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
titles. 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)
Shadows 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.