The 2018 CWA Daggers – longlists announced

As has become traditional the CWA Dagger longlists were announced at Crimefest in Bristol on Friday evening. One  Dagger has already been confirmed and the shortlists for the remainder will be announced in July. The winners of all the CWA Daggers will be announced at the Dagger Awards Dinner to be held on 25 October, when Michael Connelly will be awarded the Diamond Dagger.

Each year I think ‘I’ll read a whole longlist shortlist’ but each year I seem to have read fewer and fewer of the books that find their way onto the lists. I am also always surprised about the proportion of books that I have never heard of – great coverage for these authors to get onto the long or short lists. This year I’m a little disappointed to find that I’ve not read a single book on the longlists. I do have ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’ to read as it came highly recommended on a lot of ‘best of 2017’ round ups and I also have Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir on my TBR . I’m particularly disappointed that I’ve only heard of two ‘new blood’ titles (The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic). Publishers tend to push debuts towards bloggers as a way to increase the marketing before an author becomes established, I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that the bulk of these have passed me by.

The Diamond Dagger – selected from nominations provided by CWA members – 2018 winner is Michael Connelly and the award will be presented at the CWA Dagger Awards Dinner in October.

The longlists for the following daggers were announced during Crimefest and the shortlists will be announced in July.

Gold Dagger

Head Case by Ross Armstrong
The Liar by Steve Cavanagh
London Rules by Mick Herron
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

The Spy’s Daughter by Adam Brookes
The Switch by Joseph Finder
London Rules by Mick Herron
If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
The Chalk Man by C J Tudor
The Force by Don Winslow

 John Creasey (New Blood)

Gravesend by William Boyle
I.Q. by Joe Ide
Soho Dead by Greg Keen
Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka
Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
East Of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman
Ravenhill by John Steele
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

International Dagger

Zen and the Art of Murder by Oliver Bottini Tr. Jamie Bulloch
The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason Tr. Victoria Cribb
Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre Tr. Frank Wynne
After the Fire by Henning Mankell Tr. Marlaine Delargy
The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet Tr. Don Bartlett
Offering to the Storm by Dolores Redondo Tr. Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garzía
Three Minutes by Roslund & Hellström Tr. Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir Tr. Quentin Bates
The Accordionist by Fred Vargas Tr. Sian Reynolds
Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello Tr. Alex Valente

Non-Fiction Dagger

Black Dahlia Red Rose by Piu Eatwell
The Story Of Classic Crime In 100 Books by Martin Edwards
Killers Of The Flower Moon by David Grann
Blood On The Page by Thomas Harding
The Fact Of A Body  by Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich
A False Report by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet
Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson
Getting Carter by Nick Triplow
Past Mortems by Carla Valentine

CWA Short Story Dagger

The Corpse on the Copse by Sharon Bolton
from “The Body” Killer Women Crime Club Anthology 2 Edited by Susan Opie ( Killer Women Ltd)

The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle by Chris Brookmyre
from Bloody Scotland ( Historic Environment Scotland)

Too Much Time by Lee Child
from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories (Bantam Press)

Second Son by Lee Child
from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories (Bantam Press)

Authentic Carbon Steel Forged by Elizabeth Haynes
from Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women Edited by Sophie Hannah (Head of Zeus)

Smoking Kills by Erin Kelly
from “The Body” Killer Women Crime Club Anthology 2 Edited by Susan Opie (Killer Women Ltd)

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit by Denise Mina
from Bloody Scotland (Historic Environment Scotland)

Accounting for Murder by Christine Poulson
from Mystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories Edited by Martin Edwards (Orenda Books)

Faking a Murder by Kathy Reichs and Lee Child
from Match Up Edited by Lee Child (Sphere)

Trouble is a Lonesome Town by Cathi Unsworth
from Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women Edited by Sophie Hannah (Head of Zeus)

Debut Dagger (unpublished writers)

