Harrogate International Festivals has announced the shortlists for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2024, the UK and Ireland’s most prestigious crime fiction award, and the inaugural McDermid Debut Award for new writers. The winners of both awards will be revealed on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 18 July.

The six books shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, now in its twentieth year, take readers on a roller-coaster ride from serial-killer stalked fairgrounds and Blackpool backstreets to the Houses of Parliament, as established bestsellers compete with talented newcomers for the coveted awards. Crime fiction fans are now invited to vote for their favourite book to win at www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com.

Two former winners in contention for the award are 2022 champion Mick Herron, the author behind Apple TV’s hit series ‘Slow Horses,’ who is nominated for his mesmerising stand-alone spy thriller The Secret Hours and two times winner Mark Billingham, shortlisted for the first time in eight years with The Last Dance, the first novel in the captivating new Detective Declan Miller series set in Blackpool.

They face stiff competition from two rising stars of the genre who are shortlisted for the first time: William Hussey with Killing Jericho where Traveller detective Scott Jericho must unpick a deadly mystery at a fairground before he becomes a killer’s next victim, and Jo Callaghan for her stunningly original debut In the Blink of An Eye, where DCS Kat Frank is partnered with an AI colleague as human experience combines with logic to solve a complex missing persons case. Jo was selected for the prestigious ‘New Blood’ panel celebrating outstanding debut talent at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2023.

Two bestselling authors hoping to add the Award to their trophy cabinets are recent British Book Award Winner Lisa Jewell, shortlisted for her addictive domestic noir None of This is True, about a podcaster under threat from her ‘birthday twin’; and four-times Irish Book Award winner Liz Nugent, nominated for Strange Sally Diamond, a darkly humorous character-driven murder mystery set in rural Ireland.

The full Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2024 shortlist (in alphabetical order by surname) is:

• The Last Dance by Mark Billingham (Sphere; Little, Brown Book Group)
• In the Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan (Simon & Schuster UK)
• The Secret Hours by Mick Herron (Baskerville; John Murray Press)
• Killing Jericho by William Hussey (Zaffre, Bonnier)
• None of This is True by Lisa Jewell (Century; Cornerstone)
• Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent (Sandycove; Penguin Ireland)

The shortlist for the inaugural McDermid Debut Award, named in recognition of world-famous crime writer Val McDermid, showcases six outstanding new voices writing across a broad range of subgenres from thrillers to cosy crime, locked room mysteries and historical crime.

Food writer, broadcaster and Master Chef star Orlando Murrin is shortlisted for Knife Skills for Beginners, a delicious mystery set in an exclusive residential cookery school in Belgravia. Another shortlisted novel with a culinary twist, Mrs Sidhu’s Dead and Scone by Suk Pannu introduces a mystery solving Indian caterer who is Slough’s answer to Miss Marple. Suk Pannu has written for much-loved TV comedy shows ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and ‘The Kumars at No.42.’

Suzy Aspley, a former journalist who lives in Scotland, is nominated for Crow Moon, a chilling thriller centred around a mysterious disappearance, the first novel in the Martha Strangeways series. Daniel Aubrey, who also lives in Scotland, is shortlisted for Dark Island, a thriller about a neurodivergent reporter who uncovers a disturbing conspiracy after human remains are discovered on Orkney’s coast.

Manchester based Kuchenga Shenjé’s gripping historical crime novel The Library Thief explores identity and belonging as book binder’s daughter Florence sets out to uncover the dark mystery at the heart of a gothic mansion. A similarly unforgettable amateur sleuth features in Marie Tierney’s thriller Deadly Animals where a roadkill obsessed teenager embarks on a daring quest to unravel the truth behind the string of chilling deaths plaguing her Birmingham community.

Honouring internationally bestselling crime writer, Val McDermid, who helped to co-found the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2003 and whose dedication to fostering new voices in crime fiction through the New Blood panel is legendary, this new Award seeks to continue her legacy, celebrating and platforming the best debut crime writers in the UK. The Shortlist was selected by an academy of established crime and thriller authors and the Winner will be chosen by a panel of industry experts, without a public vote. All shortlisted authors receive a full weekend pass to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and the Winner will receive a £500 cash prize.

Val McDermid said: ‘Curating the New Blood panel over twenty years exposed me to an extraordinary range of crime fiction I might otherwise have missed. I’m hoping that this new award will do the same for the army of avid readers out there looking for new talent.’

The full McDermid Debut Award 2024 shortlist (in alphabetical order by surname) is:

• Crow Moon by Suzy Aspley (Orenda Books)
• Dark Island by Daniel Aubrey (Harper Collins)
• Knife Skills for Beginners by Orlando Murrin (Bantam, Transworld)
• Mrs Sidhu’s Dead and Scone by Suk Pannu (Harper Collins)
• The Library Thief by Kuchenga Shenjé (Sphere, Little Brown)
• Deadly Animals by Marie Tierney (Bonnier Books)

Commenting on the shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2024, Simon Theakston, Chairman of T&R Theakston, said: “Congratulations to all of the exceptional writers shortlisted for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. This year’s list is particularly exciting, with big names at the top of their game competing against impressive newcomers. I can’t wait to see who the public and the judges vote for and look forward to awarding the coveted beer cask trophy to the winner at the opening night ceremony.”

Commenting on the shortlist for the McDermid Debut Award, Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Awards night is always a special way to open the Festival but this year it promises to be more exciting than ever with the new McDermid Debut Award being presented alongside our other awards. The shortlisted books are all so original and introduce some compelling new voices. We are looking forward to welcoming the talented shortlisted authors to the Festival and finding out which of these stars of the future will carry off the Award.”

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2024 is presented by Harrogate International Festivals and sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with Waterstones and the Daily Express, and is open to full-length crime novels published in paperback between 1 May 2023 and 30 April 2024. The winner will receive £3,000 and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by T&R Theakston Ltd.

The Winners of both Awards will be revealed on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 18 July.