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Tuesday 31 October 2023

New Daggers Added to Prestigious Crime Writing Awards

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers –
the most prestigious awards for crime, mystery, and thriller writers –
has announced two new award categories.

Entries are open in early 2024 for the
CWA Twisted Dagger and the
CWA Whodunnit Dagger.

The Twisted Dagger is aimed at psychological and suspense thrillers and the
Whodunnit Dagger covers cosy crime, traditional mysteries, and
Golden Age crime.

The oldest membership organisation for crime writers in the UK, the CWA was founded 70 years ago in 1953. It began its awards in 1955, with Agatha Christie as the principal guest at its first awards ceremony in 1956.

Vaseem Khan, Chair of the CWA, said: “Earlier this year, when I took over as Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, I pledged to add two new Daggers to our awards roster. One of my aims as CWA Chair is to evolve the CWA’s offering in line with the genre. The Daggers should not be static.”

Crime fiction is now the most popular genre in publishing, with this trend showing no signs of abating.

Vaseem added: “Psychological thrillers have dominated the crime fiction landscape in recent years and now cosy crime is having its moment, with Golden Age crime also enjoying a resurgence. These Daggers recognise these trends, and I, for one, am excited to see the range of books that publishers – and authors – will submit to these new awards.”

The CWA’s mission is to promote the genre and act as a voice for the interests of its author members.

The Daggers are considered a marker of excellence in the industry and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century. The awards are judged by independent expert panels.

They are also one of the most inclusive genre awards that recognise the broad church of the genre, with categories for crime fiction in translation, short stories, and debut authors, alongside the Gold Dagger for the novel of the year and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller.

Eligible books for the CWA Twisted Dagger are psychological thrillers (set in any period), suspense thrillers, and domestic noir. The Dagger will celebrate dark and twisty tales that often feature unreliable narrators, disturbed emotions, a healthy dose of moral ambiguity, and a sting in the tail.

Eligible books for the CWA Whodunnit Dagger include cosy crime (including the ‘modern cosy’), traditional crime, and Golden Age mysteries. These books focus on the intellectual challenge at the heart of a good mystery and revolve around often quirky characters.

Entries open in early 2024 on the CWA website and the inaugural awards will be presented at the annual Dagger awards ceremony in 2025.

‘Shades of Murder’ by Ann Granger

Published by Headline,
July 2000.
ISBN: 0-7472-747-1 (HB)

Damaris Oakley and her sister Florence are the only remaining members of the Oakley family, now living in diminished circumstances. To enjoy a comfortable old age they have decided to sell the ancestral home. For the last hundred years they have lived under the shadow of their Grandfather’s arrest and trial for the murder of Cora their Grandmother. That William Oakley was never convicted of the murder, but disappeared directly after being released from jail has not dispelled the stigma attached to the family

So, when they receive a letter from a young Polish man claiming to be related to their Grandfather William Oakley, they panic, not only for the adverse publicity his claim will reawaken but also that any court case is bound to drag on for years, and the sisters are not young.

I loved this book, it has everything. Both periods, 1889 and the murder of Cora, and the current situation set in 1999 run side by side. We are through the author privy to the characters of both times. The wonderful thing is that it is never confusing. Possibly, because the characters of both periods are so well drawn that it would not be possible to set them in a different time.

Meredith Mitchell, who has her own problems with interlopers, is on the case, it being in her own village amongst people she knows.

For all the Meredith fans out there is one of the best books by Ann Granger I have read, and she throws in an odd comment, which had me twitching to say the least. I will say no more, you must read it for yourself.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Ann Granger was born in Portsmouth where she was a pupil at the then Northern Grammar School for Girls and went from there to London University where she achieved a BA in Modern Languages (French with German). After a period spent first teaching English in France and then working in the Visa Section of British Embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. She is the author of the Mitchell and Markby Mysteries, the Fran Varady series and more recently the Lizzie Martin mystery series. She lives in Bicester, near Oxford.

‘Between the Lies’ by Louise Tickle

Published by Cinto Press,
19 October 2023.
978-1-73913-497-6 (HB)

Courtroom reporting in the media makes headlines out of big issues like organized crime, miscarriages of justice and murder – but there’s a whole other world of legal drama which journalists are hardly ever allowed to report. So, what’s left for a good journalist who specializes in that area? Fiction, of course. It may be about made-up people in a made-up world, but that doesn’t stop it from portraying it how it is in the real world. 

In Louise Tickle’s other life, she is an investigative journalist of considerable renown, and her specialty is what goes on behind closed doors in the family courts: the murky world of who gets what in a divorce, what happens to the children, and as often as not, who did what to whom when a marriage breaks down and things get messy. The law places far tighter restrictions on what can be reported there than in ordinary criminal courts – but if you’re unable to report the facts verbatim, there’s nothing to stop you putting them in a story. And that’s what Louise has done.

