CrimeFest 2016 highlights: Holt, Piñeiro, le Carré, Krimis and The Petrona Award

CrimeFest 2016 took place last week in Bristol, UK. It featured a succession of fabulous panels and, as ever, provided a wonderful opportunity to catch up with other criminally minded readers, as well as the great and the good of the publishing world. Here are my highlights.CFhighreslogo-2016

Anne Holt is one of Norway’s best-known crime writers and the creator of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. She very rarely appears at crime conventions, so it was something of a coup to have lured her to Bristol as a featured guest author.


Norwegian author Anne Holt

Barry Forshaw’s interview with Holt on Sunday was fascinating and wide-ranging.

  • Holt worked in journalism, as a news anchor, as a lawyer, and briefly as Minister of Justice for Norway. Then, at the age of 40, she moved away from a workaholic lifestyle and started to write. Her first novel was Blind Goddess (1993) and she’s never looked back.
  • Hanne Wilhelmsen was the first lesbian investigative lead in Norwegian crime fiction. Hanne is a complex figure. Due to her upbringing and family background, she’s very private and prefers not to reveal herself to others. In this respect, she’s very different to Holt – a conscious decision in order to make the character more challenging to write.
  • Holt has deep love of British crime, especially Agatha Christie. Her novels are still recruiting readers, for which we should be thankful. The eighth Wilhelmsen novel, 1222, is a homage to the golden age of crime (critics in Norway panned it – she’s not sure why- but it did well in other countries).
  • Holt is friends with Jo Nesbo and has discussed the subject of violence with him. She feels that violence should not be directly described in crime novels unless necessary. She rarely does so (one exception), preferring to focus on the effects of violence instead.
  • Holt says how crime novels do in Germany is a barometer for publishers in relation to British & European markets.
  • Holt on the EU referendum: the EU is an instrument for peace and trade, and it would be a tragedy if Britain were to leave. It could be the beginning of end for the EU.

Argentinian author Claudia Piñeiro

I was also very excited to see Claudia Piñeiro at CrimeFest (and indeed in the UK) for the first time. Piñeiro is an Argentine crime-writing superstar whose work has been translated into numerous languages, but she’s not known here nearly as well as she should be. Bitter Lemon Press has published four of her novels in translation so far, including Betty Boo, which is set in a gated community in Buenos Aires and explores the nature of modern journalism (review pending). Piñeiro is an incredibly versatile writer, whose depictions of Argentine society are astute, insightful and sardonic – I really hope to see more of her work in English in the future.


Adam Sisman, John le Carré’s official biographer, was also at CrimeFest, in a packed session with broadcaster and writer James Naughtie. Sisman spoke very eloquently about the benefits and challenges of writing on a ‘living subject’. For example, one of le Carré’s conditions was that he should be the first to see the manuscript, and he promptly emailed Sisman 22 pages of notes. At one point he told Sisman ‘it’s very strange to have you here poking around my mind’.

  • Sisman rightly emphasised le Carré’s position at the top of the writing game from the early 60s to the present day.
  • He also noted that le Carré’s political arc was unusual – from establishment to left-wing anger. While studying at Oxford University in the 1950s he spied on other students for MI5, something that troubles him now.
  • The spying terms le Carré uses in his novels are often made up, but have been adopted by spying agencies. One CIA agent told Sisman that le Carré is ‘part of our DNA’.
  • The author has a wonderful ear for dialogue/mimicry, and often rehearses characters’ conversations out loud when on walks.
  • He’s always enthusiastic about the future, about new projects such as The Night Manager, and does not live in the past.

Mrs Pea was also in action, presenting the Crime Fiction in German volume to a delightful audience in one of the ‘In the Spotlight’ sessions. David Young, author of Stasi Child, kindly acted as Draw Meister. Rather impressively, we managed to give away twelve Krimis and two copies of the volume in twenty minutes. Thanks again to the Goethe Institut, Swansea University, the University of Wales Press, Bitter Lemon Press, Penguin, Michael Joseph and Vintage for their support.

Krimi Spotlight collage

Clockwise from top left: David Young (Draw Meister) with Mrs Peabody; a beautifully attentive audience; the Krimi Giveaway winners; the last copy of the volume in the bookshop…

And on Saturday night, the winner of the 2016 Petrona Award was announced: Norwegian writer Jørn Lier Horst for his novel The Caveman (see my interview with the author here). Bob Davidson of Sandstone Press accepted the award on Jørn’s behalf from Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, the 2015 Petrona winner. You can see the transcript of Jørn’s acceptance speech (which was rather lovely) on the Petrona website, along with details of the shortlisted titles. As ever, I’m very proud to be a judge for this excellent award, set up in memory of Maxine Clarke.

