Honor roll: Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award for Historical Crime Novel

Each of these books has been nominated for an Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award for Historical Crime Novel. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs: A Novel

Olen Steinhauer

It’s August, 1948, three years after the Russians “liberated” the nation from German Occupation. But the Red Army still patrols the capital’s rubble-strewn streets, and the ideals of the Revolution are but memories. Twenty-two-year-old Detective Emil Brod finally gets his chance to serve his country, investigating murder for the People’s Militia.

The first victim is a state songwriter, but the facts point to a political motive. Emil would like to investigate further, but his colleagues in Homicide are suspicious or silent: He is on his own in this new, dangerous world.

The Bridge of Sighs launches a unique series of crime novels featuring a cast of characters in an ever-evolving landscape, the politically volatile terrain of Eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century.

Book:If the Dead Rise Not

If the Dead Rise Not: A Bernie Gunther Mystery

Philip Kerr

Berlin 1934. The Nazis have been in power for just eighteen months but already Germany has seen some unpleasant changes. As the city prepares to host the 1936 Olympics, Jews are being expelled from all German sporting organisations—a blatant example of discrimination.

Forced to resign as a homicide detective with Berlin’s Criminal Police, Bernie is now house detective at the famous Adlon Hotel. The discovery of two bodies—one a businessman and the other a Jewish boxer—involves Bernie in the lives of two hotel guests. One is a beautiful left-wing journalist intent on persuading America to boycott the Berlin Olympiad; the other is a German-Jewish gangster who plans to use the Olympics to enrich himself and the Chicago mob. As events unfold, Bernie uncovers a vast labour and construction racket designed to take advantage of the huge sums the Nazis are prepared to spend to showcase the new Germany to the world. It is a plot that finds its conclusion twenty years later in pre-revolution Cuba, the country to which Bernie flees from Argentina at the end of A Quiet Flame.

Book:The Janissary Tree

The Janissary Tree: A Novel

Jason Goodwin

It is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the Ottoman Empire must follow suit. But just before the Sultan announces sweeping changes, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind them? Only one intelligence agent can be trusted to find out: Yashim Lastname, a man both brilliant and near-invisible in this world. You see, Yashim is a eunuch.

He leads us into the palace’s luxurious seraglios and Istanbul’s teeming streets, and leans on the wisdom of a dyspeptic Polish ambassador, a transsexual dancer, and a Creole-born queen mother. And he introduces us to the Janissaries. For 400 years, they were the empire’s elite soldiers, but they grew too powerful, and ten years ago, the Sultan had them crushed. Are the Janissaries staging a brutal comeback?

The Janissary Tree is the first in a series featuring the most enchanting detective since Precious Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Splendidly paced and illuminating, it belongs beside Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and the historical thrillers of Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Book:Fingersmith

Fingersmith

Sarah Waters

From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Tipping the Velvet and the award-winning Affinity: a spellbinding, twisting tale of a great swindle, of fortunes and hearts won and lost, set in Victorian London among a family of thieves.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves-fingersmiths-for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives-Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in…[more]

Book:Red Sky Lament

Red Sky Lament: A John Ray Horn Mystery

Edward Wright

Los Angeles, late 1940s: As brush fires begin to eat at the dry grass in the hills rimming the San Fernando Valley, a more ominous threat is taking shape. All over Hollywood, the U.S. government is ordering people to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee as part of the crusade to uncover Communist influence in the movies.

John Ray Horn has little use for politics, but as a former B-movie cowboy star who fell into prison and disgrace, he knows a few things about outsiders. And when his ex-lover Maggie O’Dare asks him to come to the aid of an old friend of hers who has been targeted by the committee, he can’t refuse. Owen Bruder, a brilliantly talented but notoriously difficult screenwriter, is accused of having belonged to the Communist Party—a charge he strongly denies. If Horn can discover Bruder’s secret accuser, they might have a chance to clear his name. But no one is willing to talk. People are scared—perhaps more frightened than they…[more]

Book:The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel

Stef Penney

1867, Canada. As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a seventeen-year-old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead mans cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township journalists, Hudson Bay Company men, trappers, traders but do they want to solve the crime, or exploit it?

