Annal: 2004 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award for Historical Crime Novel

Results of the Dagger Award in the year 2004.

Book:The Damascened Blade

The Damascened Blade: A Detective Joe Sandilands Novel

Barbara Cleverly

In the northwest frontier 1910, the screams of a wounded British officer abandoned at the bottom of a dark ravine are heard by a young Scottish subaltern. Ignoring the command to retreat to base the Highlander sets out alone, with dagger in hand, to rescue his fellow officer from the Pathan tribesman who is slowly torturing him to death. But the bloody outcome of this rescue attempt is not what anybody could have predicted.

Over a dozen years later the backwash of this tragedy threatens to engulf Joe Sandilands. On a welcome break from his policing duties, Joe is spending a fortnight with his old army friend, James Lindsay, commander of the British army’s front line fort at Gor Khatri on the Afghan border. However, the fragile peace is soon broken resulting in the death of a Pathan prince and the taking of hostages, and Joe and his companion are given seven days in which to identify, arrest and execute the killer before…[more]

Book:The Dante Club

The Dante Club: A Novel

Matthew Pearl

In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields—are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor.

The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante’s literary future…[more]

Book:Hell at the Breech

Hell at the Breech: A Novel

Tom Franklin

In 1897, an aspiring politician is mysteriously murdered in the rural area of Alabama known as Mitcham Beat. His outraged friends——mostly poor cotton farmers—form a secret society, Hell-at-the-Breech, to punish the townspeople they believe responsible. The hooded members wage a bloody year-long campaign of terror that culminates in a massacre where the innocent suffer alongside the guilty. Caught in the maelstrom of the Mitcham war are four people: the aging sheriff sympathetic to both sides; the widowed midwife who delivered nearly every member of Hell-at-the-Breech; a ruthless detective who wages his own war against the gang; and a young store clerk who harbors a terrible secret.

Based on incidents that occurred a few miles from the author’s childhood home, Hell at the Breech chronicles the events of dark days that led the people involved to discover their capacity for good, evil, or for both.

Book:The Judgement of Caesar

The Judgement of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome

Steven Saylor

It is 48 B.C. For years now, the rival Roman generals Caesar and Pompey have engaged in a contest for world domination. Both now turn to Egypt, where Pompey plans a last desperate stand on the banks of the Nile, while Caesar’s legendary encounter with Queen Cleopatra will spark a romance that reverberates down the centuries. But Egypt is a treacherous land, torn apart by the murderous rivalry between the goddess-queen and her brother King Ptolemy.

Into this hothouse atmosphere of intrigue and deception comes Gordianus the Finder, innocently seeking a cure for his wife, Bethesda, in the sacred waters of the Nile. But when his plans go awry, he finds himself engaged in an even more desperate pursuit—to prove the innocence of the son he once disowned, who stands accused of murder.

The judgment of Caesar will determine the fate of Gordianus’s son; the choice Caesar makes between Cleopatra and her…[more]

Book:The Lover

The Lover

Laura Wilson

Autumn, 1940, and London is in the grip of the Blitz. An unidentified female corpse is discovered in an alleyway in Soho—the fourth to have been found in a matter of weeks.

Rene is a Soho prostitute with a young son to support. She’s learnt to cope with the air-raids, but each night on the streets is a terrifying ordeal as the killer begins to pick off her friends. Lucy is a young, middle-class office worker living with her family in Clapham, struggling to make sense of things as her peaceful suburban life degenerates into chaos. Jim is a fighter pilot, handsome and much admired for his heroism in battle. The killer instinct makes him perfectly suited to the daily challenge he faces in the skies of southern England, but the strain is beginning to tell.

In ordinary circumstances, their paths might never have crossed, but in war-torn London, anything can happen. One night a bomb falls, with terrifying consequences for them all…

Book:The Shape of Sand

The Shape of Sand

Marjorie Eccles

Life an charnley was blessed, or so thought the Jardine children, until at a party to celebrate their mother Beatrice’s birthday, a family scandal catapulted them into the headlines. Nearly four decades later, at the end of world War Two, builders working on the house discover letters, photographs and a diary, and Beatrice’s daughters set about unraveling the events of that fateful night. The due lies in a voyage to Egypt undertaken by Beatrice, but the mummified body of a woman is discovered in their old home, a whole new set of questions need to be asked.

Book:The Thief Taker

The Thief Taker

Janet Gleeson

Agnes Meadowes is cook to the Blanchards of Foster Lane, the renowned silversmiths. Her quiet world of culinary activity, preparing jugged hare, oyster loaves, almond soup and other delicacies for the family, is a happy refuge from the hustle and bustle of 1750s London. But in a single night everything is to change: the Blanchards’ most prestigious and expensive commission, a giant silver wine cooler destined for the house of Sir Bartholomew Grey, is stolen and a sinister chain of events is set in motion. A young apprentice is murdered and a young maid, Rose, disappears. Are these portentous happenings connected?

Called upon by her master to investigate “below stairs”, Agnes enters a dark world of hidden secrets, jealousy and murderous intent. Before the game is played out she will be forced to act as mouse to the infamous Thief Taker’s cat as she is drawn into a seamy underworld of London crime. And the truth comes at a high price: she must decide how big a sacrifice she is prepared to make to bring the villains to justice. Boasting a heroine who’s going to win a multitude of admirers, The Thief Taker is a spellbinding novel of crime, chicanery and cooking.

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