Petrona’s long and short lists for the International Dagger award

As my loyal readers may know by now, I have been reading as many as possible of the titles eligible for this years International Dagger prize before CrimeFest, which is when the judges will announce the shortlist. Karen at Euro Crime blog has invited bids for the shortlist.  CrimeFest starts tomorrow and I have read about a third of the possible titles. I'm calling a halt, therefore. Here are the books I've read:

Mikkel Birkegaard – The Library of Shadows   Denmark
Andrea Camilleri – August Heat  *** Italy
Leif Davidsen – The Woman from Bratislava ***  Denmark
Karin Fossum – The Water's Edge ***   Norway
Petra Hammesfahr – The Lie   Germany
Anne Holt – Death in Oslo  Norway
Arnaldur Indridason – Hypothermia ***  Iceland
Camilla Lackberg – The Stonecutter  Sweden
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest *** Sweden
Deon Meyer – Thirteen Hours *** South Africa
Jo Nesbo – The Snowman  ***  Norway
Claudia Pineiro – Thursday Night Widows ***  Argentina
Andrea Maria Schenkel – Ice Cold    Germany
Gunnar Staalesen – The Consorts of Death ***  Norway
Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room ***   Sweden
Tonino Benaquista – Badfellas     France
Eugenio Fuentes – At Close Quarters ***    Spain
Luigi Guicciardi – Inspector Cataldo's Criminal Summer ***  Italy
Henning Mankell – The Man from Beijing *** Sweden
Dominique Manotti- Affairs of State *** France
Petros Markaris – Che Committed Suicide ***  Greece
Juli Zeh – Dark Matter *** Germany

and, since my last post on this topic:

Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto and Marco Videtta ***  Italy

The Last Fix by K. O. Dahl *** Norway

Mari Jungstedt The Killer's Art (Euro Crime review T/C) *** Sweden

That makes 25 out of a possible 61 books – not brilliant but not too bad. The big problem, as I have noted previously, is choosing a shortlist out of these. Even out of these 25, I would find it very hard indeed to choose a shortlist of, say, six. The standard is extremely high (I have put three stars on the ones I think anyone would find a must read!), and there are only about five titles that I would certainly not include. I am going to have a go at choosing a shortlist here, with the caveat that I could almost just as easily have put about 18 of the above titles on it. It will be amusing next week to compare it with the real thing to see how close I got!

Petrona's shortlist (in no particular order):

The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin (translator: Marlaine Delargy)           (Sweden)
Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason (translator Victoria Cribb)                 (Iceland)
The Killer's Art by Mari Jungstedt (translator Tiina Nunnally)                      (Sweden)
The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell (translator Laurie Thompson)   (Sweden)
The Consorts of Death by Gunnar Staalesen (translator Don Bartlett)        (Norway)
At Close Quarters by Eugenio Fuentes (translator Martin Schifino)             (Spain)

Of those six, I would choose either The Darkest Room or Hypothermia as the winner. If I were forced to choose between them, I would go for The Darkest Room, with the distinguishing factor being that Hypothermia is quite late on in a series, so the characters to some extent depend on the previous knowledge of the reader. Although The Darkest Room is second in a quartet, it isn't a sequel as such, rather it features some of the same characters, in most cases rather fleetingly.

My overwhelming feeling, on reading these 25 books, is that in almost all cases I have enjoyed, learnt and been moved by the sheer quality and range of themes. This exercise has definitely reinforced my impression that translated fiction is of a generally higher standard than the non-translated fiction I read, as well as providing more varied perspectives and characters. I shall be reading more of it! (See Karen's Euro Crime blog post for more shortlist selections.)

15 thoughts on “Petrona’s long and short lists for the International Dagger award

  1. Once the shortlist’s out, shall I put the 2011 eligibles up so we can get started :). It’s a very promising year next year as well. As you say the standard is very high.

  2. Maxine I will take carefull note of your three stars selection. I would like to see Fuentes shortlisted. Also just notice Gunnar Staalesen translator is Don Bartlett, and that should be a plus. I will include him inmediately in my wish list if I have not done it so far. It will be hard to beat all these Scandinavian or Nordic writers. But certainly 2009 was an excellent year.

  3. I think your long list is impressive! I have read five or six.
    I would love to see Theorin win. I would probably also put Indridason and Mankell on my own shortlist, but I am not up-to-date with them. I would put Fossum and Nesbø on it instead of Jungstedt and Staalesen, however. Not that I don´t like Jungstedt and Staalesen, but in my mind their works do not stand out in the same way.

  4. Dorte – I agree with you about the quality of Fossum, but this particular title (The Water’s Edge) did not work for me as much as some of hers, and I thought this particular one by Jungstedt, with the art history, was quite lovely. As for Nesbo- I can never quite decide about him. A lot of good things, but some not so (eg the endings and the “superman” attitude to his protagonist). Staalesen, from the two or three I have read, is more grounded. But, as with everything else, it is all a matter of taste.

