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When it takes more than vampires of the occult genre or science fiction aliens to give you a good scare, look to these Dagger Award winners. Delving into the dark side of human nature, these crime novels are sure to put you on edge. Dagger Awards have been presented since 1955 by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain. We hope you enjoy the following novels from the Wolfner Library collection which have all won a Dagger Award.
Gold Dagger for Fiction
1957 winner: The Color of Murder by Julian Symons.
John Wilkins is an ineffectual fellow who works in the complaint section of a large London department store. Unhappily married, he is given to daydreams and has occasional "black-outs." He builds up a romantic fantasy about an attractive librarian and is, unfortunately, near Brighton Beach where she is found murdered one night. RC 20650.
1960 winner: The Night of Wenceslas by Lionel Davidson.
A blundering, but attractive Englishman is catapulted out of a muddled life in London to unexpected intrigue in Prague as the naive bearer of secret nuclear messages. BR 1491.
1963 winner: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre.
After the last British agent behind the Iron Curtain has been killed by an East German agent, the British send a secret agent, posing as a defector, to trap the East German and destroy him. George Smiley series, book 3. RC 16772, BR 1605.
1965 winner: The Far Side of the Dollar by Ross MacDonald.
Detective Lew Archer seeks a youth who escaped from a private school for delinquents. The search reveals the disturbing values of a bizarre California coastal society. Lew Archer series, book 12. RC 41374, BR 10335.
1968 winner: Glass-Sided Ants' Nest by Peter Dickson.
A mystery story involving the remnant of a New Guinea tribe that settled in London after escaping from Japanese invaders. While investigating the murder of the headman, Inspector Pibble is introduced to tribal ways persisting in the midst of modern civilization. Anthropology adds an extra dimension to a puzzling case. BR 864.
1971 winner: The Steam Pig by James McClure.
A South African music teacher is found dead in her apartment in this chiller which includes a bizarre white necrophile undertaker, Zulu gangsters, and a Bantu and a Boer detective. Kramer and Zondi series. RC 6650.
1972 winner: The Levanter by Eric Ambler.
Carrying on his family's business in the Middle East, Michael Howell is forced against his will to serve as an accomplice in an anti-Israeli guerrilla strike. BR 2284.
1973 winner: The Defection of A.J. Lewinter by Robert Littlell.
A.J. Lewinter, an American scientist who invents a super garbage disposal scheme, walks into the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo and announces that he has come to defect. RC 6635.
1975 winner: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer.
A spoof of the Sherlock Holmes myth which begins with the supposed discovery of a new tale by Dr. Watson while he is an old man in a nursing home. RC 8751, BR 3999.
1976 winner: A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell.
In a seedy, run-down suburb west of London, Anthony Johnson is writing a thesis on psychopathic personalities. On the top floor of the same house lives Arthur Johnson, a psychopath who has strangled two young girls. The paths of the two Johnsons intertwine in a frightening and suspenseful plot. RC 13151.
1977 winner: The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre.
George Smiley of the British Secret Service assumes the unenviable task of restoring the reputation of his demoralized organization. Smiley is off to the Far East to track down what appears to be a leak of Soviet gold into Hong Kong. George Smiley series, book 6. Some strong language. RC 10835.
1979 winner: Whip Hand by Dick Francis.
Sid Halley, once a champion steeplechase jockey, has become a much-sought-after private investigator. Because of an injury in a racing accident, he now has an artificial hand. This causes him little difficulty when he is asked to uncover corruption within the Jockey Club and help clear his ex-wife's name when she becomes involved with a notorious phony. Horse Racing series. Some violence. RC 15444.
1980 winner: The Murder of the Maharajah by H.R.F. Keating.
In 1930, Detective Superintendent of Police Howard of the British India police force tackles a nasty case at the palace of Bhopore. The cruel Maharajah has been murdered, and an attempt has been made to make his death appear accidental. Howard quickly deduces that relatives and guests of the victim had both motives and opportunities for the murder, and collects the evidence to convict the killer. Inspector Ghote series. RC 15581, BR 4697.
