The Petrona Award shortlist for 2014

*Fanfare of trumpets*. Here is the shortlist for the 2014 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year:

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)

The judges for the award are Barry Forshaw, Sarah Ward and myself – with additional wise counsel from award founder and administrator Karen Meek.

From left to right: Karen, Mrs Pea, Barry and Sarah, following our rewarding shortlisting session in London.

Here are our comments on each of the shortlisted works:

CLOSED FOR WINTERThis highly atmospheric novel sees Chief Inspector Wisting investigate an off-season burglary and 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 SHORESDrawn 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 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 reintroduced to the blackly humorous and truly unforgettable police detective Evert Bäckström.

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. 

The winning title will be announced at the international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 15-18 May 2014. I’m already dusting off the posh frock.

More information and updates can be found on the Petrona Award website  (

25 thoughts on “The Petrona Award shortlist for 2014

  1. Pingback: The Petrona Award Shorlist for 2014 | The Game's Afoot

  2. I have some reading to do before May then as I’ve only read two of these so far, though do have all but one of the others lurking around the house somewhere. I’ll want to know whether or not I need to get into a debate over the pane’s decision come the big announcement 🙂

  3. Good list! I haven’t read a one, but have Strange Shores on top of my TBR pile. Not one of the others is in my library system, so I’ll have to prioritize and see what’s around in the online bookseller sites.
    Best of wishes in choosing the top one, which should be difficult, given these writers.

  4. Great three of my favourite books of last year, & the three crime writters I enjoy the most, & pre-order! Hope Strange…. wins, just edges Persson & Wagner.
    Speaking of LG, just finished Free falling, quite brilliant. Once again great characterisation,plot & as always full of humour. Loved the way the way he used the Python ‘dead parrot’ sketch to sumerise the Palme investigation, & then a short while later having a dig at his postion on the National Police Board. The SWAT raid on Backstrom was brill, made me think of ‘The Locked Room’
    the inept police raid on the suspects flat. Oh Melander gets a name check this time, I wonder whose next? Really do need an interview with him in English, how about it Mrs P!
    Just waiting to see which they publish next, ‘Dying Detective’ or Pinocchio, the later I think.
    At the mo I’m reading the first Valerio Varesi book, have you come across him? There set in the
    Po valley region of Italy. Also just waiting on the first book in the trilogy by Malcolm Mackay, garnered a lot of good reviews.
    So De Luca starts this’s Saturday, seen trailers for the first 3 episodes, thought for a mo they where just using his name & nothing else, but in the 3rd his Facist past catches up with him, so
    will just have to wait & see! Still can’t be any worse than that Belgian twaddle!

    • Hello Brian! Glad you like the Petrona shortlist. Choosing the eventual winner is going to be very tough. I like your idea of a Persson interview. Will see if I can make that happen, although I’ve not spotted him on the UK crime circuit as yet. Will have to keep my eyes peeled, or better still, make a pilgrimage to Sweden.

      I’ve read the first Varesi (reviewed here:, but as you’ll see I had a little rant about one aspect of the novel… Would be ready to try another one, now that I’ve calmed down a bit.

      I caught up with the first episode of de Luca. While not perfect, there was enough there to make me want to come back for more this weekend. The next three are based on the Lucarelli trilogy, and it’ll be interesting to see how de Luca fares as he gets pulled further into the fascist regime. I need to reread the novels to compare the characterisation of the literary de Luca with the TV de Luca. I wonder if the latter has been softened a little (small moments of resistance from him that I don’t remember from the novels, but then that could just be my faulty memory…).