Petrona collage

From left: the winning novel and the Petrona trophy (photo Sandstone Press); Sarah Ward and Barry Forshaw announcing the award with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (photo by Ali Karim); Bob Davidson accepting the award on Jørn’s behalf.


The Petrona Award judges with Anne Holt (photo by Andy Lawrence)

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of CrimeFest16 in this post. For example, Ian Rankin, another one of the featured guest authors, gave a wonderful interview and treated the audience to an extract of his next Rebus book. Hopefully other bloggers will cover some different events/panels.

And…the CWA International Dagger longlist was also announced. I’ll leave you with the list of nominees below. Please note that two German novels have made the cut (Arango and Rademacher). I’ve also got my eye on Six Four, a Japanese crime novel highly praised by David Peace. Disappointed by the lack of women authors, though.

Title Author Translated by Publisher
The Truth and Other Lies Sascha Arango Imogen Taylor Simon & Schuster
The Great Swindle Pierre Lemaître Frank Wynne MacLehose Press
Icarus Deon Meyer K L Seegers Hodder & Stoughton
The Sword of Justice Leif G.W. Persson Neil Smith Doubleday
The Murderer in Ruins Cay Rademacher Peter Millar Arcadia
The Father Anton Svensson Elizabeth Clark Wessel Sphere
The Voices Beyond Johan Theorin Marlaine Delargy Transworld
Six Four Hideo Yokoyama Jonathan Lloyd-Davis Quercus

Many thanks to the CrimeFest16 organisers for a wonderful four days!

22 thoughts on “CrimeFest 2016 highlights: Holt, Piñeiro, le Carré, Krimis and The Petrona Award

  1. What a fabulous and very productive/education/fun time you had! Very envious but hope to be there next year.
    I have to admit I was not completely enamoured with Six Four. While it was a scathing look at politics and corruption in policing, it tried even my patience with its very detailed descriptions of press conferences etc. – and I am a fan of all things Japan!

    • I’m keeping everything crossed that you can make it next year, MarinaSofia! It would be brilliant to meet you. We will hopefully have a Krimi panel organised for your delectation 🙂

  2. What a wonderful event!!! Thank you for sharing all of this with us, Mr.s.. P., and thanks for the hard work you and the other Petrona Award panel members did. I’m very glad that everything went so well.

    • Thanks Margot! It’s always a very special evening. Karen has promised to give us at least a week off before Petrona 2017 gets underway…

  3. I enjoyed all this information about Anne Holt and Piñeiro. I am very interested in both of them. And John le Carre of course. What a great event for you.

  4. Very good points to read about here. I’ve read all of Pineiro’s books and think she’s quite a brilliant writer, unusual, slyly witty and also full of subtle social and political commentary. Have read a few of Anne Holt’s books featuring Hanne and like them. Am trying to read The Caveman, but life keeps intervening. I want to put a “Do not disturb” sign on my email and phone. Loved both of Kati Heikkapelto’s books, glad they were recognized by the Petrona judges for the short list.

    • Really pleased to hear you’re a Pineiro fan, kathyd. I’ve only read two of her books so far, but am extremely impressed and agree with all that you say.

      Hope you enjoy The Caveman once you find some peace and quiet. And yes, I loved both of Kati’s books too. The Defenceless is particularly timely; a sobering depiction of migrant/refugee experiences.

  5. Such a fabulous event! I shall have to send my bookstore out on another hunt – for the Argentinian writer’s books, I wonder if they are available in Canada?

  6. It is so good to see you all had a wonderful time! I followed all your updates on Twitter this year and it seems the festival only gets better. Here’s to my attending in 2017!

  7. Thanks for reporting on Anne Holt, Mrs P. I had to leave before the end (appalling Sunday trains). Yes, a great Crimefest – including your session on Der Krimi – and I’m not just saying that because I was one of the winners!

  8. 1. Anne Holt is great.
    2. Pineiro is moving up my list.
    3. Thanks for including the Intl Dagger long list. I’ve only read Icarus, which I enjoyed.
    Thanks for live-tweeting from CrimeFest and posting more details here!

    • You’re welcome, Rebecca. It was lots of fun live-tweeting; the only problem was keeping up with all the gems!

      I still have a few to read on the International Dagger long-list. Am a big fan of Deon Meyer, so looking forward to that one along with Six Four. Good to hear you enjoyed it.

  9. Pingback: New Year crime fiction treats from Denmark, England, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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