The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2012
Winner: Aly Monroe
5 July 2012: Icelight by Aly Monroe and published by John Murray has been announced as the winner of the 2012 CWA Ellis Peters Dagger. The announcement was made this evening at the awards ceremony held at One Birdcage Walk in London.
The judges all loved the book and it was their unanimous decision to award it the Dagger. They said “This tale of British post-war malaise the third of Monroe’s Peter Cotton thrillers, is authentically downbeat yet absolutely gripping. Monroe has the young le Carré’s ability to conjure atmosphere and a poetic style worthy of Len Deighton.”
Icelight: 1947. Threadbare London endures the bleakest, coldest winter for decades. Food rationing is worse than during the war. Coal supplies run out. The Thames freezes over. Against a background of black ice, blackouts and the black market, agent Peter Cotton is seconded to Operation Sea-snake. MI5 is in the grip of civil war; MI6 is riddled with traitors. Unsure who to trust - or even who is pulling the strings - Cotton, ever the outsider, must protect an atomic scientist caught up in a vicious homophobic witch-hunt, limit the damage caused by a bully-boy MP, rely on a rent-boy informer and, despite the murderous attentions of a couple of Glasgow razor boys, embark on a ruthless hunt of his own.
Aly Monroe was born and educated in England. She has spent a large part of her life abroad – mostly in Spain, where she worked as a teacher, translator and voice-over, and ran Shakespeare workshops for teachers and actors. She is married and has three children and two small grandchildren, a boy and a girl, who both live in Spain.
Her website is www.alymonroe.com
This Dagger is for the best historical crime novel, specifically one in which the commission, investigation and solution of a crime is the central theme. It may be set in any period up to 35 years prior to the year in which the award will be made. For novels that involve passages set later than this time period, at least three-quarters of the book should be set in an earlier period.
The other six books in contention for the Dagger this year were:
The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau (Orion)
I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni (Hersilia Press)
Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris (Corvus)
Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr (Quercus)
Sacrilege by SJ Parris (HarperCollins)
A Willing Victim by Laura Wilson (Quercus)
Synopsis: London, May 1537: When Joanna Stafford, a young novice, learns her cousin is about to be burned at the stake for rebelling against Henry VIII, she makes a decision that will change not only her life but quite possibly, the fate of a nation. Joanna breaks the sacred rule of enclosure and runs away from Dartford Priory.
But when Joanna and her father are arrested and sent to the Tower of London, she finds herself a pawn in a deadly power struggle. Those closest to the throne are locked in a fierce fight against those desperate to save England’s monasteries from destruction Charged with a mission to find a hidden relic believed to possess a mystical power that has slain three Englishmen of royal blood in the last 300 years, Joanna and a troubled young friar, Brother Edmund, must seek answers across England. Once she learns the true secret of her quest, one that traces all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how.
Judges’ comments: “A treasure hunt, a murder story and a conspiracy thriller, this Tudor tale is the year’s most impressive debut. The pace never lets up in this story of great humanity in an inhumane period of our history, with an exceptional heroine.”
Nancy Bilyeau is a magazine editor and writer who lives in New York City with her husband and two children. She has worked for Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Instyle and Parade. Her screenplays have been finalists in competitions including the Page International Screenwriting Awards, Scriptapalooza, and Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope competition. The Crown is her first novel.
Her website is www.nancybilyeau.com
I Will Have Vengeance
Maurizio de Giovanni
Translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. Original title: Il senso del dolore.
Synopsis: Naples, March 1931: a bitter wind stalks the city’s streets, and murder lies at its chilled heart. As one of the world’s greatest tenors, Maestro Vezzi, is found brutally murdered in his dressing room at Naples’ famous San Carlo Theatre, the enigmatic and aloof Commissario Ricciardi is called in to investigate. Arrogant and bad-tempered, Vezzi was hated by many, but with the livelihoods of the opera at stake, who would have committed this callous act? Ricciardi, along with his loyal colleague, Maione, is determined to discover the truth. But Ricciardi carries his own secret: will it help him solve this murder?
Judges’ comments: “1931, and a world-famous tenor is found dead in his dressing room in Naples. The enigmatic detective Commissario Ricciardi, who believes he can speak to the dead, is one of the most original sleuths to have emerged in years and the period is beautifully evoked.”
Maurizio de Giovanni lives and works in Naples. In 2005, he won a writing competition for unpublished authors with a short story set in the thirties about Commissario Ricciardi, which was then turned into the first novel of the series. The last book in the series has been shortlisted for the Premio Scerbanenco and has won the Premio Camaiore.
Anne Milano Appel’s first career was spent as a library administrator, and literary translation has been at the centre of her professional life for the more than fifteen years since she left library work. She has published both fiction and non-fiction translations from the Italian, along with some poetry, for a wide range of US and UK publishers.
Atlantic Books/ Corvus
Synopsis: It’s the summer of 1946 and Glasgow is melting. The temperature is rising and so is the murder rate. Ex-policeman and ex-soldier Douglas Brodie has a new job reporting for the Glasgow Gazette, and finds no shortage of material for his crime column. It seems the people of Glasgow are fed up with the corrupt officials and dirty razor gangs that rule the gorbals as well as the incompetent police force that fail to stop them. A group of vigilantes are taking matters into their own hands as one by one, criminals that walk free are found beaten up and humiliated. At the first the city cheers as they get their comeuppance but Brodie knows all too well the dangers of taking the law into your own hands. As violence spreads and the bodies pile up, Brodie and advocate Samantha Campbell are entangled in a web of deception and savagery. Brodie is swamped with stories for the Gazette. But how long before he and Sam become the headline?
