And the winner of the 2010 International Dagger Award is …….

The Darkest Room_thumbThe first set of winners of the 2010 CWA Daggers were announced this evening at a ceremony at the The Crown Hotel, Harrogate during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Johan Theorin has won the CWA International Dagger with The Darkest Room, translated by Marlaine Delargy. Congratulations to Maxine and Norman for forecasting the winner.

You can read my post on The Darkest Room here.

Badfellas by Tonino Benacquista


Benacquista, T. Badfellas. Bitter Lemon Press (2010) Original Title: Malavita (2004). Translated by Emily Read. 285 pages. ISBN: 978-1-904738-43-5.

This is the sixth book I have read from the 2010 CWA International Dagger Award shortlist.

Under cover of darkness, an American family moves as discreetly as possible into a villa in Cholonge-sur-Avre, Normandy. Fred Blake, the father, claims that he is a writer after finding an old typewriter and that he has been commissioned to write about the Landing. The mother, Maggie, helps out with local charities. Their teenage children, Belle and Warren, manage to find their way to school, you meet more and more shapes with satchels going the same way, until all plunge into a sort of black hole. It’s a law of physics.

However the proliferation of some bizarre events makes suspect the installation of these new neighbours. A plumber who angers Fred with delays and exorbitant estimates falls down the stairs and breaks both arms. The manager of the local supermarket insults Maggie behind her back and that afternoon his supermarket burns down. Belle manage to get rid of two boys. One ended up with a bleeding nose, the other almost lost an ear. Warren starts a gang in school to intimidate and extort other pupils.

The reader gradually discovers that Fred Blake is actually Giovanni Manzoni, an ex-Mafia boss who is now part of the FBI’s  Witness Protection Programme. His record in other locations would indicate that this cover is not likely to last very long.

This is a black comedy, an hilarious satire. I found Badfellas very funny, full of black humour. The characters in the book are very well developed and they look pretty credible. Nothing is what it seems. Appearances are deceptive. Even the dog in the book’s cover is not an Australian Cattle Dog as stated in a note from the publishers. A light read but quite entertaining.

Tonino Benacquista, born in France in 1961 of Italian immigrants, dropped out of film studies to finance his writing career. After being, in turn, a museum night-watchman, a train guard on the Paris-Rome line and a professional parasite on the Paris cocktail circuit, he is now a highly successful author of novels and film scripts. Benacquista won a Cesar in 2006 for the script of Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Benacquista was introduced to English-speaking readers by Bitter Lemon Press with Holy Smoke, a darkly comic crime novel set in Paris and southern Italy. This critically acclaimed title was soon followed by the bestseller Someone Else and Framed, a satirical mystery novel set in the world of Parisian art galleries.

Bitter Lemon Press

Malavita, Traducción de José Luis Sánchez-Silva (Editorial Lengua de Trapo) in Spanish.

Tonino Benacquista website (in French)

Badfellas has been reviewed by Maxine at Petrona, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Karen at Euro Crime, Norman at Crime Scraps, Rob at The View from the Blue House, Nancy at Crime Segments, Reviewing the Evidence.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

13_hours_uk Meyer, D. Thirteen Hours. Translated from Afrikaans by K. L. Seegers. Hodder and Stoughton 2010. 412 pages. ISBN 978-0-340-95359-4.

This is the fifth book I have read from the 2010 CWA International Dagger Award shortlist.

Set in Cape Town Thirteen Hours tells the story of a real time persecution. Rachel Anderson, a young American backpacker, is running to save her live. She saw how her travelling friend was murdered, she does not trust the police and the killers are behind her. But the reason for this will remain hidden during most part of the book.

The main character, Detective Benny Griessel, ought to be grateful for not having been posted to a station like most of his colleagues. He still has a job after twenty-five years in the Force. He has also a past history of drinking and his wife has kicked him out of the house, although he is looking forward to meet her at the end of the day after being sober for one hundred and fifty-six days.

Following to the dissolution of the Serious and Violent Crime Unit, Griessel is now a ‘mentor’ to a group of young black and mixed race police detectives in the Provincial Task Force. None of them very enthusiastic with the exception of Vusi Ndabeni and one, Fransman Dekker, openly antagonistic.

Griessel has to oversee the case of the young American tourist killed while trying to find Rachel Anderson as he had promised to her father. At the same time another body has been found, Adam Barnard, a prominent record producer with an alcoholic wife, the ex-singer Alexandra Barnard, has been murdered….

Thirteen Hours is a fast paced thriller, very well crafted. It has a brilliant and intelligent plot with well drawn characters and a great sense of place. We are introduced to some insights into present day South Africa, an additional bonus. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. A very pleasant read. For me another strong candidate to win the 2010 International Dagger Award. I have Devil’s Peak in my TBR pile and can hardly wait to start reading it.