1981 winner: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.
Hard-boiled detective novel in which three mutilated bodies are found frozen in the middle of Moscow's popular Gorky Park. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko, a disgruntled cynic, is reluctant to get involved in a case of interest to the KGB. His situation becomes more complicated when he falls in love with a Siberian dissident. Arkady Renko series, book 1. Some strong language. RC 15831, BR 4831.
1982 winner: The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey.
There appears to be only one foreseeable outcome to Alma Webster's passionate love for her dentist: the murder of his wife. The case of notorious real-life murderer Dr. Crippen provides the inspiration for their plan, except that they avoid the mistakes that led to Crippen's arrest. On a cruise, the dentist whimsically takes the name of Dew, the detective who arrested Crippen, and is invited to investigate the murder on board. RC 18476.
1983 winner: Accidental Crimes by John Hutton.
One night, neurotic, sex-starved Conrad Nield, who is on the staff of a provincial British teaching college, goes to a pornographic movie, picks up a comely hitchhiker on the way home, then impulsively abandons her by the roadside. Later, when a girl is reported to have been killed in just that spot, Conrad is questioned as a likely suspect. Some strong language. RC 21896.
1984 winner: The Twelfth Juror by B.M. Gill.
Ever since his arrest for the murder of his wife Jocelyn, London television personality Edward Carne has maintained an air of self-confidence and calm. But as the trial is about to begin and the final jurist puts his hand on the Bible to take the oath, Carne senses a joker in the pack, and feels very uneasy. BR 6154.
1986 winner: Live Flesh by Ruth Rendell.
Young British cop David Fleetwood attempts to defuse a hostage situation involving a rapist and is shot in the back, leaving him paralyzed for life. Ten years later, the criminal, Victor Jenner, is released from prison and is irresistibly drawn to the man he maimed. Some strong language, violence, and some explicit descriptions of sex. RC 25021.
1987 winner: A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine.
The novel deals with a bygone crime committed, remembered, and revealed bit by bit. The story revolves around a house and its former owner, Adam, who is unhappily married and the devoted, obsessive father of a baby girl. Adam learns that two skeletons have been found at the house, which he sold shortly after inheriting it. The events of Adam's first summer in the house and what Adam and his friends did ten years before are revealed. Some strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. RC 27545.
1989 winner: The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter.
Crossword puzzle aficionado and Beethoven-loving Inspector Morse of the Kidlington Police, is felled by an ulcer. While recuperating in the hospital, he becomes intrigued by the century old murder of a young woman. Convinced that the two people hanged for the crime were innocent, he sets about identifying the real murderer. An attractive librarian and his loyal associate Sergeant Lewis are his cohorts in solving the crime. Inspector Morse series. RC 31378.
1990 winner: Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill.
When Gail Swain, in an excessively depressed state, threatens to kill herself, her husband and lover both try to stop her. However, the ensuing struggle results in Gail's death. Superintendent Andy Dalziel, returning home from a night of overindulgence, witnesses the struggle, which to him looks like murder. Ignoring a series of suicide letters from another woman, Dalziel attempts to unravel the "murder" and uncovers much more than he bargains for. Dalziel-Pascoe series, book 9. Strong language. RC 32710.
1991 winner: King Solomon's Carpet by Barbara Vine.
Jarvis Stringer, so fascinated by the London Transport Underground that he is writing a history of it, lives in a big house close to several of the lines. Traveling the "tube," he collects people to inhabit the house with him. They include Jed, who rides the trains as part of the "Safeguards"; Tom and Alice, who play music in the Underground; and a cousin, Tina, who lives a life close to prostitution. Strong language and some descriptions of sex. RC 35569.
1992 winner: The Way through the Woods by Colin Dexter.
