Friday, October 15, 2021

PLOTTING: Great than the Sum of Its Parts: MWANorCal Free Event!

Mystery Writers of America NorCal Mystery Month
. Free! Register Now! 

Next up: Saturday, October 16 

PLOTTING: Greater than the Sum of Its Parts – Plotting it all Together 

Via Zoom; advance registration required 

2 PM Pacific Time 

Plot: to plan or contrive especially secretly; to scheme Plotters and Pantsers have a lot in common. They all strive to include every necessary element of a good plot. But, what are those elements and how do they all join together to become something greater than the parts themselves? To find out join us, on Zoom, for this lively discussion! 


Camille Minichino received her Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University. She is currently on the faculty of Golden Gate University, San Francisco, and teaches writing throughout the Bay Area. Camille is Past President and a member of Mystery Writers of America NorCal, NorCal Sisters in Crime, and the California Writer’s Club. 


Glenda Carroll wrote a weekly sailing column for the Marin Independent Journal for 19 years. During that time, she also wrote for local, national, and international sailing publications. She branched into travel writing and her features have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Travel & Leisure, Ford Times, Chevron USA, Defenders of Wildlife, and Bay & Delta Yachtsman. 

Deborah Crombie’s fifth novel, Dreaming of the Bones, was a New York Times Notable Book in 1997, was named by the Independent Mystery Booksellers as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the Century, was an Edgar nominee for Best Novel, and won the Macavity award for Best Novel. Subsequent novels have been published to critical acclaim and in a dozen languages. 

Eileen Rendahl is a national-bestselling award-winning author of mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, romantic comedy, and romantic suspense. She also writes as Kristi Abbott, Lillian Bell, and Eileen Carr.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

MWA NorCal Mystery Month: SETTING!!

October is Mystery Month! Mystery Writers of America NorCal presents a host of special events starting today!

Wednesday, October 13

SETTING: Locked Rooms to Hot Air Balloons – Crafting the Perfect Setting and Making It Real
Via Zoom; advance registration required
5 PM Pacific Time

Setting: 1) the place and conditions in which something happens or exists; (2) the time, place, and conditions in which the action of a book, movie, etc. takes place; and (3) the rooms, painted backgrounds, furniture, etc., that are used for a scene in a movie or a play. Join us, on Zoom, as we dive into the world of backdrop and scene. What’s the context for the action of our characters? With a (literal) world of options how do we pick the best setting for our characters, and how do we assure readers step into the places we create? Setting should encompass more than just place—it is what imbues our stories with mood and ambience.

Moderator: Daisy Bateman is a mystery lover, cheese enthusiast, and world-renowned expert in Why You Should Buy That. Her educational background is in molecular biology from Caltech and UC Berkeley, and in what passes for normal life, she works in biotech.


  • John Billheimer holds an engineering Ph.D. from Stanford University and for thirty years was Vice President of a small consulting firm specializing in transportation research. He has investigated such diverse topics as commuter lane performance, mobile phone safety, drunk driving countermeasures, DMV service, video surveillance, and motorcycle safety
  • Mark Coggins has earned two degrees and a Phi Beta Kappa Key from Stanford University and has worked for a number of Silicon Valley computer and venture capital firms, including Netscape Communications and Hewlett Packard Company. His books have been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards and have been selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press and, among others.
  • Margaret Dumas writes books about smart, funny women who are trying to figure things out in the San Francisco Bay Area. Occasionally they fall in love. Occasionally they solve a murder.

Register Here

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

COZY CARIBBEAN KITCHEN MYSTERY: Raquel V. Reyes Guest Post with Recipe

Raquel V. Reyes: Cozy Caribbean Kitchen Mystery - Recipe for Picadillo de Pavo

Miriam Quiñones is many things: a mom, a Cuban-American, a doctor (the PhD kind), a food anthropologist (think High on the Hog), a cook show star, and the main character of Mango, Mambo, and Murder. When her BFF gets her a part-time (that turns FT) stint on a Spanish-language morning show cooking segment, Miriam pushes back that “I’m a home cook not a celebrity chef.” I feel her! I, too, am a home cook not a trained chef. Yet here I am writing the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series. And like Miriam I’m rolling with it, learning new skills, and having fun. There are many dishes and snacks mentioned in the book but only four recipes in the back of Mango, Mambo, and Murder. Here is one of them. It is a staple in my house, and I share it with the home cook in mind. It is easy to make and very satisfying. 

