Six high-quality crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have made the shortlist of the 2015 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, which is announced today.
- THE HUMMINGBIRD by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Arcadia Books; Finland)
- THE HUNTING DOGS by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
- REYKJAVIK NIGHTS by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker; Iceland)
- THE HUMAN FLIES by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle; Norway)
- FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM by Leif G W Persson tr. Paul Norlen (Doubleday; Sweden)
- THE SILENCE OF THE SEA by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)
The winning title will be announced at CrimeFest, held in Bristol 14-17 May 2015. The award will be presented by – and we are so very excited about this! – the Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the influential ‘Martin Beck’ series.
Here are the judges’ comments on the shortlist:
THE HUMMINGBIRD: Kati Hiekkapelto’s accomplished debut introduces young police investigator Anna Fekete, whose family fled to Finland during the Yugoslavian wars. Paired with an intolerant colleague, she must solve a complex set of murders and the suspicious disappearance of a young Kurdish girl. Engrossing and confidently written, THE HUMMINGBIRD is a police procedural that explores contemporary themes in a nuanced and thought-provoking way.
THE HUNTING DOGS: The third of the William Wisting series to appear in English sees Chief Inspector Wisting suspended from duty when evidence from an old murder case is found to have been falsified. Hounded by the media, Wisting must now work under cover to solve the case and clear his name, with the help of journalist daughter Line. Expertly constructed and beautifully written, this police procedural showcases the talents of one of the most accomplished authors of contemporary Nordic Noir.
REYKJAVIK NIGHTS: A prequel to the series featuring detective Erlendur Sveinsson, REYKJAVIK NIGHTS gives a snapshot of 1970s Iceland, with traditional culture making way for American influences. Young police officer Erlendur takes on the ‘cold’ case of a dead vagrant, identifying with a man’s traumatic past. Indriðason’s legions of fans will be delighted to see the gestation of the mature Erlendur; the novel is also the perfect starting point for new readers of the series.
THE HUMAN FLIES: Hans Olav Lahlum successfully uses elements from Golden Age detective stories to provide a 1960s locked-room mystery that avoids feeling like a pastiche of the genre. The writing is crisp and the story intricately plotted. With a small cast of suspects, the reader delights in following the investigations of Lahlum’s ambitious detective Kolbjørn Kristiansen, who relies on the intellectual rigour of infirm teenager Patricia Borchmann.
FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM: It’s 2007 and the chair of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Lars Martin Johansson, has reopened the investigation into the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. But can he and his dedicated team really solve this baffling case? The final part of Persson’s ‘The Story of a Crime’ trilogy presents the broadest national perspective using a variety of different techniques – from detailed, gritty police narrative to cool documentary perspective – to create a novel that is both idiosyncratic and highly compelling.
THE SILENCE OF THE SEA: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has said ‘I really love making people’s flesh creep!’, and she is the supreme practitioner when it comes to drawing on the heritage of Icelandic literature, and channelling ancient folk tales and ghost stories into a vision of modern Icelandic society. In SILENCE OF THE SEA, an empty yacht crashes into Reykjavik’s harbour wall: its Icelandic crew and passengers have vanished. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir investigates this puzzling and deeply unsettling case, in a narrative that skilfully orchestrates fear and tension in the reader.
As was the case last year, the standard of submissions was extremely high, with plenty of top-quality crime novels jostling for the shortlist. That the quality of the novels shone through in English is of course due in large measure to the skills of the six translators. They are often the forgotten heroes of international crime, without whom we would not have access to these marvellous texts.
Thanks to fellow judges Barry Forshaw and Sarah Ward for a thoroughly enjoyable shortlisting, and of course to Karen Meek – none of it would have happened without her hard work behind the scenes.
So did we get it right? Are there others that you’d like to have seen on the shortlist? And who do you think the winner will be?
Further information can be found on the Petrona Award website.
An album of Petrona pictures is also available at the Swansea University Flickr page.