Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström

Author photo: Peter Knutson

Three Seconds wins the CWA International Dagger

22 July 2011: The 2011 CWA International Dagger has been won by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström with Three Seconds, published by Quercus and translated from the Swedish by Kari Dickson. The authors will also share a £1000 prize, while £500 goes to the translator.

The announcement was made at the CWA Awards Ceremony during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate. The judges praised the book, saying: “The Swedish duo’s usual maverick cop takes a back seat to a riveting exploration of a deniable operation involving an undercover agent deep inside a criminal organisation. Their new character, doomed to betrayal by political manoeuvring, fights for his life with great intelligence and courage.”

The winning authors and translator sent a message to say “We would like to express our great thanks and delight at being awarded the CWA International Dagger prize last Friday for Three Seconds. It is a great honour and we are very sorry that we were not there to acknowledge this and our pride at having received a Dagger.”

Three Seconds

Three Seconds

Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström

Published by Quercus

Translated from the Swedish by Kari Dickson. Original title: Tre Sekunder

Synopsis: Piet Hoffmann is the best undercover operative in the Swedish police force, but only one other man is even aware of his existence. After a drug deal he is involved in goes badly wrong, he must face the hardest mission of his life – infiltrating Sweden’s most infamous maximum-security prison. Detective Inspector Ewert Grens is charged with investigating the drug-related killing. Unaware of Hoffmann’s real identity, he believes himself to be on the trail of a dangerous psychopath. But he cannot escape the feeling that vital information pertaining to the case has been withheld or manipulated. Hoffmann has his insurance: wiretap recordings that implicate some of Sweden’s most prominent politicians in a corrupt conspiracy. But in Ewert Grens they might just have found the perfect weapon to eliminate him.

Judges’ comments: ‘The Swedish duo’s usual maverick cop takes a back seat to a riveting exploration of a deniable operation involving an undercover agent deep inside a criminal organisation. Their new character, doomed to betrayal by political manoeuvring, fights for his life with great intelligence and courage.’

Anders Roslund is the founder and former head of Kulturnyheterna (Culture News) on Swedish Television. Anders worked for many years as a news reporter specializing in criminal and social issues, as well as being Editor-in-chief at Rapport and Aktuellt – Swedish television’s two major news programs.

Ex-criminal Börge Hellström is a co-founder of the crime prevention organization KRIS (Criminals Return Into Society). Börge works with the rehabilitation of young offenders and drug addicts, while his past affords him a unique insight into the brutal reality of criminal life.

Kari Dickson was born in Edinburgh, but grew up bilingually, as her mother is Norwegian. She has a BA in Scandinavian Studies and an MA in Translation. She currently teaches in the Scandinavian department at the University of Edinburgh.

Link: The Official Roslund & Hellström Website

The CWA 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. The other six books in contention for the Dagger this year were:

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Mantle)
Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, translated by Jethro Soutar (Bitter Lemon Press)
The Saint-Florentin Murders by Jean-François Parot, translated by Howard Curtis (Gallic)
River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell (Maclehose)
An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds (Harvill Secker)
Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, translated by Sonia Soto (Abacus)

Here are more details of these shortlisted books:

The Wings of the Sphinx

The Wings of the Sphinx

Andrea Camilleri


Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. Original title: Le ali della sfinge

Synopsis: Things are not going well for Inspector Salvo Montalbano. His long-distance relationship with Livia is on the rocks, he feels himself getting even older and he’s growing tired of the violence in his job. Then the dead body of a young woman is found in an illegal dump, with half her face missing. Her identity at first unknown; a tattoo of a sphinx moth on her left shoulder links her with three other girls bearing the same mark, all recent Russian immigrants to Italy. Victims of an underworld sex trade, these girls have been rescued from the Mafia night-club circuit by a Catholic charity organization. The problem is, the other girls can’t help Montalbano with his enquiries. They are all missing. As his investigations progresses, it seems that not everyone wants Montalbano to discover what really lies behind the organisation’s charitable façade. And not only does Montalbano have a case to solve, he has a demanding stomach to feed, and he must save his foundering relationship with Livia.

