Friday, 26 May 2017

Ottomania! by Barbara Nadel


When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s the idea of monarchy becoming a relevant political force seemed laughable. In 1973 the king of Greece, Constantine, was deposed in a military coup which constituted the last overthrow of monarchy in a Europe that had been gradually getting rid of its royals since the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1979 the Shah of Iran fell and royal families seemed to be on their way out.

Of course in the UK we had and still have our constitutional monarchy which has no political power. But then in 1978 something a bit strange happened in Spain when the Spanish monarchy was restored in the wake of the dictatorship of the fascist leader Francisco Franco. Suddenly Spain had a king and continues to have one to this day.

In the Turkey of my youth one didn't often talk about the sultans who had once ruled what had been, until 1923 (when the Turkish Republic was born) the Ottoman Empire. Occasionally you'd meet someone, someone else would tell you was a prince or princess, but in very hushed tones as if talking about violent death. Until this current century it was considered very backward-looking and  almost shameful to talk about a vanished empire and its archaic system of governance. To be one of 'them' was something that people kept dark.

And indeed when I started writing my Ikmen books back in the 1990s, this had not changed. Those who know my crime novels will recognise immediately that I referred to this phenomenon when I devised the character of Inspector Mehmet Suleyman. Back in the old days of the empire, he would have been a prince, but in the modern world of the Republic, he's just a man whose background is slightly 'exotic'.

However, as time has progressed, things have changed in Turkey. Now, rather than be ashamed of one's Ottoman heritage it is considered a badge of honour. Indeed, when the then head of the royal house of Osmanoglu died in 2009, he was given a state funeral which was attended by government ministers as well as thousands of members of the public.

I have reflected this in my books as Mehmet Suleyman's ancestry becomes more prominent in his life, even though he is not always happy about this. Not all of the vast Osmanoglu family are. Many of them don't even live in Turkey and some see what could be called the rehabilitation of the empire as a backward step.

But whatever the rights and wrongs, what has been called Ottomania, a yearning for the old days of empire, is a real force in Turkey these days. Allied to many of the beliefs and philosophies of the ruling party, love for all things Ottoman is very common and is becoming big business. I can remember a time when you couldn't give Ottoman furniture away. Not now.

In light of this development when I came to writing what is Ikmen book number 19, it was no surprise to me or anyone else that I turned to Ottomania for inspiration. The House of Four is the story of Ottoman relics, both architectural and human and is a study of what happens when families collude in hiding both themselves and their secrets from the world. It's also about how being 'royal' albeit with no power, can cause people to behave in ways that are not always adaptive. Indeed, I would say that on one level 'The House of Four', as well as being a murder mystery, is also an exploration of what it means to be exalted above others by virtue of one's status at birth. The more I dug into the subject the more I came to realise that it is a really unhealthy way to be. It certainly is for the royal characters in this book!

How Mehmet Suleyman will fare in this brave new world of Ottomania, I will leave the reader to discover. But life is changing for him in ways he never dreamed of back in the 1970s. I know how he feels. 

Read John Parker's review here.
Read Barbara's feature on mental illness here

The House of Four by Barbara Nadel, published by Headline 18th May 2017.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Events for your Diary

Tuesday 6th June, 6.30pm


Heffers Bookshop and British Library Publications invite you to an evening discussing Lois Austen-Leigh’s The Incredible Crime. This crime novel by a great, great niece of Jane Austen – supposedly written on the very desk used by her illustrious ancestor – has been shrouded in mystery since it fell out of print. Now the British Library is re-issuing The Incredible Crime as part of the library’s Crime Classics series.
Tickets are £4 in advance and available from

Thursday 15th June, 6.30pm



Join Len Tyler and Suzette Hill, two of Heffers' crime fiction favourites, as they talk about their new books A Herring in the Smoke and Shot in Southwold.
Tickets are £4 in advance and available from

Thursday 6th July, 6.30pm

Thursday July 6th sees the return of What's Your Poison? - Heffers' summer crime and detective fiction party. Join us for an evening of author readings, cocktails and brilliant books! Authors taking part include Clare Carson, Susan Grossey, Guy Fraser-Sampson, Christina James, Erin Kelly, Christina Koning, Abir Mukherjee, Peter Murphy, Barbara Nadel, Louise Penny, Kate Rhodes, Lesley Thomson and Felicia Yap.
Tickets are £6 in advance and available from

Monday, 22 May 2017


The shortlist for crime writing’s most wanted accolade, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, has been announced.

