Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer wins the CWA Gold Dagger 2010

quote It was a thrill just to be shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for my first novel, let alone to win. Blacklands is a small, simple book and I'm still stunned and delighted that it seems to have struck a chord with so many people. unquote

First time novellist Belinda Bauer has won the 2010 CWA Gold Dagger and the prize of £2,500 for Blacklands, published by Corgi. The announcement was made at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on October 8th, where our photo was taken. The Awards ceremony was screened on ITV3 the following week.

The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement. The Gold Dagger is the year’s top award, for the best crime novel, originally written in English, by an author of any nationality, and published in the UK in the year to 31 May. The judges summarised why they chose Blacklands: “A Dysfunctional family, emotional turmoil, adolescent angst and a psychopathic paedophile in a riveting psychological suspense debut that demands a one-sitting read.”

Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter and her script The Locker Room earned her the Carl Foreman/ Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters. She learned about the CWA’s Debut Dagger competition from Mslexia magazine and entered Blacklands where it was highly commended in 2008.

Agents then vied to represent her. She chose Jane Gregory who almost immediately sold the book for a “very big” amount to Transworld, who published it to critical acclaim. Blacklands was selected as a TV Book Club choice in 2010:

The other three finalists were:
Blood Harvest, S J Bolton (Bantam Press)
The Way Home, George Pelecanos (Orion)
Shadowplay, Karen Campbell (Hodder & Stoughton)

These books were chosen from the eight books shortlisted on July 23rd. CWA Chairman Tom Harper said then: “The CWA Dagger Awards have always enjoyed huge prestige among crime fiction fans and authors. The shortlists this year are incredibly strong, from exciting new talents to established masters, all working at the top of their game.”

Photo credit: Belinda Bauer © 2010 Fiona Davies



Belinda Bauer


Synopsis: THE BOY WANTED THE TRUTH. THE KILLER WANTED TO PLAY… Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school and at weekends, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven digs to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged 11 and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.

Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.

So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer…

Judges’ comments: A boy tries to lay to rest the ghost of a murdered uncle, leading to a chilling confrontation with a child killer in this disturbing coming-of-age novel.

Blood Harvest

Blood Harvest

S.J. Bolton


Synopsis: A TIME TO BE BORN Twelve-year-old Tom and his family have just moved to a small town perched on the crest of the moor. But troubles begin when Tom sees a mysterious child lurking around the nearby churchyard.

A TIME TO DIE Psychiatrist Evi is trying to treat a young woman haunted by the disappearance of her little girl. A devastating fire burned down their home, but even two years on she is convinced her daughter survived.

A TIME TO KILL Harry is the town’s new vicar, quickly befriended by the locals. But unusual events around the church suggest he isn’t entirely welcome, and that this odd little town harbours a terrifying secret.

Judges’ comments: Set in an isolated and isolating community, this is a children-in-peril narrative with a powerful twist.

S.J. Bolton was born in Lancashire. She lives near Oxford with her husband and young son, and is currently working on her next thriller.

Her website is



Karen Campbell

Hodder & Stoughton

Synopsis: 'You are a police officer. This is what you do. You speak for the dead, and the desperate living.' When Anna Cameron is promoted to Chief Inspector and moved to a new division, it should be a turning point for her. But if she thought having a female boss would make things easier, she'd reckoned without the fearsome 'JC' Hamilton.

Then her mother goes into a coma in a foreign country and an old woman disappears from a Glasgow care home under suspicious circumstances, and Anna's career and personal life both threaten to implode. The gang-related murder of a young Asian boy and an assault on one of her officers only serve to turn the screws tighter - can Anna be both a good cop and a good person?

Judges’ comments: A strongly realised female protagonist in a substantial Glasgow police procedural. Anna Cameron is caught between the personal and the professional pitfalls of power and influence in the force.

Karen Campbell is a former police officer who lives in Glasgow with her family. She began writing in earnest on the renowned Glasgow University Creative Writing course, and has had several short stories published.

