CrimeFest 2015: The Petrona, CWA International Dagger and EuroNoir

I can’t believe it’s already a week since the end of CrimeFest 2015. Time for my second post on this marvellous event, and some key highlights:

The Petrona Award: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s The Silence of the Sea, translated by Victoria Cribb, won the 2015 Petrona Award for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year in translation. The award was presented by CrimeFest’s guest of honour Maj Sjöwall, which was very special for all concerned.

Petrona group

The Petrona judging team with Yrsa and Maj (centre). Photo: Andy Lawrence

The Petrona shortlist this year was wonderfully strong, with novels by Kati Hiekkapelto (Finland), Jørn Lier Horst (Norway), Arnaldur Indriðason (Iceland), Hans Olav Lahlum (Norway) and Leif G W Persson (Sweden). Fuller information about the shortlisted novels is available here and further details can also be found at the Petrona Award website.

The CWA’s 2015 International Dagger shortlist was announced at CrimeFest on the Friday night. The six shortlisted novels are:

  • Lief G.W. Persson, Falling Freely, as in a Dream (trans. Paul Norlen/Transworld/ SWEDEN)
  • Pierre LeMaitre, Camille (trans. Frank Wynne/Maclehose Press/FRANCE)
  • Deon Meyer, Cobra (trans. K.L.Seegers/Hodder and Stoughton/SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Karim Miské, Arab Jazz (trans. Sam Gordon/MacLehose Press/FRANCE)
  • Dolores Redondo, The Invisible Garden (trans. Isabelle Kaufeler/HarperCollins/ SPAIN)
  • Andreas Norman, Into a Raging Blaze (trans. Ian Giles/Quercus/SWEDEN)

Further details can be found on the CWA website, with the award being presented at the end of June. I’ve read a grand total of two, so need to do some catching up.

Euro Noir

Euro Noir panel with Barry Forshaw, Roberto Costantini, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael Ridpath and Jørn Lier Horst

Two CrimeFest panels I particularly enjoyed were the Nordic Noir and Euro Noir panels, moderated by Quentin Bates and Barry Forshaw respectively, and featuring Kati Hiekkapelto (Finland), Gunnar Staalesen (Norway), Clare Carson (UK/Orkney), Craig Robertson (UK/Faroes), Roberto Costantini (Italy), Michael Ridpath (UK/Iceland) and Jørn Lier Horst (Norway). Interesting observations abounded:

HummingbirdHiekkapelto’s The Hummingbird is set in fictional, northern Finnish town. It shows a darker side of Finland: alcoholism, loneliness and some poverty. She tries to write about Finland with the eyes of an outsider, like her investigator Anna Fekete, and sees Finland as being not very welcoming of immigrants. She’s rare in choosing to write about migration issues.

Staalesen describes the Norwegian town of Bergen as very film noir – it rains 250 days a year and so is an excellent setting for crime (the latest in his famous ‘Varg Veum’ P.I. series, We Shall Inherit the Wind, is about to be published by Orenda Press). For him, crime fiction is a way of telling stories about society and how we live our lives today. In contrast to many other countries, the status of crime fiction in Norway is high: it’s viewed as respectable literature due to its quality and its use as a form of social critique (e.g. Karin Fossum).

In her novel Orkney Twilight, Carson writes about Orkney from memories of childhood, which is apt because novel is about memory. Carson’s father was an undercover cop, and she’s drawn on the experience of being a young woman figuring out her father’s secret life. Orkney is a mysterious place with continuous light in summer; Carsen weaves Norse mythology throughout the narrative, which fits with the idea of undercover police/spies as master storytellers. She feels folklore is a way of talking about things that can’t be solved in life and that crime fiction is a modern version of that form, in that it gets to grips with unresolvable issues like death.

Ironically, given amount of murders committed in Nordic novels, Scandinavia and the Faroe Islands are probably safest places in world. There were no murders in Faroes for 26 years … until Robertson started writing his novel The Last Refuge. He feels a bit guilty about that.


Lier Horst used to get up at 5am every day to write while still working as a policeman. You have to set goal and put in the work – ‘it’s a hard job’. His first novel was based on a real murder. He saw the crime scene on the first day of his job and it stayed with him (the murderer was never caught). Writing about murders has ‘taught me a little about death, but a lot about life’, especially people’s emotions.

Barry Forshaw has coined the term ‘Scandi Brit’ for Brits like Michael Ridpath and Quentin Bates who set their novels in northern climes. Ridpath says it’s a challenge to write about other countries, but invigorating one. He regularly consults Icelanders on points of accuracy, which is a big help.


Costantini uses his engineering background to construct his plots. His acclaimed ‘Commissario Balistreri’ trilogy explores thirty years of Italian history from the 1960s to the 1990s, as well as developments in the Middle East. (I have bought the first and am looking forward to reading it.) He created a policeman with a compromised right-wing past as a deliberate challenge to readers.