The most prestigious prize in the crime genre is now entering its 13th year. The shortlisted six were whittled down from a longlist of 18 titles published by British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2017.

The 2017 Award is run in partnership with title sponsor T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and The Mail on Sunday.

The shortlist in full:

Chris Brookmyre, Black Widow 
Eva Dolan, After You Die
Sabine Durrant, Lie With Me
Mick Herron, Real Tigers
Val McDermid, Out Of Bounds
Susie Steiner, Missing, Presumed       

Chris Brookmyre beat stiff competition to win the Scottish crime book of the year award with his novel, Black Widow, a story of cyber-abuse, where ‘even the twists have twists’. It features his long-time character, reporter Jack Parlabane. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that she had been given the novel as an early Valentine’s Day present by her husband, declaring it ‘brilliant’.

Essex-based writer Eva Dolan returns to the shortlist for the second year; Tell No Tales was shortlisted in 2016. Her follow-up After You Die is the third book from the author BBC Radio 4 marked as a ‘rising star of crime fiction’. Shortlisted for the CWA Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, her debut novel Long Way Home, was the start of a major new crime series starring two detectives from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit.

Lie With Me, the psychological thriller by Sabine Durrant was a Richard and Judy book pick. Durrant, also a feature writer, is a former assistant editor of The Guardian and former literary editor at The Sunday Times. Full of violent twists, her roguish charmer, Paul Morris, a once acclaimed author now living off friends and feeding them lies, is invited on a Greek holiday and events take a sinister turn. The Guardian praised it as a ‘thriller worthy of Ruth Rendell or Patricia Highsmith.’

Mick Herron’s espionage thriller, Real Tigers, is the third in his Jackson Lamb series. It received critical acclaim, with The Spectator saying the novel ‘explodes like a firecracker in all directions’. The series is based on an MI5 department of ‘rejects’ – intelligent services’ misfits and screw-ups, featuring anti-hero Jackson Lamb. Herron’s writing was praised by critic Barry Forshaw for ‘the spycraft of le Carré refracted through the blackly comic vision of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.’

Val McDermid, acknowledged as the ‘Queen of Crime’ has sold over 15m books to date. Her latest number one bestseller, Out of Bounds, features DCI Karen Pirie unlocking the mystery of a 20 year-old murder inquiry. The book is her 30th novel.

Susie Steiner is also a former Guardian journalist. Her first crime novel introduces Detective Manon Bradshaw, working on the high profile missing person’s case of Cambridge post-grad Edith Hind, daughter of Sir Ian and Lady Hind. Can DS Manon Bradshaw wade through the evidence before a missing person inquiry becomes a murder investigation? Missing, Presumed, was a Sunday Times bestseller, a Richard & Judy pick and was praised for its stylish, witty and compelling writing.

The shortlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers and members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee.
The titles will now be promoted in a seven-week promotion in over 1,500 libraries and WHSmith stores nationwide throughout June and July.

The overall winner will be decided by the panel of Judges, alongside a public vote. The public vote opens on 1 July and closes 14 July at

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony hosted by broadcaster Mark Lawson on 20 July on the opening night of the 15th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. They’ll receive a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.

Last year’s winner was Clare Mackintosh for I Let You Go, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide.

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “The shortlist this year highlights the incredible writers at work today. As these novels show, crime novels explore issues at the heart of our society and tap into the zeitgeist. 2017’s winner will join the list of game changing authors who have won this most coveted award over the last decade, including Denise Mina, Lee Child, and Sarah Hilary.”

Gemma Rowland, Operations Manager at Harrogate International Festivals, the arts organisation that delivers the festival, said: “The public’s vote is incredibly important. At the Festival, we value readers as much as the authors who take part; it’s the readers that have real power when it comes to judging a book’s worth, so I’d encourage everyone to make their voice heard – it’s free and simple to vote online.”

It’s also been announced that the awards night will honour Lee Child. The Jack Reacher creator will receive the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, joining past winners Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill.

Child has been dubbed a ‘billion-dollar brand’ for his blockbuster Jack Reacher series, adapted to film by Tom Cruise.

Simon added: “We’re particularly delighted to be honouring Lee Child. He is nothing short of a phenomenon. The Jack Reacher series tops bestseller lists worldwide, with a staggering 100 million books sold.  Lee is very deserving of this accolade, and will have his rightful place in a pantheon of legendary crime authors who have achieved this honour to date.”