Judges’ comments: “Gordon Ferris’s Bitter Water plunges the reader into a vividly evoked 1946 Glasgow, and this second outing for journalist Douglas Brodie is perhaps even better than its much-acclaimed predecessor, The Hanging Shed. Apart from the mordant dialogue scorching the pages, the real pleasure lies in the characterisation of the damaged protagonists.”
Gordon Ferris is an ex-techy in the Ministry of Defence and an ex-partner in one of the Big Four accountancy firms. Maybe that's where he gets his interest in spies and crooks. He writes about the important things in life: conflicted heroes and headstrong women embroiled in tangled tales of life, love and death. He is the author of the No. 1 bestselling eBook The Hanging Shed and the new novel Bitter Water in the Brodie series as well as Truth Dare Kill and The Unquiet Heart in the Danny McRae series.
His website is www.gordonferris.com
Synopsis: September 1941. Bernie Gunther returns from the Eastern Front to find Berlin much changed. Back at his old desk on Homicide in Kripo HQ, Alexanderplatz, Bernie starts to investigate the death of a railway worker. But he is obliged to drop everything when his old boss, Reinhard Heydrich, the new Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, orders him to Prague to spend a weekend at his country house. It’s an invitation Bernie would gladly have been spared, especially when he meets his fellow guests – all of them senior figures in the SS and SD. The weekend quickly turns sour when a body is found, in a room that was locked from the inside. Now the spotlight falls on Bernie to show off his investigative skills and solve this seemingly impossible mystery. If he fails to do so, he knows what is at stake – not only his reputation, but also that of Reinhard Heydrich, a man who does not like to lose face. So begins the most diplomatically sensitive case of Bernie Gunther’s police career.
Judges’ comments: “March Violets, Kerr’s first novel, sutured private eye Bernie Gunther into a boldly realised period Berlin, and the books have continued to become ever more assured. In Prague Fatale, Kerr once again tackles the nature of the protagonist’s collusion with the corrupt society he lives in; it is an immensely involving novel.”
Philip Kerr is the author of seven other acclaimed Bernie Gunther novels. If the Dead Rise Not won the 2009 CWA Ellis Peters Award for Best Historical Crime Novel. Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh and now lives in London.
His website is www.philipkerr.org
Synopsis: Summer, 1584. The Protestant Prince William of Orange has been assassinated by a fanatical Catholic, and there are whispers that Queen Elizabeth will be next. Fear haunts the streets of London, and plague is driving many citizens away. Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, chooses to remain, only to find that someone is following him through the city. Confronting his stalker, he realizes it is the woman he once loved – she is on the run, having been accused of murder. Bruno travels to Canterbury to help clear her name, and also on behalf of Sir Francis Walsingham. The Queen’s spymaster has long suspected Catholic influence in the ancient centre of pilgrimage, and instructs Bruno to work to expose any enemy plots. As Bruno begins his hunt for the real killer, he is drawn into the heart of a sinister conspiracy hiding in the shadow of England’s holiest shrine…
Judges’ comments: “This is the third book to feature the real-life sixteenth-century monk Giordano Bruno as sleuth, and the character is becoming even more complex and interesting. England’s future is at stake as Bruno investigates the disappearance of the corpse of St Thomas Becket in a pacy, well-written adventure.”
S.J. Parris is the pseudonym of the author and journalist Stephanie Merritt. It was as a student at Cambridge researching a paper on the period that Stephanie first became fascinated by the rich history of Tudor England and Renaissance Europe. Since then, her interest has grown and led her to create this series of historical thrillers featuring Giordano Bruno. Stephanie has worked as a critic and feature writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and television. She currently writes for the Observer and the Guardian, and lives in Surrey with her son. Sacrilege is her sixth book.
Her website is www.sjparris.com
A Willing Victim
Synopsis: A lonely woman is the perfect prey. London, November, 1956. When DI Ted Stratton is tasked with investigating the Soho murder of loner, Jeremy Lloyd, his enquiries lead him to Suffolk, and the mysterious Foundation for Spiritual Understanding. Lloyd had believed himself marked out for great things. But at the Foundation, Stratton meets twelve-year-old Michael who is proclaimed as the next incarnation in a long line of spiritual leaders that stretches back to Christ and Buddha. The woman who is said to be Michael’s mother, and whose photograph was cherished by Lloyd, has disappeared. And when a second body, a woman, is found in woods nearby, Stratton initially assumes he knows who it will be - but the reality turns out to be far stranger and far more terrifying…
Judges’ comments: “Laura Wilson’s detective Stratton moves from the Second World War to the 1950s. This highly accomplished murder mystery is also a keen analysis the seductive attractions of unquestioning faith. Wilson is as adroit at the mechanics of the crime mystery as she is at fashioning evocative prose shot through with a keen sense of the past.”
Laura Wilson’s acclaimed and award-winning crime novels have won her many fans. The first novel in this series, Stratton’s War, won the Ellis Peters Award in 2008. Two of her novels have been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. Laura is the Guardian’s crime reviewer. She lives in Islington, London.
Her website is www.laura-wilson.co.uk
Chair of Judges: Eileen Roberts – Originator and organiser of St Hilda’s annual crime symposium in Oxford, mystery and crime enthusiast.
Geoffrey Bailey – Bookseller specialising in crime.
Barry Forshaw - reviewer, editor of Crime Time magazine, and editor of British Crime Writing: An Encyclopaedia.
Sir Bernard Ingham – Press Secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and crime fiction fan.
Jake Kerridge – Jake Kerridge takes an unhealthy interest in violence and murder as the Telegraph's crime fiction critic.