The CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2013
Andrew Taylor makes it a hat trick
15 July 2013: Andrew Taylor was this evening awarded the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger by Barry Forshaw, for The Scent of Death, published by HarperCollins. This is the third time that Taylor has won this prize, having triumphed in 2001 (The Office Of The Dead) and 2003 (The American Boy)
The judges said “The Scent of Death is set during the American War of Independence, and evokes that period with quite as much brio as Taylor’s much-acclaimed, award-winning The American Boy did Edgar Allen Poe’s early haunts. The multitalented Taylor has an impeccable grasp of period and locale, but what is perhaps new here is the sense of a phantasmagoric, heightened reality which makes The Scent of Death such a mesmeric read.”
Andrew Taylor’s writing career started in 1982 with Caroline Miniscule, which won that year’s CWA John Creasey Dagger. In 2009 he was awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing. In between he has picked up numerous awards, including now three CWA Ellis Peters Historical Daggers (no other author has won it more than once). He also writes for the Spectator. He lives with his wife Caroline in the Forest of Dean.
His website is www.andrew-taylor.co.uk
The Scent of Death
Synopsis: Edward Savill, a London clerk from the American Department, is assigned to New York to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists caught on the wrong side of the American War of Independence. Surrounded by its enemies, British Manhattan is a melting pot of soldiers, profiteers, double agents and a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the Crown. Savill lodges with the respected Wintour family: the old Judge, his ailing wife and their enigmatic daughter-in-law Arabella. The family lives in limbo, praying for the safe return of Jack Wintour, Arabella's husband, who is missing behind rebel lines. The discovery of a body in the notorious slums of Canvas Town thrusts Savill into a murder inquiry. But in the escalating violence of a desperate city, why does one death matter? Because the secret it hides could be the key to power for whoever uncovers it…
This year’s competition had a strong field, with no fewer than three previous Dagger winners, and the other three authors having been shortlisted before. The other five books in contention for the Dagger this year were:
The Heretics by Rory Clements (John Murray)
Pilgrim Soul by Gordon Ferris (Corvus)
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson (Headline)
Dead Men and Broken Hearts by Craig Russell (Quercus)
The Twelfth Department by William Ryan (Mantle)
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.
Synopsis: England may have survived the Armada threat of 1588, but when Spanish galleys land troops in Cornwall on a lightning raid seven years later, is it a dry-run for a new invasion? Or is there, perhaps, a more sinister motive? The Queen is speechless with rage. But as intelligencer John Shakespeare tries to get a grip on events, one by one his network of spies is horribly murdered. What has all this to do with Thomasyn Jade, a girl driven to the edge of madness by the foul rituals of exorcism? And what is the link to a group of priests held prisoner in bleak Wisbech Castle? From the pain-wracked torture rooms of the Inquisition in Seville to the marshy wastes of fenland, from the wild coasts of Cornwall to the sweat and sawdust of the Elizabethan playhouses, and from the condemned cell at Newgate to the devilish fantasies of a fanatic, The Heretics builds to a terrifying climax that threatens the life of the Queen herself.
Judges’ comments: “Nothing could be more timely than Clements’ tale of religious fundamentalists brainwashed into carrying out suicide missions, even if the setting is Tudor England and the Catholic assassins’ target is Elizabeth I. The fifth novel to feature the “intelligencer” John Shakespeare is the equal of its prize-winning predecessors.”
Rory Clements lives in Norfolk. He is married to the artist Naomi Clements-Wright. There are five books in the John Shakespeare series of Elizabethan mysteries: Martyr, shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award, Revenger, winner of the 2010 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, Prince, shortlisted for the 2011 Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award, Traitor and The Heretics. All are published by John Murray. A TV series based on the books is currently in development.
His website is www.roryclements.com
Synopsis: Brodie is approached by the Jewish community in Glasgow to solve a series of thefts. But it isn't Brodie who catches him: the thief is found dead, knifed by the owner of the house he was robbing. When the householder is also found murdered, the whole community is in uproar - and Brodie’s easy case has become a terrifying, violent mess. The householder has only been in Glasgow for a year, a refugee from the Holocaust.
But when Brodie investigates further, he discovers that the dead man wasn't a brutalised Jew, but a sadistic camp guard. Is there a group of Nazi guards hiding among the genuine Jewish refugees? What starts as a small case soon escalates into a relentless personal quest for the truth. Meanwhile, Brodie is plunged back into the horrors he witnessed during the liberation of Poland - memories that haunt him still. And when it begins to seem that the guards are protecting someone high up in the old Nazi organisation, Brodie faces the biggest moral dilemma of his career.