Picadillo de Pavo 

In my Cuban-American & Puerto Rican house, I call it Latin Sloppy Joe. This recipe is mine as a working parent that doesn’t have hours to prep and cook. It is also a little healthier than the traditional beef version as I am not a big fan of red meat. (I probably eat beef only 2-3 times a year.)

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: appox 30 mins. Prep your ingredients for the picadillo. Start your rice then start your picadillo. They should both be done within minutes of each other. Serve the picadillo over the rice and with a side of platanos maduros (aka amarillos) or an avocado salad. 


1 lb ground turkey Olive oil 

½ a large, sweet onion or 1 Spanish (yellow) onion 

1 jar of sofrito Salt to taste 

½ tbsp adobo 

1 tsp cumin or to taste 

3 cloves of garlic 

12-15 green olives 


Drizzle oil into pan and sweat the thinly sliced onion and crushed garlic. Add meat and powdered spices. When browned and separated add the jar of sofrito. Use a little water or vino seco to get the remainder of the sofrito from the jar. (Shake and pour slurry into pan) Add olives and let simmer until rice is done. Some people also add raisins. (I am team olives, but I don’t hate the sweetness the raisins add. I just pick them out before eating my dinner.)

Rice is the traditional side to accompany the picadillo, but mashed potatoes work, too. This is how I learned to make the perfect rice. Rinse your rice. The extra starch on the rice is what makes it sticky and clumpy. Follow the ratio (usual 1 rice to 2 waters) and add a generous drizzle of olive oil and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Salt to taste. 

Every Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican household probably has a rice cooker if not two, one large for parties and one small for family dinner. They are essential and make rice perfectly each time. Growing up in Miami, rice cookers were called Hitachis because that was the brand that made them. Now there are dozens of brands and a variety of colors. I think I’ve seen a pink Hello Kitty one. But mine growing up was a buttery almond color.

Picadillo is so versatile. It can be served over rice or baked with a mashed potato top layer or served on a bun like a sloppy joe, or used as the filling for empanadas. 


Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short stories appear in various anthologies, including Mystery Most Theatrical, Midnight Hour, and Trouble No More. Mango, Mambo, and Murder is the first in the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series. Find her across social media platforms as @LatinaSleuths.

Cartoon of the Day: Security Question


Monday, October 11, 2021

The Mafia Connection: Guest Post by Lorie Lewis Ham

Lorie Lewis Ham: The Mafia Connection

Roxi Carlucci is the main character in my new book, One of Us, and she comes from a Mafia background. That may seem like an odd choice for a book that leans in the cozy direction, but it actually started many years ago when I first created her cousin, P.I. Stephen Carlucci. 

I created Stephen’s character when I was a teenager and first began trying to write a mystery novel. Sadly, that book never got very far, so Stephen ended up making his debut at a mystery party that my brother and I wrote. Around that same time, I developed a fascination with the Mafia, and I thought it would be fun if Stephen had a Mafia background, which worked well for the mystery party. By the time I finished writing my first mystery, Murder In Four Part Harmony, Stephen had moved from main character to P.I. boyfriend, but the Mafia connection stayed. 

As I researched that side of Stephen’s family, I read everything I could find about the Mafia, including the book that inspired the movie Goodfellas. The thing about the Mafia that drew me in was their sense of honor, despite being ruthless criminals. It was an intriguing dichotomy. I felt like this underlying darkness in Stephen’s background gave his character more depth. He first learned about his family connection when his older brother was killed and his parents decided it was time for him to know the truth. Since then, he has spent his life rebelling against it—first becoming a cop, and then a P.I. 

