Look forward to National Crime Reading Month this June -Reflect on some fabulous CWA Dagger Winners from the past.

The world-famed Crime Writers’ Association launches National Crime Reading Month (NCRM) this June a major initiative designed to celebrate the genre and get the nation reading.

Running in collaboration with national reading charity, The Reading Agency, bestselling authors have been appointed as regional ambassadors of NCRM across the British Isles and Ireland.

Ambassadors include authors Steve Cavanagh, MW Craven, Elly Griffiths, Alis Hawkins, Anthony Horowitz, Vaseem Khan, Nadine Matheson, Louise Phillips, Ian Rankin, LJ Ross, Robin Stevens and Sarah Ward.

NCRM will be an inclusive initiative celebrating diversity in the genre at every level, with events both in person and virtual to ensure accessibility. Whether it’s a Crime Fact and Fiction walk through London, or an online workshop, there will be events for everyone.

The high-profile initiative is encouraging bookshops, libraries, museums, book-clubs and schools to get involved with their own events in the month-long celebration, under the #PickUpAPageTurner hashtag. And LoveReading will be joining in!

Spearheaded by CWA board member, the bestselling crime writer Sam Blake, NCRM will be launched at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly on June 1 featuring authors Abir Mukherjee, Lisa Jewell, LJ Ross, Nadine Matheson, and Vaseem Khan.

Sam Blake said: “This is a fantastic project that I hope will demonstrate the full breadth of the crime genre and bring new readers to discover books and authors they haven’t read before crime isn’t just police procedurals but includes Young Adult, mystery and thrillers, as well as books that have become celebrated films like Ian Fleming’s iconic Bond. We want everyone to #PickUpAPageTurner in June and try something new.”

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the CWA and Friend of LoveReading, said: "National Crime Reading Month is one of The Crime Writers Association’s most ambitious initiatives and its growth this year is unprecedented. We want to encourage more people to read books in the crime genre, and mystery and thrillers are a popular gateway into reading. It’s a winning combination.”

Now, yes, we know we are still in May, but being huge fans of crime and thriller novels we couldn’t resist sharing just a few of the fabulous books we’ve read that have been winners of the various CWA Dagger Awards over the last few years.

For 2020, 2021 and 2022, I have sat on the judging panel for the Gold Dagger Award and next year move to Crime Fiction in Translation. As I write we are still in the process of judging the 2022 Awards, so this list only includes books published before 2021. Sitting as a judge is not an easy job, in fact at times it can be a heartbreaking experience, as inevitably some of your own favourite novels can be lost along the way, however, I am convinced that the books included on the long and short lists contain some truly fabulous books, and here are some of the eventual winners:

We Begin at the End

We Begin at the End

Author: Chris Whitaker Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.

Star Books
November Road

November Road

Author: Lou Berney Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/04/2019

Smart, raw, understated yet powerful, and so very readable. A provocative novel, perfectly placed in time. Fiercely emotional, the ending gave me goosebumps. Read like an absolute dream.

Star Books
Scrublands

Scrublands

Author: Chris Hammer Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/07/2019

An award winning debut and start to a fabulous new crime series. Scrublands won the John Creasy New Blood Dagger in 2019 and was described by The Crime Writers’ Association as “a heatwave of a novel, scorching and powerful with an acute sense of place.” Set in Australia with a journalist in the starring role, this is a series that promises much. Books in the Martin Scarsden Series: 1. Scrublands 2. Silver 3. Trust 4. Opal Country Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Author: Michael Robotham Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

Hugely entertaining, tick. Multifaceted, tick. Intelligent, tick. Start of a new series, tick, tick, tick. Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven investigates the death of a young champion ice-skater, while also assessing Evie. Evie is in secure care after experiencing severe trauma and she has the gift (or curse) of being able to tell when someone is lying. Chapter one hooked me, a few more chapters in and another snare caught me, raising questions, leaving me wanting more. Short, intense chapters are written either from Evie’s viewpoint or that of Cyrus. Both characters intrigued me, leaving my thoughts knocking at the door to understanding. Two stories with Cyrus acting as the link gradually twist together to create one fascinating tale. I gobbled up this book, there were surprises waiting in unexpected places, and moments of calm when I was wary. Good Girl, Bad Girl is a wow of a start to a new series that promises much indeed. Not only a book of the month, I’ve also chosen it to sit as a LoveReading star book too. Books in The Cyrus Haven Series: 1. Good Girl, Bad Girl 2. When She Was Good 3. Lying Beside You Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

Star Books
The Creak on the Stairs

The Creak on the Stairs

Author: Eva Björg Ægisdottir Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2020