Deon Meyer was born in the South African town of Paarl in the wine region of the Western Cape in 1958, and grew up in Klerksdorp, in the gold mining region of Northwest Provence. He has worked as press liaison, advertising copywriter, creative director, web manager, Internet strategist, and brand consultant. In 1994 he published his first Afrikaans novel, which has not been translated, “simply because it was not good enough to compete on the international market. However, it was a wonderful learning experience“. Thirteen Hours is his sixth book translated into English.

For additional information see Deon Meyer’s website

Thirteen Hours has been reviewed at Euro Crime, International Noir Fiction, Crime Scraps, Mysteries in Paradise, Reactions to Reading, Material Witness, Reviewing the Evidence, The Complete Review.

Dame Ngaio Marsh Award

Kiwi Thanks to Craig Sisterson’s  excellent blog Crime Watch I’m starting to know more about crime fiction writers in New Zealand. I wish I have his capacity to carry out a similar task for Spanish crime fiction, covering Spain and Latin-American countries.

I’m planning to read more Kiwi crime fiction in the coming months. These titles are a good place to start. Burial by Neil Cross. Cut and Run by Alix Bosco. Access Road by Maurice Gee. Bold Blood by Lindy Kelly. Containment by Vanda Symon. So far I have read only one book, Overkill by Vanda Symon and I have Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave in my TBR pile; my third Australasia book for the Global Reading Challenge.

Thanks to Craig entrepreneurial skills New Zealand has recently created a new crime fiction Award name after Dame Ngaio Marsh. The winner will be announced on Friday September 10 at Christchurch Writers Festival.

Please also note that following to my previous post (amended) Craig Sisterson sent the following clarification note:

Just one small point of clarification – the books in the photo aren’t the officially shortlist – they’re more of an unofficial longlist of books the international judges were considering (the Kiwi judges may have read some others as well, like Michael Green’s BLOOD BOND and Dorothy Fowler’s WHAT REMAINS BEHIND etc)… there will be an official 3-book shortlist announced in the leadup to the festival. It would be great if you could just amend your post slightly so there isn’t any confusion… because not all of those books will be on the official shortlist…

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason

HypothermiaHypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason. Translated by Victoria Cribb. Original title Harðskafi (2007). Harvill Secker, 2009. 314 pages. ISBN 978-1-846-55262-5

This is the sixth instalment featuring Detective Erlandur published in English, although it is actually the eight in the series and it can be read as a stand alone book. The first two books have not been translated yet.

This is also the fourth book I read out of the six books shortlisted for the 2010 CWA International Dagger Award.

Hypothermia opens with what seems, at first sight, a straightforward case of suicide. A woman is found hanging from a beam in her summer cottage by Lake Thingvallavatn. Maria, the woman, had never recovered from the loss of her mother two years earlier and had a history of depression. But when Karen, the friend who found her body, gives Erlendur a tape of a séance that Maria attended, it casts some doubts about her tragic ending and Erlendur engages into a private investigation due to lack of evidence.

At the same time, Erlendur takes up two missing-person cases shelved long time ago. One concerns a young man that walked out of his parents’ house in 1976 and had never been heard from again. The other one involves a young girl, but it was impossible to tell exactly when she disappeared. Inevitably they both raise ghosts from Erlendur’s own past. His young brother disappeared during a blizzard a long time ago.

Although this book has a relatively simple plot it is superbly constructed and it is full of layers as indicated by Maxine at Euro Crime.  It is sad story, but in spite of its sadness it is not depressing as pointed out by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading. I find it very difficult to explain why I like this book so much. Maybe because this is a book about sentiments and emotions. Sentiments and emotions are always very difficult to explain. All in all a fascinating book that makes a fascinating read. For me it is a very strong candidate to win the CWA International Dagger Award this year and, without question, one of the best books that I have also read this year. Indispensable. A must read.

Arnaldur’s books have been published in 26 countries and have been translated into German, Danish, English, Italian, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Arnaldur received the Glass Key award, a literature prize for the best Nordic crime novel, in 2002 and 2003. He won the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for the novel Silence of the Grave and Arctic Chill was shortlisted last year for the CWA International Dagger. He has published ten books so far in his Detective Erlendur series:

Synir duftsins, 1997 (Sons of Dust)
Dauðarósir, 1998 (Silent Kill)
Mýrin, 2000 (Tainted Blood, aka Jar City, 2004)
Grafarþögn, 2001 (Silence of the Grave, 2005)
Röddin, 2003 (Voices, 2006)
Kleifarvatn, 2004 (The Draining Lake, 2007)
Vetrarborgin, 2005 (Arctic Chill, 2008)
Harðskafi, 2007 (Hypothermia, 2009)
Myrká, 2008
Svörtuloft, 2009

See also reviews by Crime Scraps, Reactions to Reading, Maxine at Euro Crime, Mysteries in Paradise, International Noir Fiction, Irresistible Targets, Reviewing the Evidence.

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