  5. Did you notice the lack of French contenders this year?
    I had better start reading Gunnar Staalesen if Don Bartlett is the translator.
    I would have picked The Snowman but as you say it is a matter of taste and I do like Harry Hole.
    I think we need the 2011 eligibles up early for those of us who don’t read, or walk, as fast as they used to. ;o)
    The Fossum was good but not quite as good as some of her earlier books, and from what you say I am pleased that I have the Jungstedt waiting on my TBR pile.

  6. Sorry I forgot to say that does the absence of stars alongside the Lackberg signify you were disappointed with this book?

  7. Hi Norman, thanks for stopping by! I did really like Affairs of State by Dominique Manotti, and it was one of several that I wavered about for some time. I also liked Badfellas by Tonino Benacquista, which in another year may have made the shortlist. I did not find the Lackberg quite up to the standard of those I gave three stars – a two-starrer I would say, on this list. I liked some bits of it a lot, did not like others, but mainly I felt the detection aspects were not that great and at the end of the day, that’s the main point of a crime novel!

  8. I went to an actual bookstore yesterday which I hardly ever do anymore as prices are so high but I had some money left on a gift card and thought I would spend it as I was having a crappy day. I had a virtual Maxine in my head telling me what was good and what wasn’t – ended up with Dominique Manotti’s AFFAIRS OF STATE which had the advantage of actually being in the shop. I see it hasn’t made your shortlist but none of those that I don’t already have were in the shop anyway so I’m happy with my choice. We (virtual Maxine and I) also went to the library where I picked up an earlier Petros Markaris book. We had quite a nice outing 🙂

  9. You are a woman of inspiration! I have only read “The Man from Beijing,” on your short list; I liked it a lot. I have been waiting for at least a decade for “Hypothermia,” to appear in my public library (across the pond, as you say), as Indridason is at the top of my Scandinavian favorite writers.
    I will write down every book which you triple-starred and look for them here.
    Just read Linwood Barclay’s latest, “Never Look Away,” (liked it), “In Good Faith,” by Scott Pratt (good character, ending not so hot). Have Juli Zeh’s book but can’t get into it. Harlan Coben’s “Caught” is waiting at the library for me. However, I have tasks I must accomplish and dare not get that until I’m finished.
    Our library system is facing budget cuts so not only hours and days face cuts but also new book and dvd purchases.
    Nevertheless, I must get back to the Scandinavians and other European and Latin American writers you suggest here–and EuroCrime also, a terrific website.

  10. Bernadette – what a lovely comment, thank you. I did like Affairs of State very much (and it made Glenn of Internation Noir Fiction’s shortlist which is recommendation indeed). I suppose in the end I went for “classic crime/detection” for my shortlist, rather than the many “thriller and variants” that are on the eligible list. It would be lovely to have a real outing with you one of these days, Bernadette!
    K- thanks also for your very kind and nice comment. I look forward to that Barclay – we are almost a year behind you on his books. I found the Juli Zeh hard to get into because of the ghastly family at the centre of it, and their physicist friend, but I really liked the woman police detective. I do hope you manage to get hold of the books I liked – and, more to the point, that you like them when you do. I hope your library has a good “inter library loan” system for books that aren’t stocked, but I know that it is a big problem here, too, for libraries, to get a lot of translated (perceived as non-commercial) fiction.

  11. I found the K.O. Dahl in the library but not Camilla Lackberg nor “Hypothermia,” nor the third of Stieg Larsson’s; a friend is buying that one and will loan it out–she is addicted to Lizbeth Salander, and as she says, she’s “drop-dead brilliant, strong, independent and courageous (a role-model yet!).” Now that could start a blog section.
    And thanks for citing the “classic crime/detection” picks; that I prefer. Will you have this list up or should I print it out? (I’m practically salivating at the thought of these books yet worrying that they won’t be in my library, even bookstores; some I’d buy maybe through Book Depository which says it has free shipping anywhere.)
    What a way to start the day!

  12. Hi K, this list will always be here so long as I have anything to do with it, but you are welcome to print it out if you like, and the associated reviews.
    The shortlist has now been announced and it’s a great international mix, actually – 2 Sweden and one each from France, Iceland, South Africa and Italy. The judges went for a wider range of themes and topics than I did in my selection, but they are all good reads (having read them all).

  13. I was curious to read your take on Petra Hammesfahr’s The Lie, which I’ve been trying to read, but I had to set it aside as it was becoming a little bit of a slog. I like stories of doppelgangers, but I’m glad it wasn’t just me as this one doesn’t seem to be moving along very quickly. I wasn’t sure if it was the writing or the translation, but it’s a slow mover for certain. I have her other book so maybe I should just abandon this and try The Sinner instead. Only I would like to know which woman was found murdered in the beginning of the story!

  14. Pingback: CWA International Dagger shortlist 2011and predicted winner | Petrona

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