Bill Crotty – The Eternal Life of Ezra Ben Simeon
Nicole Wells – The Infant of Prague
Chris Dixon – Sharps and Flats
Martin Ungless – Orange612
Peter Lewenstein – Grabbed
Luke Melia – The Last Googling of Beth Bailly
Joseph James – Riverine Blood
Coleen Steele – Death Be Drammed
Linda McLaughlin – Original Sins
Sherryl Clark – Trust Me, I’m Dead

Historical Dagger

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
Death in the Stars by Frances Brody
Fire by L. C. Tyler
Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen
Merlin at War by Mark Ellis
Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy
Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson
Nucleus by Rory Clements
Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellows

Dagger in the Library longlist

Simon Beckett
Martina Cole
Martin Edwards
Nicci French
Sophie Hannah
Simon Kernick
Edward Marston
Peter May
Rebecca Tope

So how’s your reading going – will you have read enough to judge a category for yourself?

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The Feed – Nick Clark Windo

Title – The Feed

Author – Nick Clark Windo

Published – Jan 2018

Genre – Fiction

This is another debut that I picked up at the Headline ‘New Voices 2018’ event I attended in January. I have to say that the description of the book didn’t do it justice – it packs a whole lot in and it’s difficult to know where to start with a review. The book is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, speculative, thriller with a range of themes from technology to identity.

We’re introduced to a future where technology has been extrapolated to a believable conclusion. The Feed is social media to the max – it’s in your head and it goes beyond sharing news and information but it’s also thoughts and memories. For most people it’s impossible to be without it – it’s the way everyone communicates and it’s a hundred times more addictive than social media is now.

And then a cataclysmic event ends The Feed. Six years or so on and Kate and her husband Tom are about to celebrate the birthday of Bea, their daughter. The world has changed and we’re now in territory familiar to readers of Station Eleven or viewers of The Walking Dead. Without The Feed civilisation has collapsed – no-one knew how to do anything without it, all the knowledge was stored digitally, they don’t know how to cook a meal or grow crops.  Some people were so addicted to The Feed that its loss lead to their death – corpses littering the towns and cities and the infrastructure of society has failed.

So that’s the setting and a story of survival could have been enough – but there are two more key aspects to the book. The first is that you have to have someone watch you sleep as you could be ‘Taken’ and if this does happen you need your watcher to act. But what does being Taken mean, what is it that happens to people…? And the other driver for the story is the loss of Bea – she goes missing and Tom and Kate have to embark on a search for her, leaving the safe haven they’ve established. As the story unfolds and Tom and Kate search for Bea the gaps are filled in and the reader learns more about what caused The Feed to collapse.

But there is even more to the book than this and I don’t want to give too much away. The main crux of the story seems to be a warning of the dangers to relying too much on technology, the importance of family and the lengths people will go to to survive.

There is a lot going on which means this isn’t necessarily an easy read. It’s definitely thought provoking and disturbing and it kept me guessing. As I said it’s not a genre I often read so my perception of the book will no doubt be different to those who read more sci-fi / dystopian fiction than I do. Although quite dark, without some of the lighter moments of Station Eleven, I’m not sure that it really delivered on horror or tension, I think there was room to push both a little further than they went. I didn’t find Kate or Tom to be particularly likeable, they have flaws which outweigh the more positive aspects of their characters but I don’t think that necessarily detracted from the book. It’s not a story I’ll forget in a hurry!

If you need any encouragement to put your phone down and step away from social media then The Feed should do the job! Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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Star of the North – read an extract from the book everyone’s talking about

Published on 10th May Star of the North is an incredibly timely thriller set in North Korea during 2010. I thought the book was fascinating on two counts. Firstly it offers an insight into the lives of those living under the North Korean regime – the ‘cult of personality’, the contrast between the lives of the poor majority and the wealth of the leader, as well as dealing with some of the larger macro political issues that face the countries trying to negotiate with the increase in nuclear threat.

I reviewed the book last month and you can read my full review here.

To whet your appetite the publishers have suppled the extract below where you can read an early encounter between Mrs Moon and the delights of the decadence found outside North Korea – and the risks associated with it.