Move forward in time to the new series featuring Roxi. Roxi’s feelings towards the Mafia are a bit more ambivalent. Her father was on the fringes running the family winery in Paso Robles until he and her mother were killed in a car accident when Roxi was a teenager. Because of that, she never saw much of that world, but she was drawn to its sense of honor. That obsession with honor, and a little bit of a dark side, is all that Roxi carries with her of her Mafia family background. One of Us is the first in this new series, and as it progresses, questions will begin to arise about her parents’ death. Could it possibly have been a Mafia hit instead of an accident? 

For now, that Mafia connection is just in the background, and it helped form who Roxi and Stephen became. Stephen follows Roxi into the new series. Roxi’s obsession with honor comes out now in her love of Camelot. She even has a replica of Excalibur. 

Roxi expresses those feelings in this paragraph from One of Us

I had fallen in love with that whole world when I saw the musical as a kid, and with Lancelot. It wasn’t long until I was reading every King Arthur book I could find. Then I discovered The Once and Future King and that had become my constant companion. The one positive thing the Mafia world had going for it was honor, at least in the old days, and I think that was one of the things that had drawn me to Camelot. The idea of honor had become very important to me—it still was. 

The violence of the Mafia never shows up on the page of my books, but they do influence who my main characters are. 

One of Us: A woman starting over. A gossip website. A handsome playwright with a dark side. A director with an explosive temper. And a murder without a motive. It’s a mystery set in the historic Tower District—Fresno's dining, arts, and entertainment hub.


Lorie Lewis Ham lives in Reedley, California and has been writing ever since she was a child, and publishing since she was 13. For the past 11 years, Lorie has been the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kings River Life Magazine, and she produces Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where you can now hear an excerpt of her new book One of Us. You can learn more about Lorie and the new book on her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her on Twitter @mysteryrat and Facebook.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Bouchercon 2022 Minneapolis: Land of 10,000 Crimes!

Minneapolis Sept. 8-11, 2022.

Guests of Honor and Interviewees


SA COSBY interviewed by DENNIS LEHANE 







Register HERE.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021


Mystery Readers Journal: Lone Star Mysteries (Volume 37:3// Fall 2021) is now available as PDF and hardcopy. If you're a PDF subscriber, you should have received download instructions. Hard copy subscription copies should arrive soon. PDF Contributor copies will go out shortly. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this issue.

Lone Star Mysteries

Volume 37, No. 3, Fall 2021

Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.


  • Welcome to Texas by Michael Bracken
  • Lone Star Dragnet—Joel McCrea as the Joe Friday of Texas by Jim Doherty
  • Watch Your Back: Bloody Mayhem Lurks Around the Corner in Small Texas Towns by D.L.S. Evatt
  • Texas, the Perfect Setting by Sandra Murphy
  • The Essential Western: The Searchers, Violence, Rescue, and Family by Jay Gertzman


  • Texas History, Mystery, and Myth by Judy Alter
  • Five (and a Half) Reasons I Love Writing Texas Ranger Books with James Patterson by Andrew Bourelle
  • Strange Beginnings: Or My Week in Another World by Kathryn Casey
  • Frank Hamer, Gus Hachette, and Me by Jim Doherty
  • Growing Up in Freeport, Texas by Les Edgerton
  • Two for Texas by Elizabeth Elwood
  • Discovering West Texas—and the Importance of a Rand McNally Road Atlas by Tricia Fields
  • Two Sides of Texas by Kaye George
  • From Westerns to Mysteries by James J. Griffin
  • West Texas by Russell Hill
  • Thunder Road by Colin Holmes
  • Deep in the Heart… by Diane Kelly
  • Death in San Antonio: Mystery Short Stories by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • The Basis for The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Where Jack Ryan Meets Gus McCrae by Taylor Moore
  • An Eye of Texas by Josh Pachter
  • Alright, Alright, Alright: Why I Love Setting My Mystery Series in Texas by S.C. Perkins
  • Texas Wind Revisited by James Reasoner
  • Writing About the Texas Gulf Coast by Amber Royer
  • My Grandfather and Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames
  • Tracking the Manhunter: Frank Hamer, Texas Ranger by Gene Shelton
  • My First Time by Marilyn Todd
  • Writing a Story About Texas, Even If You Don’t Live Here by Teresa Trent
  • Texas: A State of Crime by Bev Vincent
  • Never Go to a Peach Festival with Phyllis Newsom by Livia J. Washburn
  • I’m From Texas, Did You Have to Ask? by Reavis Z. Wortham


