Friday, July 01, 2022

Bagging Daggers

Wouldn’t you know it? Just yesterday, while visiting a bookshop in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, I picked up and thought about buying a copy of British author Ray Celestin’s Sunset Swing—the fourth entry in his “City Blues Quartet”—but ultimately passed, because I haven’t yet read his third novel, The Mobster’s Lament (2019). Now I discover that Sunset Swing has won not just one, but two 2022 Gold Dagger awards from the UK Crime Writers’ Association. Drat, I should’ve bought that copy after all!

Anyway, the CWA announced its latest Dagger award recipients this last Wednesday, in 10 different categories.

Gold Dagger: Sunset Swing, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)

Also nominated: Before You Knew My Name, by Jacqueline Bublitz (Little, Brown); Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Headline); The Unwilling, by John Hart (Zaffre); The Shadows of Men, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker); and The Trawlerman, by William Shaw (Riverrun)

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: Dead Ground, by M.W. Craven (Constable)

Also nominated: Find You First, by Linwood Barclay (HQ); The Pact, by Sharon Bolton (Orion); The Devil’s Advocate, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion); Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Headline); and Dream Girl, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)

John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger: The Appeal, by Janice Hallett (Viper)

Also nominated: Welcome to Cooper, by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer); Repentance, by Eloísa Díaz (Weidenfeld & Nicolson); The Mash House, by Alan Gillespie (Unbound); Where Ravens Roost, by Karin Nordin (HQ); How to Kidnap the Rich, by Rahul Raina (Little, Brown); and Waking the Tiger, by Mark Wightman (Hobeck)

Historical Dagger: Sunset Swing, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)

Also nominated: April in Spain, by John Banville (Faber and Faber); Crow Court, by Andy Charman (Unbound); Not One of Us, by Alis Hawkins (Canelo); Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan); and A Corruption of Blood, by Ambrose Parry (Canongate)

Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger: Hotel Cartagena, by Simone Buchholz, translated by Rachel Ward (Orenda)

Also nominated: Bullet Train, by Kōtarō Isaka, translated by Sam Malissa (Harvill Secker); Oxygen, by Sacha Naspini, translated by Clarissa Botsford (Europa Editions); People Like Them, by Samira Sedira, translated by Lara Vergnaud (Raven); and The Rabbit Factor, by Antti Tuomainen, translated by David Hackston (Orenda)

Short Story Dagger: “Flesh of a Fancy Woman,” by Paul Magrs (from Criminal Pursuits: Crime Through Time, edited by Samantha Lee Howe; Telos)

Also nominated: “Blindsided,” by Caroline England (from Criminal Pursuits); “London,” by Jo Nesbø (from The Jealousy Man and Other Stories, by Jo Nesbø; Harvill Secker); “With the Others,” by T.M. Logan (from Afraid of the Shadows, edited by Miranda Jewess; Criminal Minds); “Changeling,” by Bryony Pearce (from Criminal Pursuits); and “When I Grow Up,” by Robert Scragg (from Afraid of the Shadows)

ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-fiction: The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice, by Julia Laite (Profile)

Also nominated: The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion, by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne (Faber and Faber); The Dublin Railway Murder, by Thomas Morris (Harvill Secker); The Unusual Suspect, by Ben Machell (Canongate); Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe (Picador); and The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Murders That Stunned an Empire, by Julie Kavanagh (Grove Press)

Dagger in the Library (“for a body of work by an established crime writer that has long been popular with borrowers from libraries”): Mark Billingham

Also nominated: Cath Staincliffe, Edward Marston, Lin Anderson, and Susan Hill

Publishers’ Dagger (“awarded annually to the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year”): Faber and Faber

Also nominated: HarperCollins, Harper Fiction; Penguin Random House, Michael Joseph; Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo; Titan; and Profile Books, Viper

Debut Dagger: The 10-12, by Anna Maloney

Also nominated: Henry’s Bomb, by Kevin Bartlett; Holloway Candle, by Laura Ashton Hill; The Dead of Egypt, by David Smith; and The Dieppe Letters, by Liz Rachel Walker

In addition, the CWA presented Edinburgh-born historical crime novelist C.J. Sansom with its 2022 Diamond Dagger “for a lifetime contribution to crime writing in the English language.” And its Red Herring award (“for services to crime writing and the CWA”) went posthumously to Thalia Proctor, who passed away in April.