Baekam County 

Ryanggang Province

North Korea

Mrs Moon was foraging for pine mushrooms when the balloon came down. She watched it glide between the trees and land on a fox-trail without a sound. Its body shimmered and the light shone straight through it, but she knew it wasn’t a spirit. When she got closer she saw that it was a deflating polythene cylinder about two meters in length, carrying a small plastic sack attached by strings. Strange, she thought, kneeling down with difficulty. And yet she had been half expecting something. For the past three nights there had been a comet in the sky to the west, though what it signified, good or ill, she could not decide. 

She listened to make sure she was alone. Nothing. Just the creaking of the forest and a turtle dove flapping suddenly upward. She slit open the plastic sack with her foraging knife, and felt inside. To her astonishment she pulled out two pairs of new warm woolen socks, then a small electric flashlight with a wind-up handle, then a packet of plastic lighters. And something else: a red carton with a picture of a chocolate cookie on the lid. Inside it were twelve cookies, sealed in garish red and white wrappers. She held one to the light and squinted. Choco Pie, she read, moving her lips. Made in South Korea. Mrs Moon turned to peer in the direction the balloon had come from. The wind had carried this thing all the way from the South? A few ri further and it would have landed in China! 

The sky to the east was bleeding red light through the treetops, but she could see no more balloons, just a formation of geese arriving for the winter. Now that was a good omen. The forest whispered and sighed, telling her it was time to leave. She looked at the Choco Pie in her hand. Unable to resist, she opened the wrapper and took a bite. Flavors of chocolate and marshmallow melted on her tongue.

Oh, my dear ancestors.

She clutched it to her chest. This was something valuable. 

Feeling flutters of excitement, she quickly put the items back into the sack and hid the sack in her basket beneath the firewood and fern bracken. Then she hobbled down the forest track, licking her lips. She’d reached the lane that ran along edge of the fields when she heard men shouting. 

Three figures were running across the fields in the direction of the forest—the farm director himself, followed by one of the ox drivers and a soldier with a rifle on his back. 

Goatshit. 

They had seen the balloon go down.

All day she worked the field in silence, uprooting corn stalks with the women of her work unit, moving along the furrows marked by red banners. Enemy balloons were seen in the sky at dawn, one of the women said. The army’s been shooting them down and the radio’s warning everyone not to touch them. 

A biting wind swept down from the mountains. The banners flapped. Mrs Moon’s back ached and her knees were killing her. She kept her basket close and said nothing. At the far edge of the field, she could see only one guard today, bored, smoking. She wondered if the others were searching for balloons.

When the watchtower sounded the siren at six she hurried home. The distant summit of Mount Paektu was turning crimson, its crags etched sharply against the evening sky, but the houses of the village, nestled on a slope of the valley, were in deep shadow. The Party’s face was everywhere—in letters carved on stone plaques; in a mural of colored glass depicting the Dear Leader standing in a field of golden wheat; in the tall obelisk that proclaimed the eternal life of his father, the Great Leader. Coal smoke drifted from the chimneys of the huts, which were neat and white with tiled roofs and small vegetable patches at the rear. It was so quiet she could hear the oxen lowing on the farm. The temperature was dropping fast. Her knees had swollen up painfully.  

She pushed open her door and found Tae-hyon sitting crossed-legged on the floor, smoking a roll-up of black tobacco. Under the exposed bulb his face was as lined and rutted as an exhausted field.

He’d done nothing all day, she could tell. But it was important to her that a husband shouldn’t lose face, so she smiled and said, ‘I’m so happy I married you’.

Tae-hyon looked away. ‘I’m glad one of us is cheerful.’ 

She lowered her basket to the floor and slipped off her rubber boots. The electricity would go off at any minute so she lit a kerosene lantern and placed it on the low table. Her concrete floor was spic and span, the sleeping mats rolled up, her glazed kimchi pots stood in a row next to the iron stove, and the air-brushed faces on the wall, the portraits of the Leaders, Father and Son, were clean and dusted with the special cloth.

