My last update on my progress on reading the books eligible for the International Dagger for 2011 was in February. To qualify, books have to be translated, and published in the UK between May 2010 and June 2011. Karen continuously updates her essential Euro Crime blog post of eligible titles.
These are the books on the list that I had read when I wrote my last post on the subject (links go to my reviews):
The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Italy)
Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder , translated by Marlaine Delargy (Sweden)
Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum, translated by Charlotte Barslund (Norway)
1222 by Anne Holt, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Norway)
Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Victoria Cribb (Iceland)
Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, translated by Jethro Soutar (Argentina)
Red Wolf by Liza Marklund, translated by Neil Smith (Sweden)
The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson (Sweden)
Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif G W Persson, translated by Paul Norlen (Sweden, not reviewed).
Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, translated by Philip Roughton (Iceland)
River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell (Italy)
Shadow Sister by Simone van der Vlugt, translated by Michele Hutchison (The Netherlands)
Silence by Jan Costin Wagner, translated by Anthea Bell (German, setting Finland)
Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom, translated by Kari Dickson (Sweden)
Bunker by Andrea Maria Shenckel, translated by Anthea Bell (Germany)
At that time, my own personal favourites to date (in no special order) were Red Wolf, Frozen Moment and Needle in a Haystack.
Since that February post, limited slightly by UK publication dates, I have read:
Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek, translated by John Brownjohn (Germany, not reviewed)
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Sweden, review submitted to Euro Crime)
The Gallows Bird by Camilla Lackberg, translated by Steven T. Murray (Sweden, review submitted to Euro Crime)
The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson (Sweden)
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett (Norway)
Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto, translated by Howard Curtis (Italy)
A Short Cut to Paradise by Teresa Solana, translated by Peter Bush (Spain, not reviewed)
Rendezvous by Esther Verhoef, translated by Alexander Smith (The Netherlands)
Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, translated by Sonia Soto (Spain)
Of the remainder, I’ll try to read two more (if available) before the announcement of the shortlist in early May:
Summertime by Mari Jungstedt
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen
On consideration, I am not planning to read any more from the ‘pool’ but if I haven’t read any on the official shortlist when revealed, I’ll undertake to read them before the winner is announced (which will probably mean I have to read Fred Vargas’s An Uncertain Place!).
So, which are my front-runners now? (Noting that English-language publication dates have changed for some books, eg Johan Theorin’s The Quarry, bumping them into next year’s eligibility criteria).
Well, unlike the past two years, there are no stand-outs. I am going to predict that The Leopard by Jo Nesbo, Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom and An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas will make the shortlist, on the basis of the many glowing reviews I’ve read in the “mainstream media” and on blogs. My main objection to The Leopard was its unnecessary (but mercifully not many) descriptions of nasty torture; other than that it is a very exciting book though once you have read a few of these you can see how the author’s mind works and second-guess some of the twists. As a mystery, The Leopard has flaws but it is an exciting book with a great central character and sense of local atmosphere. Three Seconds is a thriller and as such I personally would prefer a more measured story such as Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, but I think Three Seconds has quite a bit of momentum behind it and is an exciting read if a bit unlikely in places (and a bit maudlin in others).
I think that The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell should make the shortlist. It is a deeply absorbing book, and a challenging mystery – though the solution to the “crime” is hastily dealt with. As a portrait of a man’s state of mind as he declines, and of his relationship with his heroic and independent daughter, it is the most human of the eligible books I’ve read.
I would include Frozen Moment by Camilla Cedar on my predicted shortlist. The book is a solid, satisfying mystery, a good police procedural and strong characterisation as well as very atmospheric. Even though it is a debut, it very much holds its own with the other eligible titles on the list.
Many of the other books are good reads, but in my view aren’t really “crime fiction” – for example Rendezvous by Esther Verhoef. Others of the books show their authors writing at less than their best (Anne Holt, Arnaldur Indridason, Jan Costin Wagner, Teresa Solana). Domingo Villar slightly falls into this category for me, as though his second novel is very good, I did not think it had moved on since the first. Similarly Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Ashes to Dust is a good, solid novel but I found the character of Thora had stalled a bit compared with her very funny first outing. Shadow Sister is a good psychological novel and Blood Sisters is a promising debut. Others on the list are fine books by established authors, but lack that “special” factor (Camilla Lackberg, Hakan Nesser, Karin Fossum, Andrea Camilleri). I enjoyed most of the eligible books I’ve read (some more than others!), but none of them really stands out to me as an excellent crime novel. Red Wolf by Liza Marklund and Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo are good examples of novels about socio-political issues, and are personal favourites of mine, but objectively, I don’t see them as being on a par with some of the previous winners of a crime-fiction award (eg Johan Theorin or Arnaldur Indridason at their best).
So, here’s my predicted shortlist for this year – not necessarily my personal favourites, but a prediction:
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen (not yet read)
Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder
The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom
An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas (not yet read)
Of these, I’d be happy if any of those that I’ve read wins, though for me Frozen Moment and The Troubled Man are the front-runners on my predicted list.