The Strand Narrows Its Choices

So much for my mini-vacation. After a week spent hosting a good friend from out of town, followed by a few days of much-needed leisure in Canada with my wife, what should greet me upon my return? Almost 700 unwanted messages needing to be cleared out of my e-mailbox, plus developments aplenty in the world of crime fiction.

In the way of news, let’s begin​ with the announcement, by The Strand Magazine, of its 2022 Critics Awards nominees, in two categories.

Best Mystery Debut:
Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (Little, Brown)
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria)
Bullet Train, by Kōtarō Isaka (Abrams)
Lightseekers, by Femi Kayode (Mulholland)
Velvet Was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)
All Her Little Secrets, by Wanda M. Morris (Morrow)

Best Mystery Novel:
The Dark Hours, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)
The Low Desert, by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint)
These Toxic Things, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer)
Dream Girl, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
1979, by Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly)

Additionally, The Strand has chosen to give its 2022 Publisher of the Year Award to Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic Inc., and its latest Lifetime Achievement Awards to authors Sandra Brown and Nelson DeMille.

These commendations will be presented in early September.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Revue of Reviewers: 6-30-22

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

















Wednesday, June 29, 2022

So Far, So Good

Although I have engaged in similar exercises in the past, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable right now posting a list of the “best crime novels of the year … so far.” Thanks to my concussion in March, I lost more than a month of reading, and still have a stack of untouched new books waiting for my attention. Glancing through my list of works consumed this year, I’m guessing that only one or two will rank among my favorites of 2022. I still have a lot of catching up to do.

That’s apparently not the case for editors at online retailer Amazon, who recently posted their picks of what they say are the 20 best mysteries and thrillers released in the United States during the first half of the year. Here are their choices:

The Maid, by Nita Prose (Ballantine)
City on Fire, by Don Winslow (Morrow)
Carolina Moonset, by Matt Goldman (Forge)
The Overnight Guest, by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row)
Blood Sugar, by Sascha Rothchild (Putnam)
The Love of My Life, by Rosie Walsh (Pamela Dorman)
Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak (Flatiron)
The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra (Pegasus Crime)
The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey)
A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur)
The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont (St. Martin’s Press)
The Chase, by Candice Fox (Forge)
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd (Morrow)
The Island, by Adrian McKinty (Little, Brown)
The Children on the Hill, by Jennifer McMahon (Gallery/Scout Press)
One-Shot Harry, by Gary Phillips (Soho Crime)
One of Us Is Dead, by Jeneva Rose (Blackstone)
Two Nights In Lisbon, by Chris Pavone (MCD)
Once a Thief, by Christopher Reich (Mulholland)
When You Are Mine, by Michael Robotham (Scribner)

I have read a measly two of those tales, and a couple more can be found in my swaying to-be-read stack. I don’t know how many other of those 20 I’ll get to before the end of the year. Sigh ...

* * *

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter has been busy, as well, compiling his contributors’ preferred titles of 2022. Here are Easter’s own top-five selections to date:

The Dark Flood, by Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly)
Bad Actors, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Even the Darkest Night, by Javier Cercas (Knopf)
The Botanist, by M.W. Craven (Constable)
Shifty’s Boys, by Chris Offutt (Grove Press)

You’ll find many more favored releases—both from DP critics and other editorial sources—by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Five Comers

Organizers of this year’s Bloody Scotland international crime-writing festival (September 15-18) have announced their shortlist of five nominees for the 2022 Bloody Scotland Debut Prize:

Welcome to Cooper, by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer)
Meantime, by Frankie Boyle (John Murray)
The Wolf Hunters, by Amanda Mitchison (Fledgling Press)
The Girl, The Crow, The Writer and The Fighter, by George Paterson (Into Books)
Hear No Evil, by Sarah Smith (Two Roads)

The winners of both this award and the 2022 McIlvanney Prize will be declared in Stirling, Scotland, on Thursday, September 15.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

New Zealand Rolls Out Its Finest



“A dozen years after we launched the Ngaio Marsh Awards to celebrate Kiwi crime, thriller, and mystery writing,” writes Craig Sisterson, founder of those annual New Zealand prizes, “it’s really gratifying to see how our local authors, experienced and new, continue to raise the bar and produce world-class stories.” This year’s longlist of Best Novel nominees—shown below—includes a trio of previous winners, a few past finalists, and five first-time contestants.

