CrimeFest 2019: Crime Cymru, Nordic Noir & The Petrona Award winner!

The sun shone for almost all of CrimeFest this year, helping to smooth our transition to the convention’s new home at The Grand in Broad Street, Bristol.

As ever, the entire festival was wonderful – thank you Adrian and Donna! Here are a few of my highlights.

The Crime Cymru panel: ‘It’s not all Rugby, Sheep and Singing’

This was such a special panel – the very first dedicated to Welsh crime writing at CrimeFest. Authors Cathy Ace, Rosie Claverton, Alis Hawkins and John Lincoln were in discussion with G.B. Williams, and explored everything from how the Crime Cymru collective came about, to the richness of Welsh settings (gritty urban Cardiff; the rural Teifi Valley), and the Welsh concept of ‘hiraeth’ or ‘longing for home’ – which Swansea-born Cathy particularly relates to as a Crime Cymru writer based in Canada. The panellists have produced an impressively varied body of crime fiction between them – offbeat P.I. novels, cosy crime, historical crime, true crime, cold case investigations – demonstrating that Welsh crime fiction is in rude health.

The ‘Scandi is Dandy’ panel took the ‘dandy’ bit to heart – especially Jørn Lier Horst, who turned up in a truly arresting Norwegian jacket. He’s pictured here on the right, if you hadn’t guessed, with Finnish fellow panellist Antii Tuomainen (bedecked in paisley), and the more soberly attired Norwegian crime writer Gunnar Staalesen sandwiched in the middle (who like Jørn was shortlisted for the 2019 Petrona Award).

The ‘Nordic’ panels are always great, and moderator Kevin Wignall helped to bring out plenty of light and shade in the course of the discussion. Jørn revealed that the starting points for The Katharina Code were a cold case he’d worked on and the question ‘what’s it like to be a murderer trying to lead an ordinary life?’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Antii discussed how a desire to push themselves as writers had led to a change of series and subgenre respectively. They all had high praise for the talented translators who made it possible for their works to be read in the English-speaking world: Anne Bruce (Jørn), Vicky Cribb (Yrsa) and David Hackston, whose musicality Antii felt helped hone his deft translations.

As a Petrona judge, a clear highlight for me was the announcement of the seventh Petrona Award winner at the Gala Dinner – Jørn Lier Horst for The Katharina Code, translated by Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph). Jørn is the first writer to have won the award twice (+ The Caveman in 2016).

Here’s what we judges had to say about the winning novel: 

THE KATHARINA CODE is a twenty-year-old mystery and failure of justice that haunts its investigator. From the code’s intriguing introduction in the novel’s opening pages to the duel of wits at its end, Jørn Lier Horst has crafted an outstanding and thrilling police procedural. The judges were particularly impressed with how the author takes established tropes – the ‘cold case’, the longstanding suspect, the dogged nature of police work – and combines them in ways that are innovative and fresh. THE KATHARINA CODE is the seventh novel in Horst’s ‘William Wisting’ series to be superbly translated by Anne Bruce from Norwegian into English, and is a highly worthy winner of the 2019 Petrona Award.

You can read more over at the Petrona website – and see the entire shortlist of six novels from Norway, Denmark and Iceland:

Jorn with the Petrona Award team and Kristin from the Norwegian Embassy.


I have to confess that I attended less panels this year than I normally do. This was partly because I only managed to get to CrimeFest on Friday afternoon, and partly because I really wanted to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in ages. So often you cross paths with someone as you’re going in or out of a panel and say, ‘let’s meet up later’… and then somehow it doesn’t happen. This year I caught up properly with some dear crime buddies including Anya Lipska, Quentin Bates, Louise Mangos, Marina Sofia, Jackie Collins, Ewa Sherman, Tana Collins, Ayo Onatade, Ali Karim, Sarah Ward, Karen Meek, Raven (that G&T was *really* good), and someone I hadn’t seen in over 30 years – it’s a small world Mick Finlay!

Criminally good friendships – what more could we want?

21 thoughts on “CrimeFest 2019: Crime Cymru, Nordic Noir & The Petrona Award winner!