Judges’ comments: “The third novel to feature intrepid Glasgow newspaperman Douglas Brodie delves into his past as it switches between Ferris’s customary post-war Glasgow setting and the turmoil of Germany as the War comes to a close. Its examination of the plight of Glasgow’s extensive community of Jewish refugees adds real depth to a story full of Ferris’s usual high quotient of thrills and spills.”
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.The previous two books in the Brodie series was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters: The Hanging Shedin 2011 and Bitter Water in 2012. He is also the author of Truth Dare Kill and The Unquiet Heart in the Danny McRae series.
His website is www.gordonferris.com
The Paris Winter
Synopsis: Paris, 1909: a city of contrasts and of ambition, of beauty and of treachery Maud Heighton came to Lieberman's famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling joys of the Belle Époque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold winter, she finds a job as companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel. But Sylvie has a secret: an addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels’ world of elegant luxury, their secrets become hers. Before the New Year arrives, a greater deception will take her to the very edge of the darkness beneath this glittering city of light.
Judges’ comments: “Anyone familiar with Imogen Robertson’s work will not be surprised to hear that the period detail here is impeccable, with the reader transported into the exhilarating Paris of Manet and the Belle Époque. But what is also present here is Robertson’s subtle and nuanced grasp of character, notably of the vulnerable heroine. It is this characterisation — as much as the labyrinthine narrative — that lifts The Paris Winter into a category of its own.”
Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and now lives in London. She directed for TV, film and radio before becoming a full-time author, and also writes and reviews poetry. Imogen won the Telegraph’s First thousand words of a novel competition' in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Island of Bones was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters in 2011.
Dead Men and Broken Hearts
Synopsis: It’s November 1956. The world is in turmoil, the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising boiling away in the background. Lennox, though, has more pressing concerns, like getting his personal life and his business back on track. In a bid to stay out of trouble, he’s seeking more legitimate cases. Anything’s better than working for the Three Kings, the crime bosses who run Glasgow’s underworld.
When a woman comes into his office and hires him to follow her philandering husband, it seems the perfect case. Straightforward, typical and, most of all, legal. As he digs deeper, Lennox realizes this is no simple case of marital infidelity. He finds himself caught by the police in a room with a dead body, pursued by shadowy members of the intelligence community, and the people he’s been tracking start to track him. In the thick of it once more, Lennox has to draw on the violent, war-damaged part of his personality that he tries to keep buried as he follows a trail of dead men and broken heart.
Judges’ comments: “The fourth novel to feature private eye Lennox finds the hero investigating three disparate mysteries in 1950s Glasgow. With the Suez crisis and the Hungarian uprising as backdrop the novel has an impressively wide scope but it’s Russell’s beautifully realised recreation of the Glasgow of 50 years ago that makes his work stand out.”
Craig Russell served as a police officer, creative director and freelance writer before becoming a full-time novelist. His Lennox and Jan Fabel series have both been highly acclaimed and his work has been translated into twenty-three languages. Craig Russell was shortlisted for the 2007 CWA Gold Dagger as well as the SNCF Prix Polar in France. In 2008 he won the CWA Dagger in the Library. He is the only non-German to have been awarded the Polizeistern (Police Star) by the Hamburg Police. Dead Men and Broken Hearts is the fourth thriller in the Lennox series.
His website is www.craigrussell.com
The Twelfth Department
Synopsis: Moscow, 1937. Captain Korolev, a police investigator, is enjoying a long-overdue visit from his young son Yuri when an eminent scientist is shot dead within sight of the Kremlin and Korolev is ordered to find the killer. It soon emerges that the victim, a man who it appears would stop at nothing to fulfil his ambitions, was engaged in research of great interest to those at the very top ranks of Soviet power. When another scientist is brutally murdered, and evidence of the professors’ dark experiments is hastily removed, Korolev begins to realise that, along with having a difficult case to solve, he’s caught in a dangerous battle between two warring factions of the NKVD. And then his son Yuri goes missing … A desperate race against time, set against a city gripped by Stalin’s Great Terror and teeming with spies, street children and Thieves.
Judges’ comments: “The first two outings for William Ryan’s sleuth, The Holy Thief and The Bloody Meadow, met with almost universal acclaim and were shortlisted for a variety of prizes, and this new novel has gleaned similar praise. Once again the balance of pungent period detail and increasingly tense plotting are handled with total authority — and Korolev himself remains one of the most persuasively conflicted characters in crime fiction.”
William Ryan was called to the English bar after university in Dublin, then worked as a lawyer in the City. His Korolev series, set in 1930s Stalinist Russia, has been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award, the CWA New Blood Dagger, the Irish Fiction Award and the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award. The Twelfth Department is the third book in the series. William is married and lives in West London.
His website is www.william-ryan.com
The photograph of William Ryan is by Kate Eshelby.
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.