While taking a holiday, Inspector Morse can not stop himself from snooping a bit in regard to a mysterious female guest at the hotel. Morse's busman's holiday is cut short, however, when a newspaper prints a poem that sparks renewed interest in his year old missing person case. The new investigation is fraught with poetry analysis, birdwatchers, and pornography, and it hinges on a surprising look-alike. Inspector Morse series. Some strong language. RC 36892, BR 9289.
1993 winner: Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Daniels Cornwell.
All of the current cases before Virginia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, seem to be linked to a recently executed prisoner. A young boy's corpse is mutilated in the same manner as the prisoner's victim and then the prisoner's fingerprint appears at the scene of a supposed suicide. But when Scarpetta's assistant's murder also appears related, Scarpetta is shocked to learn that she is the prime suspect. Kay Scarpetta series, book 4. Strong language and violence. RC 35937.
1994 winner: The Scold's Bridle by Minette Walters.
When elderly Mathilda Gillespie is found dead in her bath with her wrists slashed, her doctor, Sarah Blakeney, doubts it was suicide. For one thing, Mathilda's head is encased in a family heirloom called a scold's bridle, which was used to curb tongues. One village policeman agrees with Sarah and begins to investigate the generally hated Mathilda's relatives and acquaintances, including Sarah and her estranged husband. Strong language. RC 40046.
1997 winner: Black and Blue by Ian Rankin.
Inspector Rebus's run-in with a senior officer has earned him an assignment to investigate the murder of Allan Mitchinson, an off-duty oilman, in Edinburgh's toughest suburbs. Rebus soon finds himself working on several other cases too. Among them is the search for "Johnny Bible," whose crimes recall the murderous "Bible John" of the 1960s. John Rebus series, book 8. Strong language. RC 48943.
1998 winner: Sunset Limited by James Lee Burke.
Photojournalist Megan Flynn and her film-producing brother, Cisco, return to New Iberia, Louisiana, to shoot a movie. Police detective Dave Robicheaux suspects an ulterior motive since their father, a union activist, was killed there forty years ago. When more murders occur, Robicheaux is convinced that the Flynns are doing more than their work requires. Dave Robicheaux series, book 10. Violence and strong language. RC 47430.
1999 winner: A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson.
This British mystery traces the murder of a promiscuous teenager in 1990s Portugal to a Nazi officer's smuggling activities during World War 2. Inspector Jose Coelho is assigned the case that leads him to an unusual conclusion. Violence, strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. RC 51567.
2000 winner: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.
Lionel Essrog, a small-time Brooklyn thug with Tourette's syndrome, seeks revenge for the murder of his boss, Frank Minna. Years ago, Minna took the orphaned Essrog under his wing. Essrog now investigates a Zen temple and two aging Mafia chieftains as possible links to Minna's death. Violence and strong language. RC 49231.
2001 winner: Sidetracked by Henning Mankell.
Ystad, Sweden. Police officer Kurt Wallander is about to leave on vacation when a young girl immolates herself and a former minister of justice is brutally murdered. Somehow, the cases are connected. Other killings follow, committed by someone who always escapes on a moped. Some violence. BR 12874.
2003 winner: Fox Evil by Minette Walters.
A Dorset, England, coroner cites natural causes in the death of elderly Ailsa Lockyer-Fox, an advocate against animal cruelty. Her husband James's secretive behavior, however, arouses suspicion as he begins a desperate search for the granddaughter who could save his name--and his life. Strong language and some violence. RC 58947.
2004 winner: Blacklist by Sara Paretsky.
While inspecting the vacant family manor for longtime client Darraugh Graham private investigator V.I. Warshawski stumbles upon the bodies of African American reporter Marcus Whitby and teenager Catherine Bayard. Somehow the families are connected in scandal and deceit going back to the McCarthy era. V.I. Warshawski series, book 12. RC 57240.
Silver Dagger for Fiction
1971 winner: Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James.
The General Nursing Council inspector is visiting the Nightingale School on the Sussex-Hampshire border. As she watches the class practice tube feeding, the nurse playing the patient suddenly convulses and dies. Soon another nurse is dead. Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh investigates. Adam Dalgleish series, book 3. RC 43141.
