International Dagger shortlist 2012

It is a little more than a month since I last posted my speculation about the shortlist for the CWA’s International Dagger award this year – an award which is given to a book published in translation in the UK for the first time between June 2011 and May 2012. Since that post, I’ve reviewed two more of the eligible titles, The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, tr Joseph Farrell, and Night Rounds by Helene Tursten, tr Laura Wideburg. Just as well, as it turned out, because The Dark Valley is on the shortlist, and I’d already read and reviewed the rest!

The shortlist, which was announced at Crime Fest on Friday 25 May, is here (click on book’s title for my review):

Andrea Camilleri – The Potter’s Field tr. Stephen Sartarelli Italy
Maurizio De Giovanni – I Will Have Vengeance tr. Anne Milano Appel Italy
Asa Larsson – Until Thy Wrath be Past tr. Laurie Thompson Sweden
Deon Meyer – Trackers tr. K L Seegers South Africa
Jo Nesbo – Phantom tr. Don Bartlett Norway
Valerio Varesi – The Dark Valley tr. Joseph Farrell Italy

I picked the books by Asa Larsson and Deon Meyer for my own suggested shortlist, but apart from those two I suggested four other titles:

The Caller by Karin Fossum, tr Kyle Semmel Norway
Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst, tr Anne Bruce Norway
Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason, tr Anna Yates Iceland
The Quarry by Johan Theorin, tr Marlaine Delargy Sweden
(hon mention) The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill, tr Laura McGloughlin (Euro Crime review pending) Spain

So which is my predicted winner? Based on my own predicted shortlist’s overlap with the real shortlist, it is going to be Until Thy Wrath be Past or Trackers. I find it impossible to choose between them, as they are so different: the former is a crime novel and the latter a thriller. So I am going to cop out and call it a dead heat!

All my posts on the International Dagger award.

About this year’s shortlist at the CWA website, including the judges’ reasons for choosing these titles.

41 thoughts on “International Dagger shortlist 2012

  1. I’m currently reading Asa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath Be Past and I have scheduled to read the books by Varesi and De Giovanni soon. But it seems to me I won’t disagree with your choices Maxine. Pity the other four in your list didn’t make it. Each one was a worthy competitors and, particularly, Dregs was my favourite.

    • Thanks, Jose Ignacio – I think Dregs was an excellent novel – pity it did not qualify for the John Creasey dagger as it was not his debut (6th in the series) but was the first to be translated. I suppose the publisher may not have submitted it, but I agree it is a very welcome addition to our crime reading & I am sure the series will become very much read and enjoyed, if other books get translated.

      • Dregs – from what I’ve read it does more telling than showing. I ended up setting it aside. I don’t care much for that type of storytelling so can you tell me if in Dregs that it gets better? I stopped at maybe 40 pages in. Same with Camilla Lackberg, her stories lack something to me and again she does more telling than showing.

        • I loved Dregs, Keishon – rather like Wallander, but maybe even better. I think Horst is better than Lackberg, in that Lackberg writes more “women’s commercial fiction with a crime in” whereas Horst’s is a police procedural with an interesting relationship between the cop and his journalist daughter. I certainly enjoyed it more as it went on. It being #6 in a series but first to be translated probably was not very fair on it.

          • OK, I’ll give Dregs another go. Sometimes I do need that added push, so thank you.

  2. I was a bit disappointed that my favourite translated book this year didn’t even make it to the official shortlist but I’m not terribly surprised – me liking something often is the kiss of death.
    I have three books to read before I can say which one of the 6 officially shortlisted books is my pick but at the moment I’d be in the same boat as you. Probably my favourite of those two is the Larsson but I suspect that the Meyer book will actually win and that’s fine by me – it’s a great book and it would be good for the prize to go beyond Europe.

    it’s a very blokey list though – poor Asa is all alone among the writers and I think there are only two female translators (I think Deon Meyer’s translator is a woman but I haven’t actually looked it up). I noticed it particularly as women and literary awards is very much in the media here at the moment. I suspect one of the reasons I didn’t pick the Camilleri book for my shortlist (even though I think it is a great example of translation) is the way the series tends to treat women which I find a bit off putting.

    • Agreed on Camilleri, and I think The Potter’s Field is not any better than previous examples in the series on the sexism front. Women are either dismissed as irrelevant or…..well say no more for spoiler reasons.
      Yes, Meyer’s translator is a woman, and seems to be very good though the author is probably a help with queries as he is as fluent in English as he is in Africaans 😉
      Yes it is a pity that the shortlist has only one woman author on it, especially as The Caller (Fossum) is such a strong book. Of course, we don’t know if the publisher even submitted it……and it is quite possible that one judge got over-ruled by the others I suppose, as they all have to agree…..but as you say, a pity.

  3. I loved The Potter’s Field. I find I do have to check my sexism meter at the door when I read of Montalbano’s exploits and language. I have to or I’m tearing out my hair. That said, I like the books. It is a pity that the shortlist only has one woman on it after all of the great books out this year. I hope publishers and reviewers and authors promote the books for next year, especially those by women — loudly and clearly.

