Friday night (well Saturday morning my time) at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate the winner of the CWA International Dagger award for 2011 will be announced.
Of the seven shortlisted novels I have read six (but ran out of puff for the seventh) and definitely have my favourites though I am almost reluctant to speculate on a winner given my notoriously poor form with such matters. Though perhaps it is a smidgen narcissistic to believe that my actions could have a negative outcome on the results?
The six books I have read (in order) are
- ^ Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Börge HellstrÖm, translated by Kari Dickson (Sweden). Frankly I thought this a (long) yawn of a book seriously in need of an edit and a dose of character depth.
- * Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, translated by Jethro Sautar (Argentina). This couldn’t have been more different: a sharp, snappy and compelling tale which brought to life a dark part of Argentina’s recent history.
- An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas translated by Sian Reynolds (France). A book brimming with intellectual games and character quirks that I grew tired of long before the end.
- River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell (Italy). Brimming with atmosphere of its flooding river valley and containing a compelling crime tale, though lacking a little in character development.
- * The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Italy). Implausible but nevertheless compelling set pieces, the seriousness with which the protagonist treats lunch and the brilliant depiction of local life and customs are a welcome treat.
- * Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, translated by Sonia Soto (Spain). Without any of the violence or junk-science common to so many procedurals and brimming with warm characters and an inviting atmosphere this book has a great story and, if only fleetingly, makes you feel like you’ve had a holiday in Spain. Delicious reading.
So….there are three books (marked with *) that I would be happy to see win the award and only one that I would genuinely grizzle about if it were to win (marked with ^). Until two days ago I was madly hoping for a win by Needle in a Haystack but having finished Death on a Galician Shore this week there’s now stiff competition in my heart. On balance though I think Needle offers a more well-rounded reading experience through tackling some weightier issues and being more tightly written. So I’m still crossing my fingers for a win by Mr Mallo and hope this hasn’t put the mockers on his chances. Of course Jean-François Parot’s The Saint-Florentin Murders, which I didn’t get around to reading, might be the best of them all and if it wins I’ll have to accept that the judges knew best, though it probably won’t stop me taking issue with them
I am a little disappointed in this year’s shortlist as it doesn’t quite live up to the high quality of last year’s and I can think of a book or two that I’d have rather seen included (in particular Shuichi Yoshida’s Villain (Japan) and Liza Marklund’s Red Wolf (which even if it isn’t her best work is vastly superior to Three Seconds in my humble opinion). But I’m still genuinely thrilled that there is such a depth of translated crime fiction on offer to us pathetically monolingual readers and applaud the CWA for acknowledging this under-appreciated aspect of fiction which (hopefully) helps to ensure we will have more translations in the future.