Revealing the McIlvanney Prize 2020 shortlist!

1st September, 2020

Congratulations to Andrew James Greig, Doug Johnstone, Ambrose Parry and Francine Toon for making it to the 2020 McIlvanney Prize shortlist for Scottish Crime Book of the Year!

We’ll be revealing the winner on Friday 18th September (you can view the announcement live by getting your tickets to the Friday’s events here) but for now, let’s learn a little more about our shortlist and what the judges had to say:

Andrew James Greig

Whirligig by Andrew James Greig

Just outside a sleepy Highland town, a gamekeeper is found hanging lifeless from a tree. The local police investigate an apparent suicide, only to find he’s been snared as efficiently as the rabbit suspended beside him.

As the body count rises, the desperate hunt is on to find the murderer before any more people die. But the town doesn’t give up its secrets easily, and who makes the intricate clockwork mechanisms carved from bone and wood found at each crime?

The judges say: ‘ambitious, innovative concept and the most intricate modus operandi for killing the victims of any book this year…a real page turner’

Doug Johnstone [photo: Paul Reich]

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators… When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

The judges say: ‘a brilliant idea, a heartwarming portrait of a family with three generations of women set in an undertakers. A confident, entertaining novel with dark humour, pace and energy.’

Ambrose Parry – Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman [photo: Paul Reich]

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1850.

Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson’s protege Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.

The judges say: The judges loved the ‘original setting in Victorian Edinburgh’ and praised the ‘fascinating medical research’ and the ‘implicit love affair building between the two main characters – the medically trained man, and the untrained women (who is clearly the smarter of the two).’

Francine Toon

Pine by Francine Toon

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

The judges say: ‘an impressive and atmospheric novel, with a portrait of remote rural Scotland, bringing in issues of school bullying, mental health and alcoholism. Very readable and engaging, It’s also beautifully written.’