Crow Court is a novel of short-stories set in Wimborne Minster in the 19th Century Crow Court is a novel of short-stories set in Wimborne Minster in the 19th Century

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On Thursday 15 April the National Centre for Writing announced the 10-strong longlist for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, which is awarded to the most outstanding first novel of the previous 12 months.

The National Centre For Writing
The Desmond Elliot Prize 2021

"Charman’s clever, elegantly constructed, utterly convincing debut paints an intimate picture of a community wondering about the killer in their midst..."

Eithne Farry: Historical Fiction

"This vivid historical drama, set in 19th-century Dorset, begins with suicide and murder before spiralling out to tell a dark tale of justice covered up."

Sarah Hughes: 75 of the best books for 2021

"Charman allows readers to watch the repercussions of... events play out over several decades. It’s a demanding format to adopt in a first novel, but he makes skilful use of it."

Nick Rennison: The best new historical fiction for February 2021

"As gripping as Hilary Mantel and as convincing as Sarah Perry, Crow Court achieves a rarity in historical fiction: it truly places you in the here and now of a world once removed. Time slips away and life – real life, with all its ugly faces and animalistic impulses – shines through. Debut novels shouldn’t be this perfectly formed."


"A gripping mystery, beautifully teased out over several decades, full of intrigue and ambiguity."


"This clever narrative is both page-turning and original - an innovative and beautifully-written historical novel that features an array of diverse characters and voices from its vividly-realised Dorset setting."


"There are so many wonderful parts to the book. The storm at sea is brilliant and the end is deeply moving... You keep thinking you know where he is going but then you are surprised. There is a warmth and humanity, an acceptance of the vagaries and challenges of life. Plus a great sense of period and place."


"A confident and exciting debut: exactly observed, densely textured and richly flavoured, Crow Court is throbbing with life."


"Historical fiction has an exciting new voice, a new star. Crow Court already looks, feels and smells like a classic."