The Potter's Field

CWA International Dagger 2012 Winner

Andrea Camilleri

The Potter’s Field

translated by Stephen Sartarelli

5 July 2012: The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli and published by Mantle has been announced as the winner of the 2012 CWA International Dagger. The announcement was made this evening at the awards ceremony held at One Birdcage Walk in London.

The judges said ‘Camilleri’s Montalbano novels show just how much can be achieved with familiar materials when a writer conveys the sense of life in a recognizable place. He combines characters, plots, and reflections on Italy’s particular social and political problems, with wry—but never bitter—satire. In this novel the late-afternoon shadows lengthen; Montalbano is feeling his age.’

The Camillieri/Sartarelli team has previously been shortlisted three times for the International Dagger: in 2006 with Excursion to Tindari, in 2008 with The Patience of the Spider and in 2011 with The Wings of the Sphinx, but this is the first time they have won.

Synopsis: While Vigàta is wracked by storms, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is called to attend the discovery of a dismembered body in a field of clay. Bearing all the marks of an execution style killing, it seems clear that this is, once again, the work of the notorious local mafia. But who is the victim? Why was the body divided into 30 pieces? And what is the significance of the Potter’s Field? Working to decipher these clues, Montalbano must also confront the strange and difficult behaviour exhibited by his old colleague Mimi, and avoid the distraction of the enchanting Dolores Alfano – who seeks the inspector’s help in locating her missing husband. But like the Potter’s Field itself, Montalbano is on treacherous ground and only one thing is certain – nothing is quite as it seems …

Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri is one of Italy's most famous contemporary writers. His Montalbano series has been translated into nine languages and adapted for Italian television. Series 1 was screened on BBC Four in the spring of 2012. He lives in Rome.

Website (in Italian):

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.

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This 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 the other five books shortlisted for the Dagger this year were:

I will have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni, translated by Anne Milano Appel (Hersilia Press)
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson (Quercus/Maclehose)
Trackers by Deon Meyer, translated by T K L Seegers (Hodder & Stoughton)
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell (Quercus/Maclehose)

Once again this year the judges were impressed by the high level of competence throughout the sub-genres by authors of fourteen nationalities. They remark an increasing use of narrative voices of dead characters to supply perspective on, as well as information, about, plots and backgrounds. This may be allied to a fashion for the supernatural, at least a kind of second sight, but it certainly shows that international crime writers are readers of international fiction.

Here are more details of those shortlisted books:

I will have Vengeance

I Will Have Vengeance

Maurizio de Giovanni

Hersilia Press

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: ‘This first novel has many things to recommend it: its setting in the world of opera, in early fascist Italy, with a haunted detective of great gifts and understandable melancholy.’

Maurizio de Giovanni

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.

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Until Thy Wrath Be Past

Until Thy Wrath Be Past

Åsa Larsson


Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson. Original title: Till dess din vrede upphör

Synopsis: In the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Thorne. Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna. Her sleep has been disturbed by haunting visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the ghost in her dreams? Joining forces once again with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson is drawn into an investigation that focuses on old rumours about the disappearance of a plane carrying supplies for the Wehrmacht in 1943. Shame and secrecy shroud the locals’ memories of the war, with Sweden’s early collaboration with the Germans still a raw wound. And on the windswept shore of a frozen lake lurks a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried for ever beneath half a century’s silent ice and snow.

Judges’ comments: ‘Numerous Scandinavian authors have used the crime novel to return to ugly episodes of Sweden’s wartime past. This most recent chapter of the Martinsson-Mela series leads to investigations that uncover a long-missing but unforgotten supply plane, and implications for far-right Nazi sympathizers.’

Åsa Larsson

Åsa Larsson was born in 1966 and grew up in Kiruna, Sweden. She is a qualified lawyer. Her first novel, The Savage Altar, was awarded the Swedish Crime Writers’ Association prize for best debut. Its sequel, The Blood Spilt, was chosen as Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2004.

Laurie Thompson is the distinguished translator of the novels of Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser and Åke Edwardson. He was editor of Swedish Book Review between 1983 and 2002.

