Petrona Award 2015 – Shortlist

26 Mar

Petrona Logo 9

Books from Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have been nominated for the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

Now in its third year, the Petrona Awards commemorates the pioneering work of Maxine Clarke who was one of the first bloggers to write about Scandinavian crime fiction. The award is open to English language translated Scandinavian fiction published in the previous twelve months fiction and novels set in Scandinavia.

The nominees are:

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 Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

This year’s winner will be at the announced at the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 14-17 May 2015. Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the Martin Beck series, will present the award.

Previous winners of the Petrona Award are Liza Marklund for Last Will, translated by Neil Smith and Linda, As in the Linda Murder by Leif G W Persson also translated by Neil Smith.

Nordic Noir expert Barry Forshaw said “The Petrona Award goes from strength to strength, with both winners and shortlisted authors representing the very finest in the Nordic Noir genre; I’m pleased to be involved.”

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 legion 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.

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DVD Review: Hostages – The Complete Season One

24 Mar


A family is caught up in a maelstrom of chaos in the tension filled Israeli thriller series Hostages. Loyalties are stretched to breaking point as deceit and subterfuge is exposed and the boundaries between right and wrong become blurred in a high octane slice of Noir.

Making history by being the first Israeli series to air on BBC, Hostages comes hot on the heels of Sky Atlantic’s Prisoners of War, signalling that Israel television is flourishing and now ready to compete on equal terms with Scandinavian and American productions.


In the all important market of format sales interest in Hebrew TV programmes is at an all time high. Homeland, a remake of Prisoners of War, will air its fifth season later in 2015 and In Treatment, an adaptation of BeTipul, was a critical success that won Emmy Awards and Golden Globes

Rights to another series Yellow Peppers has been bought by the BBC, a remake is currently in production. HBO is developing an American version of the warm drama House of Wishes.

With media execs studying Israeli TV schedules for projects that could be re-developed for an English speaking audience it was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling once the cameras started rolling on Hostages. Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean) bought the rights to make an American version while the original was still in production. Billed as a ‘new 24′ the remake starred Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, The Sixth Sense).

Expanded to fifteen episodes the American version which aired on Channel 4 introduced new characters and added sub plots. A bloated remake lacking the original’s punch it under-performed in the ratings, and was cancelled after a single season.


Now available on DVD, the Israeli original is a pacey pared to the bone thriller. Winner in the category of Best International Drama Series at the 54th Golden Nymph Awards, Hostages offers an addictive rush of tension, plot twists, and shadowy motivations.

Hostages proves that like its Nordic counterpart, Hebrew Noir excels at crafting strong female characters. Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel, Angels & Demons) plays eminent heart surgeon Dr Yael Danon. Head-hunted to perform a routine bypass operation on the Prime Minister. A career high becomes a nightmare when her family is held hostage and threatened with execution unless she kills the Prime Minister.

Faced with a seemingly unsolvable moral dilemma, Yael must chose between saving her family or the Prime Minister. Unwilling to accept the situation on her captor’s terms she is resolved to freeing her family and ensuring that nobody dies on her operating table.

A tight family unit splinters once secrets and lies start to unravel leaving Yael unsure of who she can trust. Her husband has made some poor investments and tried to hide an eviction notice. Assaf, a hormonally charged teenage son has been hacking into the school’s computer, accessing exam papers to impress a girl in his class. Noa, Yael’s daughter, is pregnant.


Taut character driven drama that piles on layer upon layer of pressure before blindsiding the viewer with a succession of unexpected plot twists. Complex emotional scenes collide with operatic bursts of action to create overwhelming feelings of paranoia,claustrophobia, and euphoria. Nail biting stuff from the opening frames to the closing credits.

Hostages – The Complete Season One can be ordered from Amazon:

Book Review: The Last Days of Disco by David Ross

19 Mar


The 1980s is vividly recreated in a comedic and poignant novel by first time author David Ross.

A coming of age story set in recession hit Scotland. An entire generation’s fragile hopes and dreams is perilously close to being crushed by mass unemployment and the Falklands War. More than a nostalgic look back at the decade taste forgot, The Last Days of Disco is a warm and witty account of youthful exuberance and the irrepressible urge to forge a new and better life in a town with limited prospects self improvement.