Her website is

The Way Home

The Way Home

George Pelecanos


Synopsis: When Thomas Flynn leaves his son, seventeen year old Chris, at Pine Ridge, a juvenile prison near Washington, D.C., his heart is broken but his mind is made up: Chris will have to pay for the mistakes he's made. Inside, Chris is exposed to kids from a different D.C. than the comfortable one he knew - one less remote from the street fights, car chases, and marijuana deals that got him here in the first place.

A decade later, Chris and the friends he made at Pine Ridge seem reformed. Chris has a job, thanks to his father, a girlfriend, and his own apartment. But when he and the others are inadvertently caught up in a burglary, old habits and worse instincts rise to the surface, threatening this new-found stability with sudden treachery and violence.

With the drama, compassion, and urgency for which Pelecanos is celebrated, The Way Home travels the streets of Washington, D.C. and tells the story of its people, and the tensions that always linger just out of sight, circling back again and again to that clapboard house on Livingston Street where Thomas and Chris Flynn's rocky relationship moves from distrust and scorn toward a flawed, but real, redemption.

Judges’ comments: A remarkable portrait of a blue collar family whose son is struggling to break free from his criminal past.

George Pelecanos is the author of fifteen previous crime novels set in and around the Washington area. He is also an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and producer - most recently being nominated for an Emmy award for his work as a producer, writer, and story editor on The Wire. Pelecanos lives in Maryland with his family.

His official website


The other four books that were shortlisted are:
Conman, Richard Asplin (No Exit Press)
Rain Gods, James Lee Burke (Orion)
The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge, Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
Still Midnight, Denise Mina (Orion)



Richard Asplin

No Exit Press

Synopsis: Young Neil Martin is a kindly family man. A bit geeky, a bit nerdy. If you met him, you would assume he runs a failing comic memorabilia store in London's Soho. Which he does. In order to bail himself out of a huge stock-ruining, poster sopping basement flood, he needs to claim on his insurance. Which he would do - if he'd remembered to pay his premium.

Terrified of losing everything – his wife Jane, his daughter, his business, his home – and scared to appear the dumb, working-class pleb that Jane's father always took him for, Neil reluctantly agrees to help Christopher - a passing confidence trickster - use his premises for a big sting. So the con is on and the trap is set. Neil meets Christopher's crew and, as he introduces them to the world of the vintage comic collectable, he is introduced to the life of the grifter. The swaps, swindles and switcheroos. The colourful patter of marks, mitt fitters, cacklebladders and cold pokes.

But things are never as they seem in the twilight world of the confidence man. And when Christopher's real target is revealed, Neil finds himself plotting, switching, swapping and scamming for revenge, for redemption. And for his life.

Judges’ comments: A refreshing new take on the time-honoured confidence trick plot: streetwise, contemporary, witty and entertaining.

Richard Asplin is the author of two previous novels, T-Shirt & Genes and Gagged – A Thriller With Jokes. He is a lover of mid-period Woody Allen movies, Richard Dawkins, David Mamet, Elvis Presley, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Texas Hold'em, vintage guitars and his cat. Richard currently lives in London.

Rain Gods

Rain Gods

James Lee Burke


Synopsis: Texas Sheriff Hackberry Holland is a former ACLU attorney and Korean War prisoner, and the cousin of much-loved Burke series character Billy Bob Holland. Running from a traumatic and chequered past to become sheriff of a dried-out, broken-down border town in south Texas, Hackberry soon find himself dealing with more than just his own demons after nine dead prostitutes are dug up in the desert.

The search for justice - and revenge - pits Hack against hired guns, unscrupulous skin bar owners, drug dealers who operate on both sides of the border, and a psychotic killer known as The Preacher. Burke deftly combines intricate, engaging plotlines and original, compelling characters with his powerfully poetic prose to create a blistering crime novel that also stands with the best of American contemporary fiction.

Judges’ comments: A powerful novel with a strong sense of place and a villain of almost mythic proportions. The tension is developed with great authority.

James Lee Burke is the author of many award-winning novels. He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Missoula, Montana and New Iberia, Louisiana.

