Stellar shortlist revealed for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2023

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Harrogate, 15 June 2023: The shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2023, produced by Harrogate International Festivals, has been announced today, with six bestselling authors competing to win the UK’s most wanted crime writing prize. The public is now invited to vote for the winner at www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com.


The prestigious award – now in its 19th year – celebrates crime fiction at its very best, with this year’s shortlist taking readers on spine-tingling journeys of murder, stalking, ghosts, mysterious disappearances and much more. Selected with help from a public vote from a longlist of twenty novels to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the list features newcomers and previous prize contenders alike – but none of this year’s shortlisted novelists have ever taken home the coveted award before, making this year’s competition even more tense…


Challengers for the trophy include Elly Griffiths, former Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Chair in 2017, who is in the running for an impressive sixth time for The Locked Room: the penultimate mystery in the series featuring Norfolk’s favourite forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway.


Fellow award alumni on the shortlist are: Ruth Ware with her deliciously dark The It Girl, which unpicks the secrets of university friends in an unputdownable story of suspense and shock; Doug Johnstone’s latest instalment in the much-acclaimed ‘Skelfs’ series – which has been optioned for TV – also makes the list, with the heart-racing twists and turns of Black Hearts featuring an obsessive stalker, a faked death and a devastating spectre from the past; and best-selling author M.W. Craven is shortlisted for the latest DS Washington Poe thriller The Botanist, where the  disgraced detective is tasked with catching a poisoner sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers.


Two novelists have made the shortlist for the first time: Gillian McAllister with her Sunday Times Thriller of the Year, Wrong Place Wrong Time, the jaw-dropping, plot twisting, mind bending Groundhog Day style murder mystery and Fiona Cummins – who was selected by Val McDermid for New Blood in 2017 – takes the final shortlist spot for her eerily unnerving thriller Into The Dark. The novel follows DS Saul Anguish as he aims to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of a whole family that takes the reader on a journey through revenge, greed, ambition, and the true cost of friendship.

The six novels shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2023 are:


  • The Botanist by M.W. Craven (Little, Brown Book Group; Constable)
  • Into The Dark by Fiona Cummins (Pan Macmillan; Macmillan/Pan)
  • The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
  • Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone (Orenda Books)
  • Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister (Penguin Random House; Michael Joseph)
  • The It Girl by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster)

Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, commented: “We are delighted to announce this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year shortlist, featuring six gripping reads that celebrate the best of the crime genre. With an array of subgenres spanning gripping thrillers to murder mysteries, the public have a tricky task ahead choosing only one from this talented bunch – we can’t wait to unmask the winner at the 20th anniversary of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival on 20th July!”


Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd, added: “What an exceptional line-up of crime writers in this year’s shortlist! We raise a glass of Theakston Old Peculier to all of the shortlistees and look forward to awarding the coveted beer cask trophy during the opening night ceremony!”


The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year is run by Harrogate International Festivals and sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with Waterstones and Daily Express, and is open to full-length crime novels published in paperback between 1 May 2022 to 30 April 2023 by UK and Irish authors.

The public is now invited to vote for a winner at www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com with voting opening at 10am on Thursday 15 June. Voting closes on Thursday 13 July, with the winner revealed on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 20 July, receiving a prize of £3,000 and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by T&R Theakston Ltd.

For further enquiries:

For further enquiries, please contact:

Hannah Bright | hannah.bright@midaspr.co.uk

Tom Neilson | tom.neilson@midaspr.co.uk