International Dagger shortlist, announced and reviewed

Awards are the name of the game at the moment, with two of the main crime-fiction prizes achieving escape velocity on Friday by announcement of their respective short and long lists. In this post, I focus on one of these awards.

The shortlist for the International Dagger award of the Crime Writers' Association was announced at Crime Fest. The list is available at Euro Crime blog, which contains links to Euro Crime reviews of all six 
Hypothermiatitles. Inevitably there has been quite a bit of buzz about the selections, for example at Friend Feed (please let us know your opinion there!).

Although I did not do a great job at predicting the shortlist (I got two out of six), I think the CWA list is a good one because it is geographically varied (2 novels from Sweden (one mainland, one island!), with one each from Italy, South Africa, France and Iceland), and thematically varied. My mistake on my predicted shortlist was to limit it to "traditional" crime novels. The selections on the actual list all provide a terrific atmosphere and sense of place. They all seem to be translated very ably and with insight into the author's intentions. Here's the list, with an attempted brief summary of each novel:

Tonino Benacquista – Badfellas (translator: Emily Read)
Black comedy and culture shocks as a Sopranos-style family in the US witness protection program settle in to French small-town life.
Andrea Camilleri – August Heat (translator: Stephen Sartarelli)
Inspector Montalbano investigates shady property deals and worse in the last remnants of traditional Sicily in a bitter comedy of life's tragedies.
Arnaldur Indridason – Hypothermia (translator: Victoria Cribb)
Erlendur investigates an apparent suicide, and old and new missing-persons cases, while reflecting on his own past actions and mistakes.
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (translator: Reg Keeland)
Climax of the Millennium Trilogy as Lisbeth and Michael face down their respective nemeses, culminating in courtroom scenes and subsequent thrills.
Deon Meyer – Thirteen Hours (translator: K. L. Seegers)
Frantic pace as police and criminals pursue an American student through Cape Town over the course of a long day, while other crimes are committed and resources are stretched.
Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room (translator: Marlaine Delargy)

TDRoomShadows of the distant and recent past (maybe even ghosts) infect a young family while a policewoman investigates a series of burglaries on the island of Oland.


Which one do I think will win? Well, obviously I am not very good at predictions! Even so, the two choices of mine made previously that are on the actual shortlist are the two books that I think most likely to win, The Darkest Room and Hypothermia, both of which look at changes in a relatively small, isolated (island) community over a period of many years, and the adaptations people and society have made over this time. The device for this survey, in both books, is to look at old, more recent, and new crimes (for crimes, read crises, as none of these events is sensationally described as if it were the point in itself, which I appreciate – rather the crimes are the stimulus to set in motion chains of events which give the authors freedom to reflect). 

I'd be more than happy if either won (or any of the others), but I'd slightly be in favour of The Darkest Room because it covers more themes than Hypothermia, and because it conveys such a terrific sense of atmosphere, menace and a range of perspectives on life and living, by its various characters. Hypothermia's appeal, to me, is mainly the dark and long journey Erlendur is taking into his own soul, which is fascinating to me as I strongly identify with it, but which is perhaps too mono-dimensional in this particular book in the series to fully justify a win. But, that having been said, I think it is an excellent novel in its own right, and along with any of the other 5 novels, would be a worthy champion.

Some other early speculation on the shortlist can be found at Euro Crime blog (lots of suggestions in the comments), International Noir Fiction (where Glenn got three out of six right) and Crime Scraps (plus Norman's reaction to the shortlist).

The full shortlist. with judges' comments (not read by me before writing this post) and other information about the awards are at the CWA website.


15 thoughts on “International Dagger shortlist, announced and reviewed

  1. Thank you, Maxine, for your insights. I thought your shortlist was terrific, am going to write it down and look for those books. You read a lot and know what’s out there and made those recommendations based on experience, good taste and more. So we are glad to have them. Now we’ll add more to the list. Sometimes these choices come down to matters of personal taste. Then again there was no Fred Vargas book published recently or that would seriously be in the running.

  2. Yes, K, I think Vargas would have won if she’d had an eligible title as her last 3 books have won it! Maybe her turn will come around again next year – I happen to know that one of the judges is a fan 😉

  3. Maxine your list was also terrific and I will follow K. suggestion to write them down and look for those books. I will probably add Zygmunt Miloszewski’s Entanglement after having read Glenn’s review.

  4. Thanks, Margot. And, Jose Ignacio — after reading Glenn’s review of Entaglement I went straight to Amazon and bought it, so it is upstairs now, waiting to be read 😉 Call me an addict…

  5. I would love to see Theorin´s book win. I have not read Hypothermia yet so I cannot say if that one is of the same quality.

  6. So far I’ve only read two of these – the Larsson and Hypothermia which would be my choice out of the two. But I have the Theorin here waiting for me and am next up in the library queue for the Camilleri and I’ll track the other two down before July as well. And I’m also going to make my way through the Maxine’s star reads from your other list which is all very lovely but means I have a lot of books already waiting for me that are going to start feeling abandoned.

  7. Yes, but think of how exciting it will be to wake up to read some wonderful books, whether now or later on when you get to the next batch.

  8. It just dawned on me. Not a woman on the shortlist. I’m going with Petrona’s 3-starred titles as my list and now checking Book Depository (anyone know if this is trustworthy), Abe Books, Amazon and my library to try to read all of these over the summer, especially when friends are out of town and iced coffee at a cafe is calling me.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement on Juli Zeh’s book. When I got to the chapters about the police inspectors, the book got much more interesting. It is worth reading.

  10. Does anyone know if book depository is okay to order from for the U.S.? Their prices are good and they offer free int’l shipping. Is it okay to post one’s credit card information and then get the books? Some of the Daggers’ books aren’t here yet and I’m antsy.

  11. I’m not sure, though I always hear good things about the Book Depository from bloggers in the UK and Australia. I think they do say “free postage anywhere in the world” which sounds good!

  12. Finished, “In Free Fall,” and have to say that while I enjoyed the philosophical issues and differences of opinion and was challenged while reading, which is often not the case (except with “The Man from Beijing), I’m not sure all at the ending was made clear, the motive of the real culprit, what the set-up was at the end, what happened in the final 15 pages. Don’t want to engage in a spoiler, but is more posted on this somewhere? I’m loaning the book to a friend to get her take on it. Am not sure what to read next but am going back to the Petrona starred list.

  13. I think it was all a bit “precious” in my opinion, in the end, K. I haven’t seen any internet discussion on it – maybe Good Reads might be a place to see or start some? Or the 4MA Yahoo group, where I can never quite understand the discussions because of the format and finding the thread.

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