CrimeFest 2014: Saturday’s panels

Petrona AwardSaturday started bright and early with a panel on historical crime fiction. Chaired by William Ryan, it featured Jane Finnis who writes books set in Roman Britain, Edward Wilson whose spy novels have a Cold War background, Ray Celestin who writes mysteries set in the jazz age and Tom Harper who written about a variety of historical periods. The panel discussed the necessity of good historical research but also the need to make the story appealing to a modern reader.

The Writing Sympathetic Characters panel was chaired by John Gordon Sinclair and looked at the tension between writing sympathetic villains and asshole heroes. The overwhelming male nature of truly evil characters was discussed along with how more attractive villains can be in literature that their heroic counterparts.

A panel I’d been looking forward to was the Euronoir discussion chaired by Barry Forshaw. It featured the Swedish writing duo, Lars Kepler, Euro Noir panelNorwegian Jorn Lier Horst, Paul Johnston, whose books are set in Greece and French author Dominique Manotti. I was fascinated by the authors’ influences which included Chandler, Hammett, Christie and PD James. Lars Kepler also referenced the film, The Exorcist, as a big influence.

Euro noirTwo other important events worth noting. On Saturday evening, Barry Forshaw launched his excellent book Euro Noir. A review will follow on this blog shortly but it features book recommendations from all the Petrona Award judges. It’ll be, I’m sure, a valuable resource for lovers of European crime fiction.

Finally, we announced the winner of the 2014 Petrona Award at the gala dinner on Saturday evening. I can’t recommend highly enough Leif Persson’s Linda, As in the Linda Murder and it is a worthy winner. However, all the books on the short list are excellent and it was a very difficult choice. Do come back to this blog for reviews of 2015 entries.

The 2014 Petrona Award for the Best of Scandinavian Crime Fiction – Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2014 award is as follows:petronaaward2

CLOSED FOR WINTER by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press)

STRANGE SHORES by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker)

THE WEEPING GIRL by Håkan Nesser tr. Laurie Thompson (Mantle)

LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER by Leif G W Persson tr. Neil Smith (Doubleday)

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Philip Roughton (Hodder & Stoughton)

LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE by Jan Costin Wagner tr. Anthea Bell (Harvill Secker)

There were a number of strong contenders for the 2014 award and deciding on with the shortlist provoked plenty of lively debate amongst us judges. The winner will be announced in Crimefest in May. More details of the award can be found at the Petrona Award website.

The judges’ comments on the shortlist are as follows:

CLOSED FOR WINTER: This highly atmospheric novel sees Chief Inspector Wisting investigate an off-season burglary and a disturbing case of murder on the Norwegian coast of Vestfold. As ever, author Jørn Lier Horst’s police background lends the novel a striking authenticity, with readers treated to the outstanding plotting and characterisation that typify this quality series.


STRANGE SHORES: Drawn back to his childhood home by the unresolved disappearance of his brother, Inspector Erlendur takes on the most personal and difficult case of his career. Exploring the series’ enduring themes of loss and the impact of Iceland’s twentieth-century social transformation, this remarkable valedictory novel is one of the finest by a truly incisive writer, the undisputed king of Icelandic crime fiction.


THE WEEPING GIRL: While supposedly on holiday, Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno is pulled into the case of a missing teenage girl and the much earlier murder of a woman. This quietly compelling novel from Swedish author Håkan Nesser, with its distinctive European feel, is full of the assurance readers have come to expect from the Van Veeteren series. There is not a single misstep as the grim implications of the narrative are teased out.


LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER:  Leif G W Persson’s sprawling, state-of-the-nation novels make deft use of crime fiction conventions to expose the faultlines of Swedish society. This more closely focused novel is a brilliant exploration of a young woman’s murder, press sensationalism, and the inner workings of a police investigation, with readers introduced to the blackly humorous and truly unforgettable police detective Evert Bäckström for the first time.


SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME: When a young man with Down’s Syndrome is convicted of arson and murder, lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired by one of his fellow inmates to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice. This ambitious Icelandic crime novel, which skilfully weaves multiple narrative strands together with elements of the supernatural, is another gripping and highly entertaining read from author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.


LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE: Still mourning the loss of his wife, Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa is called to investigate the strange murder of a comatose woman in hospital. German author Jan Costin Wagner delivers another wonderfully written and tightly constructed instalment in the Joentaa series, notable for its moving portrayal of a grief-stricken policeman and its in-depth exploration of victim and perpetrator psychology.