Harrogate, 5 May 2021: Today, the longlist of the UK and Ireland’s most prestigious crime novel award is unveiled with literary legends and dynamic debuts in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
Now in its 17th year, the most coveted prize in crime fiction, presented by Harrogate International Festivals celebrates crime writing at its best. This year’s longlist transports readers around the world from California to Sweden and Calcutta to a remote Irish island and explores every subgenre from Scandi noir to murderous families.
MARK BILLINGHAM | LOUISE CANDLISH | JANE CASEY | STEVE CAVANAGH | WILL DEAN | EVA DOLAN | LUCY FOLEY | ELLY GRIFFITHS | DOUG JOHNSTONE | ROSAMUND LUPTON | VAL MCDERMID | BRIAN MCGILLOWAY | ABIR MUKHERJEE | LIZ NUGENT | IAN RANKIN |SUSIE STEINER | CHRIS WHITAKER | TREVOR WOOD
The line-up of returning champions is led by crime fiction titan Ian Rankin, who has received a nod for his A Song for The Dark Times, Mark Billingham, hoping for a third win with his Cry Baby, and Steve Cavanagh looking to beat the competition with Fifty Fifty.
This year’s longlist recognises a number of authors who have previously never been listed by the prize. Hoping to claim the trophy on their first appearance are Lucy Foley with her No.1 Sunday Times Best Seller The Guest List, Chris Whitaker with We Begin at The End, Scottish author Doug Johnstone with The Big Chill and Liz Nugent with Our Little Cruelties, and Jane Casey with her latest Maeve Kerrigan instalment The Cutting Place.
The longlist also features several previously nominated authors hoping to go one step further and clinch the trophy withElly Griffiths securing her seventh pick for her much lauded The Lantern Men and Susie Steiner getting her third nod for Remain Silent and Brian McGilloway’s second nomination for The Last Crossing, and best-selling author Louise Candlish hoping to win on her second pick with The Other Passenger.
Joining these outstanding names is the undisputed ‘Queen of Crime’ herself, Val McDermid with her newest Karen Pirie novel Still Life. Celebrated in the industry for her impeccable ability to select emerging talent for the annual New Blood panel at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, McDermid find herself competing against many New Blood alumni including: Will Dean for his latest Scandi noir Black River; Eva Dolan for the newest instalment of her critically-acclaimedZigic and Ferreira series, Abir Mukherjee’s new Calcutta and Assam-inspired Death in the East, and finally Trevor Wood– who has gone from the 2020 New Blood panel to longlisted for Crime’s biggest award.
The full longlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021 is:
Cry Baby by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere)
It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow. So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot. The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All arein Thorne’s sights. This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking. The gripping prequel to Mark Billingham’s acclaimed debut, Sleepyhead, Cry Baby is the shocking first case for one of British crime fiction’s most iconic detectives.
The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster)
It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by riverbus with your charismatic neighbour Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife Melia has reported him missing. When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends – ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives? No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent. Aren’t you?
The Cutting Place by Jane Casey (HarperCollins, HarperFiction)
Rumours… Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are outrageous…and what goes on behind closed doors is darker than you could possibly imagine. Scandals… Paige Hargreaves was a young journalist working on a story about a club for the most privileged men in London. She was on the brink of exposing a shocking scandal. Then she disappeared. Secrets… DS Maeve Kerrigan must immerse herself in the club’s world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour to find out what happened. But Maeve is keeping secrets of her own. Will she uncover the truth? Or will time run out for Maeve first?
Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh (The Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)
TWO SISTERS ON TRIAL FOR MURDER. THEY ACCUSE EACH OTHER. WHO DO YOU BELIEVE? ‘911 what’s your emergency?’ ‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’ ‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’ One of them is a liar and a killer. But which one?
Black River by Will Dean (Oneworld Publications, Point Blank)
FEAR. Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim is missing. SECRETS. Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts? LIES. Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?
Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (Bloomsbury Publishing, Raven Books)
As the country bakes under the relentless summer sun, a young doctor is found brutally murdered at his home in a picturesque Cambridgeshire village. Is his death connected to his private life – or his professional one? Dr Joshua Ainsworth worked at an all-female detention centre, one still recovering from a major scandal a few years before. Was he the whistle-blower – or an instigator? As Detective Sergeant Ferreira and Detective Inspector Zigic begin to painstakingly reconstruct Dr Ainsworth’s last days, they uncover yet more secrets and more suspects. But this isn’t the only case that’s demanding their attention – a violent criminal has been released on a technicality and the police force know he will strike again: the only question is who will be his first victim…
The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, HarperFiction)
On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. Old friends. Past grudges. Happy families. Hidden jealousies. Thirteen guests. One body. The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped. All have a secret. All have a motive. One guest won’t leave this wedding alive …
The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, Quercus Fiction)
Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway. She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging. Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths. Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?
The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (Orenda Books)
Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life. While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly. But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness but could the real threat be to themselves? Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton (Penguin Random House UK, Viking)
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Children and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news. In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
Still Life by Val McDermid (Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere)
On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets. But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there. In her search for the truth, Karen uncovers a network of lies that has gone unchallenged for years. But lies and secrets can turn deadly when someone is determined to keep them hidden for good . . . The number one bestseller and unrivalled queen of crime Val McDermid is back with her most exhilarating, breath-taking thriller yet.
The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway (Little, Brown Book Group, Constable)
Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they’d seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite – to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future – they all have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland the past is brought into terrible focus – some things are impossible to leave behind. In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.
Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)
Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, are back for another rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s India. 1905, London. When Bessie Drummond, an old flame of Sam Wyndham’s, is attacked in the street, he is determined to get to the bottom of it. But the next day, Bessie is found dead in her room and Wyndham soon finds himself caught up in her murder investigation. The case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined. 1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, ready to put his opium addiction behind him. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again. Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain that this figure from can only be after one thing: revenge…
Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent (Penguin, Sandycove)
Three brothers are at the funeral. One lies in the coffin. Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother’s unequal love. As men, the competition continues – for status, money, fame, women … They each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead. But which brother killed him?
A Song For The Dark Times by Ian Rankin OBE (Orion, Orion Fiction)
When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective? As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…
Remain Silent by Susie Steiner (HarperCollins Publishers, The Borough Press)
A TRAGIC DEATH. A TOWN FILLED WITH SECRETS. A NAMELESS BODY A young man is found hanging from a tree, with nothing to identify him. NO LEADS TO FOLLOW Was he driven to suicide, or was he silenced? Somebody knows, but they’re not saying. WHO’S NEXT? With potential witnesses too scared to talk to her, can DI Manon Bradshaw discover the truth before more innocent people die?
We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Books UK. Zaffre)
Thirty years ago, a teenage Vincent King became a killer. Now he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California, where not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend and sister of the girl he killed. Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but for the whole town.
The Man on the Street by Trevor Wood (Quercus, Quercus Fiction)
It started with a splash. Jimmy, a homeless veteran grappling with PTSD, did his best to pretend he hadn’t heard it – the sound of something heavy falling into the Tyne at the height of an argument between two men on the riverbank. Not his fight. Then he sees the headline: GIRL IN MISSING DAD PLEA. The girl, Carrie, reminds him of someone he lost, and this makes his mind up: it’s time to stop hiding from his past. But telling Carrie, what he heard – or thought he heard – turns out to be just the beginning of the story. The police don’t believe him, but Carrie is adamant that something awful has happened to her dad and Jimmy agrees to help her, putting himself at risk from enemies old and new. But Jimmy has one big advantage: when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Run by Harrogate International Festivals, the shortlist will be announced in June and the winner on 22 July, at the opening evening of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – with the public able to vote for the winner on harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com.
The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021 by UK and Irish authors.
The longlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith.
The public are now invited to vote for a shortlist of six titles on www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com, which will be announced in June. The winner will be revealed on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 22 July, and will receive £3,000, and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.
My thanks to Francesca Whitting, Associate Director, MidasPR for the opportunity to play my part in bringing the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Longlist for Novel of the Year to my followers. What a cracking list it is and what a delightful pleasure it has been.
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