Lee Child said: “It’s an honour - probably undeserved - to be placed in the same category as the previous recipients of this prize.  In particular I would like to thank Simon Theakston for his generous and visionary support of the genre.”

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Crimefest Awards and Petrona Award

The Crimefest award and the Petrona award were announced on Saturday 20th May 2017 at the Gala Dinner held at Crimefest Bristol.   The shortlist for the Crimefest awards can be found here, whilst the shortlist for the Petrona Award can be found here.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award (for best unabridged crime audiobook): I See You, by Clare Mackintosh; read by Rachel Atkins (Sphere)

eDunnit Award (for the best crime fiction e-book): Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)

The Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel): Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)

The H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction): Brit Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)

Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12): Murder Most Unladylike: Mistletoe and Murder, by Robin Stevens (Puffin)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (12-16): Kid Got Shot, by Simon Mason (David Fickling)

Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year: Where Roses Never Die, by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)

Congratulations to all the nominated authors and winners.

Friday, 19 May 2017

CWA Dagger Longlists

The CWA Gold Dagger
The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press)
Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
The Girl Before by J P Delaney (Quercus)
Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith (No Exit Press)
Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador)
The Dry by Jane Harper (Little Brown)
Spook Street by Mick Herron (John Murray Publishers)
Sirens by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)
Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin) No Exit Press
The Girl in Green by Derek B Miller (Faber & Faber)
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Harvil Secker)
Darktown by Thomas Mullen (Little Brown)

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (Picador)
Kill The Next One by Frederico Axat (Text Publishing)
The Twenty Three by Linwood Barclay (Orion Fiction)
The Killing Game by J S Carol (Bookouture)
The Heat by Garry Disher (Text Publishing)
A Hero in France by Alan Furst (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
We Go Around in the Night Consumed by Fire by Jules Grant (Myriad Editions)
Moskva by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)
The One Man by Andrew Gross (Macmillan)
Redemption Road by John Hart (Hodder & Stoughton)
Spook Street by Mick Herron (John Murray Publishers)
Dark Asset by Adrian Magson (Severn House)
Police at the Station and the don’t look Friendly by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
The Constant Soldier by William Ryan (Mantle)
The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong (Text Publishing)
Jericho’s War by Gerald Seymour (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter (Century)
Broken Heart by Tim Weaver (Penguin)

CWA International Dagger
A Cold Death by Antonio Manzini (Tr Anthony Shugaar) (4th Estate)
A Fine Line by Gianrico Carofiglio (Tr by Howard Curtis) (Bitter Lemon Press)
A Voice in the Dark by Andrea Camilleri (Tr Stephen Sartarelli) (Mantle)
Blackout by Marc Elsberg (Tr Marshall Yarborough) (Black Swan)
Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre (Tr Frank Wynne) (Maclehose Press)
Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas (Tr Sian Reynolds) (Harvill Secker)
Death in the Tuscan Hills by Marco Vichi (Tr Stephen Sartarelli) (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Bastards of Pizzofalcone by Maurizio De Giovanni (Tr Anthony Shugaar) (Europa Editions)
The Dying Detective by Leif G W Persson (Tr Neil Smith) (Doubleday)
The Legacy of The Bones by Dolores Redondo (Tr Nick Caister & Lorenza Garcia) (Harper Fiction)
When It Grows Dark by Jorn Lier Horst (Tr Anne Bruce) (Sandstone Press)

Non-Fiction Dagger
A Dangerous Place by Simon Farquhar (The History Press Ltd)
Close But No Cigar: A True Story of Prison Life in Castro’s Cuba by Stephen Purvis (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Scholl Case: The Deadly End of a Marriage by Anja Reich-Osang (Text Publishing)
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury Publishing)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury Publishing)
A Passing Fury: Searching for Justice at the End of World War II by A. T. Williams (Jonathan Cape)
The Ice Age: A Journey into Crystal-Meth Addiction by Luke Williams (Scribe Publications)
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (Guardian Faber Publishing)

