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Thursday, 16 March 2023

CrimeFest Announce 2023 Award Shortlists


CrimeFest, one of Europe’s leading crime writing conventions, has announced the shortlists for its annual awards.

Now in its 16th year, the awards honour the best crime books released in 2022 in the UK.

The awards feature the hotly-contended Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award which offers a £1,000 cash prize.

This year sees former detective turned advisor, Graham Bartlett, on the debut shortlist. Bartlett is known for advising some of the biggest authors in the crime genre, including Peter James, Mark Billingham, and Elly Griffiths, to help inject reality into their plots involving a crime or police officer. Now, Bartlett has put himself on the line with his debut,
Bad for Good.

He's not the only former member of the police on the shortlist. John Sutherland served in a variety of ranks for the Met Police before he retired in 2018, and is shortlisted for his debut, The Siege.

They face strong competition from six other shortlisted authors, including Canada’s vice president and editorial director of the publishing house Simon & Schuster, Nita Prose, with her debut The Maid, which was a No.1 New York Times bestseller, a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime and has already picked up the Ned Kelly Award for Best International Crime Fiction.

The eDunnit Award for the best e-book, sees giants of the genre in contention, including Ian Rankin for A Heart Full of Headstones, Sara Gran for The Book of the Most Precious Substance, Michael Connelly with Desert Star and Chris Brookmyre for The Cliff House.

The H.R.F Keating Award for best biographical or critical book on crime fiction sees TV’s Queen of History, Lucy Worsley, take on the Queen of Crime with Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman.

A Private Spy, The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020, edited by Tim Cornwell, is also shortlisted, as is crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw’s Simenon, The Man, The Books, The Films: A 21st Century Guide on the legendary and influential crime writer.

The Last Laugh Award sees Mick Herron’s Bad Actors on the shortlist. The Jackson Lamb series of dysfunctional British intelligence agents has become a major adaptation for Apple TV, starring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman. Herron’s up against Elly Griffiths with The Locked Room, Antti Tuomainen with The Moose Paradox, and the late Christopher Fowler for Bryant and May’s Peculiar London.

Elly Griffiths also features in the Best Crime Novel for Children (aged 8-12) shortlist with A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window. She’s up against the acclaimed Anthony Horowitz for Where Seagulls Dare: A Diamond Brothers Case and M.G. Leonard’s Spark.

Nominees for the Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16) include Holly Jackson with Five Survive, Finn Longman’s The Butterfly Assassin and Sophie McKenzie’s Truth of Dare.

Adrian Muller, Co-host of CrimeFest, said: “The Specsavers Debut Novel Award has become one of the most coveted, and we’d like to thank Specsavers for their on-going support in celebrating new talent. We are also proud to be one of the few genre awards that recognise and celebrate e-books, humour, children, and Young Adult crime fiction novels. Our inclusive awards reflect the values of our convention, and showcase the incredible diversity and reach of the genre which dominates today’s cultural landscape.”

Hosted in Bristol, CrimeFest is one of the biggest crime fiction events in Europe, and one of the most popular dates in the international crime fiction calendar, with circa 60 panel events and 150 authors attending over four days.

Featured Guests at the convention this May are Mark Billingham and
Elly Griffiths.

Leading British crime fiction reviewers and reviewers of fiction for children and young adults, alongside the members of the School Library Association (SLA), form the CrimeFest judging panels.

CrimeFest was created following the hugely successful one-off visit to Bristol in 2006 of the American Left Coast Crime convention. It was established in 2008. It follows the egalitarian format of most US conventions, making it open to all commercially published authors and readers alike.

All category winners will receive a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.


The 2023 Shortlists in full



In association with headline sponsor, the Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award is for debut authors first published in the United Kingdom in 2022. The winning author receives a £1,000 prize.

- Amen Alonge for A Good Day to Die (Quercus)

- Graham Bartlett for Bad for Good (Allison & Busby)

- Nita Prose for The Maid (HarperCollins)

- Oriana Rammuno (translator: Katherine Gregor) for Ashes in the Snow (HarperCollins)

- Joachim B. Schmidt (translator: Jamie Lee Searle) for Kalmann (Bitter Lemon)

- Hayley Scrivenor for Dirt Town (Macmillan)

- John Sutherland for The Siege (Orion Fiction)

- Stacy Willingham for A Flicker in the Dark (HarperCollins)



The eDunnit Award is for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Chris Brookmyre for The Cliff House (Abacus)

- Michael Connelly for Desert Star (Orion Fiction)

- M.W. Craven for The Botanist (Constable)

- Sara Gran for The Book of the Most Precious Substance (Faber & Faber)

- Ian Rankin for A Heart Full of Headstones (Orion Fiction)

- Peter Swanson for Nine Lives (Faber & Faber)



The H.R.F. Keating Award is for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the United Kingdom in 2022. The award is named after H.R.F. ‘Harry’ Keating, one of Britain’s most esteemed crime novelists, crime reviewers and writer of books about crime fiction.

