Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Update: This blog is now dormant but you can read all the posts here and my new posts at Crime Scraps Review. []

I have now read all of the 2011 CWA International Dagger Shortlist. My previous posts on this year's books are:

The 2011 CWA International Dagger Shortlist

I think we can simply dismiss:
The Parot overwhelms the reader with historical detail, and complex intrigue and is just too long.
The Varesi had atmosphere, but I was not inspired by the character of the protagonist and the action was limited and repetitive.

Of the remaining five books The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri is the eleventh of the twelve books translated so far into English by Stephen Sartarelli. I have read and enjoyed them all, and this Montalbano mystery is one of the best for some time, but I don't think it has that extra special factor that would make it stand out from the shortlist.

Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar is another very good police procedural, and with a combination of humour, social comment, and the interesting location it would be a worthy winner, but for the slightly one paced plot which lacks any twists and real surprises.

Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom has already won Best Swedish crime novel of 2009. It is a fast paced thriller, an exciting read that would make a great movie, but the characters lack depth and the plot predictable.

An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds, is another outstanding Commissaire Adamsberg investigation full of all the quirkiness, bizarre plots, and eccentric characters that have brought this French author three International Dagger wins. I loved it but surely we need a new face on the winner's rostrum, especially when there is another outstanding novel among the shortlist.

Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, translated by Jethro Soutar, is a brilliant book set in Argentina during the 1970s. When I reviewed this novel exactly a year ago I wrote:

This book is a lesson for those authors who think you need to write 600 pages to produce a complex book.
One hundred and ninety pages of great narrative, and cleverly manufactured dialogue, have produced a novel that is a mini-social history of a rotten to the core Argentina, as well as being a very tense thriller.

There is no question in my mind that Ernesto Mallo, and Jethro Soutar, should win the 2011 International Dagger, but nothing would surprise me.


Blogger Bernadette said...

I won't be reading all of the shortlist this year as some are hard to get (not released here) and some just don't appeal. But I am just about finished the Mallo and I agree it's terrific. I'm also listening to Three Seconds and keep waiting for it to get thrilling - at the moment (about quarter of the way through) I am utterly astonished that it has made it to the shortlist as I think it's the most tedious book I've read all year. But what do I know?

2:02 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

What a well-said and incisive commentary! Well-done.

You have convinced me not to purchase the The Saint-Florentin Murders or River of Shadows, although I am curious about the latter.

I agree with you on The Wings of the Sphinx. It was a delightful read.

I have not yet read the others, but look forward to doing so, especially the Vargas and the Mallo.

Your praise of the Mallo has been validated at various websites.

In my view, either should win, however, I am not armed yet with knowledge of the actual books, so I'll catch up -- soon, I hope. (Is there not a copy of the Vargas in all of New York?) Luckily, the library has Mallo's.
(I may purchase it after having read your review, and then I can loan it out, a favorite aspect of real books.)

2:33 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

We think as one, Norman! Let's see if the judges agree ;-)

Bernadette - the first part of 3S is tedious but it does eventually kick in. Seems to be a theme of scandi crime fiction of a certain type, eg 1st 200 pages of TGWPWF and the first 300 pages of Dinosaur Feather, in neither case did these initial chunks have much or anything to do with the crime part of the plot.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

Thanks for this. After reading your overview, I have decided to read the Mallo, and I am looking forward to it. I'll be on the road for five weeks (an ideal situation for a Kindle)so I am loading it up with a dozen+ crime fiction novels. Hopefully there'll be some nominees in that mix for next year's award.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

You and Maxine persuaded me to read the Mallo, so it's on reserve at the library.

I'm pondering whether or not to spend the money on the Varesi and Villar, as they are not available here and no used copies are yet on sale at any online sellers which I check.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I enjoyed both of Domingo Villar's first two books Water Blue Eyes and Death on a Galician Shore. I didn't enjoy the Varesi as much as Soneri the detective didn't grab me.
Villar's detective Leo Caldas and his aggressive deputy Estevez are a more interesting combination. I would get the Villar, which probably means the Varesi will win.

7:44 AM  

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