      • Hi Mrs P, yes it’ll be a difficult choice to chose the winner! Yes an interview would be brill, he seems to do a lot of TV, so maby that ‘s why he’s not been over. Watched ‘Call Girl’ last night, it’s based on the Political sex scandal in Sweden in the 70s, well worth watching, taken in conjunction with his ‘Story of a crime ‘ trilogy, very interesting, although
        somewhat bleak, especially the ending.
        Great review, I agree with your assessment of his girlfriend, read a review on Amazon that raised the same point, will get round to the other two books sometime. I’m afraid that’s part of the Italian male culture, very macho! As for Ingrid, well think of Anita Eckberg in ‘La Dolcha Vita, that seems to be how most Italian males see Scandinavian
        Agree with you on De Luca, I think they’ve softened him up a bit, Will reserve judgment
        untill the third episode, seems to be more like the books. Yes I thought of rereading them again, have you read his other two books? Only Blue & Day by day, I read them a few years back, might give the a go again, the main character is a female detective.

      • Hello, Brian – sorry for the tardy response! Thanks for the recommendation of ‘Call Girl’ – sounds interesting.

        I need to catch up on de Luca from last week (and then tonight’s episodes – aargh). I’ve only read Carte Blanche, but it was a while ago so I need to reread. Lucky that it’s only a short book. I haven’t read the other two you mention, but would be intrigued to see how he depicts a female investigator, given the dodgy tendencies we’ve identified in Italian crime. Ta!

  5. Hi Mrs P. Well I’m up to date with De Luca, quite enjoyable, but I feel it’s only loosely based on the books, he strikes me as a ‘Bernie Gunther’ type character rather than the ‘Survivour’, in the political sence of the books, & I find that a disappointment . Yes I must get round to reading them again & the other two as well. I think he’s one of the more acceptable Italian crime writters, not overly macho! Interestingly there’s a new book coming out later this year ‘Judges’ three stories, one by him, & one by Camilleri, & the last by a Judge! His one is about a female judge, so he does like his
    female characters. Oh & there is a 4t De Luca novel ‘ Inspector De Luca’, but only available in Italian!
    I read the Izzo books quite a few years ago, the other one you mentioned sounds intriguing, will have to look that one up. The Italian ones are interesting, I read one of di Giovanni books, the series based in the 30s, but that’s the only thing he has in commen with Lucarelli, his Inspector
    is a Barron! Shades of Lord Peter Whimsey!! Although I liked the sound of the’ Crocodile. Then we
    come to Massimo Carlotto! A very strange Writer, his own history is more interesting then his books! Falsely accused of a political crime, spends time on the run, gives himself up, goes to prison, eventually cleared! Also very left wing in that Italian way! Also very macho & seems to be influenced by the ‘Giallo’ style of film & pulp fiction, lots of blood & gore, mainly against women!
    His latest one is about 3 guys into S&M who find a willing female participant, naturally, who is then
    murdered, which appears to be described in some detail, oh & there’s snuf movies as well! Got
    all this from the back of the book, very suggestive cover, & an excellent review on amazon,t he review ends ‘ very uneven, & slightly disturbing’ could sum up the author! But I agree with you they
    are excellently packaged.
    To end half way through Malcolm Mackays excellent ‘the necessary death of Lewis winter’ the first
    in his trilogy Easy to see why his getting a lot of great reviews. Well worth looking up.

    • Thanks, Brian! I’ve got as far as seeing the Carte Blanche episode and rereading the book, and found it an odd example of a largely faithful adaptation that had somehow also managed to miss the book’s main point. We were right about the sweetening of de Luca’s character as well.

      In the novel, it’s made clear from the beginning that de Luca was a member of the political police (special division Brigata Ettore Muti), who has just been transferred back to the ‘normal’ police, and the whole point of his depiction is to show his naivety in believing that his time there won’t have consequences. He thinks of himself as apolitical – as just a policeman – but of course his work for the political police has been noted: this is why he is on the CLN (National Liberation Committee) list and needs to escape at the end of the novel. The novel also contrasts de Luca with other policemen who do make political choices: his former political police colleague Rassetto is pro-fascist, while his policeman colleagues have links to the partisans. de Luca is the only one who thinks that he can maintain a neutral position by clinging obsessively to his identity as a policeman, and this is depicted as being hopelessly naive.

