Ellis Peters Historical Crime Fiction Shortlist: Which is the best book?

Posted: July 4, 2012 in Bernie Gunther, Book Awards, England, Historical, Italy, Scotland, spy story

The 2012 CWA Ellis Peters Shortlist contains seven books of which I have now read four. A fifth Laura Wilson’s A Willing Victim has been reviewed by Maxine of Petrona [The link is to her review] and I have taken her views into consideration in picking a possible winner of this prestigious award. Here is the shortlist of seven books. 

The Crown: Nancy Bilyeau [set in 1537]

Sacrilege: S.J.Parris [1584]

I Will Have Vengeance: Maurizio De Giovanni [1931]

Prague Fatale: Philip Kerr [1941]

Bitter Water: Gordon Ferris [1946]

Icelight: Aly Monroe [1947]

A Willing Victim: Laura Wilson [1956]

I admit to not particularly liking Tudor-Elizabethan historical crime fiction, although I did enjoy one of C.J.Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. The comments on Friend Feed that The Crown involves shenanigans in a medieval nunnery, and that fans of Dan Brown will enjoy it, create a big hurdle for this book to overcome in my mind. Sacrilege by S. J.Parris I note from an Amazon review reminds us every three pages that English people in 1584 hated foreigners, and I therefore would remove that book from consideration as well. My apologies to the authors if both these books are brilliant historical thrillers, and I have been mislead by other reviewers. If one of these novels wins I promise to read it. 😉

I was about thirteen years old when I tackled La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas [in translation] and perhaps that, and subsequently The Three Musketeers and its sequels, spoilt me for anything 16th or early 17th Century. 

My choice would be between the very clever and hard hitting Prague Fatale, and the atmospheric spy story Icelight. But the idiosyncratic I Will Have Vengeance could spring a surprise. We will know tomorrow night when the winner of Ellis Peters, and the International Dagger will be announced at a black tie dinner in The Library at One Birdcage Walk.  

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – Very thoughtful and interesting post! I hope you’re right about Prague Fatale, as I happen to have a soft spot for the Bernie Gunther series.

  2. Maxine says:

    I would not vote for either of the two I have read from this list, and your reasons for not reading the two you did not read are persuasive. I hope that one of your choices wins!

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