Tag Archives: Golden Dagger Award

Robert Wilson Finds Murder and Mayhem in London Thriller

Book Cover: Capital Punishment


Destination: London

Book: Capital Punishment, by Robert Wilson. 2013


Watch out London!  Robert Wilson has unloosed his awesome research to uncover the deepest, darkest vilest secrets of your grand city.  In Capital Punishment, a London thriller, his new hero, Charles Boxer, freelances for a firm that specializes in negotiating with kidnappers. The trail of the current case leads to India and Pakistan as he tracks down the missing daughter of an Indian film star/entrepreneur/investor with some shady connections.

London Thriller setting
Security Cameras everywhere in London. Photo by Sam Burnett

Like Wilson’s other books– set in Portugal and Madrid, Spain (Reviewed here: A Small Death in Lisbon; The Hidden Assassins 2006; The Blind Man of Seville, 2003) the complications are Byzantine in their twists and turns. The number of characters can be staggering.

I have to agree with a reviewer on Amazon who complained that in the middle of Capital Punishment, a bunch of new characters drop in out of seeming nowhere.  In the last third of the book, Wilson does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed on who’s who, so stick with him through the slightly baffling middle third, and you’ll find that the seemingly random assortment of players in the London thriller makes sense.

I think the complexity of Wilson’s novels focuses the reader’s attention on the fact that it isn’t just our everyday world that has become more complex and influenced by international forces–but the darker world of crime as well.

While “whodunit” definitely keeps the plot moving here, the underlying question of motivation provides the deeper meaning to the book.  Is it terrorism? Is it personal revenge against an amoral, if not immoral, businessman? Is it love? Is it the conflict between India and Pakistan?  Is it a struggle for International power between rival gangs of thugs? Even a London thriller may be motivated by forces far away.

Wilson was a finalist for the Steel Dagger award for thrillers for Capital Punishment, but didn’t win. He had previously won the Golden Dagger for A Small Death in Lisbon.  Who knows what the judges are looking for? I certainly don’t.  I can only tell you what is similar and what is different about Capital Punishment compared to other Wilson books.


Wilson once again anchors his story in a very specific location, which he has said is very important to him.  In an e-mail discussing his Spain books, he told me, “It is only by seeing a place and feeling its atmosphere and breathing its air and smells and watching its people that a novel starts to germinate in my mind.” However, instead of sticking  with London, this story wanders into India and Pakistan. Since those locations are, as it were, supporting players, we don’t get as detailed a picture of them. And while we get lots of names of neighborhoods and streets and bus lines in Capital Punishment, I didn’t feel immersed in the culture as I was when I read his novels set in Spain and Portugal.

London Thriller view of Thames
The Thames at night. Photo by Sam Burnett


Unlike his other books, that segue between two very separate time periods, this book is more linear in its development, which is neither negative or positive–it just is. Some readers have objected to the extreme violence found in Wilson’s earlier books. Although there are still some characters who take lives with no more thought than taking a Tylenol, I didn’t think the London thriller was nearly as bloody as the prior books.  That will please some readers and dismay others, I suppose.

Man walking in London. Photo by Stu Mayhew
Man walking in London. Photo by Stu Mayhew


Finally, my only reservation about this book.  While I thoroughly fell in love with Falcón,  the detective in the Madrid series despite all his neuroses and struggles with commitment, I came away feeling nothing for Charles Boxer.  The mother of the kidnap victim was more interesting. The various bad guys were more interesting. His African ex-wife who is now a cop was infinitely more interesting. Heck, the kidnap victim was fascinating–and could star in her own series.

But Boxer? Whether because of his need to partially hide himself as he played his role as negotiator, or because of British reserve–I never got a real handle on his personality. I certainly was not left salivating to read more episodes of his life–unless they continue to feature the mother  and the kidnapped daughter and/or his African ex-wife.

Having stated my gripes, however, Robert Wilson remains my favorite contemporary thriller/mystery writer.  I recommend Capital Punishment to you if you like a mystery with a bit of intellectual challenge.  And, despite my misgivings, I will be in line to read the next in the Boxer series, because Wilson being Wilson, I think he’ll find some of the missing notes from the first book.