  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Lesa Holstine, Dru Ann Love, S. Lee Manning, L.J. Roberts, Lucinda Surber
  • Wearing the Cinco Peso Star by Jim Doherty
  • Just the Facts: A Ranger Hall of Fame by Jim Doherty (Online Only)
  • Children’s Hour: Texas Mysteries by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • In Short: The Private Eyes (and Others) of Texas by Marv Lachman
  • Texas True Crime by Cathy Pickens
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph


SUBSCRIBE to Mysteries Readers Journal for 2021

Themes in 2021: History Mysteries 1; History Mysteries 2; Texas; Cold Cases. 

Themes in 2020: New England Mysteries; Art Mysteries; African Mysteries; Legal Mysterie

Call for articles: We're looking for reviews, articles, and Author! author! essays. Review: 50-150 words, articles, 500-1000 words. Author Essays: 500-1000 words, first person, upclose and personal about yourself, your books, and the "theme" connection. Deadline for Texas: July 20, 2021.  

Send queries to Janet Rudolph: janet @ mysteryreaders . org

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Who is Maud? Guest Post by Helene Tursten

Helene Tursten: Who is Maud? 

The first time Maud and I met was in the spring of 2011. During fall and winter I had a stressful schedule with tours, book fairs and the work on my new book. I was feeling pretty worn out as spring began. On a dreary Monday morning at the beginning of April, I looked at my calendar to see if there was anything special I had to do during the coming week. Then I saw the notice “deadline Christmas novella”. The date made me freeze. It was coming up in two days! I had completely forgotten my promise to contribute a short story for an upcoming Christmas anthology. When the first panic had subsided I said to myself, “you have written many short stories, both crime and ghost stories, so it won’t be a problem for you to put together a little Christmas novella”. 

Before I begin a new project I always think through what it should be about. When I have decided that, I continue with how I plan to build the story. Then comes research. If I am writing a novel it can take several months. 

It also takes time to turn a novella into a good story. Since the format is shorter, the story can’t be too complicated, which means that it doesn’t demand as much research. But it must always maintain a high quality, both when it comes to content and language. Therefore you must be very careful. The slightest mistake shows up much more in a short story than in a book of several hundred pages. In the book the mistakes can hide among the large amount of text. 

Now I only had two days to try to create a Christmas novella. There was no time for research, so I had to write it immediately. That shouldn’t be so difficult since at my age I had memories from at least fifty Christmasses. Full of optimism I sat down in my most comfortable armchair trying to come up with a good story. 

My head was empty. Totally empty! For the first time as an author I was hit with a case of total writer’s block. For several hours I sat in the chair and looked out at the large birch tree outside our house. It had leaves the size of mouse ears... Soon the new leaves would open up… No, concentrate! Forget spring and focus on Christmas! 

It was hopeless. My thoughts went in all directions. Christmas felt, mildly said, distant. Towards evening I tried to write down some different plots, but none were worth developing further. 

The night I slept badly. Santas, Chrietmas trees, decorations and shining eyes of children kept dancing inside my eyelids. Family holiday. Relatives that gather to celebrate Christmas, tensions that result in arguments and perhaps even murder. No! A used up theme that had often been filmed. 

Now I know! Christmas foods! You can poison it, Great idea, I thought, and fell contentedly asleep. When I awoke at dawn there was still nothing more than poisoned Christmas foods in my head. What was I to do with it? Sigh! 

The day dragged on. I had to think of something within a few hours. If no idea appeared I would have to contact the publisher and try to get a few days extension. Towards afternoon I made a cup of tea and went back to the armchair. The scent of the good Darjeeling tea at least gave me some comfort. When I had finished the tea I leaned back in the chair and tried to relax. 

Then she suddenly was standing right in front of me. 

A slim older lady with snow white hair in a smart updo. She was dressed in a stylishly cut medium blue dress and comfortable pumps. It was hard to make out her age. The look in her cold grey blue eyes was sharp. No sign of dementia there! Around her thin lips she had a look of discontent. 