Fat Franny Francis is undisputed king of Kimnarnock’s mobile disco scene. Unchallenged champion of the turntables, he reigns supreme in the local dancehalls, and is the person to hire for birthday parties and wedding receptions. Long-term friends Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller hatch a plan to set up their own mobile disco and challenge Fat Franny Francis’ supremacy.

Celebrating the seven inch single’s power to momentarily lift people out of the doldrums, The Last Days of Disco is a Trainspotting for the vinyl era.

The author has lived in Kilmarnock since a teenager and used his intimate knowledge of the area to craft an authentic recreation of the era that never falls prey to misty-eyed revisionism or caricature. Packed with social realism, humour, and pathos the book expertly recreates the epoch’s joys and tears.

Readers of a certain age will be transported back to their youth and once again get to relive a time when Shakin’ Stevens was the UK’s biggest selling male solo act. For those who were born after the 1980s, The Last Days of Disco captures the decade in all its harsh monochromatic glory.

Filled with characters that will make you want to laugh and cry, often in the space of a single page, Ross has written a tragi-comedic novel that might topple Trainspotting‘s crown and become Scotland’s favourite book of the last fifty years.

The Last Days of Disco can be ordered from Amazon:

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An Interview with Torquil MacLeod

12 Mar


Ahead of the paperback reissue of Meet Me in Malmö Scottish born writer Torquil MacLeod discussed seeing the book back in print, writers that have influenced his career, and future plans.

Currently based in Cumbria, MacLeod has been travelling to Sweden since 2000 to see a son that lives there. Introduced by his son to serving police Detectives working in the same police station Henning Mankell set the Wallander novels, Torquil was inspired to begin work on a film script before deciding to turn the idea into a novel.

Meet me in Malmo has been available for some time as an e-book. Why the transition to a printed edition?

Meet me in Malmö started out as a hardback, but the publisher wouldn’t reprint it when its small run sold out. So, when I got the rights back, I put it out speculatively as an ebook. Luckily, it has been successful over the last two years, along with the follow-ups. I was approached by McNidder & Grace, who I had worked with before on an art book, and they had ambitious plans for a crime section. They’ve signed up a number of new crime writers, so it seems like an exciting opportunity.

Are you hoping that your book will find a different audience when it hits the high street stores?

I don’t think the paperbacks will necessarily find a different readership; just one which doesn’t like Kindles! I’ve had quite a lot of correspondence from readers who have friends and family who they say would like the books, but are not into e-readers. The same applies to my elderly relatives who would buy the books out of blind loyalty.

Will all your e-books be re-released as paperbacks.

The next two books – Murder in Malmö and Missing in Malmö – are due to be released in June and August through McNidder & Grace.

How important is location to your writing? Could the book have been set in a different city?

Very important. To me, a city, town or rural location is like an extra character. You can’t imagine Morse without Oxford or Harry Hole without Oslo. The location often reflects the main character, and vice versa. In my case, Malmö is almost the brand. It also anchors the stories, even if I the characters wander off to other places – like Switzerland and Berlin in my latest book, Midnight in Malmö. And describing Malmö is also a way of introducing readers to a Scandinavian city. I see it from the outside; it’s a different view from indigenous writers.

Which writers have influenced you?

Though I don’t write spy stories as such, I’ve always been a huge fan of John le Carré. What I’ve tried to learn from him is his use of interviews/interrogations as a way of revealing information and moving the plot along. When I discovered Henning Mankell, I felt an immediate empathy. Not only does he set his Wallander novels in a police station I was familiar with – Anita Sundström was partly based on a friend who worked there – he also places his action in existing locations; blocks of flats, pubs, parks etc. For me they are easier to describe than fictitious ones. Besides, a number of readers seem to enjoy finding them on Google Earth!

What are you working on right now?

I’ve started on an Anita Sundström short story set around Christmas – it may develop into a novella. Then there will be a fifth Malmö novel next year. I may also return to a possible sequel to my Georgian-set crime romp, Sweet Smell of Murder.

