The 2017 Petrona Award shortlist

Here we go!!!

Six outstanding crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have made the shortlist for the 2017 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, which is announced today. They are… *drumroll*

THE EXILED by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

Finnish police detective Anna Fekete returns to the Serbian village of her birth for a holiday, but is pulled into an investigation that throws up questions about her own father’s death decades earlier. As well as exploring the complexities of Fekete’s identity as a Hungarian Serb who has made her life in Finland, this accomplished novel looks with insight and compassion at the discrimination faced by Roma people, and the lot of refugees migrating through Europe.

THE DYING DETECTIVE by Leif G.W. Persson tr. Neil Smith (Doubleday; Sweden)

Lars Martin Johansson, a retired Swedish Police Chief, suffers a stroke after a lifetime of unhealthy excess. Frustrated by his physical limitations and slow recovery, he is drawn into investigating a cold case, the murder of nine-year-old Yasmine Ermegan in 1985. Expertly plotted and highly gripping, The Dying Detective features characters from a number of other crime novels by the author, but succeeds brilliantly as a standalone in its own right. You can read Mrs Peabody’s review here.

THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books, Norway)

Former TV presenter Allis takes up the post of housekeeper and gardener at a house on a remote fjord. But her employer is not the old man she was expecting, and the whereabouts of his wife are tantalisingly unclear. Isolated from other villagers, Allis and Sigurd’s relationship becomes progressively more claustrophobic and tense. A haunting psychological thriller and study in obsession that is perfectly complemented by the author’s beautiful, spare prose.

WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton, Iceland)

Yrsa Sigurđardóttir is as adroit a manufacturer of suspense as any writer in the Nordic Noir genre, as this standalone thriller comprehensively proves. Why Did You Lie? skilfully interweaves the stories of a policewoman whose husband has committed suicide, a work group stranded by hostile weather on a remote lighthouse, and a family whose American guests go missing. A compelling exploration of guilt and retribution, which builds to a nerve-jangling finale.

WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books, Norway)

Grieving private detective Varg Veum is pushed to his limits when he takes on a cold case involving the disappearance of a small girl in 1977. As the legal expiry date for the crime draws near, Veum’s investigation uncovers intriguing suburban secrets. In what may well be the most accomplished novel in a remarkable series, the author continues to work in a traditional US-style genre, but with abrasive Scandi-crime social commentary very much in evidence.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB by Kjell Westö tr. Neil Smith (MacLehose Press, Finland)

This multilayered novel tells the story of how a crime is triggered following the chance meeting of two people in a lawyer’s office. While the narrative can be seen as a tragic individual story, it also takes on larger historical dimensions as it unfolds. Set in Helsinki in 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, The Wednesday Club offers an insightful exploration into the legacy of the Finnish Civil War, and the rise of German and Finnish fascism in the present. You can read Mrs. Peabody’s review here.

Congratulations to all the authors, translators and publishers!

The Petrona judges – Barry Forshaw, Sarah Ward and myself – had the following to say about the shortlist: 

“It was difficult to choose just six crime novels for the Petrona Award shortlist this year, given the number of truly excellent submissions from around the Scandinavian world. Our 2017 Petrona Award shortlist testifies to the extremely high quality of translated Scandi crime, with authors from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden making expert use of police investigations, psychological thrillers, private eye novels and historical crime fiction both to entertain and to explore pertinent social, political and historical issues. We are extremely grateful to the translators for their skill and expertise in bringing us these outstanding examples of Scandinavian crime fiction.”

The Petrona 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 winning title will be announced at the Gala Dinner on 20 May during CrimeFest, held in Bristol 18-21 May 2017.

The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his generous support of the 2017 Petrona Award. Enormous thanks too to Karen Meek (aka Euro Crime), for all of her excellent organisational work throughout the year!

For further information about the Petrona Award, see

23 thoughts on “The 2017 Petrona Award shortlist

  1. How exciting! All of these are most worthy contenders. I don’t envy the judging panel having to choose!

  2. I’ve always been meaning to read Kati Hiekkapelto and I have that one so I’ll make sure to read it. I have a few others in the pile and a few I need to look up. THE DYING DETECTIVE hasn’t made it here yet. Do you recommend that series by Leif G.W. Persson? Can his books standalone? Thanks, Mrs. P.

    • Hi Keishon – I love all of Persson’s novels, but I know that some people prefer some of them more than others. You can definitely read The Dying Detective as a standalone (the main protagonist does appear in earlier novels, but TDD does not rely on you knowing that). The other one I’d recommend as a starting point is ‘Linda, as in the Linda Murder’, which actually won the Petrona a few years back. I reviewed it on the blog.

      Hope you enjoy the others on the shortlist!

    • Thanks, Raven! It’s going to be a tough decision, but it’s also lovely to have such a strong shortlist to choose from. All will be revealed on 20 May! 😀

  3. Morning Mrs P. I think my two favourites would be Why did you Lie, and The Wednesday Club.
    What a decision to be made though. Good luck!