“Why are you sitting there? Write about me”, she said. 

With a start I sat up in the chair. The lady was gone. 

It took me three hours to write “An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime”. The Usual Santas, Soho Crime, 2017. 

It was with an enormous feeling of relief that I sent the story to the publishing house. Inside myself I sent a grateful thought to the old lady who I had named Maud. How lucky that she showed up! The thought that we would see each other again never hit me. 

But we met again. Several times. The secretive, lonely old lady in the gigantic apartment fascinated not only me, but also my readers. More novellas followed, which now have been turned into two books. 

Who is Maud? Why did she become a murderer? Those are appropriate questions. One reason is probably because she has had a strenuous life with lots of responsibilities. After her father died she learned that his company had gone bankrupt. All that was left was the family’s large apartment. Maud was then eighteen and had just started her education to become a language teacher. The Second World War was raging in Europe and she had to care for her neurotic mother and her mentally ill sister. The mother died after two years and the sisters were alone in the big apartment. Because of the sister’s serious mental illness the two sisters lived very isolated. It was also very difficult to make ends meet. 

But that is not the whole explanation. Maud has a very special personality. She has always had difficulty with social contacts. Other people create problems for her. When a problem comes up that threatens her existence she solves it in her own way. 

Maud’s solution is to eliminate the person who she sees as a threat. It is not always that the victim dies, but they are always rendered harmless. 

Some critics have called Maud a serial killer, which she is absolutely not. She is not actively looking for victims, or a certain type of victims, has no rituals or sexual fantasies about them. She quite simply solves her problems with very coldblooded methods. 

But the answer to the question of who Maud is, I don’t think anyone can really provide.


Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing. She is the author of the Irene Huss series, including Detective Inspector Huss, Night Rounds, Who Watcheth, and Protected by the Shadows; the Embla Nyström series; and the short story collection An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, which also features Maud. Her books have been translated into 25 languages and made into a television series. She was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband.


Guest Post translated by Kerstin Trowbridge 

Monday, October 4, 2021


The Strand Magazine announced the winners of the 2021 Strand Critics Awards, recognizing “excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing.” Wonderful zoom celebration. Thanks, Andrew Gulli and Hank Phillipi Ryan for a great event. Congratulations to all!

Best Mystery Novel:
Snow, by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)

Best Debut Novel:

When No One Is Watching, by Alyssa Cole (Morrow)

This year's  Lifetime Achievement Awards:

Stephen King

Joyce Carol Oates

Alexander McCall Smith

Josh Stanton of Blackstone Publishing has been chosen to receive the 2021 Publisher of the Year Award


Starting a New Series: Guest Post by Kim Davis

Kim Davis: Starting a New Series 

Starting a new cozy mystery series is a daunting task for me. While my literary agent shopped the first book in my Cupcake Catering Mystery series, she suggested I come up with an idea and start writing another series. One that wasn’t a culinary cozy mystery. I must say that I was caught off-guard… my life revolves around food. From what I plan and prepare for my family, to what I prepare and photograph for my blog (Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder), to the recipes I develop for my own books and for a few friends’ culinary cozy books, I’m always thinking of food. 

I spent a few weeks browsing through the myriad of cozy mysteries out there. Themes run the gambit from culinary, to crafty (which I’m not), to shopkeepers (which I have no experience). I was stumped. Then a burst of inspiration came in the form of my step-daughter delving into aromatherapy and essential oils to aid in promoting better health and well-being for my special needs granddaughter. 

Intrigued, I began using some of the products that boosted the immune system since I constantly caught colds and whatnot from the elementary school classrooms I volunteered in once a week. (All of this was obviously pre-covid.) I was amazed when my colds went from every few weeks to every few months. Allergic to most cold-relieving medications, I began using aromatherapy to help with cold symptoms when I did succumb, and from there tried other essential oils for other issues like headaches and tummy issues. I’d finally found something I thought I could incorporate into a mystery… with lots of research ahead of me. 