Set in Iceland, this novel introduces a new policing team in a tense and unsettling crime novel. Winner of Iceland’s Blackbird Award and translated by prizewinning Victoria Cribb The Creak on the Stairs marks the beginning of a new series. The prologue provokes a sense of unease, which lies in wait through the rest of the tale. Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir gradually introduces more characters, adding more layers of information and increasing the intrigue. We are allowed to see into the past, childhoods torn apart, still affecting the present. The policing team are an interesting bunch, with their outside lives altering their investigating ability. The setting in Iceland is fascinating, the descriptions creating a vivid picture of the reality of living in a small town. The Creak on the Stairs is a captivating tale with plenty of tension and a plot to really get your teeth into.

eBooks of the Month
To The Lions

To The Lions

Author: Holly Watt Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/01/2020

This debut held me in thrall, it feels so different, and promises much as the start to a new series. Investigative reporter Casey Benedict is always looking for the next big story, an overheard conversation in a nightclub leads her straight into the jaws of hell. Author Holly Watt is an award-winning investigative journalist which adds to the overall feeling of credibility. The intruiging prologue and continued moments of reflection left questions flaring free, ready to claim my awareness. It took me a little while to get used to the style, which on occasion felt clipped, even a little awkward, which in fact adds to the originality of the tale. The devastating story Casey is chasing is slow to build, the painstaking piecing together of information feels completely authentic. When the story really takes off, it threw my thoughts into turmoil, I could all too easily imagine this happening in reality. To The Lions is an intelligent, provocative thriller and the much deserved winner of the 2019 Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Puppet Show

The Puppet Show

Author: M. W. Craven Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/01/2019

One of my all-time favourite series’ began with The Puppet Show, a serial-killer thriller like no other. The story follows the hunt for a killer who is burning people alive in the Lake District’s stone circles. I read much of this one through my fingers, by turns flinching and laughing out loud as Mike Craven has this rare ability to combine the macabre with effortless humour, a frantic pace and, in Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, the kind of odd couple protagonists that see me counting each day until their return. Wildly entertaining and not for the faint of heart. Selected by Chris Whitaker, Our Spring 2022 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.

Spook Street

Spook Street

Author: Mick Herron Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/09/2017

One of Our Books of the Year 2017 |  A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Herron's Slough House series just keeps on getting better and better, both on the sly humorous front and with the Machiavellian variations it offers on the levels of deception that operate within the British secret service. This is John le Carre territory with added dollops of sheer mischief as well as pathos as familiar, larger than life characters navigate another tortuous case, with the monstrous but endearing boss of the disgraced spy unit Jackson Lamb as ever pulling invisible strings and his ill-assorted team barely keeping their head above the water level. River Cartwright's grandfather who was once one of the stars of the great game is now old and senile and presents a danger to the new powers-that-be, while on the other side of town a terrorist attack on a shopping center triggers a whole series of new threats. Is there a connection between the two events and how will our motley group of losers come out of it all alive? Or will they? Great stuff. More, please! ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Whoo hoo! The Slough House misfits return, with the fourth of the series, and the horrendously brilliant Jackson Lamb at the warped helm. Former spook David Cartwright may be retired, his grandson and Slough House resident River may be worried about his health, however you wouldn't want to underestimate this old man’s capabilities, oh no… If you've not yet discovered the seriously wicked pen of Mick Herron, do start at the beginning with ‘Slow Horses’, as although this could be read as a standalone, you wont get the best result if you step into the middle of this fabulous series. Mick Herron has created a deviously twisted world, it sticks two fingers up at, well, everyone really, as the team manage to create as many issues as they solve. The intricate layers build slowly in what is actually a fast moving story, so don't get left behind, as you may feel a bit daft when you catch up. There are plenty of smirky laughter blurting moments, as well as wince and whimper inducing ones, along the way. ‘Spook Street’ is a wonderfully crooked, scalding hot, absolute crackerjack of read, and it’s part of a series that just shouldn't be missed.

eBooks of the Month
A Rising Man

A Rising Man

Author: Abir Mukherjee Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/05/2017

A fabulous and award-winning historical crime series set in India, starring Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee. Discover richly vivid, wonderful interplay between the characters and thought provoking storylines. This is a series to stick on the top of your to-be-read pile. Books in The Sam Wyndham Series: 1. A Rising Man 2. A Necessary Evil 3. Smoke and Ashes 4. Death in the East 5. The Shadows of Men Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

Dodgers

Dodgers

Author: Bill Beverly Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/12/2016