Book:The American Boy

The American Boy

Andrew Taylor

Edgar Allan Poe is the American boy, a child standing on the edge of mysteries.

In 1819, two Americans arrive in London, and soon afterwards a bank collapses. A man is found dead and horribly mutilated on a building site. An heiress flirts with her inferiors. A poor schoolmaster struggles to understand what is happening before it destroys him and those he loves.

But the truth, like the youthful Poe himself, has its origins in the new world as well as the old. Buried deep in the novel’s core is a bitter episode of corruption and divided loyalties during the War of 1812, the inconclusive struggle between the newly independent United States and the world’s one global superpower.

The American Boy is a 21st-century novel with a 19th-century voice. It is a a multilayered literary murder story…[more]

Book:The Athenian Murders

The Athenian Murders

Jose Carlos Somoza

In this brilliant, highly entertaining, and intriguing novel, Jose Carlos Somoza intertwines two darkly compelling riddles, forcing us to confront the ways in which we interpret reality.

In ancient Athens, one of the pupils of Plato’s Academy is found dead. His idealistic teacher Diagoras is convinced the pupil’s death is not as accidental as it appears, and asks the famous Heracles Pontor, the “Decipherer of Enigmas,” to investigate. As the death toll rises, the two men find themselves drawn into the dangerous underworld of the Athenian aristocracy, risking their own lives to solve the riddle of these young men’s deaths. Simultaneously, a second plot unfolds: that of the modern-day translator of the ancient text, who, as he proceeds with his work, becomes convinced that the original author has hidden a second meaning in the text, one that can be interpreted through certain repeated words and images. As the story advances, however,…[more]

Book:Bleeding Heart Square

Bleeding Heart Square

Andrew Taylor

It’s 1934, and the decaying London cul-de-sac of Bleeding Heart Square is an unlikely place of refuge for aristocratic Lydia Langstone. But as she flees her abusive marriage there is only one person she can turn to—the genteelly derelict Captain Ingleby-Lewis, currently lodging at No. 7.

However, unknown to Lydia, a dark mystery haunts 7 Bleeding Heart Square. What happened to Miss Penhow, the middle-aged spinster who owns the house and who vanished four years earlier? Why is a seedy plain-clothes policeman obsessively watching the square? What is making struggling journalist Rory Wentwood so desperate to contact Miss Penhow?

And why are parcels of rotting hearts being sent to Joseph Serridge, the last person to see Miss Penhow alive…?

Legend has it the Devil once danced in Bleeding Heart Square—but is there now a new and sinister presence lurking in its shadows?

Book:The Interrogator

The Interrogator

Andrew Williams

Spring, 1941. The armies of the Reich are masters of Europe. Britain stands alone, dependent on her battered navy for survival, while Hitler’s submarines—his ‘grey wolves’—prey on the Atlantic convoys that are the country’s only lifeline. Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay is amongst just a handful of men picked up when his ship is torpedoed. Unable to free himself from the memories of that night at sea, he becomes an interrogator with naval intelligence, questioning captured U-Boat crews.

He is convinced the Germans have broken British naval codes, but he’s a lone voice, a damaged outsider, and his superiors begin to wonder—can he really be trusted when so much is at stake? As the Blitz reduces Britain’s cities to rubble and losses at sea mount, Lindsay becomes increasingly isolated and desperate. No one will believe him, not even his lover, Mary Henderson, who works at the very heart of the intelligence establishment.

Lindsay decides to risk all in one last throw of the dice, setting a trap for his prize captive—and nemisis—U-Boat Commander Jürgen Mohr, the man who sent his ship to its doom.

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