The 2016 Petrona Award shortlist is revealed!

It’s time for a very special announcement…


Crime novels from Finland, Norway and Sweden have been shortlisted for the 2016 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. They are:

  • The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway)
  • The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)
  • The Caveman by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden)
  • Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle/Pan Macmillan; Norway)
  • Dark as My Heart by Antti Tuomainen tr. Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland)

The award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in the UK in the previous calendar year. The winner will be announced at CrimeFest in Bristol on Saturday 21 May.

Petrona PicMonkey Collage

Here are the Petrona judges’ comments on the shortlist:

THE DROWNED BOY by Karin Fossum tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway). Fossum’s spare prose and straightforward narrative belie the complexity at the heart of this novel. After the drowning of a young child with Down’s Syndrome, Chief Inspector Sejer must ask himself if one of the parents could have been involved. The nature of grief is explored, along with the experience of parenting children with learning difficulties. There’s a timeless feel to the writing and a sense of justice slowly coming to pass.

THE DEFENCELESS by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland). The second in Hiekkapelto’s ‘Anna Fekete’ series is an assured police procedural rooted in the tradition of the Nordic social crime novel. Its exploration of immigrant experiences is nuanced and timely, and is woven into an absorbing mystery involving an elderly man’s death and the escalating activities of an international gang.  A mature work by a writer who is unafraid to take on challenging  topics.

THE CAVEMAN by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway). Horst’s The Caveman begins with the discovery of a four-month-old corpse just down the road from William Wisting’s home. Troubled by his neighbour’s lonely death in an apparently uncaring society, the Chief Inspector embarks on one of the most disturbing cases of his career. Beautifully written, this crime novel is a gripping read that draws on the author’s own experiences to provide genuine insights into police procedure and investigation.


Snowy Scandinavian landscape. Credit:

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden). The late Stieg Larsson created the groundbreaking, two-fingers-to-society, bisexual anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander. When Larsson’s publishers commissioned a fourth book, they turned to David Lagercrantz, whose The Girl in the Spider’s Web often reads uncannily like Larsson’s own text. His real achievement is the subtle development of Salander’s character; she remains (in Lagercrantz’s hands) the most enigmatic and fascinating anti-heroine in fiction.

SATELLITE PEOPLE by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle/Pan Macmillan; Norway). An accomplished homage to Agatha Christie, Satellite People adds a Nordic twist to classic crime fiction tropes. References to Christie novels abound, but Lahlum uses a Golden Age narrative structure to explore Norway’s wartime past, as Inspector Kristiansen and Patricia investigate a former Resistance fighter’s death. Excellent characterisation, a tight plot and a growing sense of menace keep the reader guessing until the denouement.

DARK AS MY HEART by Antti Tuomainen tr. Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland). Tuomainen’s powerful and involving literary crime novel has a mesmerising central concept: thirty-year-old Aleksi is sure he knows who was behind his mother’s disappearance two decades ago, but can he prove it? And to what extent does his quest for justice mask an increasingly unhealthy obsession with the past? Rarely has atmosphere in a Nordic Noir novel been conjured so evocatively.

With grateful thanks to each of the translators for their skill and expertise in bringing us these outstanding examples of Scandinavian crime fiction.


The Petrona Award judges are:

Barry Forshaw – Writer and journalist specialising in crime fiction and film; author of four books covering Scandinavian crime fiction: NORDIC NOIR, DEATH IN A COLD CLIMATE, EURO NOIR and the first biography of Stieg Larsson.

Kat Hall – Associate Professor of German at Swansea University; editor of CRIME FICTION IN GERMAN: DER KRIMI for University of Wales Press; international crime fiction reviewer/blogger at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES.

Sarah Ward – Crime novelist, author of IN BITTER CHILL (Faber and Faber), and crime fiction blogger at CRIMEPIECES.

The award is administered by the marvellous Karen Meek of EURO CRIME.

See also the Petrona Award website.

13 thoughts on “The 2016 Petrona Award shortlist is revealed!

  1. I’ve only read two of the books on your shortlist (Fossum and Hiekkapelto) but I loved them both – very nuanced, subtle explorations of deeper forces which lead to crime and regret.