  4. yes, I agree, it’s a shame the Caller isn’t on the shortlist. Would be v interested in any links re:Women/writing awards Bernadette, any controversy re:Australian awards haven’t really been covered in UK media (as far as I know anyway)

    • Bernadette linked to one controversy re women authors here, Laura (by Tara Moss, Aussie crime author): and a thoughtful reply to Tara Moss’s post here: – I am pretty sure Bernadette has written about other controversies including lack of woman on shortlists for Australian awards such as (ironically) the Miles Franklin (Aussie equivalent of the Booker) etc.

      • Thanks Maxine…nicely encapsulated. Last year’s Miles Franklin shortlist contained no female authors which was one of the things that prompted the setting up of a women writers prize (called the Stella) though not the only factor by a longshot. This is still generating lots of discussion – some positive, some…not…especially as on this year’s Miles Franklin award shortlist 3 of the 5 books are by women which has led all the Stella naysayers to argue that there is no need for a women-only award which is of course taking things a bit simplistically.

  5. Thanks, Maxine! I had a span of exactly three hours of free time in the last two weeks so I haven’t been around to get the news. Trackers ordered!

  6. Maxine – I so hope that you’re right about the Larsson! I truly enjoy that series and I think that Until Thy Wrath Be Past is an excellent addition to it. Of course, Trackers is excellent too but I must say I have a special fondness for Rebecka Martinsson…

    • Me too, Margot. One of my favourite female crime fiction characters. The Swedes seem to know how to write good, independent and unusual female characters! (Annika Bengstrom, Lisbeth Salander, Irene Huss et al).

  7. I haven’t read the Camilleri but that seemed to be the book getting the most positive comments at crimefest. I must give it a go. I have only read the Asa Larsson an Jo Nesbo and although I liked them both I preferred others including Dregs and Midwinter Sacrifice.

    • I think the latter two are more typical crime novels, Sarah, whereas the first two (larsson and nesbo) are more idiosyncratic!

  8. Dregs would be/is eligible for the Creasey as it’s the first book published in English rather that his actual first book. So you never know….

    • Good to know, Karen. It is a very small press so maybe they didn’t enter it — but I hope so!

  9. Maxine: Trackers is the only one of the group I have read. If the others are as good as Trackers it is a strong short list.

    • None of them is as thrilling as Trackers, Bill – to be honest I did not think Varesi and di Giovanni as strong as some of the others that didn’t make it. Camilleri’s title is a good one, I think – but rather depends on one’s prior knowledge of the characters.

  10. Very good point about Swedish writers writing strong, independent, smart women protagonists, at least four by your count. Interesting that the authors are three women and Stieg Larsson, who is still causing controversy on his depiction of Lizbeth Salander.
    And I see that I must read Dregs, although not nominated, but it seems by so many positive comments. And I should read Phantom, possibly Trackers and The Caller. Psychological suspense isn’t my preference, but I am now so curious after so many recommendations, that I think I’ll try it.
    One good aspect of the Daggers’ shortlist is the commentary all over the mystery blogosphere, with other excellent recommendations.
    I’m keeping my virtual fingers crossed for Asa Larsson. Until Thy Wrath Be Past was a terrific read.
    And, again, that Miles Franklin short list sans women writers was mind-boggling. Certainly, the opposite of Miles Franklin’s goals and achievements.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I think there is something about Scandinavian women – Sarah Lund being another excellent example, albeit a filmic one (the book version is not one I am going to read).

  11. How are you, Maxine? I saw your very kind comment following upon Norman’s post re the DJ Quiz. I must I do so miss commenting on at least my most treasured crime fiction blogs, which small number includes yours, of course, but what most hampers and frustrates me no end are problems with my upper spine, neck and jaw, the pain of which kicks in pretty quickly when I sit at the computer. I’ve also been giving as much time as I can to work on an astonishing site called Care2, on which one can truly DO something about local, national and global issues that concern at least many of us, certainly you, Norman, and obviously me. Worth a peek. But I’m going to try to return to commenting on just those treasured blogs.

    Now, re the list, I saw your picks for the shortlist and thought you were absolutely on the mark. I agree also with your comments above. Mind you, where the Scandinavians are concerned, you and I are like identical twins, thinking the same thoughts. You might recall my less than temperate reaction to earlier translations of Tursten, which I thought might put the kibosh on further English editions, and I wasn’t wholly wrong about that, as she was dropped by her publisher, it seemed. If you do so recall, you’ll know my delight in finding that the latest has a different translator. What I want at the moment is more Karin Alvtegen. Re whether the winner of the Dagger might be Larsson or Meyer, both deserve it, but I’m inclined to go with Meyer, much as I love Larsson. I say this because, in virtue of the nature of that series, there is a starting skill in how Trackers follows on and in the structure of the novel, and it has a remarkable denouement.

