Cecilia Ekbäck has won the 2016 Historical Writers' Association's Goldsboro Debut Crown for her Nordic noir thriller, Wolf Winter (Hodder). Meanwhile, the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award was presented to Philippa Gregory (pictured).
Ekbäck received £1,000 prize money for her "atmospheric "debut - the story of Swedish Lapland settler Maija and her family as they try to build a new life on the forbidding Blackåsen mountain. Shortly after they arrive, Maija's eldest daughter Frederika stumbles upon the body of a murdered man and the women become embroiled in a search for the truth about his grisly demise.
Chair judge Andrew Taylor said: "The judges were unanimously impressed by Wolf Winter. Not only is it astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, but it plunges the reader into Swedish Lapland 300 years ago and plays havoc with your emotions. Dark, powerful and beautifully written, it's a worthy winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown."
Imogen Robertson, HWA chair, added: "This is an astonishing debut, rich and atmospheric, dense and chilling, a remarkable evocation of time and place which draws the reader in and holds them long after the last page has been turned. The shortlist was incredible this year, so that makes Cecilia Ekbäck's triumph even more impressive."
On receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction accolade, Gregory said: "It is such an honour to receive this award. I always feel very lucky to have a job I love as much this one. It combines my two great loves, history and writing."
Gregory's bestselling novels include The Other Boleyn Girl (Harper), which was made into a film, and The White Queen (Simon & Schuster), which was filmed for the BBC. Her latest novel Three Sisters, Three Queens (Simon & Schuster), features Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's older sister.
Gemma Rowland, operations manager at Harrogate International Festivals, said: "We have for over a decade delivered the annual Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award to the likes of PD James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter, to highlight some of the giants of that genre. We felt strongly the historical fiction genre deserved a similar accolade. Philippa Gregory is a truly deserving winner, her novels have been integral in shaping, and leading the genre, which has become so popular in recent years."
Gregory joins previous recipients Bernard Cornwell in 2014, and Michael Morpurgo in 2015.