Johan Theorin wins the CWA International Dagger 2010
Swedish writer Johan Theorin has won the CWA International Dagger and a prize of £1000 for his novel The Darkest Room. His translator Marlaine Delargy wins £500.
This is the pair’s second Dagger triumph in as many years: last year he scooped the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for best first novel. Our photo shows him receiving that prize from Martine McCutcheon at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.
The Judges praised his book, saying: ‘Four plot strands whorl around the vortex of an unexplained death. It is impossible to reduce this mysterious novel to ghost story, a police procedural or a gothic tale.’
The Darkest Room
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Original title: Nattfåk
Synopsis: ‘For several hours I believed that my daughter had drowned and my wife as alive, when in fact the reverse was true.’ It is bitter mid-winter when Katrine and Joakim Westin move with their children into the old manor house at Eel Point on the Swedish island of Oland. But their new home is no remote idyll. Just days later, Katrine is found drowned off the rocks nearby.
While Joakim struggles to keep his sanity, Tilda Davidsson – a young policewoman fresh out of college- becomes convinced that Katrine was murdered. Then, on Christmas Eve, a blizzard hits Eel Point. Isolated by the snow, Joakim does not know that visitors – as unwelcome as they are terrifying – are making their way towards him. For this is the darkest night of the year, the night when the living meet the dead …
Johan Theorin was born in 1963 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and has spent every summer of his life on northern Öland, where his books are set. His mother’s family – sailors, fishermen and farmers - have lived there for centuries, nurturing the island’s rich legacy of strange tales and folklore. A journalist by profession, Johan lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.
His first book, Echoes from the Dead, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger in 2009 and went on to win the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger that year.
Marlaine Delargy works as a translator and adult learning support tutor. She has translated novels by Åsa Larsson and Johan Theorin, among others, and serves on the editorial board of the Swedish Book Review. She lives in Shropshire, England.
The Crime Writers’ Association’s International Dagger is a competition for crime, thriller, suspense or spy fiction novels which have been translated into English from their original language, for UK publication. Six books were in contention for the Dagger this year. The other five on the shortlist (more details below) were:
Badfellas by Tonino Benacquista, translated by Emily Read (Bitter Lemon Press)
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Picador)
Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason, translated by Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (MacLehose Press)
Thirteen Hoursby Deon Meyer, translated by K.L. Seegers (Hodder and Stoughton)
Bitter Lemon Press
Translated from the French by Emily Read. Original title: Malavita
Synopsis: The story is violent, pacy and full of black humour. Imagine the Soprano family arriving in France, or perhaps better, Ray Liotta, the snitch from ‘Goodfellas’ settling down with his family in a small town in Normandy.
Under cover of darkness, an American family moves into a villa in Cholong-sur-Avre in Normandy. Fred Blake tells everyone he is writing a history of the landings. In fact Blake is Giovanni Manzoni, an ex-Mafia boss who grassed and is now in the FBI Witness Protection Program. Having blown his cover a number of times in the US, the FBI finally sends him to France. Things happen to this thuggish family: a plumber who angers Fred with delays and exorbitant estimates ‘falls down the stairs’ and breaks both arms, the manager of the local supermarket insults Maggie behind her back so that afternoon his supermarket burns down, Warren, the son, starts a gang in his lycée, to intimidate and extort other pupils. A coincidence beyond belief blows Fred’s cover yet again and, with the arrival of the shooters from Newark, he is able to dive back into the violent life of crime he misses so much.
Judges’ comments: ‘Hidden in the Norman countryside under the witness protection programme, an American Mafioso and his family each discover a new vocation. Crime fiction that makes you chuckle is rare and this is an exceptional example of the species.’
Tonino Benacquista, born in France of Italian immigrants, dropped out of film studies to finance his writing career. After being, in turn, museum night-watchman, train guard on the Paris-Rome line and professional parasite on the Paris cocktail circuit, he is now a highly successful author of novels and film scripts. Benacquista won a César in 2006 for the script of Jacques Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Benacquista was introduced to English-speaking readers by Bitter Lemon Press with Holy Smoke, a darkly comic crime novel set in Paris and Southern Italy. This critically acclaimed title was soon followed by the bestseller Someone Else and Framed, a satirical mystery novel set in the world of Parisian art galleries.
Emily Read is a well known translator from French. She has published a number of titles of non-fiction and fiction, including The Reckoning by Georges Simenon.
Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. Original title: La vampa d'agosto
Synopsis: The lazy, slow month of August at the height of the Sicilian summer is, Montalbano assures his girlfriend Livia as they prepare for a relaxing holiday in a villa he has found for them, far too hot for any murders to be committed. But when Livia's friends’ young son goes missing, a chain of events is sparked which will certainly ruin the Chief Inspector’s pleasant interlude. A secret apartment and a grisly find in an old trunk are just the beginning, as Montalbano navigates his way though the case, as well as coping with the sweltering heat, the suspicious death of an Arab labourer and the tempting lure of a beautiful girl …
Judges’ comments: ‘The bitter-sweet adventures of Inspector Montalbano have a nostalgic air in this fine short novel. Another summer holiday with his beloved Livia is interrupted by the discovery of a long-hidden murder. Camilleri brilliantly evokes small-town Sicily.’
Andrea Camilleri is one of Italy's most famous contemporary writers. His Montalbano series has been adapted for Italian television and translated into nine languages. He lives in Rome.
Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator. He is also the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Open Vault. He lives in France.
Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. Original title: Harðskafi
Synopsis: One cold autumn night, a woman is found hanging from a beam in her summer cottage by Lake Thingvellir. At first sight it appears to be a straightforward case of suicide; the woman, María, had never recovered from the loss of her mother two years earlier and had a history of depression. But when Karen, the friend who found her body, approaches Erlendur and gives him the tape of a séance that María had attended, his curiosity is aroused. Driven by a need to find answers that even he does not fully understand, Erlendur embarks on an unofficial investigation to find out why the woman’s life ended in such an abrupt and tragic manner. At the same time he is haunted by the unresolved cases of two young people who went missing thirty years before, and, inevitably, his discoveries raise ghosts from his own past.
Judges’ comments: ‘Erlendur’s tenacious investigations of old cases, as well as his own life, come together in this dark, moving mystery. Ghosts from his own past haunt his search for long missing persons.’
Arnaldur Indriðason was born in 1961, the son of an Icelandic author. Having worked for many years as a journalist and critic for an Icelandic newspaper, he began writing novels. At one week in the summer of 2003, his crime novels occupied the top five spots in the Icelandic best-seller list.
Outside Iceland, he is best known for his crime novels featuring Erlendur and Sigurdur Óli, which are consistent bestsellers across Europe. Arnaldur's books have been published in 26 countries and have been translated into German, Danish, English, Italian, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Arnaldur received the Glass Key award, a literature prize for the best Nordic crime novel, in 2002 and 2003. He won the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for the novel Silence of the Grave and Arctic Chill was shortlisted last year for the CWA International Dagger.
Victoria Cribb works as a freelance translator from Icelandic to English. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL, a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Iceland for a number of years as a publisher, journalist and translator.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland. Original title: Luftslottet som sprängdes
Synopsis: Salander is plotting her revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and against the government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. But it is not going to be a straightforward campaign. After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in Intensive Care, and is set to face trial for three murders and one attempted murder on her eventual release. With the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his researchers at Millennium magazine, Salander must not only prove her innocence, but identify and denounce the corrupt politicians that have allowed the vulnerable to become victims of abuse and violence. Once a victim herself, Salander is now ready to fight back.
Judges’ comments: ‘This exciting and much acclaimed end to what would have been the first of three trilogies maintains the suspense of a complex thriller, while expanding a fascinating cast of characters.’
Stieg Larsson was for twenty years graphics editor at a Swedish news agency. He was the Editor-in-Chief of the anti-racist magazine Expo from 1999. He was one of the world’s leading experts on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organisations. He died in 2004, shortly after delivering the three manuscripts of the Millennium Trilogy to a Swedish publisher. All three have now been shortlisted for the International Dagger.
Reg Keeland is one of the pseudonyms of Steven T. Murray who has translated all of the Millennium trilogy. His translation of Sidetracked by Henning Mankell won the 2001 Gold Dagger.
Hodder and Stoughton
Translated from the Afrikaans by K.L. Seegers. Original title: 13 Uur
Synopsis: Some would call Detective Benny Griessel a legend. Others would call him a drunk. Either way, he has trodden on too many toes over the years ever to reach the top of the promotion ladder, and now he concentrates on staying sober and mentoring the new generation of crime fighters – mixed race, Xhosa and Zulu. But when an American backpacker disappears in Capetown, panicked politicians know who to call: Benny has just thirteen hours to save the girl, save his career – and crack open a conspiracy which threatens the whole country. A potent, suspenseful thriller, and a brilliant portrait of life in the country that will host the 2010 World Cup.Some would call Detective Benny Griessel a legend. Others would call him a drunk. Either way, he has trodden on too many toes over the years ever to reach the top of the promotion ladder, and now he concentrates on staying sober and mentoring the new generation of crime fighters – mixed race, Xhosa and Zulu. But when an American backpacker disappears in Capetown, panicked politicians know who to call: Benny has just thirteen hours to save the girl, save his career – and crack open a conspiracy which threatens the whole country.
Judges’ comments: ‘Benny Griessel has been put out to pasture, charged with mentoring a disparate group of new South African police officers. Suddenly, he has thirteen hours to save a life and solve a murder. Meyer turns the constraints of the clock into a tour de force of plotting.’
Deon Meyer lives in Durbanville in South Africa with his wife and four children. Other than his family, Deon`s big passions are motorcycling, music, reading, cooking and rugby. In January 2008 he retired from his day job as a consultant on brand strategy for BMW Motorrad, and is now a full time author. Deon Meyer`s books have attracted worldwide critical acclaim and a growing international fanbase. Originally written in Afrikaans, they have now been translated into several languages, including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Finnish, Czech, Romanian, Slovakian, Bulgarian, Japanese and Polish.
K.L. Seegers lives in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, where she and her husband breed endurance horses and Nguni cattle. She has translated several novels from Afrikaans, and has been Deon Meyer's translator for several years. She translated Heart of the Hunter, Devil's Peak, Blood Safari, and most recently Thirteen Hours.
Ann Cleeves, non-voting chair, is an award-winning crime writer.
Karen Meek is a library assistant and founder of the Euro Crime website: www.eurocrime.co.uk
Ruth Morse teaches English Literature at the University of Paris. She is a frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.
John Murray-Browne is a bookseller.
To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2009 and 31 May 2010.