…I’ve no idea. The only thing that can be virtually guaranteed is that my personal selection for best of the shortlisted novels for the UK Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award for translated crime fiction will not be the one chosen by the judges. ‘Cos I rarely get these things right. However having bothered to read all the shortlisted novels I feel I’m at least entitled to a few thoughts on the subject.
I’m actually not much of a follower of awards but when the shortlist for this particular award was announced I had already read two of the six books and had another two on my TBR shelves so I made a deliberate choice to read all six of the books prior to the announcement of the winner. At least then, I thought to myself, I can legitimately rant long and loud about how the judges got it wrong (not that I’m averse to doing this in other circumstances but having read all the possible winners would, I imagined, give my ranting some gravitas).
Alas, it is not to be.
You see the judges have made a great selection of titles for the shortlist. They are a disparate collection of sub-genres and writing styles but there is not a dud among them. Naturally there are ones I liked more than others but I simply cannot see myself moving into major rant mode even if my least preferred of the books were to take the title. For better or worse no matter how things turn out on 23 July we will not see a repeat of the month-long rant that followed the announcement of Peter Bloody Carey winning his second Booker Prize for the un-punctuated ramble that is True History of the Kelly Gang.
In fact I am quite glad that I am not judging this particular prize. It would of course be a great pleasure to crown the winner (whoever he might be) (the only dead cert is that it will be a he) (though it could in fact be a dead he and I don’t fancy crowning a corpse). But I think I might feel awful about letting down the other nominees. For heaven’s sake I’ve rated four of the six books 5 stars out of 5.
I do find it a little easier to knock out Andrea Camilleri’s August Heat (though the translation by Stephen Sartarelli might just be the best of the bunch, it is certainly exquisite) and Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas (translated by Emily Read) which I thought were both good but not great books. But when it comes to the remaining four I’m just about down to tossing a coin (assuming I can find a four-sided coin of course).
- I loved the conclusion to Stieg Larsson’s famous trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (translated by Reg Keeland), and even all these months after reading it I am warmed by the way it fiercely and proudly depicts strong female characters, shows a side to Sweden that most of us probably found surprising and gloried in the role that investigative journalism rarely plays but is so sorely needed these days.
- I cried (in a good way) upon finishing Arnaldur Indriðason’s Hypothermia (translated by Victoria Cribb). I found it a sad, beautiful and a totally compelling story that shows you don’t have to have 197 plot threads to make a great book
- Johan Theorin’s The Darkest Room (translated by Marlaine Delargy) was truly haunting (in a literal and figurative sense) and I still find myself thinking of the many absorbing characters including storm-battered island of Öland
- And finally there is Deon Meyer’s Thirteen Hours (translated by K L Seegers) which I only read this week but found to be a simply perfect example of its sub genre and the book most likely to be hurled at the next person to sneer at me that crime fiction isn’t proper literature.
In the end my personal favourite of these wonderful books is, by the width of a bee’s private parts (to misquote Monty Python), Hypothermia, though I have oscillated frequently on the subject and am only putting an opinion in writing because it would be churlish not to.
I’ve an idea it won’t win the award though.
If the award is for the best example of the genre then I’d be hard pressed not to plump for Thirteen Hours which does, I think, most perfectly encapsulate everything that is good about crime fiction (written first in English or not) in 2010.
I wonder though if The Girl Who… might not just take it out. It’s both a great book and one that has done much for crime fiction in general and translated crime fiction in particular. And I don’t think too many people would begrudge a win by what would be a sentimental favourite.
Any way it goes the award will be going to a deserving winner and I feel very grateful to all the authors and their splendid translators for providing me many happy hours of though-provoking entertainment.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
If you’ve not yet done so you can vote at Euro Crime (see the very top of the right hand side bar) for the book you want to win the award and again for the book you think will win the award.