Frances Fyfield and Lesley Horton

Frances Fyfield wins the 2008 CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger

Frances Fyfield has won the 2008 Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the biggest crime writing prize in the world, for her book Blood From Stone, published by the Sphere imprint of Little, Brown.

The prize for the best crime novel of the year was presented by Peter Ostacchini, Deputy Managing Director of sponsor Duncan Lawrie Private Bank. As well as the dagger, Ms Fyfield was presented with a cheque for £20,000.

This year as last, the CWA and Duncan Lawrie Dagger Awards were presented at a black tie dinner at the elegant Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane in London, in the presence of the guest of honour Gyles Brandreth. The event began with a drinks reception at 6:30pm, followed by dinner in the ballroom at 7:45pm, before the winners were announced.

Judges’ comments: ‘A subtle and elegantly written exploration of contemporary themes. The mystery behind the death of a troublesome female barrister is explored in ways that illuminate the dark corners of life in Britain today, while detailed attention to costume and dress as aspects of identity resonates with insights into the fabric of society.’

Blood From Stone

Synopsis: Marianne Shearer is at the height of her career, a dauntingly successful barrister, respected by her peers and revered by her clients. So why has she killed herself? Her latest case had again resulted in an acquittal, though the outcome was principally due to the death of the prime witness after Marianne's forceful cross-examination. Had this wholly professional and unemotional lawyer been struck by guilt or uncertainty, or is there some secret to be discovered in her blandly comfortable private life? Her death reveals a paucity of friends, a grasping brother and a tenacious colleague, Peter Friel, who is determined to find out if that last trial held the reason for her taking her own life. The transcript holds intriguing clues, but it is another witness at the trial who holds the key to the truth and she is far from sure that she can reveal her secrets without releasing even more deceit and destruction.

Frances Fyfield grew up in rural Derbyshire, but her adult life has been spent mostly in London, with long intervals in Norfolk and Deal. She studied English and went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, and thus learning a bit about murder at second hand. The law and its ramifications still haunt her and inform many of her novels. Ms Fyfield is a novelist, short story writer for magazines and radio, sometime Radio 4 contributor, (Front Row, Quote Unquote, Night Waves,) and presenter of Tales from the Stave. Her work is widely translated and several of her books have been televised. She is the winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger in 1991 for Deep Sleep and the Prix de Litterature Policière in France.

Asked for her reaction to winning the Duncan Lawrie Dagger, she said: “My reaction? There was nothing cool, calm or collected about it. It made me insanely happy, banished the blues, and I'd just like to say thank you from the bottom of my little black heart.”


The other books on the shortlist were:

James Lee BurkeThe Tin Roof BlowdownOrion
Colin CotterillCoroner's LunchQuercus
Steve HamiltonNight WorkOrion
Laura LippmanWhat the Dead KnowOrion
RN MorrisA Vengeful LongingFaber & Faber

Overall the judges commented: ‘The entries at the top end were very strong, and we had to struggle to narrow down to a shortlist. The longlist was impressively disparate; entries covered a remarkable range of areas in terms of location and themes, and some of the best had a notable critical take on contemporary society. No longer is crime fiction anchored firmly in the libraries of stately homes.’

Follow the link for more details about those shortlisted books, and why the judges chose them:


Richard Reynolds (Chair) - organiser of regular events for readers of crime fiction at Heffers in Cambridge, including the annual Bodies in the Bookshop, and expert in crime fiction.

Heather O'Donoghue - academic, crime fiction reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement, and keen reader of all crime fiction.

Barry Forshaw - reviewer, editor of Crime Time magazine, and editor of British Crime Writing: An Encyclopaedia.

Margaret Kinsman - course director for BA English Studies at London South Bank University.

Dr Ann Ferguson FRCA DHMSA - retired consultant anaesthetist, now working in medical history.

Stephen Pound MP - Member of Parliament for Ealing North and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions.

David Wilkerson - Business Manager at The British Library Bookshop with thirty years in bookselling, an avid reader of crime thrillers.