His website is

The Strange Case of the Composer and the Judge

The Strange Case of the Composer and the Judge

Patricia Duncker


Synopsis: The bodies are discovered on New Year’s Day, sixteen dead in the freshly fallen snow. The adults lie stiff in a semicircle; the children, in pajamas and overcoats, are curled at their feet. When he hears the news, Commissaire André Schweigen knows who to call: Dominique Carpentier, the Judge, also known as the “sect hunter.”

Carpentier sweeps into the investigation in thick glasses and red gloves, and together the Commissaire and the Judge begin searching for clues in a nearby chalet. Among the decorations and unwrapped presents of a seemingly ordinary holiday, they find a leather-bound book, filled with mysterious code, containing maps of the stars. The book of the Faith leads them to the Composer, Friedrich Grosz, who is connected in some way to every one of the dead. Following his trail, Carpentier, Schweigen, and the Judge’s assistant, Gaëlle, are drawn into a world of complex family ties, seductive music, and ancient cosmic beliefs.

Hurtling breathlessly through the vineyards of Southern France to the gabled houses of Lubeck, Germany, through cathedrals, opera houses, museums, and the cobbled streets of an Alpine village, this ferocious new novel is a metaphysical mystery of astonishing verve and power.

Judges’ comments: The writing is first class in this novel exploring the nature of obsession against a backdrop of cult murder.

Patricia Duncker is the author of the novels Hallucinating Foucault (winner of the Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize), The Deadly Space Between, and The Doctor, as well as collections of short stories and essays. Her work has been shortlisted for the Macmillan Silver Pen Award and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. She is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester.

Still Midnight

Still Midnight

Denise Mina


Synopsis: Life ought to be simple for DI Alex Morrow. She's an up-and-coming Glasgow cop, just about to be presented with the case that could make her career. Her half-brother Danny is also on the up. Unfortunately for her, he's making his name on the other side of the tracks - in the murky shadows of Glasgow's criminal underworld.

Nearby, a peaceful Sunday evening in a suburban neighbourhood is brutally shattered by a vicious attack. A battered van pulls up to the door of an ordinary-looking home and disgorges a group of armed men in balaclavas. They smash into the house, hold the terrified family within at gunpoint and demand millions of pounds. Baffled, the family protest that they don't have that sort of money. As quickly as they came, the attackers snatch the elderly grandfather and storm off into the night.

When DI Morrow arrives she soon realises that there are too many missing links in this seemingly random attack: nothing quite makes sense. Who were the men? And why did they think this normal household concealed untold riches? The family is certainly not talking and as Morrow starts to delve deeper, she realises that there are dark secrets all around...

As she searches for answers to one family's secrets, she must protect her own. Can she keep her bosses in the dark about her criminal brother? Or is something going to have to give?

Judges’ comments: An uncomfortable and moving novel about an Asian family in Glasgow caught up in public paranoia in the face of terrorism.

Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Her family moved twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She also writes comics and in 2006 wrote her first play, 'Ida Tamson'. As well as all of this she writes short stories and is a regular contributor to TV and radio.

Her website is



Richard Reynolds (Chair) has been a bookseller for over thirty years and is the organiser of regular events for readers of crime fiction at Heffers in Cambridge, including the annual Bodies in the Bookshop, and is an expert in crime fiction.

Zoë Watkins is the Managing Director of intellectual property development company FourteenFiftyFour. Zoë was previously Publishing Manager at Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, and is a former Chair and Judge of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

David Wilkerson is a Commercial Manager at the British Library in London; specialising in Publishing and Retail. He has worked for over thirty-five years in the book industry, primarily as a bookseller, and has spent almost a lifetime reading crime novels.

Dr Ann Ferguson is a retired consultant anaesthetist, with a great interest in the history of medicine and a longstanding love of crime fiction.

Margaret Kinsman is a London-based academic with teaching and research interests in women's writing and crime and mystery fiction. She is Executive Editor of the scholarly publication CLUES: A Journal of Detection.

Heather O’Donoghue is Reader in Old Norse literature at Linacre College, University of Oxford. She regularly reviews crime fiction for the Times Literary Supplement, and is an avid reader of crime writing of all kinds.

To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2009 and 31 May 2010.