The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award 2007
Winner: Ariana Franklin
Sponsors: The Estate of Ellis Peters and her publishers, the Headline Book Publishing Group and the Little, Brown Book Group.
Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death, published by Bantam Press, was the winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Award for 2007.
The winner was revealed at a party at Six Fitzroy Square, London W1, on Wednesday, November 7th. Our photo shows Ariana Franklin flanked by husband Barry Norman (left) and Mike Ripley. Ms Franklin’s prestigious prize includes £3000, sponsored by the Estate of Ellis Peters and her publishers, the Headline Book Publishing Group, and the Little, Brown Book Group.
In announcing Ms Franklin’s success, Chair of judges, Janet Laurence praised the exceptional high standard of this year’s entry, saying, “The judges are constantly delighted by the breadth and strength of the novels submitted.” She added that to be eligible for best historical crime novel, each entry had to be involved with the investigation of a crime; that it had to evoke, capture and transmit the flavour of the period in which it was set (any time up to 1970); have a very high standard of writing; and finally that it should grab the reader so that they hated to leave the story on the final page. Ms Laurence added, “All the books on the shortlist have these qualities.”
Ms Franklin, on receiving the award, modestly remarked that as she had been assured she wasn’t going to win, she had neglected to prepare a speech. “The opposition was so strong,” she said. “I’ve read every single one of them.” She thanked her husband, the film critic and writer, Barry Norman, her publisher and the sponsors of the award. “I’m so proud and so grateful.”
This year’s shortlist (details below) contained a wide-ranging selection, from Henry II’s England to postwar Munich and Tuscany, via the Victorian railways, and nineteenth century Istanbul and Canada. All are to be greatly enjoyed.
Mistress of the Art of Death
In Cambridge a child has been hideously murdered and other children have disappeared. The Jews, made scapegoats by the all-powerful Christian clergy, have been forced to retreat into the castle to avoid slaughter by angry townspeople.
Henry, King of England, is displeased. The Jews provide a large part of his revenue and therefore the real killer must be found, and quickly. A renowned investigator, Simon of Naples, is recruited and he arrives in town from the continent accompanied by an Arab and a young woman, Adelia Aguilar.
There are few female doctors in twelfth century Europe, but Adelia is one of them, having qualified at the great School of Medicine in Salerno. What’s more, her speciality is the study of corpses; she is, in fact, a mistress of the art of death, a skill that must be concealed in case she’s accused of witchcraft.
Adelia’s investigation takes her deep into Cambridge, its castle and convents and in a medieval city teeming with life, Adelia makes friends and even finds romance. And, fatally, the attention of a murderer who is prepared to kill again…
Ariana Franklin is the pseudonym of a well-known author of historical novels, Diana Norman, wife of the film critic Barry Norman. She is a former Fleet Street reporter and lives in Hertfordshire.
Ariana Franklin was born in Devon and, like her father, became a journalist. Having invaded Wales dressed in combat uniform with the Royal Marines for one of their military exercises, accompanied the Queen on a royal visit, missed her own twenty-first birthday party because she had to cover a murder, she married, almost inevitably, another journalist. At this point she decided that staying married was a good idea so she abandoned her career in national newspapers and has settled down in the country to bring up two daughters, study medieval history and write.
Mistress of the Art of Death is her first historical thriller.
‘Ariana Franklin has found a unique female protagonist, an Italian doctor trained in the study of death and brought to England as assistant to a renowned investigator charged by Henry II with the solving of murder. In this seductive book, characters leap into life, scenes form a closely woven and colourful tapestry, the central figure of Adelia, the mistress of the art of death, has an unusual charm, and the plot darkens as the story progresses.’
Other shortlisted books
This year’s shortlist contained a wide-ranging selection, from Henry II’s England to post-war Munich and Tuscany, via the Victorian railways, and nineteenth century Istanbul and Canada. All are to be greatly enjoyed. The other books on the shortlist, in alphabetical order by author, is as follows:
Jason Goodwin - THE SNAKE STONE - Faber and Faber
Philip Kerr - THE ONE FROM THE OTHER - Quercus
Andrew Martin - MURDER AT DEVIATION JUNCTION - Faber and Faber
Mark Mills, THE SAVAGE GARDEN, HarperCollins
Stef Penney - THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES - Quercus
The Snake Stone
Faber and Faber
‘‘A second outing for Jason Goodwin’s eunuch sleuth, now having to dedicate his talents to clearing his name from the accusation of murder in nineteenth century Istanbul. The loving evocation of the city, its food, architecture, ethnic diversity and rivalries, and the political unrest that seethes as the Sultan lies dying, provides a compelling backdrop to a tale that twists and turns, and involves a host of memorable characters, including a magnetic heroine. The climax in the city’s underground water system is thrilling.’’
The One From the Other
‘Philip Kerr’s German PI protagonist, Bernie Gunther, is working in 1949 Munich. This is a tale where nothing is what it seems on the surface, where the difficulty for Bernie is to distinguish one thing from another, whether it concerns war crimes, murder, dirty deals, or what the motives are for engaging his services. In a complex, multi-layered tale, characterisation, period atmosphere and the eventual unfolding of the facts all ring true and provide a satisfying whole.’
Murder at Deviation Junction
Faber and Faber
‘Another attractive mystery featuring the engagingly straight-forward pre-First World War railway detective, Jim Stringer. Andrew Martin marries together a cast of memorable and totally believable characters with a devious plot involving a secret society. Railways weave their own spell as lightly incorporated period detail assists in producing an absorbing crime novel that is peppered with atmospheric train journeys in the depths of winter.’
The Savage Garden
‘Post war Tuscany, a sixteenth century garden and a wartime killing are woven together in an atmospheric and psychologically involving novel. The mysteries of the garden, the tensions in the family Docci, the emerging personality of the Cambridge architectural student who teases out much more than the secrets of the historic garden, all combine in a compelling read from the author of the highly regarded THE WHALEBOAT HOUSE (originally published as AMANGANSETT).’
The Tenderness of Wolves
‘A marvellously evoked tale of murder and the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old boy into the icy wastes of Canada in the second half of the nineteenth century. The unlocking of the murder mystery involves the solving of past crimes as well as the present, explores the question of personal and ethnic identity, commercial corruption, parent/child relationships, greed, loyalty and love; major themes that the first-time author tackles with authority and imagination.’
Chair: Janet Laurence
Sir Bernard Ingham