January 2017 Book of the Month. One of our Books of the Year 2016. Winner of the John Creasey (New Blood) and Goldsboro Gold Dagger Awards 2016. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer go rap! A striking literary thriller which follows the reluctant journey of East, a young ghetto kid from a world of drugs and crime in Los Angeles, across the United States on his way to a murder he must commit to prove his loyalty and gain redemption for a mistake he made back home. An old-fashioned narrative quest and road journey through the moral vacuity of America, alongside his psychopathic younger brother and other endearing junior gang members on a mission set for failure. The main protagonist's voice is both touching and engrossing, a modern version of Holden Caulfield had he been born in Compton and a generation or so later, and his itinerary both geographical and mental is a poetic as well as profane, delicate joy to behold. A character study of the highest quality as well as a thriller as addictive as crack. Without the shadow of a doubt, a book that will come to be seen as a landmark in US crime writing. Maxim Jakubowski's April 2016 Book of the Month.

Books of the Month
The Seeker

The Seeker

Author: S. G. MacLean Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/05/2016

London, 1654. Oliver Cromwell is at the height of his power and has declared himself Lord Protector. Yet he has many enemies, at home and abroad. London is a teeming warren of spies and merchants, priests and soldiers, exiles and assassins. One of the web's most fearsome spiders is Damian Seeker, agent of the Lord Protector. No one knows where Seeker comes from, who his family is, or even his real name. All that is known of him for certain is that he is utterly loyal to Cromwell, and that nothing can be long hidden from him. In the city, coffee houses are springing up, fashionable places where men may meet to plot and gossip. Suddenly they are ringing with news of a murder. John Winter, hero of Cromwell's all-powerful army, is dead, and the lawyer, Elias Ellingworth, found standing over the bleeding body, clutching a knife. Yet despite the damning evidence, Seeker is not convinced of Ellingworth's guilt. He will stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice: and Seeker knows better than any man where to search.

eBooks of the Month
This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy

Author: Wiley Cash Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/07/2015

Powerfully penetrating and intelligently observed, this intense thriller captures, holds and provokes your interest. The story is told by three people who become entangled in one man’s dreams to move away from his past and this is ultimately their tale rather than his. The author keeps the plot a little fractured to start and you feel as though you are deliberately kept in the dark. The names of the three main characters above the chapter headings when the narrative changes is necessary, as the tale doesn’t regularly rotate between each one. As the separate tales entwine, they begin to twist and writhe together and a creeping sense of foreboding and tension prowls across the pages. The anxiety, fear and torment of the characters can be clearly felt, and the welcome sliver of hope slicing through the darkness makes this a distinctive and stimulating read. 

eBooks of the Month
The Axeman's Jazz

The Axeman's Jazz

Author: Ray Celestin Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/04/2015

So, so much more than just a crime novel, this beautifully written tale, inspired by real events that took place in New Orleans during 1919, weaves a hypnotic web of intrigue, tension and suspense. New Orleans struts and parades her way through the story, the author brings not only the city but also the time and people vividly to life. A musically talented Mr Armstrong makes an appearance, alongside The Mob, Voodou and a chilling letter from the real killer written in May 1919. The murders that scatter the pages are secondary to the reasons the three main characters need to find the Axeman. The author doesn't flinch from the horrors of the killings, however this isn’t a gore filled parade, there is a lilting, soulful, expressive quality to the writing which creates a captivating tale just oozing in atmosphere. 

eBooks of the Month
Blacklands

Blacklands

Author: Belinda Bauer Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/01/2010

CWA Gold Dagger Winner 2010.   CWA Judges’ comments: 'A boy tries to lay to rest the ghost of a murdered uncle, leading to a chilling confrontation with a child killer in this disturbing coming-of-age novel.'   February 2010 Debut of the Month.   Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 24 January 2010.   There is an echo of the Moors Murders of the 1960’s in this story line which adds an extra element of eeriness to this suspense filled thriller. Creepy and gripping this is an excellent debut that bodes well for future novels.

eBooks of the Month
Before I Go

Before I Go

Author: Colleen Oakley Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/05/2015

May 2015 Debut of the Month. A convincing and remarkably readable novel, writing with a lightness of touch, the author balances a tricky tightrope of emotions, keeping the read sparkling with intensity yet crisply sincere. We sit inside Daisy’s thoughts and feelings as she learns she has a cancer that can’t be stopped, we walk through her life and experience her relationships. Daisy feels authentically real, she becomes someone you care about and therefore you feel you have permission to get annoyed with her, to laugh with her, to feel heartfelt sorrow for her. This is a book about relationships, it’s about love and loss, about honesty and mistrust, it encourages you to feel, to think and yet does so with consideration. Yes this is poignant and moving, yes it may make you cry, but don't be intimidated as it’s a surprisingly refreshing and stimulating read. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month

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