  1. Sounds like a lovely time, Mrs. P.! I’m so very glad you were able to be there. And thanks for sharing the great ‘photos.

    • It was a dreamy couple of days, Margot! Lovely to be away from work and in that gorgeous crime bubble with so many lovely people. I still have that dream that we will find ourselves at the same crime convention one day… Kisses across the pond xxx

  2. Damn, but you’ve made me wish I coulda been there. Aside from the fact that the con itself sounds to have been tremendous fun, and the attendees likewise, I have many happy memories of Bristol and would have taken the chance of an extra day or two just to wander around revisiting old haunts. *sigh*

    • Next time, perhaps? Bristol’s such a great place – though I don’t get to see as much of it as I’d like during CrimeFest, as there’s so much to do at the convention itself. But an old favourite is a visit to the Bristol Cathedral cafe and ‘secret garden’. It’s a magical place. If you haven’t been, put it on your list.

  3. A fantastic festival as always. met new and brilliant people, yourself included of course. Great panels. Had a brilliant time and looking forward to next year.

    • It was great to meet you, Stuart. That’s one of the things I really love about CrimeFest too – you always end up having interesting conversations and meeting great people 🙂 See you next year if not before!

  4. Morning Mrs P. It’s always nice to catch up with people you haven’t seen for a long time. I’ve just recently met up with someone I used to go to keep fit classes with, a very long time ago. Our jaws ached with laughter. Anyway I digress. It looks like you had a great time at CrimeFest, and yes, Jorn Lier Horst’s jacket was certainly um, bold 😊. Will be picking up The Katharina Code soon as. BTW, I’ve just finished reading Your Nearest Brexit. Brilliant and really funny. Have you anything else in the pipeline?

    • That sounds like an excellent reunion, Kathy P! I hope you enjoy The Katharina Code – thankfully Horst’s writing style is significantly more sober than his jacket.

      Bless you for reading ‘Your Nearest Brexit’, and I’m so glad it made you laugh. I do have another one in the pipeline, but haven’t managed to finish it yet (life has intervened). I’ll let you know if and when it appears 🙂

  5. It looks like a great time was had by all. Glad to see the Welsh authors had a panel. Who is it who writes the p.i. novels and the cold cash investigations? And if I were Welsh, I would miss the country so much. It is beautiful.
    Glad that the Petrona Award worked out well. I only read the Staalesen book, which was very good, and shows that a male writer can understand crimes against women and have compassion.
    I have two of the other books from the library and will buy Horst’s.
    So glad you all look like you’re having a great time.

    • Morning, Kathy D! The Welsh panel was really great. The Crime Cymru collective hasn’t been running that long, but they’ve really managed to put Welsh crime writing on the map. The PI novels are by Rosie Claverton: her novels feature an off-beat detective duo – Amy Lane, an agoraphobic hacker, and sidekick Jason – and the first novel in the series is called Binary Witness. The cold case novel is by John Lincoln: Fade to Grey features Gethin Grey’s Last Resort Legals team, which investigates miscarriages of justice. Not read that one, but like the sound of it.

      Pleased to hear that you liked Big Sister – and totally agree with your comments – and I hope you enjoy the others!

  6. I have to get those cold case and p.i. novels, but the lists just pile up like rabbits. And so do the books.
    I’m reading The Ice Swimmer and The Katharina Code, which I had to buy, arrived. I read the Staalesen and
    will read more of his. Oh, to be home in air/conditioning with iced tea and frozen yogurt and a stack of
    books with no tasks ahead. My staycation here.

  7. The Ice Swimmer is very good. Dahl will become a frequently read author here. So that and Big Sister have been read. Four to go. Wonder how that will go. Swimmingly, I suppose.

    • Oh very nice – love that pun! Glad you liked The Ice Swimmer – a really good, complex female protagonist leading the way in that one.

  8. Hated The Darkness, one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. I now have to read a comedy to get over
    it. I knew what was going to happen and had dread for many pages. Maybe that is a plus for Nordic Noir, but
    not for this usually optimistic person.
    I hope The Katharina Code will pull me out of the doldrums.

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