1975 winner: The Black Tower by P.D. James.
A mystery set in England about convalescent Adam Dalgliesh, who goes to Dorset and discovers that the priest who had summoned him is dead. Adam becomes involved in intrigue and murder when more deaths occur at a nearby home for disabled people. Adam Dalgliesh series, book 6. RC 44163.
1976 winner: Rogue Eagle by James McClure.
Suspenseful view of the explosive situation in the back country of South Africa, where a reporter, who is also an English agent, and his beautiful companion are caught up in a cloak-and-dagger operation. Some strong language. RC 16293.
1977 winner: Laidlaw by William McIlvanney.
Glasgow detective Jack Laidlaw investigates the murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Lawson, apparently by a confused bisexual boy named Tommy Bryson. Other people are soon after Tommy for revenge. Meanwhile, Laidlaw's marriage is slowly disintegrating. Jack Laidlaw series, book 1. Some violence and some strong language. RC 50347, BR 3526.
1978 winner: Waxwork by Peter Lovesey.
In the 1880s, Detective Sergeant Cribb of Scotland Yard methodically investigates the case of a proper Victorian lady who has admitted to poisoning her photographer husband's assistant because she was being blackmailed. She is about to be hanged, but her confession may be false. RC 11995.
1980 winner: Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters.
In twelfth century Shrewsbury, on the border of Wales, the detective talents of Benedictine monk Brother Cadfael are called into play. Cadfael, an herbalist, recognizes that a monastery benefactor has been poisoned with monkshood, or wolfsbane, from Cadfael's own supply. Under suspicion are three young men: the victim's stepson, a youth forced into serf status, and a Welshman whose life has been haunted by his illegitimate birth. Brother Cadfael series, book 3. RC 39062.
1982 winner: Ritual Murder by S.T. Haymon.
When a choirboy is found murdered in the cathedral of Angleby, his mutilated body bears the marks of a ritual murder. Since a similar murder in the town 800 years ago was attributed to Jewish fanatics, Detective Inspector Benjamin Jurnet is hard pressed to solve the case to avert a wave of anti-Semitism. Inspector Benjamin Jurnet series. RC 19080.
1983 winner: The Papers of Tony Veitch by William McIlvanney.
Scottish police detective Jack Laidlaw investigates the mysterious death of a vagrant. An aristocrat's daughter and a mysterious young college student are implicated in the crime as Laidlaw's search leads him through the Glasgow underworld, where a mob war is brewing. Jack Laidlaw series, book 2. Some violence and some strong language. RC 51350, BR 5540.
1984 winner: The Tree of Hands by Ruth Rendell.
In London, the successful novelist and unwed mother Benet Archdale is raising a two-year-old son when her erratic mother arrives from Spain for a visit. Upon her grandson's sudden death, Benet's mother casually steals a child that she finds sitting on a wall in nearby Winterside Downs. Complications quickly ensue. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. RC 23707, BR 6226.
1985 winner: Last Seen Alive by Dorothy Simpson.
Employment agency partner Alicia Parnell grew up in Sturrenden, Kent, but has not lived there for many years. On the night she returns to attend a concert, she is strangled to death. The only clues Inspector Luke Thanet has are a red folder and a trail of hate and long-kept secrets. Luke Thanet series. RC 53498.
1986 winner: A Taste for Death by P.D. James.
A cabinet minister is found with his throat slashed in the vestry behind the altar of Saint Matthew's in London, and across the room, a derelict lies dead, having been killed in the same grisly manner. In charge of the investigation is brooding Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh. Adam Dalgleish series, book 9. Some violence. RC 23933.
1987 winner: Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.
A novel of the seamiest aspects of a prosecutor's office and an intense courtroom drama. Attorney Rusty Sabich is accused of the brutal murder of Carolyn, his beautiful, but amoral colleague. The crime occurs during the final week of a fierce election campaign in which Rusty's boss vies for office with a charismatic former employee. Strong language and explicit descriptions of sex. RC 26965.