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Deon Meyer

Hodder and Stoughton

Translated from the Afrikaans by K.L. Seegers. Original title: Spoor

Synopsis: A housewife running from years of domestic abuse. A bodyguard hired to escort a smuggled rhinoceros. A group of Islamic terrorists based in a quiet residential street. A secret government agency threatened with amalgamation within a bigger department. A retired policeman trying to get used to his new career in the private sector. Each of these strands of a brilliant narrative is populated with superbly-drawn characters, and woven into a stunningly exciting drama by the undisputed king of South African suspense fiction. This is not only a heart-pounding thriller, but also a love story and a fabulous kaleidoscopic picture of South African society.

Judges’ comments: ‘Meyer’s thrillers include a variety of characters, some of whom reappear from previous apparently independent novels. He craftily constructs three apparently unrelated stories each of which engages with his characteristic theme: hunters whose compulsions make them sleuths in nature as well as culture. The judges think that this is Meyer at his best, but fear that the slightest revelation might spoil readers’ pleasure.’

Deon Meyer

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 seventeen languages.


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.

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Jo Nesbø

Harvill Secker

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Original title: Un lieu incertain

Synopsis: A boy is lying on the floor of an Oslo apartment. He is bleeding and will soon die. In order to place his life and death in some kind of context he begins to tell his story. Outside, the church bells toll. Autumn. Former police inspector Harry Hole returns to Oslo after three years abroad. He seeks out his old boss at Police Headquarters to request permission to investigate a homicide. But the case is already closed: the young junkie was in all likelihood shot dead by a fellow addict. Yet Harry is granted permission to visit the boy's alleged killer in jail. There, he meets himself and his own history. What follows is the solitary investigation of what appears to be the first impossible case in Harry Hole's career. And while Harry is searching, the murdered boy continues his story. A man walks the dark streets of Oslo. The streets are his and he has always been there. He is a phantom.

Judges’ comments: ‘In what may be the last of his Harry Hole series, Nesbø’s gifts for taughtly-strung thrillers bring his series characters together in a twisting plot. This novel is less savagely violent than his recent serial-killer investigations, which the judges applaud, without diminishing Harry’s knightly quests on the mean streets.’

Jo Nesbø © Arvid Stridh

Jo Nesbo is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). Phantom is the seventh of Nesbo's Harry Hole novels to be translated into English. His website is

Photo © Arvid Stridh

Don Bartlett is an experienced translator who has translated dozens of books in various genres, including eight novels and short stories by Jo Nesbø. He lives in Norfolk. His web site is

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The Dark Valley

The Dark Valley

Valerio Varesi


Translated from the Italian by Joseph Farrell. Original title: Le ombre di Montelupo

Synopsis: Commissario Soneri returns to his roots for a hard-earned autumn holiday, hoping to spend a few days mushroom picking on the slopes of Montelupo. The isolated village relies on the salame factory founded in the post-war years by Palmiro Rodolfi, and now run by his son, Paride. On arrival, Soneri is greeted by anxious rumours about the factory’s solvency and the younger Rodolfi’s whereabouts. As news spreads of the Rodolfi’s financial ruin – a scandal with devastating consequences for all – Palmiro takes desperate measures to avert the shame of his predicament. Not long afterwards, a decomposing body is found in the wood. In the second of the Commissario Soneri investigations, Varesi has once again conjured a complex novel of brooding intensity from the secrets buried at the dark heart of Italy’s troubled past.

Judges’ comments: ‘From a sausage factory caught in unredeemable debt come suicide and murder. Varesi’s talent for evoking place and time draws a politically- and socially-engaged picture of Italy’s past, and the processes  that have changed forever its rural demography. His characters feel some nostalgia for a world they have lost, but the author creates something more like a coroner’s narrative verdict.’

Valerio Varesi

Valerio Varesi has been the Parma correspondent for La Stampa and La Repubblica. The Dark Valley is the second in a series of thrillers featuring Commissario Soneri, now the protagonist of one of Italy’s most popular television dramas.

Website (in Italian):

Joseph Farrell is Emeritus Professor and former Head of the Department of Italian at the University of Strathclyde. He is the distinguished translator of Leonardo Sciascia, Vincenzo Consolo the Nobel Laureate and Dario Fo.

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Janet Laurence, non-voting chair, has written two series of crime novels and the first of a new series: Deadly Inheritance, has just been published by The Mystery Press. She is also the author of Writing Crime Fiction - Making Crime Pay and chaired the CWA in 1998-99.

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 2011 and 31 May 2012.