  4. Well, this is an impressive list with several titles on my TBR list and one of them sitting on a table waiting for me to pick it up. Life, work, tasks keep interfering with my reading plans.
    And I’d made a New Year’s resolution to read some terrific non-criminal fiction. I have read one such book, Swing Time by Zadie Smith a good read. I like writing and brilliance.
    But this is such a tempting list. (sigh)

  5. Yes, I caved into temptation to read Susie Steiner’s “Missing, Presumed,” worth reading.
    A question on Sigurdardottir’s book. Is it depressing?
    I had such a hard time with “The Silence of the Sea,” and was tempted not to read more of her books.
    Also, does The Wednesday Club go into a lot of Nazi atrocities, not a topic I want to know more about.

    • Hello kathy d – Yrsa’s books do thrill and chill, but I don’t thing anything could top the ending of Sea, which stayed with me for days…

      The Wednesday Club is set in Finland and one focus (of many) is on the rise of anti-Semitism in Finland and Germany – the approaching storm rather than the storm itself. The bits about the Finnish Civil War are quite hard-hitting in places though.

      Hope that helps!

      • I might add that Jews were not persecuted in Finland, neither before nor during WWII, and several of them served in the Finnish military as soldiers, officers and female volunteers.

        Finns in general were not really interested in Nazism (or anti-Semitism), though the interest was probably more common among the Swedish speaking elite (most of the Finnish Jews also spoke Swedish), some of whom also thought that Finnish speaking Finns were racially inferior to them, as well (more or less like the Nazis, Finns only became “honorary Aryans” after the success in the Winter War). (They were called the Svecomans, and there is even an award named after their spiritual father, Axel Olof Freudenthal, awarded the last time in 2007…) During the 1930’s Finns were still fighting for the right to study in Finnish at the university, in a country where 90 % spoke Finnish as their native language, so the Finnish speaking “intelligentsia” was still quite small. One also has to remember that the ethnic persecution against ethnic Finns in the Soviet Union, Ingrians and Karelians, was already quite well known, the mass deportations from Ingria to forced labour camps (where most perished) had already started in 1929 and the height of Stalin’s Purges was from 1936 to 1938 when also thousands of ethnic Finns were executed, especially in Karelia. This is usually forgotten in Western Europe but Finns at the time were very aware of the danger Stalin’s Soviet Union posed to them (the one eventually suffered by the Baltic States), so the future choice between the USSR and Germany was very simple.

        P.S. Finland isn’t a Scandinavian country, and neither is Iceland, only Norway, Denmark and Sweden belong to Scandinavia. When referring to all five of them, “the Nordic countries” is used.

      • Thanks very much for your comment, MsTi. That Jewish Quarterly article you link to is fascinating, and adds an extra layer of complexity to an already complex area of Finnish history.

        I’m assuming from the detailed nature of your comment that you’re Finnish (apologies if I’ve got this wrong). If so, do you happen to know whether the publication of The Wednesday Club generated much discussion or any controversy in Finland? In terms of the novel’s treatment of anti-Semitism, the main focus is the 1938 Abraham Tokazier race scandal (which appears in a lightly fictionalised form). But it also focuses extensively on the complex legacy of the Finnish Civil War, which I really appreciated, because it’s an area of history I know very little about. What did you think of the novel yourself?

        Thanks for your note on terminology. For the purposes of the prize, we use the word Scandinavian because it’s the one that English-speaking crime readers will instantly recognise and associate with crime fiction from all the Nordic countries (‘Scandinavian’ is the shorthand term often used by publishers in their marketing).

      • Yes, I am Finnish but I haven’t yet read the novel. And no, I don’t remember much/any controversy. There was something written about the race and he was then proclaimed the winner but that’s about it. Most Finns had nothing to do with it and probably had never even heard about the race at the time, so no discussion arose. There are and were bigger and worse things in the Finnish society and history. Also the Civil War has been covered in many ways over the last century, so nothing is really new about that, either, even Westö’s earlier novel covered more about the subject. (“Where we once walked”, a trailer for the movie:

        In any case Nazism and anti-semitism in general were much stronger in other countries, anti-Communism was much bigger issue in Finland, and probably not without a reason… (For example Finland took in Jewish refugees in 1938 when countries like Cuba and USA refused them, not that many, but on the other hand Finland was a small and poor country and barely able to feed her own citizens, and there were also refugees from Russia/the USSR.)

  6. Yes. It helps. The library doesn’t have it so that may answer my question about whether to read it. It has some, but not all of the Petrona nominees. I have The Exiled, and I love the Anna Fegete series, but it seems as if the print has shrunk! Or I need new glasses, so it may have to wait a bit. (Aging eyes.)

  7. Just read “Where Roses Never Die,” and liked it. I’m late to reading Staalesen’s books, but I can see why Maxine
    Clarke liked his books. Will read more if I can fit them in. The TBR lists keep expanding out of control.

    • Yay! Really glad you liked it, kathy d. It’s one of those ones where I thought I knew where it was going, and it then it surprised me. I keep meaning to go back to the beginning of the series, but I know what you mean about that ever expanding TBR pile…

  8. Pingback: CrimeFest 2017: Krimi panel, Petrona Award, American Noir, and Icelandic Queens of Crime | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

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