1988 winner: Blood Shot by Sara Paretsky.
Private eye V.I. Warshawski returns to the south side Chicago neighborhood where she grew up, attempting to find a childhood friend's father. The search becomes a labyrinth of evil that encompasses both a Gold Coast tycoon whose company is routinely poisoning its employees and a sleaze ball alderman with a taste for incest. V.I. Warshawski series, book 4. Some strong language. RC 29107.
1991 winner: Deep Sleep by Frances Fyfield.
Just when pharmacist Pip Carlton tires of his annoying wife, she dies in her sleep. This leaves him free to pursue his voluptuous assistant, Kim Perry. But Kim's ex-husband, Duncan, a detective constable, is still furtively watching Kim's movements. And, though recovering from surgery, prosecutor Helen West has questions about Mrs. Carlton's death. Helen West series. Strong language and violence. RC 40569, BR 10215.
1992 winner: Bucket Nut by Liza Cody.
Wrestling fans call her "Bucket Nut," but Eva Wylie's stage name is the "London Lassassin." When she is not wrestling, Eva runs errands for a Chinese merchant and acts as night watchwoman in the junkyard where she and her two dogs live. Eva's secret dream is to track down the sister she was separated from as a child. But when Eva befriends a young woman in trouble, Eva's carefully constructed lifestyle is threatened. Strong language and violence. RC 38358.
1993 winner: Fatlands by Sarah Dunant.
Private investigator Hannah Wolfe is assigned to chaperone 14 year-old Mattie Shepherd on a birthday excursion to London. Her father, a research scientist, had promised to take Mattie but was too busy. When Mattie goes to get a theater guide from her father's car, the car explodes, killing her. The police assume the scientist was the intended victim and suspect animal rights activists. But Hannah wants to investigate. Strong language and violence. BR 10147.
1997 winner: Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich.
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is dismayed to be assigned to pick up a neighborhood favorite, candy store owner Mo Bedemier. Mo was arrested for "carrying concealed." Although this crime is common in Trenton, New Jersey, Mo has gone into hiding. Stephanie Plum series, book 3. Strong language, some violence, and some descriptions of sex. RC 44434.
2002 winner: The Final Country by James Crumley.
Milo Milodragovitch, a hard-living Texas private eye, gets tangled up with an ex-con who has just committed murder. Milo's burden becomes heavier when his newest client becomes his latest conquest. Strong language, some descriptions of sex, and some violence. RC 56947.
Gold Dagger for Nonfiction
1981 winner: Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number by Jacobo Timerman.
Searing memoir by an outspoken Zionist and former newspaper publisher in Buenos Aires, arrested by the army without charge. Timerman relates his thirty month political incarceration, including torture and isolation in prison, which preceded his expulsion from Argentina in 1979. International pressure forced his captors to release him. BR 4944.
1984 winner: In God's Name by David Yallop.
The author contends that the sudden death of Albino Luciani just 33 days after he became Pope
John Paul I was not due to natural causes. Yallop presents in detail the motives of six men who may have feared the new pontiff's plans for investigations and changes. Presents Luciani's early life and rise within the Roman Catholic Church. RC 21233.
1989 winner: A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder, and Deceit by Robert Lindsay.
An account of a scheme to topple the Mormon Church and the bombing, death, and scandal it bred. Mark Hofmann reported finding, in 1980, a document in which Joseph Smith, Jr., allegedly recorded hieroglyphics from the "plates of gold" he received from the Angel Moroni. Was the document authentic? Was Hofmann responsible for the bombings? RC 29696.
1992 winner: The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe by Charles Nicholl.
When young Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death, public records showed the cause to be a dispute over a tavern bill. Nicholl depicts the promising dramatist's involvement in Elizabethan spy networks and raises questions about his personal life, his politics, and the company he kept to provide insights into the centuries old mystery. RC 39783.
1996 winner: Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser.