Judges’ comments: ‘Camilleri rings the changes on his familiar cast of characters, while developing his anger at the corruption of a fictional Italian president through Montalbano’s discovery of local worthies involved in international trafficking in women.’

Andrea Camilleri

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.

Needle in a Haystack

Ernesto Mallo

Bitter Lemon Press

Translated from the Spanish by Jethro Soutar. Original title: La aguja en el pajar

Synopsis: Superintendent Lascano is a detective working under the shadow of military rule in Buenos Aires in the late 1970s. He is sent to investigate the discovery of two bodies but when he arrives at the roadside crime scene he finds three. Two are clearly the work of the junta's death squads, and so should not be investigated by the police, but the other one seems different. Lascano follows the trail, leading the reader on a tour of a Buenos Aires poisoned to the core by the military regime.

Lascano must navigate gingerly among characters symbolic of an Argentina that has lost its way: Amancio, whose privileged upbringing makes him unable to deal with the collapse of his fortunes; Biterman, the miser, embittered beyond hope by his experiences in Nazi Germany; Eva the young radical, condemned to a life on the run, death or exile, but forced to take refuge with a cop; Giribaldi, the army major, quick to help old friends, but cruel and contemptuous of everyday civilians. Buenos Aires, corrupted by the military regime, is as important a character as any other.

Lascano must uphold the law among the people and turn a blind eye to the actions of the regime, trying to bring justice to an unjust society, where some crimes are for investigation, others are not. Of course, the crime he investigates in Needle in a Haystack turns out to be one of those he should not.

Judges’ comments: ‘Classic Noir set in Argentina during the brutal reign of the junta. In a familiar sub-genre, this well written book offers an unfamiliar exercise in the maverick cop’s passionate and obsessive refusal to give up the chase, even at the risk of his own life.’

Ernesto Mallo

Ernesto Mallo is a published essayist, newspaper columnist, and playwright. Born in 1948, he is a former militant, pursued by the dictatorship as a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, which was later absorbed by the Montoneros guerilla movement. Needle in a Haystack is his first novel and the first in a trilogy with detective Lascano. The first two are being made into films in Argentina.

Jethro Soutar, born in Sheffield, lives in London and has recently published books about Ronaldinho and Gael García Bernal. This is his first translation of fiction.

The Saint-Florentin Murders

The Saint-Florentin Murders

Jean-François Parot

Gallic Books

Translated from the French by Howard Curtis. Original title: Le crime de l’hôtel Saint-Florentin

Synopsis: These are difficult times for Nicolas Le Floch: Louis XV is dead and Nicolas's boss Sartine has been promoted to Minister of State for the Navy. Le Noir, Sartine's successor as Lieutenant General of Police, distrusts Le Floch. Monsieur de Saint-Florentin, the King's new minister, entrusts Commissioner Le Floch with the investigation into the murder of a chambermaid whose throat was cut in unusual circumstances at Saint-Florentin's home.

Judges’ comments: ‘Nicola Le Floch, a Paris police commissioner under the young Louis XVI, investigates a murder which appears to implicate one of the king’s ministers, revealing local vice and foreign spies. Parot’s superb invocations of life in eighteenth-century Paris never overwhelm a complex intrigue involving all levels of French society.’

Jean-François Parot

Jean-François Parot is a French diplomat and historian. He became Ambassador in Guinea-Bissau in October 2006. He was born in Paris.

Photograph © Ulf Andersen Gamma

Howard Curtis has translated more than fifty books from French, Italian and Spanish. He has been awarded the John Florio Prize and the Premio Campiello Europa and has twice been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

River of Shadows

River of Shadows

Valerio Varesi


Translated from the Italian by Joseph Farrell.

Synopsis: Introducing Commissario Soneri, a highly original, complex creation, in a brooding and evocative crime novel set in the Po valley.Rain falls relentlessly on the Po valley in northern Italy, and the river is swollen to its limits. A huge barge leaves its moorings, steering an erratic course downstream and away into the foggy night. When finally it runs aground hours later, the bargeman is nowhere to be found. Commissario Soneri is summoned to investigate the apparent suicide of a man in nearby Parma. He and the bargeman were brothers, and when the detective discovers that they served together in the fascist militia fifty years earlier, the incidents seem likely to be linked. Resentments dating from the savage civil strife between Fascists and Partisans in the closing years of the war still weigh heavily, and as the flood waters begin to ebb, the river yields up its secrets: tales of past brutality, bitter rivalry and revenge.