Tae-hyon was eyeing the basket. She had not found a single mushroom in the forest, and had nothing but fern bracken and corn stalks to add to the soup, but tonight, at least, he would not be disappointed. She took the plastic sack from her basket and showed it to him. ‘On a balloon,’ she said, dropping her voice. ‘From the village below.’

Tae-hyon’s eyes bulged on hearing the euphemism for the South, and followed her hand as she took out each item and placed it on the floor in front of him. Then she opened the carton of cookies and gave him the uneaten half of her Choco Pie. His mouth moved slowly as he ate, savoring the heavenly flavors, and in a gesture that broke her heart he reached out and held her hand. 

Tomorrow she would scatter an offering of salt to the mountain spirits, she said, and travel into Hyesan to sell the cookies. With the money she would make, she could—

Three hard knocks sounded at the door. 

A cold terror passed between them. She swept the items underneath the low table and opened the door. A woman of about fifty was on the doorstep, holding up an electric lamp. Her head was wrapped in a grimy headscarf and she wore a red armband on the sleeve of her overalls. Her face was as plain as a blister. 

‘An enemy balloon was found in the forest with the package removed,’ she said. ‘The Bowibu are warning us not to touch them. They’re carrying poison chemicals.’


D. B. John has lived in South Korea and is one of the few Westerners to have visited North Korea. He co-authored The Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee’s New York Times bestselling memoir about her escape from North Korea.

 

 

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Dead Woman Walking – Sharon Bolton

Title – Dead Woman Walking

Author – Sharon Bolton

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been a big fan Sharon Bolton’s books and three of those I’ve reviewed have been five star reads so when I saw Dead Woman Walking in the library I had to borrow it.

The story is told through two timelines. In the present the book opens with a hot-air balloon flight near the Scottish border that goes disastrously awry after the passengers witness a brutal attack from their lofty position. This results in a chase sequence that lasts for a couple of chapters and culminates in the death of many of the passengers. But one young woman walks away from the crash and then she runs. She is in fear for her life and trusts no-one, even as the police start to search for her, she remains on the run.

The second timeline that interweaves the first starts over twenty years previously when the two sisters who were in the balloon flight were young girls. As this timeline moves forwards documenting the girls’ relationship we learn about the reasons that led to them being in the balloon and this is where a police procedural aspect comes into the story.

There are a number of reasons that I didn’t think this book was as well written or as gripping as the previous books I’ve read by the author. It relies on multiple twists but there wasn’t enough mis-direction and I had picked up on several of them before they were revealed. It stretches the reader’s credibility – I’ve always felt that the police procedural aspects of the author’s previous books have seemed authentic but this lacked that feeling and putting in a lot of twists means the author’s trying to mis-lead the reader, which makes you question everything you’re reading. Finally it felt like it was trying to cover too much ground – there were so many different aspects to the plot. I don’t want to give too much away but for most authors just a fraction of the themes would be enough for a compelling novel.

There were some enjoyable action sequences and some interesting themes were touched on. Very disappointed that this wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous books by the author.

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Between the Crosses – Matthew Frank

Title – Between the Crosses

Author – Matthew Frank

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

It’s difficult to believe that it’s four years since I reviewed Matthew Frank’s debut ‘If I Should Die‘ or that I’ve left it so long before reading the sequel.

Stark is now a fully fledged DC and, along with DS Millhaven, attends the scene of the murder of a wealthy husband and wife; they have been shot in their own home and there may have been a burglary. There are pressures on the investigative team due to financial cuts, they are close to breaking point and that’s before they lose a member of the team. The temporary solution is the return of an unpopular character who upsets the team dynamic, often with Stark paying the price.

As with the first book the crime and the investigation involve a limited number of characters and take place over a small geographic area. The investigative aspects are those of a proper police procedural – interviewing suspects, results of post-mortems, but without lots of unnecessary technical detail. Despite this the plot is not a simple one and kept me guessing.

Although Stark has made progress since his first appearance he’s still plagued by nightmares and self-doubt. There’s a lot of internal monologue which gives the reader some insight into his personality but his colleagues still see him as something of an enigma who it’s difficult to figure out. Stark’s background is fleshed out a little more with some of his experiences when he was a soldier and he still has some duties to perform and connections in the army that he can press for favours. This move from TA soldier (and hero) to DC really does add a compelling aspect to the series.

