The Winner- Petrona Award For Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year 2021 #PetronaAward21

The winner of the 2021 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year is:

 

TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner and published by MacLehose Press.

The judges’ statement on TO COOK A BEAR:

The judges adored TO COOK A BEAR, a historical crime novel set in northernmost Sweden in 1852, and were unanimous in our decision to select it as the Petrona Award winner for 2021. We were particularly impressed with the novel’s use of historical detail, its fascinating reimagining of a figure from history, the sense of location and atmosphere, the rumination on religion versus the natural world, and the depiction of early forensics. TO COOK A BEAR’s superb characterisation of the main protagonists Læstadius and Jussi, which is tinged with sadness yet hope, also allows the author to explore the issues of literacy and class with sensitivity and compassion. The beautiful translation by Deborah Bragan-Turner lets the novel shine for English-language readers around the world.

TO COOK A BEAR is the first historical crime novel to win the Petrona Award.

Comments from the winning author, translator and publisher:

Mikael Niemi (author):

“I am very proud and happy to have received the Petrona Award and would like to thank my editor, Katharina Bielenberg, my translator Deborah Bragan-Turner, and my agency, Hedlund Literary Agency, who have made it possible for this novel to reach British readers. This happy news has brightened the growing winter darkness here in the very north of Scandinavia. I am sending my warmest thanks to all my British readers.”

Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator):

“I am absolutely thrilled and very honoured to receive the Petrona Award. It’s a great privilege to be in the company of such accomplished authors and translators on the shortlist. Many congratulations to you all. Thank you to MacLehose Press for your support and editorial advice, and to the panel of judges for your championing of and enthusiasm for Scandinavian fiction in translation. And of course thank you most of all, Mikael Niemi, for bringing the story of Jussi and the pastor to us in TO COOK A BEAR, an inspired novel and a joy to translate.”

MacLehose Press (publisher):

“We are delighted that Mikael Niemi’s novel has been recognised with the Petrona Award. TO COOK A BEAR is immersive and transporting, historical crime fiction at its best, and it has been thrilling to watch it find its readers in English. Powerfully vivid and lush in its descriptions of Sweden’s very far north, and brilliant on literacy and the power of language, it has been beautifully and imaginatively rendered in Deborah Bragan-Turner’s translation. Congratulations to them both!”

As well as a trophy, Mikael Niemi receives a pass to and a guaranteed panel at CrimeFest 2022. Mikael Niemi and Deborah Bragan-Turner will also receive a cash prize.

The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his generous and continued support of the 2021 Petrona Award.

Notes to editors:

This is the ninth year of the Petrona Award. Previous winners of the Petrona Award are Liza Marklund for LAST WILL, translated by Neil Smith, LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER by Leif G.W. Persson, also translated by Neil Smith, THE SILENCE OF THE SEA by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir, translated by Victoria Cribb, THE CAVEMAN by Jørn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett, QUICKSAND by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, THE KATHARINA CODE by Jørn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce and LITTLE SIBERIA by Antti Tuomainen, translated by David Hackston.

The 2021 Petrona Award shortlist in full, with the judges’ comments:

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.

Images of the Petrona Award logo and the shortlisted titles are available (from 8.00am) at:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/swanseauniversity/sets/72157651434095286
(copy & paste link into browser)

The judges are:

Jackie Farrant – Crime fiction expert and creator of RAVEN CRIME READS; bookseller for twenty years and a Regional Commercial Manager for a major book chain in the UK.

Dr. Kat Hall – Translator and editor; Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University; international crime fiction reviewer at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES.

Ewa Sherman – Translator and writer; blogger at NORDIC LIGHTHOUSE; regular contributor to CRIME REVIEW; volunteer at crime fiction festivals in Reykjavik, Bristol and Newcastle.

Award administrator:

Karen Meek – owner of the EURO CRIME website, reviewer, former CWA judge for the International Dagger, and Library Assistant.

More information can be found on the Petrona Award website (http://www.petronaaward.co.uk).

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