Judges’ comments: ‘Unlike most police procedurals, the detective, Soneri, plays second fiddle to an evocation of the hard lives lived on and near the Po, from the history of dangers survived during the bitter internal battles of the Second World War, to contemporary criminal people-smuggling, with the river’s own threat of flood and destruction.’

Valerio Varesi

Valerio Varesi has been the Parma correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. River of Shadows is the first of a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri, now the central figure of one of Italy’s most popular television dramas.

Author photo: Stefania Gotti

Joseph Farrell is Emeritus Professor and former Head of the Department of Italian at the University of Strathclyde.

An Uncertain Place

An Uncertain Place

Fred Vargas

Harvill Secker

Translated from the French by Siân Reynolds. Original title: Un lieu incertain

Synopsis: Commissaire Adamsberg leaves Paris for a three-day conference in London. With him are a young sergeant, Estalère, and Commandant Danglard, who is terrified at the idea of travelling beneath the Channel. It is the break they all need, until a macabre and brutal case comes to the attention of their colleague Radstock from New Scotland Yard. Just outside the baroque and romantic old Highgate cemetery a pile of shoes is found. Not so strange in itself, but the shoes contain severed feet. As Scotland Yard's investigation begins, Adamsberg and his colleagues return home and are confronted with a massacre in a suburban home. Adamsberg and Danglard are drawn in to a trail of vampires and vampire-hunters that leads them all the way to Serbia, a place where the old certainties no longer apply.

Judges’ comments: ‘As usual in Vargas’s weird and wonderful world, disparate crimes in hundred-year-old London, contemporary Paris and the Serbia of legend. In the eccentric and intuitive Adamsberg’s seventh outing, maverick cop and his maverick team plunge into adventures which follow from unusual events.’

Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, who was born in 1957 in Paris (Fred is not unusual in France as an abbreviation of this feminine name). As well as being a best-selling author in France, she is by training a mediaeval archaeologist. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages.

Sîan Reynolds is Professor of French at the University of Stirling. She has written several academic texts and her translations from the French include books by Fernand Braudel and Claude Lévi-Strauss. She lives in Edinburgh.

Death on a Galician Shore

Death on a Galician Shore

Domingo Villar


Translated from the Spanish by Sonia Soto. Original title: La Playa de los ahogados

Synopsis: One misty autumn morning in a quiet fishing port in northwest Spain, the body of a drowned sailor, his hands tied, washes up in the harbour. Detective Inspector Leo Caldas is called in from police headquarters in the nearby city of Vigo to sign off on what appears to be a suicide. But details soon come to light that turn this routine matter into a complex murder investigation. Finding out the truth is not easy when the villagers are so suspicious of outsiders and sparing with their words. As Caldas delves into the maritime life of the village, he uncovers a disturbing decade-old case of a shipwreck and two mysterious disappearances. Death on a Galician Shore is a chilling story of violence, blackmail and revenge…

Judges’ comments: ‘What looks like a banal suicide leads to an investigation into the complex past of a village of fishermen, whose lives have been changed by fished-out waters, property development and the ambitions and prejudices of a once-conservative society.’

Domingo Villar

Domingo Villar grew up in Vigo, Galicia and now lives in Madrid. He is a screenwriter and novelist whose two novels have been bestsellers and shortlisted for several awards in Spain. His first novel, Water-blue Eyes, also featuring Inspector Leo Caldas, was published in the UK by Arcadia. Death on a Galician Shore is his second novel.

Sonia Soto read Modern languages at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has translated a number of works of contemporary Spanish crime fiction, including José Carlos Somoza’s The Athenian Murders, which won the Gold Dagger in 2002, and The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, which was made into a successful film.


Ann Cleeves, non-voting chair, is an award-winning crime writer.

Karen Meek is a library assistant and founder of the Euro Crime website:

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 2010 and 31 May 2011.