      The TV adaptation more or less took out all of the bits relating to the de Luca’s role in the political police (merely hinted at in the visit to Rassetto in the farmhouse). Here’s a key bit from page 80, de Luca speaking: ‘When they called me into the Muti Special division I went immediately, jumping at the chance. Because at the Muti you could do good work, get it? … There everything was so efficient, there were the best investigators, the best police records, there were resources … Police work has always been like this and it’s what I’ve always done. You don’t ask a policeman to make political choices, you ask him to do his job well’. Fascinating, eh? There’s no cute little boy in the book either, to show de Luca’s essential humanity. Definitely a bit of softening going on here.

      I’ve just picked up Blue down at the local charity shop – will look forward to reading it. And Mackay sounds good… Another one for the TBR pile!

  6. Well done Mrs P, I hope go start the last book tomorrow, will watch the last episode tonight. Your spot on again, if it had been made outside Italy, I wonder if it would have been truer to the character? There again there have been. any great Italian political films, perhaps it’s down to the budget, & audience it was aimed at. Still I have enjoyed it, better then that dreadfully Belgian tosh, & Montalbano. Oh yes don’t recall any love interest in the books, or am I mistaken?
    Bromley Hse have just received the new Nesbo, a non Harry Hole story, I was asked if I wanted to
    have first read, but decided to wait a while, see what the reviews are like!
    Glad you enjoyed ‘Budapest’ I loved it, it’s tribute to Ernst Lubitsh’s films. An emigre director who
    escaped the Nazis & ended up in Hollywood. Also loved the screen aspect, same as it would have
    been in the 40’s

      • Actually I read it in Sight & Sound! An article on Wes Anderson. So can’t claim any credit. There’s a new 3 part German series, on BBC2 tonight @ 21.30, set during the Second World War. Got very good reviews.

      • Ah, Sight and Sound – they always have their fingers on the pulse! But thanks for passing on that point – I’m keen to watch the film again and will definitely see the Lubitsch elements more clearly this time round.

        Thanks too for letting me know about the German series (‘Generation War: Our Mothers, Our Fathers’). Sounds like it’ll be a very interesting one to watch and I must read up on the discussion about it in the German press.

      • Interesting review of Generation War in Mondays Independent, it still seems to be carrying on the old myth about the German army being ‘the good guys’ etc, but started to get interesting towards the end, will wait untill the finish of the 3 episodes to form a real opinion, certainly agree that the
        Jewish character, Victor, iS implausible! So far no ‘Downfall’!
        Just started ‘Strangler Vine’ looks to be a good Bank Holiday read! Also just finished Pynchon’s
        ‘Bleeding Edge’ probably his most excess able novel, with, it seems to me his most well rounded
        female character. Any views on the new Nesbo yet? Was just offered the new Vargas, but as there’s a waiting list had to turn it down for the moment. Have a good bank hols.

      • I agree that there were some aspects of Generation War that stretched credulity (e.g. the way the German friends greeted their Jewish-German friend with ‘Shalom’ when he arrived on his bike – not something you would expect to see on a National Socialist street in 1941!). But I did think it was very good at pointing up the kinds of choices ‘ordinary’ Germans faced/made at the time. All of the German friends were morally compromised in one way or the other by the end of the first episode as a result of those decisions.

        I’ve heard there was a bit of controversy about the series in Germany, but will hold off looking for it until I’ve seen the rest (not sure if I’ve already said that to you before…!)

        Alas, I haven’t read the Nesbo yet. My research scribbles are getting in the way of broader crime reading at the moment… The new Vargas has also reached me but is just sitting on the shelf at the moment. I’ve not read the Pynchon you mention. Will put it on my TBR pile; sounds good.

        Have a lovely extended weekend! 🙂

  7. Pingback: CrimeFest 2014 / International Dagger / Petrona Award | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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