By Paridhi Badgotri and Gabriella Sotiriou
The Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates its eighteenth year in 2022, focuses on originality, excellence and the best crime fiction from British and Irish authors. This year’s shortlist for the award, detailed below, included some of the best chilling crime fiction of the year.
It included The Night Hawks by Elle Griffiths, which is the fourteenth installment of Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. Galloway, a forensic archeologist from Norfolk, is called to action when a body is discovered buried in a beach by a group of metal detectorists. Alongside the body is a hoard of Bronze Age treasure. Though Ruth is more interested in the treasure than the body, she dives into the mystery and becomes determined to find answers. The discovery sparks a series of murders that are supposedly linked to sightings of the local legend of a ghostly dog whose appearance usually leads to death. This is Griffiths’ fifth feature on the shortlist for the award.
Also just missing out on the winning spot was Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd. Laura Shepherd is a historical crime writer and Daughters of Night is her second novel. Her debut novel Blood and Sugar was longlisted for same award just two years ago in 2020. Daughters of Night takes place in the London underworld, particularly the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which form the setting of the murder of a prostitute. Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is taken into the darkest corners of Georgian high society when she begins to investigate the crime.
Vaseem Khan also made it to the shortlist this year with his novel Midnight at Malabar House, a murder mystery set in post-Partition Bombay and featuring India’s first female detective Persis Wadia. Wadia suddenly finds herself in charge of the country’s most scandalous case after the murder of English diplomat Sir James Herriot. Midnight at Malabar house brilliantly blends a cosy murder mystery with high-stakes politics. Excitingly, this is the first in a series.
The final book on the shortlist was The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. A thrilling tale of a woman trapped in a small cottage on a farm living under the control of the abusive man who claims to be her husband. But something happens that makes her want to escape his clutches. This is a suspenseful novel based on revenge and packed with tension that explores the horrors of abusive relationships. This is bestselling author Will Dean’s first time featuring on the shortlist.
Winner: Slough House by Mick Herron
In the seventh book of his Slough House series, named after the series itself, Mick Herron offers a cut-throat view of the global finance, spy craft, politics and media that hold the power in our world, highlighting gasp-worthy corruption present in the UK. Slough House is a part of MI5 where all the washed-up demoted officers are dumped. Brexit has created a political upheaval and in addition, a new populist movement is taking considerable power on London’s streets in the aftermath of a Russian conspiracy that left a British citizen dead. With the highest bidder holding the utmost power, danger is at the threshold. The members of Slough House are dying unusual deaths and they are being removed from the official records. Herron depicts the biting effects of privatization and the manipulation of truth via media conglomerates. Jackson Lamb, the protagonist, tries to navigate the levels of lies, power and death in Herron’s novel.
Highly Commended: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
Joseph Knox blurs the line between fact and fiction in True Crime Story. The book investigates the mystery of a university student’s disappearance. The student, Zoe Nolan, walked out of a party taking place in an accommodation where she had been living for three months. Years later, a struggling writer, Evelyn Mitchell, becomes interested by the mystery and tries to piece together the story of Zoe's disappearance through an interview with her friends and family. Through the character of Evelyn, Knox describes his own anxieties related to criminal mysteries. He uses the meta device – writing a story about a writer trying to write the story of a crime. In this interesting format, Evelyn finds out that while some events turn out to be perfectly aligned with each other, some stand in stark contrast giving rise to confusing inconsistencies in the story. In a world where everybody is hiding something, Evelyn is shaken by the revelations of Zoe’s truth.