"The best crime writing festival in the world" is marking its 20th anniversary in North Yorkshire this year and organisers are calling on the public to have their say to choose the winner.

The shortlist of six novels for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2023 has been chosen. Judges now have the task of deciding the winner and are asking people to help by voting at www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com.

Run by Harrogate International Festivals and Theakstons Brewery, Masham, the event attracts the world's leading crime writers as well as devoted fans from across the globe. It is being held from July 13, when voting for the coveted award closes, to July 20 when the winner is announced.  

Simon Theakston, executive director of T&R Theakston, said the festival celebrates crime fiction at its very best.

Multi award winning crime novelist Vaseem Khan is the programme chair accompanied by a who's who of crime writers including Lee Child, Val McDermid, Andrew Child, Lucy Worsely, Ruth Ware and Ann Cleeves.

Lee Child said: "The Theakston Old Peculier, Crime Writing Festival is the best in the world, I should know I have done them all."

This year's shortlist includes Elly Griffiths, former chair in 2017, who is in the running for a sixth time for The Locked Room: the penultimate mystery in the series featuring Norfolk’s favourite forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway.

Fellow writers on the shortlist are: Ruth Ware with The It Girl, which unpicks the secrets of university friends in a story of suspense and shock; Doug Johnstone’s latest instalment in the ‘Skelfs’ series, with the heart-racing twists and turns of Black Hearts featuring an obsessive stalker, a faked death and a devastating spectre from the past; and best-selling author M.W. Craven, who is shortlisted for the latest DS Washington Poe thriller The Botanist, where the disgraced detective is tasked with catching a poisoner sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers.

Two novelists made the shortlist for the first time: Gillian McAllister with her thriller Wrong Place Wrong Time, a plot twisting, mind bending Groundhog Day style murder mystery and Fiona Cummins takes the final shortlist spot for her unnerving thriller Into The Dark. It follows DS Saul Anguish as he aims to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of a whole family that takes the reader on a journey through revenge, greed, ambition, and the true cost of friendship.

Sharon Canavar, chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals, said: "We are delighted to announce this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year shortlist, featuring six gripping reads that celebrate the best of the crime genre. The public have a tricky task ahead choosing only one from this talented bunch, we can’t wait to unmask the winner on July 20."

To vote, see harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com/.