- J.C. Bernthal & Mary Anna Evans for The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie (Bloomsbury Academic)

- John le Carré (edited by Tim Cornwell) for A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020 (Viking)

- Martin Edwards for The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators (Collins Crime Club)

- Barry Forshaw for Simenon: The Man, The Books, The Films (Oldcastle Books)

- Sian MacArthur for Gender Roles and Political Contexts in Cold War Spy Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan)

- Lucy Worsley for Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman (Hodder & Stoughton)



The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May's Peculiar London (Doubleday)

- Elly Griffiths for The Locked Room (Quercus)

- Mick Herron for Bad Actors (Baskerville)

- Cara Hunter for Hope to Die (Viking)

- Mike Ripley for Mr Campion's Mosaic (Severn House)

- Antti Tuomainen for The Moose Paradox (Orenda Books)



This award is for the best crime novel for children (aged 8-12) first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Elly Griffiths for A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window (Quercus Children's Books)

- Anthony Horowitz for Where Seagulls Dare: A Diamond Brothers Case
(Walker Books)

- Sharna Jackson for The Good Turn (Puffin)

- M.G. Leonard for Spark (Walker Books)

- Robin Stevens for The Ministry of Unladylike Activity (Puffin)

- Sarah Todd Taylor for Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble (Nosy Crow)



This award is for the best crime novel for young adults (aged 12-16) first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Holly Jackson for Five Survive (Electric Monkey)

- Patrice Lawrence for Needle (Barrington Stoke)

- Finn Longman for The Butterfly Assassin (Simon & Schuster Children's)

- Sophie McKenzie for Truth or Dare (Simon & Schuster Children's)

- Ruta Sepetys for I Must Betray You (Hodder Children's Books)

- Jonathan Stroud for The Notorious Scarlett and Browne (Walker Books)


CrimeFest runs at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel from
11-14 May, 2023.
For details and to book, go to:

‘The Raven’s Mark’ by Christie J. Newport

Published by Joffe Books,
30 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-8040-5539-7 (PB)

Detective Chief Inspector Bethany Fellows was determined to become a detective after at four years old, she witnessed the murder of her mother. She is now faced with the most difficult case of her career so far.

A fifteen-year-old girl, Rose Danes, is found murdered at the home of a man with learning difficulties. A group of teenagers always hang out round his house as he is an easy target, and he even welcomes them there – he thinks they are his friends, but they just use him.

Rose’s neck is split open, and she has been branded with the image of a raven on her shoulder. Bethany, along with her boss, Detective Superintendent Dillon, is immediately convinced it is the work of the person labelled the Brander who struck some six years ago. The victim then was Celine Wilson, fourteen years old. She survived but is badly scarred in mind and body and is in a care home.

Bethany was in charge two years ago, called to try and solve the crime as a cold case and she still beats herself up about getting nowhere. This makes her all the more determined to get to the truth this time. The only real clue they unearth this time is that the perpetrator’s name is Simon.

On talking to the bereaved family, Bethany learns that they suspect Rose’s friend Jenny has something to do with it. Rose’s mother says she always smelled of weed and alcohol and her brother and his mates are nasty individuals. Then Jenny is kidnapped.

Every way Bethany turns in the investigation she is met with abuse, everyone seems to be hiding something. Then she receives a disturbing phone call, threatening the lives of everyone close to her. She has to follow his rules: “Simon Says” and must tell no one of his call and threats. Poor Bethany is now pulled in so many different directions, she is in danger of self-destructing.

Can she solve the case of the Brander without endangering the lives of everyone she loves and why does he target her specifically? She certainly is not the only detective on the case.

A really fast paced murder investigation which cleverly leads the reader up one false path after another resulting in a surprising revelation. Really thoroughly recommended.

Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Christie J. Newport was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1981. She now lives in Northumberland with her wife and their Labrador. In 2004, Christie graduated from Edge Hill University with a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism. She is now agented by Northbank Talent Management and works closely with Hannah Weatherill. The Raven’s Mark is her first book in the DCI Beth Fellows crime thriller series.  

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

‘You Can Run’ by Trevor Wood

Published by Quercus,
16 March 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-52941-482-0 (HB)

Trevor Wood’s Jimmy Mullen trilogy revealed two talents that many a crime writer would die – or more likely kill – for: finding a new kind of protagonist, and creating an ambience, a backdrop, that not only feels a hundred per cent real but also fits the unfolding story like a glove. In his new novel he has moved away from Newcastle and its homeless community, but those two talents are still very much in evidence.

So too is his ability to start out by making the reader wonder how on earth this protagonist is going to sort things out, then build suspense as they move towards a resolution; and his sure hand with the characters who appear along the way. In this case the protagonist is Ruby, a fifteen-year-old girl with very little knowledge of the world and its workings. Before the book is twenty pages old, she has seen her father kill a man, discovered her straightforward and uneventful life is neither of those things, and teamed up with the person she would have thought least likely to be useful to her in a difficult situation.  

The remote village home Ruby has shared with her father as long as she can remember is invaded by a military-looking stranger, who attacks her father. He shoots the stranger, and all he offers by way of explanation is ‘Run!’ But where should she run to? And where can she go for help when her father and the stranger are taken away by more strangers in an ambulance? And most important of all, what on earth is going on?

The story becomes more and more complicated as the answers to all these questions and more slowly emerge. Ruby’s first ally is Lucas, another teenager, and through him she meets up with other villagers who both she and her father have spent a lifetime avoiding. The claustrophobic village itself and its surroundings come to life as vividly as Danny, and Margaret, and Baldwin, who all have pasts almost as interesting as the one Ruby now finds herself in search of. None of them is a person you’d fancy meeting on a dark night, but they’re the good guys nonetheless; the bad ones keep appearing, and one way or another disappearing – best not to ask Danny too many awkward questions about that.

All the questions are answered eventually, of course, though the answers are not exactly what you might expect. I was left wondering how much pure imagination was, and how much Trevor Wood knows about what goes on behind the scenes in public life...

The Jimmy Mullen trilogy put a new slant on crime fiction and gave readers pause for thought into the bargain. You Can Run does it all over again, in spades. Trevor Wood is a force to be reckoned with in the genre.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can't speak the language. He's a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, was published by Quercus 19 March 2020, winning the The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2020.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.