One thing that I particularly appreciated was Frank’s ability to leave chapters on a cliff-hanger. Perhaps he’s a fan of James Patterson…? Anyway – it does make you press on with the book even when you know you have other things you should be doing.  The pace is well balanced with slower aspects of the investigation and Stark’s life being matched by some faster paced action scenes, all rounded off by a hugely exciting climax.

Stark is a great character and I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction that is character-led but this series is a pleasure to read. If you’re not familiar with the series I can thoroughly recommend it – and start with the first book because that way you’ll be able to follow Stark’s journey.

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The Burning Soul – John Connolly

Title – The Burning Soul

Author – John Connolly

Published – 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

It’s been a while since I’ve caught up on John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series but as I went to the First Monday event where he was on the panel I thought it must be time to pick the series up again.

If I’m honest part of the reason I’d delayed was that I found the previous book in the series (The Whisperers) quite a struggle. However, I’m pleased to say that this felt like a return to form and I raced though the book.

A teenage girl has gone missing in a small town on the coast of Maine, however it’s not her disappearance that is the reason for Charlie’s involvement but a man with a mysterious past who is being tormented by anonymous messages through the post. Randall Haight’s secret is that he killed a young girl when he was only a teenager himself – he’s worried that his past will come out and he may be high on the list of suspects for the recent disappearance. He wants Charlie’s help to protect his quiet, unremarkable life. But Charlie’s not taken with him and he thinks there’s more to his story.

The family of the missing girl has its own secrets and these lead to a thread in the book which takes the story, initially, to the mob in Boston and the fight by a fading mobster to hold on to his position. Once Charlie gets wind of the connection to the missing girl he has another mystery to unravel.

This was a book that was light on the supernatural aspects that readers of the series will be familiar with. In fact the story would have worked just as well without them, but they’re part of Charlie and his story now. It was also a little light on Louis and Angel’s involvement, there was room to have them a bit more central to the story. In fact, in some ways, because the part of the story following the mobsters took away time from Charlie, I’d have enjoyed the book a bit more if the author had let him have a bit of down time.

This was just what I expect from the series – a mystery with a likeable PI to resolve it, a hint of the supernatural, a dark sense of humour and some really bad people!

 

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Star of the North – D B John

Title – Star of the North

Author – D. B. John

Published – 10 May 2018

Genre – Thriller

I’m not sure that in a bookshop, poised to part with a few pounds, I might have chosen a thriller set in North Korea, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book – blogging does broaden your horizons!

Set in 2010 the book follows the fortunes of three main characters.

In the US, Jenna Williams, of mixed race (Korean / African-American), is still struggling with the disappearance of her twin sister from South Korea 12 years previously, when she is approached to join the CIA.

In North Korea an elderly peasant woman who has been consigned to a penal colony makes a chance discovery while foraging for food, spurred into action she takes her first steps to escape from the poverty she and her husband have been trapped in.

Finally, also in North Korea, there’s Cho Sang-ho, a rising star in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But the higher you rise the greater the risk…

This book was fascinating on two counts. Firstly it offers an insight into the lives of those living under the North Korean regime – the ‘cult of personality’, the contrast between the lives of the poor majority and the wealth of the leader, as well as some of the macro political issues that face the countries trying to negotiate with the increase in nuclear threat. Although set a few years ago these are issues that seem particularly relevant at the moment. For all the aspects of the book that seem to stretch the reader’s credulity there are some enlightening examples in the Author’s Note at the end of the book which make you think that truth can be stranger than fiction.

It’s also a cracking thriller with the threads of the story converging to provide some tense as well as fast-paced sequences, some surprising twists all balanced by scenes where you learn more about the characters and their backstory. I liked all of the characters, although how much North Koreans might really come to question the “Dear Leader’s” wisdom it’s probably impossible to say. One thing that would have helped my understanding of the story would have been a map of the locations.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. A fascinating setting for a thriller.

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