Annal: 2013 Gold Dagger Award for Nonfiction

Results of the Dagger Award in the year 2013.

Book:Midnight in Peking

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China

Paul French

Who killed Pamela Werner?

On a frozen night in January 1937, in the dying days of colonial Peking, a body was found under the haunted watchtower. It was Pamela Werner, the teenage daughter of the city’s former British consul Edward Werner. Her heart had been removed.

A horrified world followed the hunt for Pamela’s killer, with a Chinese-British detective team pursuing suspects including a blood-soaked rickshaw puller, the Triads, and a lascivious grammar school headmaster. But the case was soon forgotten amid the carnage of the Japanese invasion…by all but Edward Werner. With a network of private investigators and informers, he followed the trail deep into Peking’s notorious Badlands and back to the gilded hotels of the colonial Quarter.

Some 75 years later, deep in the Scotland Yard archives, British historian Paul French accidentally came across the lost…[more]

Book:Against a Tide of Evil

Against a Tide of Evil

Mukesh Kapila

In this no-holds-barred account, the former head of the United Nations in Sudan reveals for the first time the shocking depths of evil plumbed by those who designed and orchestrated “the final solution” in Darfur.

A veteran of humanitarian crisis and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, Dr Mukesh Kapila arrived in Sudan in March 2003 having made a promise to himself that if he were ever in a position to stop the mass-killers, they would never triumph on his watch.

Against a Tide of Evil is a strident and passionate cri de coeur. It is the deeply personal account of one man driven to extreme action by the unwillingness of those in power to stop mass murder. It explores what empowers a man like Mukesh Kapila to stand up and be counted, and to act alone in the face of global indifference and venality. …[more]

Book:The Boy in the River

The Boy in the River

Richard Hoskins

On 21st September 2001 the mutilated torso of a small child was found floating beside London’s Tower Bridge, one tide away from being swept into the North Sea. Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city.

Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.

Book:A Fine Day for a Hanging

A Fine Day for a Hanging: The Real Ruth Ellis Story

Carol Ann Lee

In 1955, former nightclub manageress Ruth Ellis shot dead her lover, David Blakely. Following a trial that lasted less than two days, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. She became the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and her execution is the most notorious of hangman Albert Pierrepoint’s ‘duties’.

Despite Ruth’s infamy, the story of her life has never been fully told. Often wilfully misinterpreted, the reality behind the headlines was buried by an avalanche of hearsay. But now, through new interviews and comprehensive research into previously unpublished sources, Carol Ann Lee examines the facts without agenda or sensation. A portrait of the era and an evocation of 1950s club life in all its seedy glamour, A Fine Day for a Hanging sets Ruth’s gripping story firmly in its historical context in order to tell the truth about both her timeless crime and a punishment that was very much of its time.

Book:Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America

Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America

Clive Stafford Smith

In 1986, Kris Maharaj, a British businessman living in Miami, was arrested for the brutal murder of two ex-business associates. His lawyer did not present a strong alibi; Kris was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

It wasn’t until a young lawyer working for nothing, Clive Stafford Smith, took on his case that strong evidence began to emerge that the state of Florida had got the wrong man on Death Row. So far, so good—except that, as Stafford Smith argues here so compellingly, the American justice system is actually designed to ignore innocence. Twenty-six years later, Maharaj is still in jail.

Step by step, Stafford Smith untangles the Maharaj case and the system that makes disasters like this inevitable. His conclusions will act as a wake-up call for those who condone legislation which threatens basic human rights and, at the same time, the personal story he tells demonstrates that determination can challenge the institutions that surreptitiously threaten our freedom.

Book:Murder at Wrotham Hill

Murder at Wrotham Hill

Diana Souhami

Murder at Wrotham Hill takes the killing in October 1946 of Dagmar Petrzywalski as the catalyst for a compelling and unique meditation on murder and fate.

Dagmar, a gentle, eccentric spinster, was the embodiment of Austerity Britain’s prudence and thrift. Her murderer Harold Hagger’s litany of petty crimes, abandoned wives, sloughed-off identities and desertion was its opposite. The texture of their lives and the impression their experiences made on their characters fated their meeting on that bleak autumn morning—and determined the manner in which both would meet their death.

Featuring England’s first celebrity policeman, Fabian of the Yard, the celebrated forensic scientist, Keith Simpson, and history’s most famous and dedicated hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, this is a gripping and deeply moving book.

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