer who has been Judith’s sidekick their whole lives. She’s always there to support (sometimes begrudgingly) her cousin whenever Judith discovers a corpse and sets off on a new sleuthing adventure. Like so many supporting players, Renie brings comic relief to both Judith and readers.
Best Supporting Actor: Dr. Watson (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Mysteries)
Every year an actor has a lock on his or her category. Dr. John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s friend, sometime roommate, biographer, and crime-solving partner is as sure a thing as you can get. The original sidekick, the good doctor has inspired too many characters to count.
Best Actress: Cora Felton (Parnell Hall’s Puzzle Lady Mysteries)
Miss Marple she’s not. The incorrigible smoker, drinker, many-times-divorced Cora would probably scandalize her prim and proper British sleuth counterpart (or maybe Miss Marple would get a kick out of the crime-solving cruciverbalist on this side of the pond). Cora is a constant irritant to everyone in her life, but underneath her well-worn, black “Wicked Witch of the West” dress beats a heart that cares more than Cora will ever admit.
Best Actor: Hercule Poirot (multiple Agatha Christie masterpieces)
Whether the crime scene is a train, ship, hotel, country estate, or English village, the fussy Belgian detective with the high-maintenance mustache never fails to solve the mystery of the moment. With his razor-sharp intellect and keen interrogation skills, Monsieur Poirot dazzles with his ability to parse clues in time to catch a killer.
Best Director: Agatha Christie
Who else but the best-selling author of all time? Every one of her books is a master class for mystery writers and a pleasure from the first page to the last for readers. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side. Death on the Nile. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Pick one, any one, grab a cup of tea, and sit back and enjoy.
Best Motion Picture: Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
With so many fantastic mysteries to choose from, I’m selecting the one I first encountered in a movie theater in 1974 and then re-discovered years later when I read the brilliant novel on which the film was based. A tight plot, intriguing characters, claustrophobic setting, and best actor winner Hercule Poirot take the reader on a spellbinding trip to a stunning conclusion. A new adaptation, directed by Kenneth Branagh who will also star as Poirot, is due in theaters this November. I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up an Oscar or two at next year’s ceremony.
Enjoy the Oscars. And have a great week, everyone!