Next, I had to decide where to base the setting. Since my cupcake series is set in the Newport Beach area of southern California, close to where I live, I wanted some place different but it needed to have the feeling of a small community. I also wanted the locale to be a place I could somewhat easily visit for research, which ruled out anything outside the state of California. Then it dawned on me. My own hometown of Ojai, where I’d spent my childhood, was the perfect spot. A mere eighty miles northwest of Los Angeles, it’s a tourist destination despite its small size. However, I didn’t want to be constrained to the exact confines of Ojai, so I created my own town called Oak Creek Valley for greater leeway with the details of the town. 

Shortly after my decision on the town, a dear cousin decided to visit family in Ojai. I arranged to drive up to spend time with her as well, and combine it as a research trip. Imagine my delight when her daughter came along, and told me that her sister-in-law, A.C. Stauble, was a clinical herbalist and was known as The Traveling Herb Farmer. She put me in contact with A.C., who turned out to be a lovely young woman willing to share her expertise with me. She graciously answered my questions and gave me references for further research into the field of aromatherapy. 

Then I went to work and began writing. I both admire and envy those authors who can crank out manuscript after manuscript. I do realize that they’re dedicated to putting the time in to write and are not easily distracted, but for me, writing a book is generally a lengthy process. I wanted to make sure I incorporated enough factual information about aromatherapy since cozy mystery readers like to learn something while being entertained, but didn’t want to detract too much from the mystery. Plus, the more I learned about essential oils the more research I found I wanted to do. From the time my agent suggested I come up with a new series to the time I finished the first manuscript, over a year had slipped away. But, in the end, it was well worth it. I had a newfound respect for essential oils and I had a contract with Kindred Ink Press for three books in my Aromatherapy Apothecary Cozy Mystery series

Now about that food… I couldn’t not have a recipe in my book so I created an enticing baker, Jasper, who just might be a love interest for my protagonist, Carissa Carmichael. No matter what happens between the pair, she’ll always enjoy his to-die-for Triple Chocolate Rolls! 


Kim Davis lives in Southern California with her husband and mini Goldendoodle puppy, Missy. She writes the cozy Cupcake Catering Mysteries, the Aromatherapy Apothecary Mysteries and suspense novel A GAME OF DECEIT. Kim Davis is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Saturday, October 2, 2021


Debut author Clare Whitfield has been awarded the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2021 for People of Abandoned Character.

People of Abandoned Character was announced as the winner live at a party at Goldsboro Books at 7.00pm on Thursday 30th September, beating Colum McCann’s Booker-nominated Apeirogon; the New York Times bestselling The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré; and The Devil and the Dark Water, the second novel from Costa-winner Stuart Turton. Also shortlisted were Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi, acclaimed as an inventive and exciting reworking of the detective novel and The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant, a fantastical reimagining of the French Revolution featuring the characters of Les Misérables. Whitfield was awarded £2,000 and a beautiful, handmade glass bell.

Founded in 2017 by David Headley, the co-founder and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, the Glass Bell is awarded annually to a compelling novel, of any genre – from romance and thrillers, to historical, speculative and literary fiction – with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realised.

Friday, October 1, 2021


Six outstanding crime novels from Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been shortlisted for the 2021 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The shortlist is announced today, Thursday 30 September.

A NECESSARY DEATH by Anne Holt, tr. Anne Bruce (Corvus; Norway)

DEATH DESERVED by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, tr. Anne Bruce (Orenda Books; Norway)

THE SECRET LIFE OF MR. ROOS by Håkan Nesser, tr. Sarah Death (Mantle; Sweden)

TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

THE SEVEN DOORS by Agnes Ravatn, tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway)

GALLOWS ROCK by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)


The winning title, usually announced at the international crime fiction convention CrimeFest, will now be announced on Thursday 4 November 2021. The winning author and the translator of the winning title will both receive a cash prize, and the winning author will receive a full pass to and a guaranteed panel at CrimeFest 2022.

The Petrona 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 Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his continued generous support of the Petrona Award. We would also like to thank Jake Kerridge for being a guest judge last year.

We are delighted to welcome new judge Ewa Sherman to the Petrona Team. Ewa is a translator and writer. She blogs at NORDIC LIGHTHOUSE, is a regular contributor to CRIME REVIEW, and volunteers at crime fiction festivals in Reykjavik, Bristol and Newcastle.

