Toronto writer Peter Robinson and his novel Before the Poison have won the Arthur Ellis Award for the best crime novel of the year. 


Before the Poison by Peter Robinson won the best crime novel category at the Arthur Ellis Awards. (McClelland & Stewart)

It is the sixth Arthur Ellis triumph for Robinson, who last won in 2000 for his novel Cold is the Grave and for the short story Murder in Utopia. 

The Arthur Ellis Awards, named for the historical pseudonym of Canada's official hangman, were presented last week.

Before the Poison is set in Robinson's native Yorkshire and follows a retired composer who becomes fascinated with a murder that took place in 1953.

Though Robinson is best-known for his crime novels featuring Chief Detective Alan Banks, Before the Poison is a standalone novel with a new protagonist. As grieving composer Chris Lowndes struggles with the death of his wife, he discovers the diaries of Grace Elizabeth Fox, a woman who was hanged for the murder of her husband.

The jury said it was a very close decision among the five nominees, which included Louise Penny's A Trick of the Light and William Deverell's I'll See You in My Dreams. 

The best juvenile book winner was Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. The novel is the veteran Perth, Ont. children's writer's first love story and tracks two young runaways who get caught up in a crime involving a missing businessman.

Blink & Caution was also nominated for both the Governor General's Literary Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards.

Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art, Toronto writer Joshua Knelman's exposé of the secret world of stolen art, won the non-fiction award.

Other Arthur Ellis Awards winners:

  • Debut novel: The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton.
  • French crime novel: La chorale du diable, by Martin Michaud.
  • Short story: What Kelly Did, by Catherine Astolfo (published in North Word Magazine).
  • Unpublished crime novel (Unhanged Arthur): Last of the Independents, by Sam Wiebe.