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The Hidden Clue Book Prize PDF Print
Written by Rina Brundu Eustace   
Friday, 09 May 2008


The ‘Hidden Clue’ Book Prize:

we are all born the same way, but we die in many different ways

 Translation: Karen Vincent-Jones

The Hidden Clue Book Prize - Crime novel of the year was officially set up in 2006. However, the idea of awarding a prize for the best classic Italian crime novel was born much earlier, and came out of the never-ending interest in the wonderful criminal plots bequeathed to us in the masterpieces of the great masters- and mistresses- of the genre: Agatha Christie, John Dickinson Carr, Ellery Queen and, in fact, all the mythical authors of the golden age of the Anglo-American crime novel.

Even the format, which in certain respects follows the model of the famous Dagger Awards, follows the rigorous criteria (technical, literary and psychological) adhered to by the brilliant writers referred to above. So, contestants for the Hidden Clue must show: a high standard of writing, technical and creative ability, commitment to logical deduction, and the talent which alone can bring to life the ingenious criminal plot narrated within the strict structural and stylistic limits of the classic crime novel.


Given these conditions, however, it is undeniable that this particular competition also stems from an understandable desire on the part of aficionados of the genre to rebel against the proliferation, particularly in Italy, of a pseudo- noir crime genre of a markedly national and populist kind, which, in our view, is a clear betrayal of the aristocratic roots of the classic crime novel. Such fiction also abandons the strict technical and literary criteria adhered to by any self-respecting crime writer. For example, when, as inevitably happens, the key element, the sine qua non of a good crime plot, which links the opening to the final climax  and forms the backbone of the entire narrative structure, is passed over, resulting in a mannered and limp creation having neither rhyme nor reason.


But why is there so much enthusiasm for reviving a perhaps anachronistic literary model? This enthusiasm is based on the same belief  which led to the introduction of  the Hidden Clue Book Prize- Crime novel of the year in the first place, namely that these literary models still possess undisputed validity, as well as universal appeal,  today. Any story, even at the level of great literature, always has a touch of intelligent  mystery which adds spice to passages that would otherwise have no aesthetic value.


And who is it for? For all of us: publishers, editors, writers, readers and critics. Why? Because we are dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and we have a duty to look further: beyond the desolate shores of the great sea of untold stories to rescue forgotten gems that, in their own small way, may still have a lot to give us. And to teach us.


Rina Brundu

Dublin, 23/01/2008

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 30 January 2010 )
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