Short Story Dagger
The Assassination by Leye Adenle in Sunshine Noir Edited by Anna Maria Alfieri & Michael Stanley (White Sun Books)
Murder and its Motives by Martin Edwards in Motives for Murder Edited by Martin Edwards (Sphere)
Alive or Dead by Michael Jecks in Motives for Murder Edited by Martin Edwards (Sphere)
The Super Recogniser of Vik by Michael Ridpath in Motives for Murder Edited by Martin Edwards (Sphere)
What You Were Fighting For by James Sallis in The Highway Kind Edited by Patrick Millikin (Mulholland Books)
The Trials of Margaret by LC Tyler in Motives for Murder Edited by Martin Edwards (Sphere)
Snakeskin by Ovidia Yu in Sunshine Noir Edited by AnnaMaria Alfieri & Michael Stanley (White Sun Books)

Debut Dagger
Camera Obscura by Richard McDowell
Strange Fire by Sherry Larkin
The Reincarnation of Himmat Gupte by Neeraj Shah
The Swankeeper’s Wife by Augusta Dwyer
Hardways by Catherine Hendricks
Lost Boys by Spike Dawkins
Victorianoir by Kat Clay
Red Haven by Mette McLeod
In the Shadow of the Tower by Clive Edwards
Broken by Victoria Slotover

Endeavour Historical Dagger
The Devil’s Feast by M J Carter (Fig Tree)
The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes (Doubleday Ireland)
The Black Friar By S G MacLean (Quercus)
The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press)
The Long Drop by Denise Mina (Harvil Secker)
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Harvil Secker)
Darktown by Thomas Mullen (Little Brown)
By Gaslight by Steven Price (Point Blank)
The City in Darkness by Michael Russell (Constable)
Dark Asylum by E S Thomson (Constable)

John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
The Watcher by Ross Armstrong (Mira)
The Pictures by Guy Bolton (Point Blank)
What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney (Mantle)
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole (Trapeze)
Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg (Faber & Faber)
Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (Orenda Books)
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus)
Himself by Jess Kidd (Canongate)
Sirens by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land (Michael Joseph)
The Possession by Sara Flannery Murphy (Scribe)
Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (Twenty 7)

Dagger in the Library (Shortlist)
Kate Ellis
Tana French
Mari Hannah
James Oswald
C J Sansom

Andrew Taylor

Bloody Hell!

London, September 2014

            Bon sang…”

I was seated in Ginger & White, a cosy coffee place tucked in a cobbled street, in Hampstead village. I was sharing the large main wooden table with a young man working on his computer.

 Are you O.K.,” he suddenly asked, looking genuinely concerned.
His eyes were drawing a line between my face and my round belly. Well, round, that was an understatement: it was quite voluminous as my son was due to arrive two months later.
I nodded, smiled briefly, and went back to my book.

Bon sang…” I had said out loud. But it was indeed a ‘bloody hell’ I had just dived into.

I was researching for Block 46, due publication in France a year later, which would be inspired by my family history: in 1943, my paternal grandfather, a French resistant, had been deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where he spent almost two years, until the Liberation, on the 11th of April 1945.

I already knew quite a lot about this shameful page of our History, but all the information I had gathered was what general books taught me, as my granddad was never too loquacious about his detention in Buchenwald. So, I decided to begin my research by the survivors’ testimonies from the Nuremberg trials.

I sat down at Ginger & White with my decaf latte and started to read the first testimony; I immediately shivered and wrapped my arms around my belly.

I have been reading about serial killers and forensic psychology since my early teens and I was quite accustomed to sociopathic behaviour and horrendous killings. But what this witness was describing made me feel terribly sick. A mother was explaining her arrival at a concentration camp; how a SS officer was throwing a baby in the air, shooting that baby in the head before letting her crash on the ground. I gasped for air. This is not a metaphor: I literally gasped for air.

As I went on reading, the shock and revulsion were tightening their grip. I thought of the scene of the little girl wearing the red coat in the Spielberg’s movie Shindler’s list. Except that now I knew what was behind it: her paralysing fear, her atrocious pain.

At that instant, it felt like I was standing on a diving board, about to plunge into murky waters: how could I talk about the concentration camps without mentioning the horror of it all? I could not just talk about the little red coat! Every corner of the Nazis camps stank of death. Each lost soul imprisoned in the camps had faced barbarity, savagery, terror, brutality, hunger, sickness and despair. Each one of them. That was what the camps were about. They were a bloody hell. That was the story that needed to be told. The story beyond the little red coat. My grandfather’s story.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson  (Published by Orenda Books)
Evil remembers...  Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.  Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea's.  Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.  Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?  Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea's friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.