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.

Review: Hakan Nesser – The Strangler’s Honeymoon

20131121-081340.jpgI had hoped to read and review this book before now as Nesser is one of my favourite writers. However it was pushed down the pile until last week when I finally managed to finish what turned out to be one of the writer’s best books, not least because of the welcome reappearance of Maardam police inspector Van Veeteren.

Sixteen year old Monica Kammerle has an affair with he mother’s boyfriend and little realises that she is consorting with a killer who is unable to deal with rejection. When her mother’s body is found under the bed of their apartment, police are desperate to track down the missing Monica, convinced that the killer has struck again. Van Veeteren is drawn into the case when he promises to help a priest who is later killed without revealing the source of his concern.

We are now reaching the end of the series with one book left to go. The novels have been a delight to read and although some have been better than others, the series is distinguished by the deceptive complexity of the plots and the quality of the writing. Nesser also has the ability to deliver a creepy read without resorting to cheap gimmicks, relying instead on a slow build up of tension that leaves the reader in a state of satisfying disorientation.

The Strangler’s Honeymoon opens with a brief but brutal killing on a Greek island. It’s textbook Nesser. We have encountered the killer from the off and now we are waiting to see how the plot unfolds. Although we are inside the killer’s mind, his place in society and name are hidden from both the police and reader until the final section. In many ways it is this part that is the most thrilling. All has been revealed but Van Veeteren embarks on a personal mission to unsettle and unmask the killer that concludes, where it began, back in Greece.

The vulnerability of women has been a continuing theme in Nesser’s work and it is explored further here, although naturally, not everything is as it seems. As he has shown before, women can be both the abusers and the abused and the difference is sometimes indistinguishable.

Nesser has pulled off the trick of wiring a novel that, ninth in the series, satisfies all the requirements of devotees of his books but at the same time could be picked up and read by a reader new to his work. It’s a fitting penultimate book to the series and it’s just a case of now waiting until next year for the final instalment, The G File.

Thanks to Mantle for my copy of the novel.