The judges’ comments on each of the shortlisted titles:

A NECESSARY DEATH by Anne Holt, tr. Anne Bruce (Corvus; Norway)


Anne Holt, according to Jo Nesbø, is the ‘godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction’. Best known for her ‘Hanne Wilhelmsen’ and ‘Vik/Stubø’ series (the inspiration for TV drama Modus), she also served as Norway’s Minister for Justice in the 1990s. A Necessary Death is the second in Holt’s ‘Selma Falck’ series, whose eponymous protagonist is a high-flying lawyer brought low by her gambling addiction. The novel shows Falck resisting an attempt to kill her: on waking in a burning cabin in a remote, sub-zero wilderness, she has to figure out how to survive, while desperately trying to remember how she got there. A pacy, absorbing thriller with a gutsy, complex main character.


DEATH DESERVED by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, tr. Anne Bruce (Orenda Books; Norway)


Death Deserved marks the beginning of an exciting collaboration between two of Norway’s most successful crime authors. Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst are both already well known for their long-running ‘Henning Juul’ ­and ‘William Wisting’ series. Death Deserved, in which a serial killer targets well-known personalities, mines each writer’s area of expertise: the portrayal of detective Alexander Blix draws on Horst’s former career as a policeman, while Enger brings his professional knowledge of the media to the depiction of journalist Emma Ramm. The novel expertly fuses the writers’ individual styles, while showcasing their joint talent for writing credible and engaging characters, and creating a fast-paced, exciting plot.


THE SECRET LIFE OF MR. ROOS by Håkan Nesser, tr. Sarah Death (Mantle; Sweden)


Håkan Nesser, one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, is internationally known for his ‘Van Veeteren’ and ‘Inspector Barbarotti’ series. The Secret Life of Mr. Roos is the third in a quintet featuring Gunnar Barbarotti, a Swedish policeman of Italian descent, who is a complex yet ethically grounded figure. His relatively late appearance in the novel creates space for the portrayal of an unlikely friendship between Mr. Roos, a jaded, middle-aged man who has unexpectedly won the lottery, and Anna, a young, recovering drug addict of Polish origin, who is on the run. Slow-burning literary suspense is leavened with a dry sense of humour, philosophical musings, and compassion for individuals in difficult circumstances.


TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press; Sweden)


Mikael Niemi grew up in the northernmost part of Sweden, and this forms the setting for his historical crime novel To Cook a Bear. It’s 1852: Revivalist preacher Lars Levi Læstadius and Jussi, a young Sami boy he has rescued from destitution, go on long botanical treks that hone their observational skills. When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear, but Læstadius and Jussi find clues using early forensic techniques that point to a far worse killer. Niemi’s eloquent depiction of this unforgiving but beautiful landscape, and the metaphysical musings of Læstadius on art, literature and education truly set this novel apart.


THE SEVEN DOORS by Agnes Ravatn, tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway)


Agnes Ravatn’s The Seven Doors has shades of Patricia Highsmith about it: a deliciously dark psychological thriller that lifts the lid on middle-class hypocrisy. When Ingeborg, the daughter of university professor Nina and hospital consultant Mads, insists on viewing a house that her parents rent out, she unwittingly sets off a grim chain of events. Within a few days, tenant Mari Nilson has gone missing, and when Nina starts to investigate her disappearance and past life as a musician, worrying truths begin to emerge. A novel about gender, power and self-deception, expertly spiced with Freud and Bluebeard, The Seven Doors delivers an ending that lingers in the mind.


GALLOWS ROCK by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

Gallows Rock is the fourth in Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s ‘Children’s House’ series, featuring child psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar as a reluctant investigative duo. Their relationship provides readers with some lighter moments and occasional black humour, along with a frisson of mutual attraction. The novel’s intricate plot focuses on skewed morals and revenge: what begins as a ritualistic murder at an ancient execution site in the lava fields – the Gallows Rock of the title – leads to the unearthing of a case of long-term abuse, whose devastating impact is sensitively explored. The author won the 2015 Petrona Award for The Silence of the Sea.