Musings on the 2016 Petrona Award

PetronaAwardLogoThe Petrona Award for the best Scandinavian crime novel published in English during the eligible period which in this instance is the 2015 calendar year. The Award is in memory of one of the first crime fiction bloggers, Maxine Clarke, who particularly enjoyed crime novels from this part of the world and telling her many blog readers about them. Maxine, who blogged as Petrona, passed away in 2012 but is still fondly remembered and much missed by her crime reading friends.

This year’s shortlist comprises six novels from three of the five countries counted as being Scandinavian for the purposes of this award, Norway, Sweden and Finland (Iceland and Denmark missed out on this occasion). As always I am impressed by the diversity and quality of the books that have made the cut, at least of the 5 eligible titles I’ve read.

  • Karin Fossum’s THE DROWNED BOY is another of Fossum’s quiet, almost introspective stories in which she explores what happens when ‘normal’ people are tempted to do awful things. What tempts them? How do they justify it to themselves? Others? Can their aberration be hidden forever? In this case Inspector Sejer and his colleagues must determine whether the death of a toddler who had Down syndrome was the accident his parents claim. Or not.
  • Kati Hiekkapelto’s THE DEFENCELESS was the first book I read this year and I can still remember it clearly, which is not something I can say about all the books I’ve read subsequently. Set in northern Finland the novel uses the genre to tackle the issue of immigration from many angles. We watch a young man who fled Pakistan when the Taliban took it over battle daily with the tribulations that flow on from having entered the country illegally, a gnarled old cop take on a vicious immigrant gang and a policewoman, herself an immigrant, investigate a death that turns out to be more complicated than it first appears.
  • Jorn Lier Horst’s THE CAVEMAN is the story of two bodies, both male, found a few days apart. There is nothing to link the deaths, one of which attracts the attention of a journalist who wants to write a story about loneliness in the modern world while the other death garners the attention of police from several countries as it appears to have links to an American multiple murderer. The juxtaposition of the two kinds of investigation – by the police and the journalist – is a highlight of the book.
  • Hans Olav Lahlum’s SATELLITE PEOPLE is a whodunnit set in 1960’s Norway. Police, with a little help from a talented civilian, must work out which of a wealthy businessman’s friends or relations was responsible for his death at a dinner party. The novel is a clever homage to Dame Christie and others but has more character depth and social commentary than many of the classics.
  • Antti Tuomainen’s DARK AS MY HEART  is a quest novel about a young man’s obsession with discovering what happened to his mother, who disappeared when he was 13. Aleksi Kivi is one of those characters who stays with you for long after the book is over.

I’ve no idea which of these novels will win the Award. If it were me handing out the gong I I’d give it to Kati Hiekkapelto’s THE DEFENCELESS because it is both a truly brilliant book – offering equally strong narrative and political elements – and the one I think closest to the kind of novel Maxine enjoyed so much. But I am rarely right about these things so don’t go placing any bets based on my musings.

I made a deliberate choice not to read David Lagercrantz’s THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB which is the final shortlisted novel and is the continuation of Steig Larsson’s Millennium series. I’ve never, ever been a fan of writers who take over the artistic creations of dead authors. I think it’s presumptive and unnecessary and theft. And, at least sometimes, motivated by nothing but greed. I contemplated breaking a lifelong tradition and reading this book anyway, but what’s the point of having principles if you’re going to let them slide at the first opportunity of a really good read? I have no doubt the book is of a similar quality to the others in the shortlist and if it wins I won’t be letter bombing anyone or otherwise displaying my displeasure. But neither will I be reading the book or its inevitable successors.

The real winner of this year’s Petrona Award will be announced this weekend at CrimeFest in the UK. I can’t wait to find out how wrong I am (based on past experience).




This entry was posted in Antti Tuomainen, Hans Olav Lahlum, Jorn Lier Horst, Karin Fossum, Kati Hiekkapelto, musings. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Musings on the 2016 Petrona Award

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Bernadette. To be honest, I didn’t read The Girl in the Spider’s Web, either. I’m not a fan of follow-ons as a rule, and like you, didn’t want to ‘bend the rules’ for this one. As the others, I’m not sure which will win, but there really are some strong contenders.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norman Price says:

    Bernadette well said. I agree with you and especially that Maxine would have loved Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Defenceless with its female lead detective, who had an interesting back story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kathy d. says:

    I agree, too, that Maxine would have liked The Defenceless, especially because the protagonist is a strong, smart, yet complex woman detective. And the mystery is fascinating.
    I only read Lagercrantz’s book of the five others. It was a well-written book with a brilliant Lizbeth Salander, but I understand the reason why someone would skip it. Upon reading that Larsson’s family wanted Lagercrantz to write a sequel, but that Larsson’s life-partner, Eva Gabrielsson opposed it — and was cut out of his estate, certainly leads one to question the ethics of this publication.
    I may or may not rest the other four. Some aren’t up my alley, but, of course, these reviews always result in me reading something.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kathy d. says:

    I just read that The Caveman won the Petrona Award. Guess I have to read this book, which is actually sitting next to me. I am disappointed that for the second year in a row, Kati Heikkapelto did not win. I think her two books are head and shoulders avove much crime fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Must say I was disappointed with the choice too Kathy – I did not think the Caveman as good on any level as The Defenceless, and for me not even the best of Horst’s books. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination but for me not the best of the eligible titles.

      But having been a judge for a similar award I know it is impossible to keep everyone happy and there will always be disappointed readers and writers no matter what you choose.


  5. kathy d. says:

    Well, I am starring Hunting Dogs on my list and I’ll start The Caveman. A friend of a certain age says if you’re over 50, deduct your age from 100 and give a new book that number of pages. So I will.
    Some day Kati Heikkapelto will get her due, and there are many awards.
    I’m reading Arab Jazz, an intelligent but hard book to read, set in Paris in a community of many nationalities and religions and extreme personalities. I’m glad I’m reading it but my brain is convoluting.
    Just read Woman in Blue, the latest Ruth Galloway as I mentioned. Ruth is great, but too much religious history and current day practices to my non-religious self. I just do not understand re-enacting the worst brutality as a ritual, and also rediscussing Henry VIII and his actions regarding religion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll confess I tried reading Arab Jazz last year Kathy and gave up – it wasn’t bad but as you say very dense and difficult to read – I’d borrowed it from the library and it was due back and I just couldn’t summon the brain power necessary to finish it in time – I keep thinking I will have another go but it’s not very high up my list – I think I am past the age where I want to work that hard on a book

      I’m not even sure why I keep reading the Ruth Galloway books as there is less and less to like in each one – I couldn’t be bothered writing a review of the latest one – but I’ll probably keep going – in the hope that she’ll find her way back to the high points of the first 2 – 3 books

      Hope you enjoy The Hunting Dogs, my favourite of Horst’s that I’ve read


Comments are closed.