Scandinavian crime fiction – Swansea expert helps judge international competition

From Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to TV’s “The Killing”, Scandinavian crime has never been more popular. Now, a shortlist of six entries has been announced for an international competition for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year, with a Swansea University expert as one of the judges.

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‌Dr Katharina Hall, associate professor in the Department of Languages, Translation and Communication, is an expert in international crime fiction.  As well as her academic research, she also runs a blog called Mrs Peabody Investigates.

Kat Hall - Dragon TattooFeatured in The Guardian and the BBC Radio 4 series Foreign Bodies,  the Mrs Peabody blog has had over 250,000 hits from 150 countries.
‌Dr Hall is one of the judges for the Petrona award, which was launched last year in memory of another well-known crime fiction blogger, Maxine Clarke, who died in December 2012.  

The shortlist for the 2014 Petrona award is:

  • Closed for Winter, Jørn Lier Horst (Norway)
  • Strange Shores, Arnaldur Indriðason (Iceland)
  • The Weeping Girl, Håkan Nesser (Sweden)
  • Linda, as in the Linda Murder, Leif G W Persson (Sweden)
  • Someone to Watch over me, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Iceland)
  • Light in a Dark House, Jan Costin Wagner (set in Finland)

Dr Katharina Hall said:
'It’s the sheer quality of much Scandinavian crime fiction that makes it so popular. There is a long tradition of top-class writers, from Henning Mankel, creator of Wallander, through to Stieg Larsson and Anne Holt.
The books are often best-sellers, but TV and film has brought Scandinavian crime fiction to an even wider audience.
Of course none of this great work would be accessible without the vital role of translators.  The award is specifically for Scandinavian crime fiction in translation and the quality of the translation is a key factor.'

Kat Hall - Petrona AwardsDr Hall also explained how her work helps extend the impact of her research beyond the boundaries of academia.

“The Mrs Peabody blog and my work as a judge for the competition both draw on my expertise in the subject as a researcher, so they are means for me to share my research with a wider audience.

Other bloggers and crime fiction fans are often extremely knowledgeable, so I also learn from them, which in turn helps inform my own research.  So it’s a two-way process of learning and enrichment, with benefits all round.”

The winning title will be announced at the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, to be held in Bristol from 15-18 May 2014.

Other judges for this year's competition are

Barry Forshaw – Writer and journalist specialising in crime fiction and film; author of four books covering Scandinavian crime fiction: Nordic Noir, Death in a Cold Climate, Euro Noir and the first biography of Stieg Larsson.

Sarah Ward – Online crime fiction reviewer and blogger at Crimepieces; English language teacher based in Manchester.

The award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.

The winner of the 2013 Petrona Award was Liza Marklund for Last Will, translated by Neil Smith.

Kat Hall - WallanderJudges' comments on the 2014 shortlist:
CLOSED FOR WINTER: This highly atmospheric novel sees Chief Inspector Wisting investigate an off-season burglary and a disturbing case of murder on the Norwegian coast of Vestfold. As ever, author Jørn Lier Horst’s police background lends the novel a striking authenticity, with readers treated to the outstanding plotting and characterisation that typify this quality series.
STRANGE SHORES: Drawn back to his childhood home by the unresolved disappearance of his brother, Inspector Erlendur takes on the most personal and difficult case of his career. Exploring the series’ enduring themes of loss and the impact of Iceland’s twentieth-century social transformation, this remarkable valedictory novel is one of the finest by a truly incisive writer, the undisputed king of Icelandic crime fiction.
THE WEEPING GIRL: While supposedly on holiday, Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno is pulled into the case of a missing teenage girl and the much earlier murder of a woman. This quietly compelling novel from Swedish author Håkan Nesser, with its distinctive European feel, is full of the assurance readers have come to expect from the Van Veeteren series. There is not a single misstep as the grim implications of the narrative are teased out.
LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER:  Leif G W Persson’s sprawling, state-of-the-nation novels make deft use of crime fiction conventions to expose the faultlines of Swedish society. This more closely focused novel is a brilliant exploration of a young woman’s murder, press sensationalism, and the inner workings of a police investigation, with readers re-introduced to the blackly humorous and truly unforgettable police detective Evert Bäckström.
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME: When a young man with Down’s Syndrome is convicted of arson and murder, lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired by one of his fellow inmates to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice. This ambitious Icelandic crime novel, which skilfully weaves multiple narrative strands together with elements of the supernatural, is another gripping and highly entertaining read from author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.
LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE: Still mourning the loss of his wife, Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa is called to investigate the strange murder of a comatose woman in hospital. German author Jan Costin Wagner delivers another wonderfully written and tightly constructed instalment in the Joentaa series, notable for its moving portrayal of a grief-stricken policeman and its in-depth exploration of victim and perpetrator psychology.

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