City of Vengeance, by D.V. Bishop (Macmillan)
Before You Knew My Name, by Jacqueline Bublitz (Allen & Unwin)
The Quiet People, by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
To the Sea, by Nikki Crutchley (HarperCollins)
Polaroid Nights, by Lizzie Harwood (Cuba Press)
Isobar Precinct, by Angelique Kasmara (Cuba Press)
Nancy Business, by R.W.R. McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
She’s a Killer, by Kirsten McDougall (Te Herenga Waka
University Press)
The Last Guests, by J.P. Pomare (Hachette)
The Devils You Know, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
Quiet in Her Bones, by Nalini Singh (Hachette)
Waking the Tiger, by Mark Wightman (Hobeck)

The Best Novel and Best First Novel finalists will be announced sometime in early August, with the ultimate winners set to be revealed during a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held on the South Island of New Zealand from August 31 to September 4.

The Pause That Refreshes

Postings in The Rap Sheet will be sparser than normal over the next couple of weeks, as I try to take a mini-vacation from work responsibilities. Things should return to normal around here by the beginning of July. I hope to see you back then.

Friday, June 17, 2022

“Tears” Triumphs Once More

Shawn “S.A.” Cosby is definitely on a winning streak. Just two weeks ago, his latest novel, Razorblade Tears, won two—count ’em, two—Thriller Awards from the International Thriller Writers organization. Now comes word that Tears has also picked up the 2021 Hammett Prize, a commendation given by the International Association of Crime Writers, North America, to a book, originally published in the English language in the United States or Canada, “that best represents the conception of literary excellence in crime writing.”

Also nominated for this award were Stung, by William Deverell (ECW Press); Five Decembers, by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime); Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday); and The Sacrifice of Lester Yates, by Robin Yocum (Arcade Crime Wave).

Previous winners of the annual Hammett Prize include Stephen Mack Jones (August Snow), Lou Berney (November Road), Jane Stanton Hitchcock (Bluff), and David Joy (When These Mountains Burn).

Revue of Reviewers: 6-17-22

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.











Stirling Finalizes Its Lineup

Once again, I shall be unable to attend the Bloody Scotland international crime-writing festival this coming September 15-18 in Stirling, Scotland. This is too bad, because the schedule of speakers, panels, and other happenings that will comprise this 10th-anniversary celebration sounds terrific. From a news release:
2022 sees the return of several Bloody Scotland favourites that we haven’t seen since the pre-pandemic days of 2019. Our dramatic torchlit procession through Stirling[’s] historic old town led by the pipes and drums of the Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band and Stirling and District Schools Pipe Band encourages locals who don’t normally attend literary events to get involved. Scotland tackle England in our crime writers’ football match at the new venue of King’s Park, a free fun event which is also aimed at breaking down barriers. There will be a return of the ever-popular Crime at the Coo cabaret featuring an array of crime writers showing off their musical talents and the much-loved Quiz this year takes the form of Vaseem Khan and Abir Mukherjee’s ‘Red Hot Night of a Million Games’ in which they steal the best bits from the game shows of yesteryear and mash them up into something truly remarkable.
The complete program of events, as well as a link to where you can purchase various tickets, is to be found here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Softcover Standouts

Last month, organizers of the annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award announced the 18 books and authors longlisted for the 2022 prize. Today, we have the half-dozen finalists:

The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
True Crime Story, by Joseph Knox (Penguin)
Daughters of Night, by Laura
Shepherd-Robinson (Pan)
Slough House, by Mick Herron
(John Murray)
Midnight at Malabar House, by Vaseem Khan (Hodder Paperbacks)
The Last Thing to Burn, by Will Dean (Hodder Paperbacks)

Members of the public are invited to vote here for their favorites among that shortlist. This selection process will close on Friday, July 8, with the winner to be declared on Thursday, July 21—opening night of the 2022 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, in Harrogate, England. The victor will receive £3,000 in prize money, plus “a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by T&R Theakston Ltd.”

As has been explained previously by In Reference to Murder, this award, “now in its 18th year, is presented by Harrogate International Festivals and recognizes the best crime novels published in the UK and Ireland in paperback over the past year.”

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Copenhaver Lands a Lammy

The Savage Kind (Pegasus), the opening installment in a trilogy by Richmond, Virginia, author John Copenhaver, has received the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Mystery. That news was made last evening during a virtual ceremony.

Also vying for top honors in that category were Bath Haus, by P.J. Vernon (Doubleday); Finding the Vein, by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde (Ooligan Press); Lies With Man, by Michael Nava (Amble Press); and Murder Under Her Skin, by Stephen Spotswood (Doubleday).