An account of a plot in 1605 to blow up England's House of Parliament in reaction to the government's oppression of Catholics. Recounts the hatching of the conspiracy, its discovery and failure, and the aftermath. Discusses the event in the context of modern day terrorism. Violence. RC 44329, BR 11436.
1998 winner: Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill by Sereny Gitta.
A journalist's interviews with Mary Bell, who was convicted of killing two little boys in England in 1968, when she was eleven. Now a free woman with a child of her own, Mary talks about her troubled childhood. Some explicit descriptions of sex and some strong language. BR 12501.
2003 winner: Pointing from the Grave by Samantha Weinberg.
Recounts efforts to convict Paul Frediani for killing DNA scientist Helena Greenwood in 1985. The crime narrative unfolds alongside a history of DNA testing--the technology that allowed Laura Heilig and a team of San Diego archival detectives to arrest Frediani nearly fifteen years later. Some explicit descriptions of sex. RC 58459.
Last Laugh Dagger
1990 winner: Killer Cinderella by Simon Shaw.
Although British banker Mark Harvey is peeved about his wife Maddie's affair, he really does not mean to kill her. Fearing a prison term for her accidental death, Mark pretends she is still alive, fooling even her myopic lover and causing a neighbor to fall in love with the new, improved Maddie. Attempting to lead two lives and stay ahead of the police and reporters, Mark begins to prefer being Maddie. Strong language and some violence. RC 34693.
1992 winner: Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen.
The theft of the last pair of a rodent species from the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills amusement park sets off a wild chain of events. The park's new public relations writer, Joe Winder, tries to sort out the involvement of the federally protected, fugitive-turned-developer who owns the park, his steroid-popping security chief, two hapless burglars, and the elderly environmentalist who hires them. Violence, strong language, and explicit descriptions of sex. RC 34373.
1993 winner: The Mamur Zapt and the Spoils of Egypt by Michael Pearce.
Mamur Zapt, head of Cairo's secret police, is piqued when asked to keep an eye on Miss Skinner, an outspoken American whose cause it is to keep priceless antiquities in Egypt. But when two serious accidents nearly befall his charge, Zapt wonders if her inquiries are exposing dangerous truths. Mamur Zapt series, book 6. RC 43019.
1995 winner: Sunburn by Laurence Shames.
Usually Mafia godfathers do not talk, but in quirky Key West, Vincente Delgatto begins to reminisce so his sons, obnoxious Gino and illegitimate Joey, can understand his life. Meanwhile, the FBI is watching him for its own reasons. Treachery follows, but the "Reluctant Godfather" still has zip. Strong language and some violence. RC 40942.
1996 winner: Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich.
Stephanie Plum continues her new career as bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey. She is after Kenny Mancuso, who skipped bail after shooting his best friend in the knee. Kenny is a relative of cop Joe Morelli, who insists on helping Stephanie with the case. Meanwhile Stephanie and her grandmother, a Dirty Harry fan, attend wakes in a search for stolen caskets. Stephanie Plum series, book 2. Strong language and some violence. RC 42474.
Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award
1999 winner: Two for the Lions by Lindsey Davis.
Rome, A.D. 73. Falco begins work for the census, searching for tax evaders. Then the emperor's favorite lion is killed, leading to an investigation of the gladiators. And Falco's lover, Helena, must go to Africa, where the lions originate, to help her brother. Marcus Didio Falco series, book 10. Some violence. RC 50956.
2002 winner: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.
Orphaned Sue Trinder was raised by a caring family of petty thieves. To repay them, she helps an elegant con man swindle a wealthy heiress. But the plan is compromised when Sue begins to have feelings for the victim. Some explicit descriptions of sex and some strong language. RC 56184.
2004 winner: The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly.
Detective Joe Sandilands from Ragtime in Simla (BR 15080) chaperones a feisty American heiress at a British fort amid political tension. Kinsmen of an assassinated Afghani take a hostage, demanding that Sandilands find and execute the killer within a week. Strong language and some violence. Joe Sandilands series, book 3. BR 15683