At nine years old, Cherry Magraw was caught in the crossfire when her abusive father killed her mother and she herself failed to rescue her toddler brother from his clutches. She was sent to live with her aunt’s family, and for the most part was able to enjoy a normal childhood, but that kind of beginning inevitably leaves scars.

She becomes a freelance journalist specializing in the secret world of the family courts and has just embarked on a new project when she receives a letter from her father, who is still in prison. Her past comes back to haunt her, and suddenly she can’t trust herself to be objective about the family whose progress she is following.

Between the Lies is no ordinary piece of crime fiction, and there’s no mystery about who committed the murder. But neither is its reportage thinly disguised as fiction; the well-drawn and relatable characters make sure of that. Most of the leading players are just a little larger than life in order to drive the point home, though never enough to make them unbelievable. I especially liked Eliza, the spiky, unconventional barrister, and Eric, the part-time librarian and PhD student, who both bring a breath of fresh air into Cherry Magraw’s life and light into the dark corners of the narrative.  

Some of the tropes crime fiction readers know and love are woven seamlessly in; there’s even a car chase, leading to a dramatic denouement on a Pembrokeshire clifftop which is so beautiful you simply know disaster will strike. But plenty of unfamiliar material is equally well woven in and fulfils one of the main purposes of fiction – to let the reader in to an unfamiliar world. As well as the family court, we also get a peek behind the scenes of a freelance journalist’s life.

The action takes place in a forbidding courtroom, in Cherry’s comfortable flat (I really envy her that sofa!), in a house refurbished Country Living style made messy by small children, and in several other  highly visual locations which all provide the perfect backdrop to what’s going on at the time.

In other words, Louise Tickle has picked up the crime novel, added her own spin and run away with it. It’s gripping, readable, informative, and best of all, like real life it refuses to provide answers to all the questions and tie up all the loose ends. If this author decides to add fiction to her considerable portfolio on an ongoing basis, her name is well worth looking out for. I certainly shall.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Louise Tickle is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who specialises in reporting on domestic abuse, family courts and child protection. Louise is a committee member of The Transparency Project which aims to promote greater understanding of family law. confident and engaging public speaker and commentator, Louise is available to chair conferences, workshops and seminars. She is based near Bristol. She heads west to the Pembrokeshire coast and its spectacular island wildlife with her partner and two sons whenever she can. Between the Lies is her first novel.

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.

‘The Man At The Window’ by Betty Rowlands

Published by Hodder & Stoughton,
2 March 2000.
ISBN: 0-340-75079-0 (HB)

When Graham Shipley secures a teaching position at St Monica's Preparatory School in a Cotswold village, he feels that his exile is over and that he can begin his life again.

For Melissa Craig, best selling writer of crime fiction, returning from visiting friends in London, the sight of her home Hawthorne Cottage brings its usual feeling of thankfulness. Only tempered with thoughts of nostalgia for the days when her friend Iris Ash lived in the adjoining cottage and would be waiting to hear her news. Since Iris had married and moved away the cottage had been let to a succession of tenants. Almost immediately she meets the new tenant Graham Shipley, he makes it clear that he wishes to keep his distance. However, in a village like Upper Benbury, that is not always easy, and a reluctant Graham finds himself roped in to help with the local rounders match at a village fund raising event, where he meets the village inhabitants and many of his soon to be pupils.

Some days later returning from a shopping trip Melissa Craig sees an agitated Graham Shipley. Investigating, she finds the body of one of the local schoolgirls lying at the edge of the lake.

As the Police investigate things look bleak for Graham Shipley. Melissa discovers that all is not quite what it seems on the surface and sets out to discover the truth about Graham Shipley which may have direct bearing on the death of the young girl.

This is the ninth in the series featuring Melissa Craig and delves into the murky waters of student and teacher relationship. A thought-provoking book dealing with the consequences to both student and teacher once accusations are made.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Betty Rowlands  (1923-2020) burst onto the crime scene in her mid-sixties by winning the Sunday Express / Veuve Clicquot Crime Short Story of the Year Competition which shows it's never too late to start writing. Her success continued with her highly acclaimed Melissa Craig mysteries featuring a crime writer who solves mysteries in Gloucestershire. Her second series, The Sukey Reynolds Stories comprise of thirteen books, featuring Sukey Reynolds, a Scenes of Crime Officer who later becomes a detective. She lived in the heart of the Cotswolds, where her Melissa Craig mysteries are set, and then in Bristol, which is closer to Sukey Reynolds patch, where she lived until her death on 29 July 2020, just a few months before her 97th birthday. She passed peacefully in the residential home that she called ‘home’. She will be greatly missed by her two surviving children, her four grandchildren, six great grandchildren, other family members, her friends and you, her many readers. The resurgence in interest in her Melissa Craig and Sukey Reynolds books in her last years gave her immense pleasure. She loved to receive emails from her fans knowing that her writing was being so enjoyed. Betty may no longer be with us but Melissa and Sukey are still there solving those mysteries. Keep on reading!