    Lastly, may I say I’m wondering if note has been made of the death of Pierre Magnan. Too few of his oeuvre were translated, though I think The Murdered House one of the truly great crime novels.

    • How lovely to see your comment, Philip. I am so sorry that you are in such pain, my deepest sympathies. I appreciate the effort of your comment all the more. I will have a look at the Care2 site.

      On Magnan, I asked our friends at Friend Feed – Rich Westwood likes his books and made him his discovery of the year last year at Euro Crime, see . Rich also pointed to the obituary here: . Laura Root (another EC reviewer) says his books are well-written and demanding, as well as very atmospheric.

      The wise money seems to be on Trackers for the Dagger- well, you and Simon Clarke have tipped it! Karin Alvtegen has written a new suspense novel which has not yet been translated, so here’s hoping. Apparently it has no violence in it 😉 The Night Rounds was not Tursten’s strongest in my view (and it is still a US translation as she’s not publshed in the UK) but Laura Wideburg does an excellent job, as one might expect from her work translating Inger Frimansson.

  12. We have been away for a few days, and unfortunately I missed Crimefest. The two books I didn’t think would make the shortlist were the Asa Larsson and the Maurizio De Giovanni simply because of the supernatural element in both. I really should have had more confidence as I picked the De Giovanni as my Pick of the Month in January, which has also been shortlisted for the Ellis Peters. Crime fiction, Opera and Italian Fascism quite a combination.

    I haven’t read any Pierre Magnan, but with Philip’s recommendation I might try The Murdered House.

    • I take your point about the supernatural, Norman – this is also a strong feature of Mons Kallentoft (having just read Summertime Death where his use of the device was rather upsetting for me, involving teenage girls). I think the De Giovanni was picked partly because this shortlist seems to have a tradition of always having one Agatha-Christie-style historical novel on it (last year it was the Parot one set in the French Revolution). The presence of a Camilleri also seems de rigeur.

      I missed Crime Fest too, but it was fun to read all the tweets and blogs.

  13. I see the conversation has moved on a lot over the weekend, but thanks Maxine/Bernadette for the background re:Miles Franklin award, I am mortified as I think I either read ( or read about) Tara Moss’s piece around the time it was blogged, as the “privileged whining” jibe does seem horribly familiar, yet managed to forget all about it!

    • You’re welcome, Laura, and your memory sounds a bit like mine 😉 (but not as bad I am sure)

  14. OK, let’s see if I’ll succeed on my fifth attempt to post this comment.

    I’m not sure the International Dagger is the best object of complaints about lack of representation for women. The award has gone three times to books by a French woman translated by a woman, a run broken only by a book by a French woman translated by two women. Even when Johan Theorin and then Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström won the award in 2010 and 2011, their translators were women: Marlaine Delargy and Kari Dickson.

    Norman, if you’re still following this thread, I’d recommend Pierre Magnan’s “Death in the Truffle Wood” and “The Messengers of Death.”

    • For some reason (perhaps because of your signoff), WordPress had decided your comment is spam, Peter, sorry – just rescued it. There is a good Euro Crime review of the Truffle Wood by Rich Westwood.

    • Those two books by Magnan are very good, but his masterpiece is surely The Murdered House, a standalone I consider one of the true greats in the annals of crime fiction. The day after he died, I expressed on a blog the hope that someone would post a tribute to him, and I’m delighted to see that today Peter of DBB has done so.

  15. Whoops! I just noticed the Peter I replied to IS Peter of DBB. I’m afraid I’m a bit scattered in mind these days. However, now I can say here, “Thank you, Peter” for acknowledging Magnan’s death.

  16. Maxine: I have never had good luck posting comments at WordPress, one factor in my keeping my blog at Blogger. And thanks for the pointer to the Magnan review.

    Philip: Magnan certainly intended The Murdered House as a standalone, but I think popular demand or just a desire to continue the story led him to write another Seraphin Monge novel, Beyond the Grave (which I have not read).

    • Well, you should try posting comments on Blogger blogs if you don’t have a Blogger blog! It is a nightmare. The only way I can do it is via my Google account, it won’t accept WordPress, Open ID & all the other IDs it claims to accept. For me, moving to WP was a good move.

  17. Very true, Peter, but I’ve never been sure whether or not to mention Beyond the Grave in crime fiction blogs, where I used to urge people to read The Murdered House. It’s a marvellous book, I think, but not discrete from The Murdered House, nor really a crime novel in itself. Rather, it follows the lives of the people of the village and their descendants in the decades after the crime. Magnan had a very large oeuvre before he tried his hand at crime fiction, and I should say Beyond the Grave is more akin to those works than any of his crime novels. But I’m very glad you mentioned it, for, as long as readers aren’t expecting another crime novel in any usual sense, it is in itself a wonderful read, full of as ever of evocation of Provence.

  18. Thank you for telling me that, Maxine. Circumstances dictate that I play a neverending game of catch-up these days.

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