One great plus of this decade’s Scandi crime-drama boom has been getting Brits into subtitled international crime drama from Europe and beyond. In recent years, this trend has also fuelled the success of Welsh-language crime drama Y Gwyll (Hinterland), which has been deftly exported back to a number of European countries.
Welsh-language thriller The Library Suicides (Soda Pictures, 2016) is enjoying similar success. Adapted from Fflur Dafydd’s bestselling novel Y Llyfrgell (The Library) and directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Broadchurch, Happy Valley), it received the prize for ‘Best Performance’ at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and was nominated in the ‘Best Film’ category at the Oldenburg International Film Festival in Germany. I watched it on the big screen at Swansea’s The Taliesin this week and loved it.
The Library Suicides stars Catrin Stewart (Jenny in Doctor Who) as twin sister librarians Nan and Ana. Following the apparent suicide of their mother, famous author Elena Wdig, they become convinced that she was murdered by her biographer Eben. The film plays out over a long and bloody night in the National Library of Wales as they seek their revenge.
This stylish, clever thriller had me gripped from the outset. The twins are superbly played by Catrin Stewart, with a fantastic supporting cast – especially spliff-smoking night porter Dan (Dyfan Dwyfor). The film’s tone moves seamlessly from high tension, as the twins track Eben through dark corridors, to laugh-out-loud black comedy, and makes ingenious use of the library’s secret spaces as a setting. As well as exploring the effects of grief and loss, the film examines the ways in which we remember, create and tell stories about ourselves, and the effects these stories can have on others.
After the film, there was an illuminating Q&A with writer Fflur Dafydd, who is also a lecturer in creative writing at Swansea University. She talked about the six-year process of getting the adaptation made with various partners including BBC Films, and the kinds of compromises that are required of the writer along the way. For example, while the film is clearly based on the book, some core elements were changed (the film is set in the present rather than the future), and the experience of the director and production team sometimes guided decisions – such as cutting certain scenes in order to maintain the pace of the film.
Fflur also spoke about the reception of the film in different places. In Edinburgh, audiences had viewed it primarily as a thriller rather than as a Welsh-language film, while in Germany, there was a positive response to hearing Welsh for what was probably the first time. The English title was extended in translation from The Library to The Library Suicides for commercial reasons – and as a nod to the novel The Virgin Suicides.
The Library Suicides is available to pre-order on DVD (in Welsh with English subtitles)
The CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) Dagger Awards were held last night at a swanky gala dinner in London. Here are the winners – many congratulations to them all!
Goldsboro Gold Dagger for the best crime novel of the year – Bill Beverly, Dodgers (USA, No Exit Press). The story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle, along with some other teenage boys, to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin.
Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best crime thriller of the year – Don Winslow, The Cartel (USA, William Heinemann). A powerful account of the drug wars in early 2000s Mexico.
John Creasey New Blood Dagger for the best debut crime novel – Bill Beverly, Dodgers (USA, No Exit Press). A double winner! See above.
International Dagger for crime fiction translated and published in the UK – Pierre Lemaître, The Great Swindle, trans by Frank Wynne (France, MacLehose Press). This novel opens with murder in the last days of the Great War and continues in peace-time with profiteering, criminal negligence, cooked books and a spectacular fraud.
Non-Fiction Dagger – Andrew Hankinson, You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat) (Scribe)
Dagger in the Library to the author of the most enjoyed collection of work in libraries – Elly Griffiths, author of the ‘Dr Ruth Galloway’ series of forensic archaeology mysteries and the ‘Stephens & Mephisto’ series. (Quercus)
Short Story Dagger for a short crime story published in the UK – John Connolly, On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from Nocturnes 2: Night Music (Hodder and Stoughton)
Debut Dagger for unpublished writers – Mark Brandi, Wimmera (Australia). Fab is haunted by a terrible secret. A chance discovery threatens to uncover his past, and expose the dark underbelly of Australian rural life.
Endeavour Historical Dagger for the best historical crime novel – David Young, Stasi Child (Twenty7Books), which is set in East Germany in the 1970s. Oberleutnant Karin Müller is summoned to the Berlin Wall to investigate the death of a girl who has apparently been shot trying to cross the wall… from the West.
Diamond Dagger for outstanding achievement – Peter James, the author of the much loved ‘Roy Grace’ series.
Further information about the shortlisted books and winners is available at the CWA website.
Oh, The Library Suicides sounds fantastic Mrs. P.! I really hope it comes this way. I agree with you, too, about the larger trend (anxiously awaiting the next Hinterland series). Thanks, too, for the CWA updates. Sounds as though it was a fantastic evening.
The Library Suicides was an absolutely cracking watch, Margot. Clearly made on quite a small budget, but so stylishly done. Highly recommend.
I wasn’t at the awards myself, but the pictures I saw coming out of it looked nice! Some very interesting US crime fiction on that list – and now added to the (tottering) TBR pile.
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The Library Suicides sounds right up my alley, thank you for the review! I wish sometimes that the US would follow the UK’s lead more and not be so subtitle-averse.
You’re welcome, Jeremy! It’s taken us a little while to get used to subtitles in the UK – and long may it last. Seeing international dramas in the original language is valuable in so many ways, and as long as the quality of the drama is good, viewers don’t seem to find the subtitles distract at all.
The Library Suicides does sound good. And I’m waiting for season two of Hinterland, Happy Valley and season three of Broadchurch to get to the States. I keep checking at Netflix and the library, but so far, to no avail.
I guess I’ll keep checking for Scandinavian dvd’s and Young Montalbano.
I looked at the CWA Awards list and while I’m glad Elly Griffiths won for her Ruth Galloway series, which I enjoy, she was the only woman to win. Out of 10 awards, it appears, only one was won by a woman.
What’s happening? I thought women mystery writers were getting more recognition.
I guess Sisters in Crime and other women crime writers and their organizations have to keep pushing. There are so many excellent women writers and they should be recognized.
I’m glad you brought the question of gender up, kathy d. I wasn’t completely surprised that there was only one CWA woman winner, because the shortlists were already low on female representation, or had none at all (e.g. the international dagger – and we had some discussion about this on the blog back in June – https://mrspeabodyinvestigates.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/summer-musings-on-walters-uk-hykanen-finland-and-the-visibility-of-women-in-crime-fiction-awards/). I think that organisations like Sisters in Crime and VIDA do need to keep up their good work, and will be keeping an eye on the CWA and other prize shortlists in future.
Yes, there was a good discussion in June. I just looked at it again as I was thinking about it. As you mentioned, there are excellent women writers out there. Your point out three: I can vouch for Kati Hiekkapelto and Claudia Piniero, haven’t read Karin Fossum’s works. There’s also Fred Vargas who is a genius, but I think she won the CWA International Dagger Award a number of times.
But I don’t get it.
Also, few nationalities and countries are represented on the winners’ list.
I hope it’s not “the more things change, the more they stay the same” syndrome.
Likewise, kathyd. The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year seems to be the real exception, with a number of recent women winners, and will hopefully help bring change.
In addition to women, I’d like to see writers from different countries and nationalities. Diversity. Representation of the real world.
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