Note:  Wilson also wrote a series of books set in Africa, where he lived for a time.  I don’t mention them only because I have not read them.  I found it interesting that Portugal, his current home, gets its moment in the current book, and there’s an echo of Africa in the backstory of Boxer’s ex-wife.


The publisher provided me with a copy of the book, which you can purchase at Amazon as hardback, paperback or in e-reader version.  I am an affiliate of Amazon, so if you choose to get there through links on this site, you’re supporting A Traveler’s Library. It costs you no more, so why not? Thanks.

Award Winning Authors

ALICE MUNRO–NOBEL Award Winning Author

Award Winning Authors: Munro
Alice Munro. Photo from her Amazon author’s page.

The big book news of last week, of course, is the announcement that short-story writer Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since I’ve pledged to pay more attention to Canada and  Alice Munro is from rural Ontario, Canada, I am searching for some of her stories that strongly reflect Canada.

A Traveler’s Library frequently writes about award winning authors. So why not Alice Munro? That’s the downside of writing about books that influence travel, I sometimes have to bypass wonderful literature because it achieves universality.  Yes, universality is a good thing in literature.  But here at A Traveler’s Library, we have a narrower goal–books that emphasize place and culture and will encourage people to visit. So the main question is not–is Munro worth reading?–which she certainly is, but should we put her books on the Traveler’s Library Shelf because they inspire us to see Canada or understand Canada?

A rare negative review of Munro in the London Review of Books says she writes about ordinary people…

Ordinary people turn out to live in a rural corner of Ontario between Toronto and Lake Huron, and to be white, Christian, prudish and dangling on a class rung somewhere between genteel poverty and middle-class comfort. Occasionally they move to the vicinity of Vancouver, only to go back to Ontario again.

Are you a reader of Alice Munro’s work?  Do you have suggestions of her work that might help people understand Canada–as well as the human condition?


Award Winning Authors: book cover
We can’t help getting excited when a book that has been reviewed here is nominated for or wins a major award.  Becky Masterman, who sets Rage Against the Dying in Tucson, is on the short list for a Golden Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association.  This is a MAJOR accomplishment for a first novel, up against stiff competition for best crime novel recognition against many award winning authors. The nail biting ends on October 24th, when Crime Writers Association announces the winners. But being short listed, Becky is already a winner. Fingers crossed, Becky.


Award Winning Authors: Book Cover
If you have not yet discovered what a fan I am of Robert Wilson, take a look at my previous reviews of his books set in Portugal (That one won the Golden Dagger when it came out) and Spain and Spain.  His latest novel, Capital Punishment, which is set in London, is on the short list at Crime Writer’s Association for the Steel Dagger Award (for thrillers). My copy is in the mail, and I’m looking forward to it, particularly looking at the very mixed reviews on Amazon set against the fact that its short listed for this award. Wow! Time to form my own opinion–and take a tour of London. As for the award–best wishes, Robert.

CHRIS PAVONE–2013 EDGAR WINNER for Best First Novel by An American Author

Award Winning Authors: The Expats
My apologies to Chris Pavone. I somehow managed to miss the Edgars this year when they were presented in May, and I definitely should have been paying attention. The Expats: A Novel, which was reviewed here, won the Best First Novel Award.   I thought Expats was a delightful and creative novel, and it may be the ONLY book we ever have that is located in Luxembourg.

I would not have known who to cheer for, though, because I’m also a fan of Kim Fay, whose The Map of Lost Memories was also short-listed for that award that Chris Pavone won. Her book set in Cambodia combined archaeology and both present and past mysteries. Her nomination is certainly something to cheer.

The Edgars are the awards of the Mystery Writers of America and we’ll have to wait until around January 19, 2014 (Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday) to learn what award winning authors are on the next short list.

 KEEP READING A Traveler’s Library

Because despite the narrower focus of books chosen for A Traveler’s Library–we’ll keep introducing you to  Award Winning Authors.