There was praise for translators and their huge contribution to international crime fiction. Staalesen and Lier Horst are grateful to have the services of top translators Don Bartlett and Anne Bruce. Both are excellent, managing the most difficult of tasks like translating humour effectively.

Other highlights during CrimeFest included seeing Ragnar Jónasson hit the top of the Kindle bestseller list with his debut novel Snowblind late on Saturday night, chatting to authors like William Ryan and remembering how much good crime fiction I still need to read (e.g. the rest of his Captain Korolev series), and meeting friends old and new, like the lovely Elena Avanzas (@ms_adler, who blogs at Murder, she read), Maura and Karen from the Swansea Sleuths bookgroup, and Anya Lipska, who’s part of the newly formed and utterly marvellous Killer Women organisation. So much murderous creativity in one place and time! Roll on next year.

12 thoughts on “CrimeFest 2015: The Petrona, CWA International Dagger and EuroNoir

  1. What a lovely writeup, Mrs. P! So glad you enjoyed it all so well, and such lots of interesting stuff here.

    • Thanks, Margot. It was a great four days. There’s always so much going on that it takes quite a while to process all the goodness. My TBR pile has gone through the roof…

  2. Your TBR pile has gone through the roof and you are passing on the disease to us… Really enjoyed this, and it sounds like a very productive time for you.

    • I would feel *slightly* more guilty about adding to your TBR pile if you didn’t add so regularly to mine 🙂

      Hope we can lure you to CrimeFest one year, MarinaSofia.

  3. Thanks Mrs P – they all sound really interesting – and I’ll definitely be to pick up at least a couple of these and nice to see an Italian book in there too! At least I can read that one in the original 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Cavershamragu. Costantini’s book is the first of a trilogy, all door-stoppers, so there’s plenty of Italian crime for you there to enjoy 🙂

  4. I had a very interesting and enjoyable first ‘crimefest’, would highly recommend it. I’d like to go to the Harrogate one in a few weeks to see Lee Child, Mark Billingham and Eddie Izzard in conversation.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed CrimeFest, Karen. I’ve been to Harrogate a couple of times and enjoyed that very much too (a different feel because most of the events are in a much larger hall). The three you mention sound like a splendid combination…

  5. Informative post. I was happy to see Hiekkapelto’s Hummingbird was available in the U.S. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks!

    • Hello Keishon – sorry only to have responded to your comment now. It somehow slipped through the net. Hope you managed to get hold of Hummingbird and enjoyed it.

      Karen from Orenda is about to send me a copy of Kati H’s second novel, The Defenceless – looking forward to reading that one very much.

  6. Dear Mrs. Peabody:

    Your recent welcome report on TV crime — especially the welcome returns of “Hinterland” and “Top of the Lake” — coincides with my discovery of this report (attached below, I hope) from Salon about the series (on an American commercial network where such quality is unexpected) called “American Crime.” It’s completed now, about twelve episodes in all, and just as extraordinary as this essay says. In recollection, I am struck by the observation that no police perspectives are given; this explains some of the deep and moving discomfort of viewing. Typically, procedural scenes set in police headquarters have a safety and insulation of sorts, don’t they? But there is little solace here. The acting was extraordinary and painfully acute. It’s a strong recommendation, if you can find it.

    On the basis of your trilogy-and-quartet posts, I have a new page in my “books to look for” notebook, and have pulled the Philip Kerr set from the shelves. Perhaps it’s time for me to return to scholarship with a lexicon of Bernie Gunther metaphors! From the current page, to be filed under “dining,” I think: “The arms of his jacket had been stuffed with several kilos of potatoes, and they ended prematurely, revealing wrists and fists that were the size and colour of two boiled lobsters.”

    A bookseller friend is sending me novels in exchange for my reviews. Having just enjoyed the latest Kjell Eriksson, I am now starting Tin Sky by Ben Pastor, featuring Wehrmacht Officer Martin Von Bora. Don’t know her work, but this looks promising to me.

    All good wishes in your engaging observations of this great field.



    David Carr

    Read. Read. Read some more.

    • Hello David – many thanks for your comments and in particular for drawing American Crime to my attention. I couldn’t see an attachment, but have found the following piece online:

      Is this the one you meant? It really does sound like an extraordinary series and I hope that I’ll be able to get hold of it at some point on DVD. It doesn’t seem to be available yet, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out.

      Ah yes, those Bernie Gunther metaphors – something to do with the wise-cracking P.I. persona? I’ll look forward to seeing your list!

      I’ve been gathering some trilogy/quartet reading as well, which I’m hoping to get into on holiday at the beginning of September. At the moment, I have John Williams’ Cardiff Trilogy and James Ellroy’s Perfida on my table (which is a monster, and appears to be the start of a new L.A. Quartet).

      I’d be really interested to hear what you think of the Ben Pastor novels. I’ve read one and need to go back again to read more in the series. Bora strikes me as a very interesting investigative protagonist.

      As you so rightly say: Read. Read. Read some more.

      All best wishes, Mrs P.

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