Thank you to Torquil MacLeod and McNidder & Grace for making this interview possible.

Meet Me in Malmö can be ordered from Amazon:

Totally Serialized – Interview with Caroline Proust

20 Feb


Caroline Proust, star of Spiral, visited Institut Francais and revealed behind-the-scenes secrets of France’s most successful police series to more than 200 fans.

Frequently compared to The Wire, Spiral’s hard-edged view of French policing introduced British audiences to Gallic Noir. Now in its fifth season, a sixth will be produced later this year, this gritty drama tackles issues facing contemporary France through the eyes of its justice system.

The latest series has been the most successful to date in the UK. Critics have responded with levels of fervour not seen since The Bridge and ratings have topped the million mark.


Making her début at a British event, a visibly delighted Proust admitted to being surprised at Spiral’s popularity in Britain.

‘We just knew that there’s been a million viewers for this season,’ she says. ‘Gregory (Fitoussi – Pierre Clément) told me. He worked here on Mr Selfridge and he told me that it was a big success here.’

Fresh from delivering a masterclass on how the show is made and her approach to playing Laure. Proust posed for photographs and signed autographs for over 200 fans.

She recently joined Facebook and has connected with over 3,000 enthusiasts.

‘I opened a Facebook account because I wanted to know what was happening in other countries,’ she explains. ‘This is very interesting for me to hear from Italian, Greek, American, and English fans. There are many English fans.’


A classically trained actor, Proust was primarily known for her work on the stage when she joined the series. In between seasons she returns to the theatre. Would she be interested in appearing in the West End?

‘I would really like to do that. Maybe I can come with a French play. I came years ago with the play Game of Love and Chance.’

Spiral’s popularity is on the rise. Might now be the time to capitalise on its success and make a feature film?

‘We were wondering. The producer asked us if we want to do a cinema movie. First time we said yes, yes we want to do that and we said I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’ she says. ‘The thing which is very interesting is that you can show how complex human beings are. In the movie you only have one and a half hours.’


Institut Francais have posted a podcast containing extracts from Caroline Proust and Anne Landois’ panels:

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515

Spiral – Series 5 can be ordered from Amazon:

Event Review: Totally Serialized – Decrypting Spiral

5 Feb


Shining a light onto the finest TV currently being produced on both sides of the English Channel, Totally Serialized returned to Institute Francais for a fourth season of discussions and exclusive premières.

Launching three days of festivities, Spiral’s showrunner Anne Landois spoke to James Rampton from The Independent about her career, how the series is made, and its popularity in France and the UK.

Now in its tenth year of production, Spiral is seen in 75 countries. Created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin for French cable network Canal+, it’s the station’s longest running drama series. Transforming the network’s fortunes, it re-positioned the station into a French equivalent of HBO. Seen in 75 countries, Spiral is the most widely sold series in the history of French television.

Canal+  is committed to ensuring the programme has a long-term future. A sixth season has been commissioned and is due to go into production later this year.

Writing professionally since 1996, Anne Landois joined Spiral’s scripting team for the third season. The series currently airing on BBC Four is her first as head writer.

With a track record for writing series and TV movies grounded in realism alongside a long-term interest in policing and judicial process, Landois was a perfect choice to become the new creative force behind Spiral.

As showrunner Landois oversees the series’ artistic vision. In conjunction with a co-writer she crafts a detailed document that encapsulates the season’s main story, subplots, and character developments. This blueprint is then distributed to writers of individual episodes.

The production team uses a core group of advisers comprising police officers, lawyers, and judges throughout the scripting to guarantee the series is rooted in reality. Anne acknowledged the importance of consultants and emphasised the need to have good writers on board to create gripping drama.

Asked how writing has changed this season Landois replied that over the last decade viewers had become close to the main characters and now was the time to concentrate on their personal stories.

She compared the officers interrelationship to a blended family with Laure Berthaud as a surrogate matriarch of the household.