Note that Best LGBTQ Mystery was just one of 25 different classifications of nominees for this year’s “Lammy” awards. You’ll find the full list of winners here.

Friday, June 10, 2022

A Few End-of-the-Week Links

• The Sisters in Crime organization has announced that Shizuka Otake, a resident of Jackson Heights, New York, has won the 2022 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. According to a news release, “Her submission, Murder in Tokyo, is a story of a Japanese American teen’s life which is shattered when her boyfriend is arrested as the prime suspect in a classmate’s murder. ‘I lived in Tokyo as an adult and found it painful to be viewed as different,’ said Otake. ‘I expected to fit in and wondered how much harder that experience would have been if I was a vulnerable teen.’” Otake’s victory brings her a $2,000 grant, which she can apply toward “workshops, seminars, conferences, retreats, online courses and research activities to assist in completion of their work.” Five runners-up in this contest, which is named for police-procedural author Bland (who died in 2010), will receive a one-year membership to Sisters in Crime. They are Danielle Arceneaux (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Amber Boothe (Crowthorne, England), Jennifer K. Morita (Sacramento, Calif.), Valerie Kemp (Ann Arbor, Mich.), and Kathy A. Norris (Los Angeles, Calif.).

• It’s been so long since I last heard about third-series plans for the genial ITV-TV crime drama McDonald & Dodds, that I’d stopped checking for them. But The Killing Times brings news now that four fresh 90-minute episodes of the ofttimes humorous whodunit are due for transmission in the UK, beginning on Sunday, June 19. You’ll remember that Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins play Detective Chief Inspector Lauren McDonald and Detective Sergeant Dodds, respectively, in this program set in modern-day Bath, England. The Killing Times tells us what they’ll be up to right out of the gate:
In episode one, a young woman dies in a busy park in broad daylight and the mismatched McDonald and Dodds are called in to untangle the mysterious circumstances of her death. Who is she? How did she die surrounded by witnesses? And how is it possible that she is … smiling? All roads seem to lead to Professor George Gillan [Alan Davies], a linguistic anthropologist who lives in a rambling mansion with his eccentric mother, Agnes, whose 100th birthday is days away. DS Dodds is sure that the house has something to do with the murder, but in uncovering Belvedere’s history, Dodds also unearths secrets in his own past.
Radio Times shares the basic plot lines of subsequent installments. There’s no word yet on when this latest set of McDonald & Dodds stories will become available to Amazon Prime subscribers, but as one who’s enjoyed the previous seasons, I hope it will be soon!

• Did you know that Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane was working on Black Bird, a psychological thriller for the Apple TV+ streaming service, and that it’s scheduled to debut on July 8? Deadline reports that the six-episode drama features Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, Greg Kinnear, Sepideh Moafi, and Ray Liotta—in his last screen role (he died in May)—“and was adapted from the true-crime memoir In With the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption by James Keene and Hillel Levin.” The plot is said to follow “high school football hero and Big Jim Keene’s son Jimmy Keene (Egerton), who is sentenced to 10 years in a minimum security prison. He is given a choice: enter a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane and befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Hauser), or stay where he is and serve his full sentence with no possibility of parole. Keene’s only way out is to elicit a confession and find out where the bodies of several young girls are buried before Hall’s appeal goes through. But is this suspected killer telling the truth?” Deadline’s story includes a trailer for the show.

• Last but not least, Sunshine State journalist Craig Pittman points me toward his recent story about how a Florida Panhandle town became the site of “enough grisly discoveries to fuel a couple of seasons of Forensic Files,” thanks to a Tennessee fiction writer.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

PaperBack: “Girl in a Cage”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.



Girl in a Cage, by “Carlton Gibbs,” aka Gifford Paul (Beacon, 1962). As the Facebook page Vintage Paperback & Book Covers explains, author Paul was “a pulp veteran who wrote in several genres; primarily westerns. As the 1960s started to swing, he used the Gibbs moniker to explore the carnal carnival exploding in the sub-divisions of post-war America as the station-wagon set shed an inhibition or six behind the doors of their split-level abodes.” Other of his Gibbs-bylined books include Neighbors and Lovers (1962), That Kind of Widow (1963), and Suburbia After Dark (1965). If you’re interested, the full text of Girl in a Cage can be read here, courtesy of the Internet Archive.

The cover art for Girl in a Cage is by Robert Maguire. That same illustration appeared on the 1964 Beacon Signal paperback Sex Around the Clock, by “Alex Carter,” aka Charles Boeckman Jr.