  2. Craig Sisterson has written this thoughtful response to the Petrona shortlist announcement – copied here from Facebook with his permission:

    Here are a few of my thoughts about the Petrona Award shortlist announced this morning (Best Scandinavian Crime Novel in translation). The winner will be announced at Crimefest Bristol on 21 May. Firstly, as a book awards judge myself (Ngaio Marsh Awards in New Zealand, Ned Kelly Awards in Australia), I understand just how tough it is to select longlists, shortlists, and winners for crime writing awards. It is rare to have clear-cut decisions when there are very often a large number of very good and very different books out there – far too many for too few spots. So there are bound to be strong differences of opinion among keen crime fans about who should win, or books that ‘should’ have been there instead of some that are.

    At first glance though, I think that this is an incredibly strong shortlist, with six very, very fine authors (I haven’t read all these specific books, but am familiar with all six authors). Interestingly, given a deserved recent rise in profile, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir winning last year, and plenty of critical praise for the likes of Arnaldur Indridason and Ragnar Jonasson, there are no Icelandic crime writers on this year’s shortlist. I guess that just goes to show what a tough ‘competition’ it is among Nordic authors.

    Three of the shortlisted authors were also shortlisted last year (Kati Hiekkapelto, Jørn Lier Horst, and Hans Olav Lahlum), so that’s a very fine achievement regardless of who takes home the trophy. I’m very pleased to see David Lagercrantz’s novel make the shortlist, as I felt that was a very good book that was rather unfairly maligned by many Stieg Larsson fans in a knee-jerk manner, on principle, but judging it simply on its own merits, was a very well written story and a great continuation of the Millennium trilogy.

    I’m also pleased to see that some high quality Nordic authors who don’t yet have the broader following of compatriots like Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Liza Marklund, Camilla Lackberg and others are getting much-deserved attention. All the authors on this shortlist are excellent writers and storytellers, and I think there’s something there for any crime fan, regardless of style preferences.
    Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, and also to organiser Karen Meek (Eurocrime) and judges Dr Kat Hall (aka Chilled Kat, Mrs Peabody Investigates, CRIME FICTION IN GERMAN: DER KRIMI) Sarah Ward (Crimepieces, IN BITTER CHILL), Barry Forshaw (Crime Time, The Financial Times, NORDIC NOIR, DEATH IN A COLD CLIMATE, EURO NOIR, etc) on the fine job they’ve done and all the effort that does into it.

  3. Morning Mrs P 😁. I’ve only read one of the books mentioned, David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web which, despite a lot of criticism, I thought was really very good. I’ve a whole list of Icelandic crime books to read, which I thank the TV series Trapped for. Now I’ll need to add a few more from the above. Ethel and I are going to be kept very busy 👓. Has Sarah Ward, got another book in the pipeline do you know? I really enjoyed In Bitter Chill.

      • Thanks for those links Mrs P. There are certainly a lot of for’s and against’s for the ‘Spiders Web’. I always say to people read books for yourselves and make up your own minds on whether you like them or not. I also went onto Sarah’s blog too, and am so glad that the publishers have picked up more of her books (a wise move on their part). All the more great books 😀 for us to get our teeth into. I will be getting onto Amazon to pre-book poste haste. Hooroo.

  4. That looks like a very good list. I have read two of the books, “The Defenceless,” which was excellent, and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” Kati Heikkapelto quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read her first book.
    Even though I am a Stieg Larsson fan, I will not join the naysayers about Lagercrantz’s book. I thought it was very well-written and Lizbeth Salander was excellently portrayed and played a key role in solving a few mysteries in the story. And there was no misogyny, brutality against women, scenes of gratuitous violence, a plus in women friends’ judgment of the book.
    I’ll add a few to my TBR list.
    You have a hard task to choose one book among this list.

    • Thanks, Kathy D. The Lagercrantz debate is very interesting (just seen Bernadette’s post as well). Glad you liked The Defenceless and look forward to hearing what you thought of the rest of the list in good time.

      A hard task: yes indeed.

  5. My motto is “read the books and then explain your opinion.”
    That’s why I read “The Girl on the Train,” wanted to see what the fuss was about and have an opinion.

  6. Pingback: European Literature Week – Kutscher & Raabe – CrimeFest is on its way! | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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