French television drama is currently experiencing a creative renaissance. In addition to Spiral, Braquo, Hard, JO, Maison Close, and The Returned have enjoyed success and acclaim outside of France. Anne said that French drama had been asleep but is now wide awake. The industry has studied shows coming out of English speaking territories, learning techniques in production and applying the lessons to home-grown series.

Explaining how a series is scripted and produced, Landois provided an accessible account of a showrunner’s working methods and differences between French and British television cultures. Fans of Spiral left Institute Francais with an enhanced appreciation of the writer’s craft and an increased understanding of the many production decisions that are made to bring their favourite French crime show to the screen.

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 –


Event Review: William Boyd & Marc Dugain – The Great War, Memory & Fiction

28 Jan


Commemorating the centenary of the First World War Institute Francais invited a pair of acclaimed writers to talk about the conflict and it’s enduring literary legacy.

Inspired by his great grandfather’s experiences during World War One Marc Dugain wrote The Officer’s Ward in fifteen days. An instant critical and commercial success, it won several literary awards including the Prix des Deux Magots.

Wounded early on in the conflict, Dugain’s grandfather suffered extensive facial injuries and spent the remainder of the war convalescing in a hospital. He had to undergo nineteen surgical procedures in an attempt to repair his face. For the rest of his life he had trouble speaking, was only able to eat liquidised food and developed an ability to pull his tongue through the reconstructed nose.

Dugain’s moving account of a soldier spending several years in the Val-de-Grâce hospital rebuilding his life whilst beyond the institution’s walls millions were losing their lives in a bloody conflict waged across the continent is now studied in French schools.

A feature film adaptation was released in 2001. Nominated for nine César awards, it was submitted as the official entry at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dugain acknowledged that the First World War has greater resonance in contemporary French culture than the second due to the nation not yet having come to terms with atrocities committed and allegations that some citizens may have collaborated with invading Nazi forces.

Offering an alternative to conventional historical narratives, Dugain expressed his belief that events between 1914 and 1945 was a single war with a lengthy interlude. He suggested a complex series of events including the Treaty of Versailles made a resumption of hostilities inevitable.

Discussing the writing process Dugain stated that it’s his duty to create a fiction firmly grounded in reality.

A future project will be a script about the role played by Chinese Labour Corps in the conflict. With China not officially involved in hostilities until the decoration of war against Germany in 1917 battalions were restricted to non combatant duties. Under-represented in film and literature, the experiences of those who dug trenches and carried bodies is a story, he feels, has to be told.

Members of fellow panellist William Boyd’s family were also injured in the line of duty. His grandfather was wounded in the back at the Battle of Somme and kept the shrapnel as a souvenir. A great uncle was wounded at Paschendale.

One of Britain’s most successful novelists. Boyd’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In a career lasting more than three decades he has written the screenplay for Chaplin, authored a biography of fictitious artist Nat Tate and enlisted the aid of David Bowie in a playful hoax that fooled New York’s art critic community.

Boyd made his debut as director in 1999 with the feature film The Trench. Starring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, the movie focused on a platoon in the hours leading up to the Battle of the Somme.

Currently living in France, Boyd spoke with passion about how the conflict has influenced his writing, differences between French and British commemorations, and the creation of historical myths.

Boyd suggested that in trying to understand events of one hundred years ago we may be distorting key political moments by trying to see them through a twenty-first century perspective. The creation of a historical narrative may have prioritised specific steps in the road to war and devalued instances which were regarded as significant at the time.

In common with many school children, Boyd was taught the War Poets at school. The horrors described in Sassoon’s verse were too much for a fellow pupil who fled from the classroom.

Boyd noted a tendency in war literature to make combat noble and heroic. He expressed a belief that writers and filmmakers have a duty to demythologise the conflict and show the true extent of horror experienced by those fighting in the front line.

When writing about the past he strives to strip away false glamour and heroism. His historical novels are written to challenge false assumptions about the eras and give the readers a greater understanding of the events without exaggeration or sensationalism.

An enlightening and engaging debate offering an insight into the workings of two highly successful novelists, how family experiences in the First World War continues to influence their work and the role they are playing in making sure the fallen will never be forgotten.

For information about future events being staged by Institut Français please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 –


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