Just in time for the season of snowflakes and reading under cosy blankets, here’s the 2020 Petrona Award shortlist!
Six outstanding crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been shortlisted for the 2020 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.
THE COURIER by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)
Kjell Ola Dahl made his debut in 1993, and has since published seventeen novels, most notably those in the ‘Gunnarstranda and Frølich’ police procedural series. In 2000, he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. In much the same way as Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason, Dahl explores the experience of the Second World War by moving away from the linear murder mystery to something far more searching and emotionally driven. The Courier is an intelligent and absorbing standalone that offers a perceptive and highly moving exploration of Scandinavian history. It traverses changing times and cultural norms, and traces the growing self-awareness of a truly memorable female protagonist.
INBORN by Thomas Enger, tr. Kari Dickson (Orenda Books; Norway)
Thomas Enger worked for many years for Norway’s first online newspaper, Nettavisen, and as an author is best-known for his five novels featuring the journalist-sleuth Henning Juul, one of which – Pierced – was shortlisted for the Petrona Award in 2013. He has also won prizes for his thrillers for young adults. Inborn, his first standalone novel to be translated into English, tells the story of a murder trial from the perspective of the seventeen-year-old defendant, and combines a gripping courtroom drama with a tender and intriguing portrait of Norwegian small-town life, and the secrets bubbling away beneath its surface.
THE CABIN by Jørn Lier Horst, tr. Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph; Norway)
Having previously worked as a police officer, Jørn Lier Horst has established himself as one of the most successful Scandinavian authors of the last twenty years. Horst’s previous ‘William Wisting’ novel, The Katharina Code, won the 2019 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel, as well as the Nordic Noir Thriller of the Year in 2018. The Cabin sees Chief Inspector Wisting juggling the demands of two testing cases, leading him into the path of an old adversary and plunging him into the criminal underworld. Horst has once again produced an impeccably crafted police procedural with a deft control of pace and tension.
THE SILVER ROAD by Stina Jackson, tr. Susan Beard (Corvus; Sweden)
The Silver Road is Stina Jackson’s highly accomplished debut. It has achieved remarkable success, winning the 2018 Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel, the 2019 Glass Key Award, and the 2019 Swedish Book of the Year Award. Set in northern Sweden, where Jackson herself grew up, the novel explores the aftermath of teenager Lina’s disappearance, and her father Lelle’s quest to find her by driving the length of the Silver Road under the midnight sun. Three years on, young Meja arrives in town: her navigation of adolescence and first-time love will lead her and Lelle’s paths to cross. The Silver Road is a haunting depiction of grief, longing and obsession, with lots of heart and a tremendous sense of place.
THE ABSOLUTION by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)
A full-time civil engineer as well as a prolific writer for both adults and children, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is one of Iceland’s best-selling and most garlanded crime novelists, and the winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for The Silence of the Sea. The Absolution is the third entry in her ‘Children’s House’ series, and features a very modern killer who targets teenagers with an MO involving Snapchat. This artfully plotted and thought-provoking book continues the series’ focus on the long-lasting impact of childhood trauma, with welcome light relief provided by the mismatched investigators, detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja.
LITTLE SIBERIA by Antti Tuomainen, tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)
Antti Tuomainen is a versatile crime writer, whose works draw on genres as varied as the dystopian thriller and comedy crime caper. His third novel, The Healer, won the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel in 2011 and he has been shortlisted for the Glass Key, Petrona and Last Laugh Awards, as well as the CWA Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger. Little Siberia, set in an icy northern Finland, opens with a bang when a meteorite unexpectedly lands on a speeding car. Transferred to the local museum for safe keeping, the valuable object is guarded from thieves by local priest Joel, who is grappling with both a marital crisis and a crisis of faith. Absurdist black humour is expertly combined with a warm, perceptive exploration of what it means to be human.
THE WINNER will be announced on Thursday 3 December 2020!
The judges’ comments on the shortlist:
There were 37 entries for the 2020 Petrona Award from six countries (Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). The novels were translated by 24 translators and submitted by 21 publishers/imprints. There were 13 female and 24 male authors.
This year’s Petrona Award shortlist sees Norway strongly represented with three novels; Finland, Iceland and Sweden each have one. The crime genres represented include the police procedural, historical crime, literary crime, comedy crime and thriller.
The Petrona Award judges selected the shortlist from a rich field. The six novels stand out for their writing, characterisation, plotting, and overall quality. They are original and inventive, often pushing the boundaries of genre conventions, and tackle highly complex subjects such as legacies of the past, mental health issues and the effects of grief. Three of the shortlisted titles explore the subject of criminality from an adolescent perspective.
We are extremely grateful to the six translators whose expertise and skill have allowed readers to access these gems of Scandinavian crime fiction, and to the publishers who continue to champion and support translated fiction.
The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his continued generous support of the Petrona Award. We would also like to thank Sarah Ward, who has now stood down from the judging panel, for her valuable contributions over many years. We wish her every success with her new Gothic thriller, The Quickening, published under the name Rhiannon Ward. We are delighted to have Jake Kerridge, The Daily Telegraph’s crime fiction critic, join the Petrona team as a guest judge for this year’s Award.
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.
Jackie Farrant – Crime fiction expert and creator of RAVEN CRIME READS; bookseller for eighteen years and a Regional Commercial Manager for a major book chain in the UK.
Kat Hall – Translator and editor; Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University; international crime fiction reviewer at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES.
Jake Kerridge – Journalist and literary critic. He has been the crime fiction reviewer of the Daily Telegraph since 2005 and has judged many crime and thriller prizes.
Karen Meek – owner of the EURO CRIME website, reviewer, former CWA judge for the International Dagger, and Library Assistant.