The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2020: Some Contenders?

WalterScottPrizeThe deadline for publishers to submit books published in 2019 for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2020 passed on 20th December 2019 (a little earlier than in previous years).

Like other historical fiction fans, I shall be eagerly awaiting the announcement of the longlist and the ‘Academy Recommends’ list in March. Last year, I only managed to read five of the twelve longlisted novels but those five represented all but one of the six shortlisted novels.  You can find links to my reviews hereThis year I’ll try to read as many as possible of the longlisted novels that I haven’t read already and all those that make it on to the shortlist.

There were some fantastic historical fiction novels published in 2019 and listed below are some I’ve read that I’d love to see make the longlist (subject to them meeting all the eligibility criteria).  (Links from the titles will take you to my reviews.)

In addition, there are some books in my TBR pile I haven’t got around to reading yet but which, judging from reviews, may well deserve a place.  Finally, there are a few others that I’m yet to acquire but which also look like possible contenders for inclusion. (Links from the titles will take you to the book description on Goodreads.)

Check back when the longlist is announced to see how my picks match the judges’ choices – if at all!

Books I read and loved in 2019 

Once Upon A River  by Diane Setterfield

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

Nemesis (Tom Wilde #3) by Rory Clements

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The Photographer of the Lost by Carolyn Scott

The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Road to Grantchesterby James Runcie

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Fled by Meg Keneally

The Mermaid’s Call by Katherine Stansfield

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

Books in my TBR pile

The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Books ‘on my RADAR’

The Offing by Benjamin Myers

Are any of your favourites on my list?  What other historical fiction novels published in 2019 do you think deserve to be nominated?

#BookReview Stasi Winter (Karin Müller 5) by David Young @ZaffreBooks

516zEuy13+L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_About the Book

In 1978 East Germany, nothing is as it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is rewritten, and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when a woman’s murder is officially labelled ‘accidental death’, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must disregard the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in living memory holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between truth and lies, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

Format: Paperback (368 pages)         Publisher: Zaffre
Publication date: 9th January 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Thriller

Find Stasi Winter on Goodreads

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My Review

I seem to make a habit of coming to series part way through.  Such is the case with this series by David Young set in pre-unification Germany. However, although Stasi Winter is the fifth book in the series, I’m happy to say it works perfectly well as a standalone read. Having said that, there are references throughout to events in earlier books which would amount to spoilers. It certainly makes me wish I’d discovered the series earlier so that I could have read all the other books – Stasi Child, Stasi Wolf, Stasi State and Stasi 77 – first .

With events taking place over a few weeks in the ‘catastrophic’ winter of 1978/79, the author cleverly weaves the adverse weather and its impact into the plot. And the grim realities of everyday life for the population of East Germany are vividly depicted. Living in an oppressive state where people are in constant fear of informers and the secret police (the infamous Stasi), it’s no wonder individuals dream of escaping beyond the Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier (what we know as the Berlin Wall) and will go to almost any lengths to reach the West. However, it’s a high-risk venture with long-lasting repercussions for those who are caught – and their families – as will become evident.

I really liked the interesting dynamics the author creates between Müller and her investigation team. There’s clearly history between some of them and the reader may, like Müller herself, wonder just who can trusted at certain points. As well as the return of old sparring partner Jager, a Stasi Colonel who seems to have a finger in every pie, one particular individual from a previous case provides the reader with an unique insight on events.

The author keeps the chapters short and the pace intense as the story moves towards its explosive conclusion. And the end of the book includes a teaser for where the story might go next.  A sign, I hope, now that I’ve discovered the series, that there will be another case for Karin Müller before very long.

Stasi Winter is a skilfully constructed and gripping crime thriller with a real sense of period atmosphere.  I received a review copy courtesy of Zaffre and Readers First.

In three words: Tense, compelling, assured

Try something similar: Zoo Station by David Downing

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CityCrime 2014 DY PhotoAbout the Author

East Yorkshire-born David Young began his East German-set crime series on a creative writing MA at London’s City University when Stasi Child – his debut – won the course prize. The novel went on to win the 2016 CWA Historical Dagger, and both it and the 2017 follow-up, Stasi Wolf, were longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His novels have been sold in eleven territories round the world.

Before becoming a full-time author, David was a senior journalist with the BBC’s international radio and TV newsrooms for more than 25 years. He divides his time – and his writing – between Twickenham in the UK and the Cyclades islands in Greece. (Photo credit: author website)

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